Archive for December, 2008

‘A kiss from the widows & orphans killed in Iraq’

15 December 2008

An Iraqi journalist threw a pair of shoes at US President George W. Bush at a media conference he was about to address with Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. The Associated Press reports that “the president was not hurt in the incident”.

“This is a farewell kiss, you dog,” the reporter, later identified as television correspondent Muntadar al-Zeidi, yelled in Arabic. “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.”

“So what if the guy threw a shoe at me?” Bush said, comparing the action to political protests in the United States. “It’s a size 10.”

Video: courtesy The Associated Press

In case you need to make a very quick speech

11 December 2008

The orator’s briefcase public address system and 29 other must-have gifts for journalists, unveiled on www.10000words.net

‘Do terrorists sit around watching television?’

10 December 2008

Did the non-stop television coverage of the terror attack on Bombay reveal operational details of the commando operations, endanger the lives of hostages, intrude into the personal lives of victims and relatives, etc?

In today’s Indian Express, the founder of India TV, Rajat Sharma, claims he tried an interesting experiment last Saturday. He invited a former army chief to address the staff  “to understand, from a decorated war hero, whether news channels went overboard in their coverage”, and what precautions, if any, producers, reporters and camerapersons should have taken while showing “live” action.

Writes Sharma:

“To my surprise, the former army chief was emphatic: “News channels did nothing wrong. Your coverage didn’t do any harm whatsoever to the commandos! I’ve handled action as a major, then as a full colonel, and finally as an army commander in anti-terrorist operations, and there’s nothing I could make out from the news channel about the strategy of our commandos.

“Frankly, I expected him to echo what some have been saying—how terrorists got valuable clues on the commando plan by watching our channels. But sample what he said: “Do you think that terrorists holed up in a hotel facing commando fire had time to watch TV?”

“A young reporter persisted. He reminded the general of the “widespread belief” that the terrorists were being briefed on their Blackberrys by their bosses, watching our news channels. Promptly came the angry reply. “Anyone suggesting this must be mad. (Even) I could not get an idea about the action plan. Who has the time to look at TV and Blackberrys when you are in the midst of gunfire?”

Read the full article here: Reality, not television

Read Barkha Dutt’s defence: ‘The media is not the message. The viewer is king’

Also read: ‘NDTV: Navy chief’s comment is defamatory’

Three words that cheered up Reuters journo

9 December 2008

mishraSourav Mishra, the Reuters journalist who was reported dead in the shootout at Leopold Cafe in Bombay on November 26, has survived to tell the tale:

“I heard what seemed like a blast and something hit me hard on my back. I panicked and ran out through the nearest door. Out on the road, I touched the wound and found it was bleeding profusely. I could hardly move my right hand.

“I shouted for help but no one paid any heed. Tried to move ahead but couldn’t and fell down. As I lay there, I felt someone grab hold of me and help me to my feet.

“The Good Samaritan hurried me towards a nearby cinema where we clambered into a taxi and rushed to the hospital. I could still hear the gunfire in the street and my companion told me there was some sort of gang war going on.

“The doctors at the hospital were reluctant to admit me but the stranger beside me begged them to take me in. As I removed my shirt and pressed against the wound, a copper-coated bullet fell out. The woman treating me smiled and uttered the three words I’d been waiting to hear : ‘You will survive’.”

Photograph: courtesy Facebook

Read the full article ‘Dead’ journalist recalls 26/11 nightmare

The power of a really great interview is musical

9 December 2008

The British broadcaster, Michael Parkinson, who as a chat-show host for 36 years “met everyone” there’s to meet, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, London:

“People talk about great moments, so you think of interviewing Muhammad Ali. But the really great moments for me have been musical ones.

“To sit next to Luciano Pavarotti and have him sing a Neapolitan song to you is, I assure you, an extraordinary experience. Talk about bloody short hairs standing up! The power of the voice is unnatural, it blows you back.

