Ranjona Banerji: For a profession in tatters, there’s some real work happening

01 May,2020

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Journalists are at the forefront of the Covid-19 pandemic, as we have discussed. We do not really care except to pay lip service because it’s so much more fun debating over some toxic TV personality’s rants and rights.

But enough of him. As more and more field journalists test positive in India, we need to urge their employers and news organisations to have better safety guidelines and measures for their staff. The general tendency in newsrooms has been “to get on with it”. Safety is of little concern. And post-incident help is not formalised. It’s all ad hoc depending on management/owner mood and senior editorial power. Imagine what that must be like in these sycophantic, spineless times.

This is a witty, courageous and understanding personal account by Simrin Sirur, a young reporter, who has just tested positive for Covid-19. She is also a friend’s daughter, which is when you realise how close you are to this virus. (This is the second friend’s daughter who has tested positive. The other is a doctor in the UK, forced back to work after two weeks, but that’s another story.

https://theprint.in/iwitness/disbelief-guilt-regret-amusement-when-a-covid-reporter-herself-tests-positive/411840/?fbclid=IwAR3QbsDbNML5d21EviOuBFvDPUsfCeBLkDPF8IM-F9fdy0RlNEkMKdX92J4

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Luckily for a profession in tatters in several senses, there also is some real work happening out there. The Scroll has this report on the problems of tea garden workers forced back to the grind because of hunger. These are also India’s forgotten people whom no one wants to think about.

https://scroll.in/article/960142/one-reason-why-tea-garden-employees-went-back-to-work-despite-covid-19-fears-hunger

Livemint goes to Tirupur, India’s textile hub, which is now stretched thin:

https://www.livemint.com/news/india/a-tense-textile-hub-spins-out-of-control-11588261831485.html

I share these stories because I know that not many will read them and most people do not care. Yet, even as we mourn the terrible loss of two talented movie actors, the lives of the forgotten people also impact us. It is heartening therefore that some sections of the media provide space for such reports even in such times. Revenue loss has led to budget cuts which have led to salary cuts, size cuts, and all the rest of the horror.

Freelancers have it especially tough because they are seen as the most expendable. They have lost assignments, columns, consultancies, and also any future prospects. Sadly, they are often the first casualties when money is tight, even though they do exemplary work. We understand. Rock and a hard place. But lack of spine and plans are also evident in newsrooms where managements are permitted to get away with murder. And that’s not really a metaphor either.

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Amidst all this doom and gloom, luckily we have some media gems to lift our spirits.

Both these are from my former employer, Bennett Coleman.

In this first one (please see the screenshot), a little bit application of mind and a little less dependence on Whatsapp forwards may have saved the “brand” some embarrassment. Is there no desk which works here?

It can work for anyone, not just late lamented talent. If you add your age today and your date of birth, guess which number you will reach? Take a minute to think it through. Even my third grade maths got this one!

The second is not about a media mistake but in fact a perfect story to get you laughing. Rich person’s privilege is always a fantastic release mechanism!

https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/mumbai/cover-story/industrialist-sues-guest-for-spilling-wine-on-his-sofa/articleshow/75438612.cms?fbclid=IwAR0OBWqn61BBdgVM6Qz1eeUYUBR_q-haJ8BSmVKG6v0pgfl6LQk2C6Eailg

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On which note, Happy May Day. Please take that any way you like!

 

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

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