Ranjona Banerji: Flooding, crime or Christmas?

30 Dec,2015

By Ranjona Banerji


Being out of India for a short while brings home how perceptions of the media and how the media actually operates are not that different anywhere. The same arguments over trivialisation, the same expectations of the news as you want to see it not what the news agency, channel, newspaper wants to show you can be heard. But as much, the trivialisation is real and the choices are not always understandable.


The localisation of news for instance is still an ongoing argument. As someone who has used it successfully in various publications, I can vouch for its importance. However, there has to be a constant exercise of judgment. Here in the UK where I am, the Christmas season is always a slow one news-wise since most people are on holiday and the general mood leans towards cheer rather than misery.


So if you cannot escape the relentless presence of ISIS and what that means for the future of the world, you can perhaps not focus on events in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Turkey, Lebanon and Nigeria as much. But can you get away with that? If there is another event, could you justify playing it down because it’s Christmas closer to home?


But the dilemma does not have to be as dire as that. For instance, there has been severe flooding in parts of Scotland and the North of England for the past two weeks. This is local news in one sense but in another, it is part of the whole climate change, extreme weather story that affects the whole planet. The problems and explanations for the wide-scale flooding seem remarkably like what we in India heard during and after the recent floods in Tamil Nadu. That is, development on lake beds and river over-flow areas leaving surging waters nowhere else to go.


As it happens, the official and emergency responses were faster here than in India but not all residents thought so as one might expect. Human sympathy and help were as high as in Chennai and I have not yet heard stories about the cheats who tried to make a buck out of someone else’s misery but perhaps one only has to wait. Parts of the southern United States have also seen extreme rain and flooding and some of the pictures out of Texas have been worse than Chennai.


So should a news channel focus mainly on flooding, on Christmas fun and spending or on Iraq rebel forces being moved out of ISIS areas through Turkey so that they can go back and fight ISIS? Or as a very local channel here in East Yorkshire did, ignore the flooding and home in on some very local municipal issue and ignore the rest of the county?


If it was me, I would have stuck to the flooding and crime: One resident of a senior care home has killed another, I see in snippets. Guns in old age facilities: now that’s a story that shocks, horrifies and amazed everyone.


Now how’s that for a perfect Christmas cheer story?


On which note, I let you get back to Arvind Kejriwal and Arun Jaitley, which doesn’t appear to have changed since I left India 10 days ago!


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