“To sit next to Paul McCartney playing Yesterday, Paul Simon doing Homeward Bound, Oscar Peterson playing a blues, Elton John doing Rocket Man—what a privilege to be. That’s the real joy of the job.

“When I am on my death bed, I shall think, ‘Hmm, yeah, McCartney sounded rather good that day’.”

Photograph: courtesy radiotimes

Visit the website: www.michaelparkinson.tv

NDTV: ‘Navy chief’s comment defamatory’

8 December 2008

New Delhi Television (NDTV) has issued a formal statement on the criticism of the channel for its coverage of the Novemebr 26 attack on Bombay, in particular the old charge dredged up by the chief of the navy staff, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, of the channel endangering lives in Kargil by asking a military officer to trigger a Bofors gun for its cameras:

“Some media reports have alleged that television channels compromised operations during the terror attack in Bombay, in particular, by telecasting the air-dropping of commandos at Nariman House.

“We would like to assert, that this operation was NOT telecast live on any of NDTV’s channels. We telecast images 45 minutes after the operation had begun on NDTV 24×7, and with a 25-minute delay on NDTV India.

“Similarly, NDTV would like to state that security cordons were determined by officials on site, and not by the media and these were respected at all times.

“As an admirer and supporter of our armed forces, NDTV would never, knowingly or unknowingly, put the lives of our soldiers at risk. In this context, there has also been an allegation that NDTV coverage during the Kargil conflict involved asking a Colonel to trigger a Bofors gun for the camera.

“NDTV wants to emphatically state that the allegation is a falsehood and no such incident ever occurred. It would be extraordinary to even presume that a senior army officer would commit such an act in a conflict situation at the behest of the media!

“There is an official acknowledgment of this motivated falsehood from those who supervised the 1999 conflict. NDTV has formally complained about and asked for an immediate retraction of comments that we believe amount to defamation.”

Also read: ‘The media is not the message. The viewer is king.’

Bombay: The best and the most disappointing

8 December 2008

Pradyuman Maheshwari, the group editor of exchange4media, has ranked the Indian media for coverage of the attack on Bombay.

The winners:

Best English television channels: Times Now, CNN-IBN

Best Hindi channelsIndia TV, Aaj Tak

Huge disappointment: NDTV 24×7 (English), Zee News (Hindi)

Best newspaper coverage: DNA Bombay

Most disappointing newspaper coverage: Hindustan Times

Best coverage by a non-Bombay paper: Mail Today

Best websites: IBNlive.com, rediff.com

Best newsperson: Arnab Goswami, Times Now

Most disappointing newsperson: Sreenivasan Jain, NDTV 24×7

Read the full article here: Mixed media

How the Sakaal Times dream became a nightmare

7 December 2008

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Nothing is bringing home the seriousness of the global economic downturn to Indian media practitioners better than the breakneck speed with which media plans are being revised or revoked.

Just a few months ago, it all seemed hunky-dory—a 20 per cent growth for the media and entertainment industry in 2006, followed by an 18 per cent growth last year.

International behemoths were rushing to launch Indian editions or getting into tieups with local players when not outsourcing work here. Indian groups were launching more editions (and a TV station with some spare cash). Regional players were planning excursions into newer and hitherto unexplored avenues.

The share prices of listed media houses were defying gravity on Dalal Street—and the salaries (and ESOPs) of journalists was achieving near-escape velocity on India’s Fleet Street, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg.

The profits of at least two entities (HT Media and Jagran Prakashan) doubled year-on-year; another listed company Deccan Chronicle upped advertising rates by 30 per cent even as it launched cut-price editions in Madras and Bangalore to crown itself the “The Face of the South”.

With media employment growing by 27 per cent in 2007, the Union labour ministry hinted deliciously that by 2013, the media would create more, yes more, jobs than the information technology and IT-enabled services and automotive industries!

