Ranjona Banerji: Face it. If you’re not a journalist you don’t know how a newsroom functions. You only think you do.

21 Jul,2015

By Ranjona Banerji


There is a commonly held belief that Indians as a society are permanently craving for heroes, heroines, idols. Therefore, we make role models of just about anybody and then damn and excoriate them when they don’t live up to our expectations. One can understand sports stars, film stars and even politicians. But this old adage must be true because we have also made the most ridiculous heroes and villains out of our star television anchors.


With due respect to everyone, it is not possible to fully understand how a newsroom functions unless you have worked in one, as a journalist. No matter how closely you follow the media and how many journalist friends you have, you cannot know. This is not because journalism is some magical unknowable quantity or newsrooms are like Hogwarts protected by Dementors. It’s because unless you are one, you don’t know how a chartered accountant’s office works or a science lab works and so on.
But of course, when it comes to journalism, everyone’s an expert. And television, by bringing journalists into your homes, by carrying “citizen journalist” shows and by reporters and anchors mentioning “sources” all the time, has made many members of the public feel that they are part of the process.


I read a rather sweet if desperate blog the other day by a young man who was very upset that he had been “blocked” on Twitter by Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai. He was also upset with Arnab Goswami though I am not aware that he has a Twitter account or if he is active on Twitter. These there TV anchors are known together as “BAR” by the way, by those who are obsessed with them and usually hate them. However the blogger pointed out that he had “blocked” these people first because he didn’t care about their opinions or disapproved of them. But he was clearly upset that they had “blocked” him. So upset in fact that he wrote paragraph after paragraph on how he didn’t care.


One of the conclusions you can reach here is of a strange obsession with the doings of the media by people who do not fully understand the doings of the media. Talk to a young student who wants to be a journalist and you will find that it is all determined by what he or she has seen on television. Grunt work is not on the agenda because the assumption is that there is no grunt work at all. It’s all glamour and creating public opinion. I met a young journalism student a while ago who reacted with horror when I said that early on in my career I opted to be a sub-editor rather than a reporter. She asked, astounded, “You had the chance to be a journalist and you decided to be a sub-editor?”


I had no choice but to react with miserable silence.


But as usual, I am amused at the terrible anger that “BAR” and other TV anchors generate – most of course for falling on the wrong side of the angered person’s political spectrum. The actual work that goes on even in a TV newsroom remains hidden and that is why you, as a media person, have to sift through the views of both admirers and detractors. I often get lectures from people on what the media should or should not do from people who are well-meaning but ignorant.


And as usual, what amuses me is when people within the media feign ignorance and point fingers for all sorts of transgressions at people who work in other newsrooms but are so delightfully silent on their own faults. Now those are the ones who need to feel the hatred directed at “BAR”, in my book…


Meanwhile, I suggest people look for heroes outside our noble and ignoble profession.


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