Ranjona Banerji: More from the Knee-jerk School of Journalism on display all over media this week

27 Nov,2015

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The extreme head in the sand stupidity of the media, especially the TV variety, was on full display over actor Aamir Khan’s remarks about his wife’s fears about intolerance in India. Immediately, it was as if nothing else that happened either in India or the world was of any consequence or importance. All the usual suspects were out in full force on TV, getting their five minutes of fame or notoriety out of Khan.

 

Khan’s statements became more important than a Russian fighter jet shot down by Turkey, even though both Russia and Turkey are supposed to be fighting the deadly global threat of ISIS. Khan’s remarks were more important than the persistent, incessant rainfall and damage and death in Tamil Nadu. Khan’s comments were more important than the latest in the Sheena Bora murder case, which was our other obsession. In fact, Khan beat prime minister Narendra Modi in Singapore as well – this is terribly surprising because so far all Modi’s foreign sojourns have got wall-to-wall blanket coverage.

 

People discuss, and rightly, the viciousness of trolls on social media. But when you watch party representatives on news television, they are often no better. A gentleman from the BJP (an afternoon spokesperson, not as high up the ladder as a prime time spokesperson) ripped into a Congress spokeswoman over Aamir Khan’s remarks and made several needless personal remarks. If that is how someone speaks on TV, then how is it surprising that anonymous trolls get courage from them. The anchor was unable to control him and so his rants ran on. And every time she asked him a direct question, he claimed the mike wasn’t working.

 

There is an irony here which obviously escapes all pro-BJP journalists in high places in television: by attacking Aamir Khan (as some like Gaurav Sawant of India Today TV did in his tweets) and then having “debates” on his remarks, you actually only prove Khan’s point about intolerance.

 

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I don’t know if this was part of the new knee-jerk school of journalism or a genuine error, but there was a fair bit of confusion over Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s interaction with students of Mount Carmel College, Bangalore. The Times of India reported that Gandhi was “stumped” by students who were all in favour of the prime minister’s schemes. The BJP bristled with pride and mocked Gandhi. Then the Bangalore Mirror website carried a piece by a student present at the meeting who contradicted the TOI report. She said that the media was not part of the event and that Gandhi in fact charmed the students. There was in fact a mixed reaction to the success of schemes like Swacch Bharat and Make in India.

 

All this makes me wonder if editors have forgotten what their job is, in the race to be there, somewhere, anywhere, regardless of the facts.

 

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Twitter was all a-flutter over a picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi sleeping in the Lok Sabha or so it appeared. The TV screenshot went viral as did the “hashtags” #ModiSleeps and #PMJetlag.

 

BJP spokespersons and supporters scrambled to correct everyone – even worse, this was during the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s speech – but only demonstrated how very cruel social media can be…

 

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