Forbes was quoting a Pricewaterhouse Coopers forecast that the Indian media would outpace the economy till 2011:

“Rising incomes and consumer spending fueled by the country’s robust economic growth will combine with expanded information delivery options over mobile phones and the Internet to drive a boom that will benefit all segments of the industry, from home video to radio to newspapers.”

But, suddenly, it doesn’t look so rosy.

The India launch of Financial Times is nearly off; no one is talking of the Hindi business paper that Dainik Jagran wanted to bring;  the Donnelly press that Network 18 had bought with great flourish is reportedly up for sale.

The fate of the launch of at least two magazines is in the balance. One prominent newspaper group is reworking employee contracts for the coming year; on the anvil is an across-the-board 30 per cent cut in cost to company.

On the television front, Debashis Basu writes in MoneyLife that with the collapse of the stocks of the major TV networks NDTV, TV18, UTV, the question is not why but what had kept the share prices spiralling up all this while?

“Continuous expansion into new businesses, set up through associates and subsidiaries which mesmerised the so-called strategic investors who pumped money into these entities. This created embedded valuation for the listed entity that everybody hoped would be unlocked to another set of suckers in the stock market.”

However, few of these developments can match the manner in which the Sakal dream has come crashing down.

The Marathi language newspaper group owned by Abhijit Pawar, the nephew of India’s powerful agriculture minister Sharad Pawar (whose daughter, the parliamentarian Supriya Sule is on the board), decided to grab a slice of the promised pie earlier this year.

The group’s English daily Maharashtra Herald was relaunched as Sakaal Times in Poona in May, in collaboration with a company set up by former Times of India editor Dileep Padgaonkar. Plans for a pan-India “rollout”, including an edition in New Delhi, were feverishly announced. A foreign affairs magazine materialised out of thin air.

So far, so good.

On the last day of November, staffers working at the Delhi office of Sakaal Times turned up for work only to be greeted with a notice that announced that their services were no longer required.

Below is the full text of an anonymous chainmail that chronicles how little stamina bottomline-obsessed publishers and managers have to stay the course; how The Great Indian Media Dream turned into a nighmare overnight for a regional group aspiring (and perspiring) to make it big on the national scene; and how journalists got trapped in the very bubble they had helped create.

***

Hi Friends.

Do you remember the BiTV (Business India Television) lockout?

Something worse than that happened on the 30th of November, 2008.

Sakaal Times, the English daily brought out in May (renaming the existing Maharashtra Herald) by the Sakal group of Poona (of the Marathi daily Sakal fame) and helmed by wannabe media baron Abhijit Pawar (nephew of Nationalist Congress Party leader, Union minister and former BCCI president Sharad Pawar), suddenly decided to close down its Delhi operations without any prior intimation to any of its employees, leaving nearly 80 people jobless at one go.

Those impacted are not worthless people—all of them, including me, had left secure jobs in respected media houses to join what sounded like an ambitious media venture from one of the most-respected media houses of Maharashtra.

The plans were big—following the Poona edition, there would be editions from places like (New) Bombay, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, and even a small edition from Delhi.

The paper looked impressive, with well thought-out stories and a nice design.

“Welcome to the Sakal family. Here all employees are treated like family members. Please visit our Pune headquarters sometime to know how we work like a family,” were the golden words from Arun Barera, the CEO of the Sakal Media Group during his interaction with a bunch of us around July-August, when the paper’s Delhi office was still in APCA House in Noida (on the outskirts of Delhi).

APCA, helmed by Dileep Padgaonkar and Anikendra Nath (Badshah) Sen, had taken charge of recruiting people and launching the venture as a BOT (build-operate-transfer) project. They did the job nicely and handed over the project to the Sakal group on November 1, 2008. Everything seemed good for all of us.

Then, since about a month ago, things began to go wrong.

About 8-10 people were asked to leave, but resident editor Dhananjay Sardeshpande called in groups to assure that nobody from the news bureau and features would be touched.

