Ranjona Banerji: Melodrama Unlimited!

27 Mar,2020

By Ranjona Banerji


I have not renewed my TV subscription this month. I don’t see the point. Unless Indian news channels rework their presentation style, and decide to give their viewers news and not tamasha, I’m not going to do it either. As of now, social media is enough for me to judge how well or badly they do their jobs. There have been no newspapers for the past couple of days either. But the web takes care of that too.

The rumour mill tells me that Sreenivasan Jain is doing the best job on NDTV. Ravish Kumar’s fans are constant of course. And then you have the usual list of suspects whose main job is to stroke various BJP egos.

But the worst of media interference and lack of training was seen in the sad case of Republic TV and its reporter who assigned to himself the role of helping the police with their lockdown checks. On March 24, the reporter placed himself at DND flyover in Delhi, at the police checkpoint. He then decided that one person who claimed he was a doctor was lying. The reporter snatched away the person’s TD card, brandished it on TV and reported to the police that the man actually worked for an insurance company and was not a doctor.

The Employees State Insurance Corporation issues a letter that day itself, stating that the man who was harangued was Dr Anish Singhal, Director and Medical Superintendent of the ESIC hospital in Noida. So for the reporter, there are two issues of bad journalism here: ignorance about ESIC and interference in police affairs.

But there is the bigger transgression and that comes from his editors: to try and get a melodramatic story by any means possible. If Arnab Goswami has become world famous by prancing around a TV studio passing thunderous accusations, why wouldn’t any reporter want to aspire to that?

As always look to the top for non-application of mind and dereliction of duty.

Or there’s Rahul Kanwal, whatever top post he has at India Today TV, blaming the eating habits of the Chinese for the spread of the #Covid19 virus. If you have issue with the Chinese government, and indeed there are many serious questions to raise about how they function, than do that. But attaching unsubstantiated blame to the Chinese people is nothing but racism. The result of such irresponsibility has been that people from the North East and the Chinese in India have been attacked, threatened, thrown out of their homes, across India.

However much as the lockdown has stretched us, including the media, several outstanding stories have also emerged. The terrible police crackdown on people out to buy essentials or migrant workers going home or on delivery agents were all covered extensively by the media.




This video from Barkha Dutt’s Mojo channel is heartbreaking:



The relief package announced by Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has also been analysed stringently:



There are several stories around the virus for the media to take up. To continue with the effect on the informal sector, mental health issues, collation of what various state governments are doing, clarity on foggy notices from the Centre, transgressions of the lockdown by politicians, how much celebrities have contributed.

And then there are the rumours. Regardless of any number of warnings, nonsense about Covid19 flows fast and strong. They need constant debunking. And please, no more space to gurus and astrologers about how to cure or fix the virus!

And, stay safe, which now replaces “take care” as one of those things you say when you sign off. But really. Stay safe.


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. Her views here are personal.


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