Ranjona Banerji: When senior journos get on to the field…

09 Dec,2016

By Ranjona Banerji

 

It’s been a month and the national discourse of the shortage of cash in India and the effect it is having on people continues. Except of course for the two days where the media focused on the death of Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa. So let’s start with that. In newspapers and magazines, it is usually editors who stay in the newsroom and reporters who cover events on the ground. Although many editors have worked as reporters, they would prefer that younger people who have eyes and years on the ground, be given the chance to practice and hone their skills and shine. Sometimes, print editors will venture out into the field but not to replace their reporters so much as to complement them, find another angle, concentrate on the human story, use the contacts they have who many not speak to anyone else.

 

There are some other reasons for this. When seniors who have moved away from active reporting jump in to take the limelight, it creates resentment all over the newsroom. It does not all talent to flourish. And it shows the publication up. Because when you do not cover the beat every day, you lose touch. You have to depend on reporters to get information from sources which you no longer have. Therefore, your reports are incomplete and self-indulgent.

 

In TV news, that practice is shunned. Instead, any big event and all the big guns are on the street, regardless of whether they understand the language or the internal workings of the situation or anything else. It intrigues me if only because I wonder whether it really brings quality to newsgathering or if it is merely an ego exercise.

 

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Newsgathering is of course another story altogether, especially for television news in India. Not surprisingly, it is tedious to keep showing long queues at banks and cash points. However, travelling all over this massive country is expensive and also requires logistical expertise, inside knowledge and of course, interest.

 

And yet, surely there is some effort that can be made to find out what is happening across sectors and present that to your viewers? Once again I salute the local newspapers here in Dehradun for covering this demonetisation disaster from a variety of angles – the underprivileged, the urban, the rural, businesses, trade, banks, crime, black money, counterfeit notes, terrorism and so on.

 

It provides a wide perspective for the reader to judge and decide and agree or disagree.

 

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Yet, “debates” are so much easier to organise The triple talaq issue is back on the agenda after the Allahabad High Court said the practice was constitutional.  This was up for discussion on India Today TV on Thursday night. And that resulted in the anchor and two men screaming at each for the duration of the show. I have a suggestion. Why not go back again and again and speak to the women who suffer as a result of this archaic and unfair practice? Let the human story make its point rather than a “debate” no one can hear, much less understand? And why not leave the men out of it? Ya, I know, that’s hard work so…

 

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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: When senior journos get on to the field…”

  1. ashok759 says:

    Elections especially are a time when senior journalists – editor level – hit the field, partly out of nostalgia for their younger days in the profession, but more to renew their feel for how things are on the ground. A healthy practice. Shekhar Gupta and Rajdeep Sardesai do a fine job. Never seen Arnab dirty his hands with the real India, though. Happier to cook his steaks with the synthetic flames licking up from his TV screen.