“Our plans have got delayed because of the market condition, but we will launch our Delhi edition by the end of this fiscal and our other plans are still there. We need all you people to be part of our vision,” he told us.

Just about two days ago, one colleague, who called him up, was told by Anand Agashe, director-editor of the newspaper, that whatever rumours were floating around were baseless. He, of course, said there will be a reduction of the number of pages, and a decision would be taken around December 2-3.

Suddenly, on the morning of November 30, a “Notice”, actually a print out on a blank sheet of paper (not the company letterhead), signed by an “authorized signatory” whose name or designation was not mentioned, was found pasted on the locked gates of the premises at the 1st floor of Pratap Bhawan on Bahadurshah Zafar Marg, saying the Delhi operations are being wound up.

The letter was dated November 30, while the termination notice, with a cheque for part of our salaries for this month and one more month (minus the allowances which are paid against bills submitted) were sent through SpeedPost™ to all of us individually at our residence addresses from Poona on November 29 (some of us got the mails on December 1 while others are yet to get their individual copies).

The so-called ‘Notice’ said:

(For the information of the employees working for Sakaal Times)

Subject: Operations of Sakaal Times at Delhi

The new daily is incurring heavy expenses on Delhi operations resulting into substantial losses to the company. You are aware that this is further compounded by the present serious downtrend in the economy. Due to the same the circulation and the revenue generation of the newspaper has been seriously affected. Due to this it has become inevitable for the company to restructure its operations. On account of the said restructuring the Editorial work so far carried out at Delhi is no longer required to be continued. As a result, the operations are stopped forthwith and the persons working for Sakaal Times operations are being relieved. The necessary communication has already been sent to the individual employees on their postal address registered with the company. The relevant employees need not attend the office from today onwards.

The work of Magazines and TV will continue after some modifications of the premises for which the same will be closed for few days.

For Sakal Papers limited

Authorized Signatory

There was a rubber stamp of Sakal Papers Limited, New Delhi, affixed next to the illegible signature, which looked like an “A”.

Agitated employees gathered during the day itself on Sunday, November 30, to discuss the matter.

Quite astonishingly, colleagues who were working till late night on November 29 had no inkling of what was going to happen in the morning. In fact, one colleague was in Rajasthan covering the elections there when the lock out was announced!

The employees, finding that the premises have been locked out with some of their valuable belongings inside (eg, bank pass books, cheque books, etc) decided to register a complaint with the IP Estate Police Station regarding this. Photo Editor K.K. Laskar, as the convenor of the Committee of Sakaal Times Employees formed to fight the sudden lockout, registered the complaint.

Till then, nobody who has a say in Sakaal TimesAbhijit Pawar, Anand Agashe, Arun Barera, Dhananjay Sardeshpande, HR director Pradeepkumar Khire—picked up numerous phone calls made by senior journalists who wanted to find out the exact situation.

But within one hour of filing the police complaint, Pawar called up Laskar, claiming there had been a “communication gap” and things should not have been done as they have been. He “requested” Laskar to ask all employees to come to office on Monday, December 2, to discuss the matter with a team from Poona.

Almost at the same time, Pawar, Khire, Agashe gave contradictory and false statements to media persons who contacted them on the developments: “Abhijit Pawar, managing director of the 76-year-old Sakaal Media Group, said staffers had been informed earlier.

It has just been brought to my attention that the communication hadn’t reached everyone, and I’m sorry if that is the case. I have been told that a communication had been made informally to senior members of the staff in Delhi and it was supposed to have reached everyone. Everyone is being adequately compensated,” Pawar added.

Just look at the casual stance he has taken. Saying just a mere “sorry” for snatching the livelihoods of around 80 people.

Just look at the way he claims “I have been told.”

Do you “informally” communicate to senior staff or any staff members about a lock out (which anyway is a blatant lie as there was no such communication to anyone)? “It was supposed to reach.” The sheer insensitiveness of this man seeps through every word of his quote.

Sakal Papers’ Director, Human Resources and Operations, Pradip Khire denied the charge of the staff that they had not been informed about the impending closure. ‘It was communicated to them that their services are no more required and their dues are being settled,’ Khire told Indo-Asian News Service in Poona.).

Another blatant lie.

Can he provide any proof that staff had been informed about the closure?

Even the “termination of contract” letter received by some people on December 1 (posted on November 29, but received only by some on Dec 1) does not mention anything about the closure. It only talks about the company’s “right” to “terminate your services without assigning any reason by giving one month’s notice or a notice pay in lieu of notice—the company has decided to exercise this right and is terminating your contractual employment w.e.f 30-11-2008 after working hours”.

Where is the mention of the lockout? Can you find another such example of fork-tongued speak? (sic)

As we all know, there is a standard procedure for lock outs. Businesses may and do go bad, but the way Sakaal Times has done it, is pure evil. If it reminds everyone of how some chit fund operators vanish after pocketing money of investors, well, you are not at fault.

Any ethical company would have taken its employees into confidence, told them that they would have to shut down, and would have given them at least a month’s time so that they can look out for alternative jobs. But this is what a 75-year-old media group does.

This is what an aghast observer wrote to various e-groups:

“…The lock-out is illegal as they have not followed labour laws. The journalists have formed an action committee that plans to move court. The nearly 50 journalists are angry and aghast at such despicable treatment. This is an insult to journalists all over India who should rise to the occasion and send their condemnation to Sakal Papers Ltd. This is a paper with deep pockets thanks to its Marathi print monopoly….”

This is just for information of all media people, because if in future this group tries to hire you, beware and don’t fall for its so-called reputation. It’s a den of cheats and liars.

And please forward this mail to all mediapersons you know.

Also read: Old habits die hard for a ‘new’ newspaper

THE HOOT: Pink slip time

‘Who is to blame for media hysteria on terror?’

6 December 2008

PRESS RELEASE: The Delhi-based Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP) has organised a panel discussion on “Who is to blame for media hysteria on terror? Journalists or viewers?— Lessons from the Bombay Siege” on Friday, December 12 at 3 pm at the Press Club of India on Raisina Road.

Speakers include Vinod Mehta, Rajdeep Sardesai, Mahesh Bhatt, Prahlad Kakkar, Medha Patkar, Deepak Chaurasia, Madhu Trehan, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Sayeed Naqvi, Dipankar Gupta, Shishir Joshi, Ajit Sahi, Julio Rebeiro among others.

‘The media is not the message. Viewer is king’

4 December 2008

The aftermath of the terror attack on Bombay has seen the tiresome game of shoot-the-messenger being played with great glee by news consumers who were lapping up the non-stop coverage only hours earlier.

Questions have been raised over the media compromising the safety of commandos by getting too close to the action or giving out too many details, intruding into the grief of victims and relatives by thrusting cameras into their faces, etc.

The chief of the Indian Navy, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, facing flak for not reacting to intelligence warnings that warned of the Bombay attack, has gone to the extent of threatening to “chop the heads off” two reporters who aired an embargoed interview ahead of schedule.

Barkha Dutt, the group editor (English news) of India’s premier English news channel, New Delhi Television (NDTV), has in particular come in for a vicious attack. On Facebook, a group called “Can U please take Barkha off air?” has attracted over 2,500 5,149 members.

Dutt has offered a stout and much-needed defence of the media coverage on the NDTV website, reproduced here in full without permission.

***

By BARKHA DUTT

Sixty hours of live television at the best of times is impossibly difficult. But when it involves an ongoing and precarious terrorist operation and a potential danger to the lives of hundreds of people, it throws up challenges of the kind that none of us have ever dealt with before.

Even those of us who have reported for years, on conflict, war and counter insurgency weren’t prepared for what we encountered in Bombay: an audacious attack on a city that was more in the nature of an invasion of India, than terrorism in any form, that we have known before.

As India debates where to go from here and whether a “war on terror” is the borrowed slogan that should define our response, I notice there is a different sort of civil war brewing; one that places us in the media on the other side of the enemy line.

For every Mumbaikar who believes we did the best we could in very trying circumstances—and we have received thousands and thousands of such messages—there are some others who are now questioning our ethics, our integrity and our professionalism.

On the streets of Bombay, I only met people who thanked us for providing a larger sense of community to a city seething with rage and grief. But as I fly back to Delhi, I am told that “hate” groups are trying to compete with “fan” communities on social networking sites like Facebook and Orkut.

The Internet apparently is buzzing with vitriol and we, in the media in general, and sometimes, me in particular, are being targeted with a venom that is startling.

I understand that India is angry, nerves are frazzled and emotions heightened.

Even so, many of the charges are not just offensive, malicious and entirely untrue; they are a convenient transference of responsibility.

This is not to say, that we made no mistakes—I am sure we inadvertently made a few—as did every department of government, when faced with a situation that India has never dealt with before. But to park concocted and slanderous charges at our door is simply unacceptable, grossly unfair and saddening.

I would also like to stress though that this eruption of allegations is only one small part of a larger picture. In the past week, we have also received countless words of support and encouragement—from thousands of people—Indian citizens of every hue and ilk across the country, as well as some better known ones, like Narayana Murthy, Salman Rushdie, Shashi Tharoor, Sunil Khilnani and Suketu Mehta, to name just a few.

When asked in an interview on NDTV, what struck him watching the events unfold on television, Narayana Murthy, said it was the “finest piece of TV journalism in a decade.”

But in journalism, we know that, praise and criticism are twins that travel together. And we welcome both and try and listen to both carefully.

So, for those who wrote in to tell us that we got it right, Thank You so much. Your words encourage us.

But for those who charged us with crimes we absolutely assert we have not committed, here is our response. Some of it is answer to general questions about the media and some to specific charges made against our organization.

1. Please do note that at all times, the media respected the security cordon—a cordon that was determined by the police and officials on site—and NOT by the media.

If, as is now being suggested, the assessment is that the media was allowed too close to the operations, here is what we say: we would have been happy to stand at a distance much further away from the encounter sites, had anyone, anyone at all, asked us to move.

In the 72 hours that we stood on reporting duty, not once were we asked to move further away. We often delayed live telecasting of images that we thought were sensitive so as to not compromise the ongoing operation. Not once, were we asked by anyone in authority, to switch our cameras off, or withhold images. When we did so, it was entirely our own assessment that perhaps it was safest to do so.

Across the world, and as happened in the US after 9/11, there are daily, centralized briefings by officials to avoid any inadvertent confusion that media coverage may throw up. Not so in Bombay. There was no central point of contact or information for journalists who were often left to their own devices to hunt down news that they felt had to be conveyed to their country.

No dos and don’ts were provided by officials.

While we understand that this situation was new for everyone involved, and so the government could not have been expected to have a full plan for media coverage, surely the same latitude should be shown to us? The NSG chief even thanked the media for our consistent co-operation. Later the NSG commandos personally thanked me for showcasing their need for a dedicated aircraft—which they shockingly did not have—they have now been given there after NDTV’s special report was aired.

We have only the greatest respect and admiration for our armed forces, and throughout the coverage repeatedly underlined how they are our greatest heroes. But we were taken aback to hear the Navy Chief, branding us as a “disabling force,” for reporting on an ongoing operation.

If that is the case, why were his own officers briefing us on camera, bang in the middle of an ongoing operation and that too when they only had a few rushed moments at the site of encounters? Before the encounter was over at either the Taj or the Oberoi, his marine commandos even held a hastily called press conference that was telecast live, with their permission, across channels.

If we were indeed the obstacle, or the “disabling force” why did they have time for us in the middle of an operation?

While shooting the messenger is convenient , the government also needs to introspect and determine whether it has an information dissemination system in place that is geared for such crises. Blanking out channels—as was done for a few hours—may not be the ideal solution. It only leads to more rumour mongering, panic and falsehoods spreading in already uncertain situation.

2. Why did we interview waiting relatives who staked out at the hotels as they waited for news on their families and friends? Quite simply, because they WANTED to talk.

Allegations that I or any of my colleagues across the industry shoved a microphone in the faces of any waiting relative, are untrue in the extreme. Television, for many of these people, became a medium to express pain, grief, anger and hope.

Sometimes, they expressed the desire to speak, because as they said, they just wanted to feel like they were doing something, instead of sitting by on the pavement for endless, countless hours. Many did not want to speak or be filmed, and they were neither pressured nor asked. Many personally asked me for my telephone number, and got in touch, requesting whether they could come on our shows and make their appeals.

And besides, wasn’t the issue at hand as much about their potential loss and anxieties, as it was about an ongoing gunbattle? Wasn’t it important to touch upon the human dimension and not just the military one? I believe strongly that it was.

Capturing suffering on live television is a delicate issue that needs the utmost sensitivity. We believed we showed that sensitivity, by not thrusting microphones in people’s faces, by respecting privacy if people asked for identities or images to be withheld, by never showing a ghoulish close-up of a body, and by respecting the limits set by the people themselves. Those limits were different for different people and had to be adapted to subjectively.

But every interview of a relative that was aired on any of my shows, was done so with the full consent and participation of the people speaking. If they wanted to share their story, vent, give an outlet for their grief or just make an appeal for peace—and the emotions varied—-how can other people out there determine that they should not be speaking? But to say that we had no business talking to families is an entirely naive and misplaced criticism. They chose to talk. In every case, it was their choice to share and to speak. And their voices were in fact the real tragedy and needed to be heard and told.

Similarly, when the rescued hostages first emerged from the hotels many of them WANTED to speak because they wanted to let their families know they were safe. The unfortunate absence of a cordon created an avoidable crowding in of journalists. But every rescued hostage who appeared on any of our shows did so entirely voluntarily.

Every participant on We the People, including Shameem, a man who lost six members of his family at the CST railway station was there because they wanted to share their tragedy or miraculous escape or trauma in a wider community. Shameem, who said he did not have money to bury his dead, has since been offered help and rehabilitation by our viewers. In that moment, television provided a wider sense of community, when no one else had the time of wherewithal to talk to the waiting relatives.

3. Could we have been more aware of the suffering and tragedy of those killed in the first few hours at the CST railway station and not got singularly focused on the two hotels? On this one point, I would concede that perhaps, this was a balance we lost and needed to redress earlier on during the coverage.

But, mostly our attention was on the hotels, because they were the sites of the live encounters, and not because of some deliberate socio-economic prejudice. Still, when many emails poured in on how important it was to correct this imbalance, most of us, stood up, took notice, and tried to make amends for an unwitting lack of balance in air time.

4. Should there be an emergency code of dos and don’ts for the coverage of such crises? We in the media would welcome a framework for sensitive events and are happy to contribute to its construction.

But it is important to understand that in the absence of any instructions on site and in the absence of any such framework we broke NO rules.

Both the NSG chief and the special secretary untrue took place and we have an official aknowledgment of that, including from then Army Chief V.P Malik. I would urge Admiral Sureesh Mehta to read General V.P Malik’s book on Kargil for further clarity. General Malik was the Army Chief during the operations and puts to rest any such controversy in his book.

In a formal letter, NDTV has also asked for an immediate retraction from the Navy and officially complained that the comments amount to defamation. Several writers have already pointed out how the Navy Chief has got his facts wrong. (DNA, Indian Express, Vir Sanghvi in The Hindustan Times, Sankarshan Thakur in The Telegraph). This, incidentally, was the same press conference where the Admiral threatened literally to “chop the heads off” of two other reporters who aired his interview ahead of schedule.

I believe that criticism is what helps us evolve and reinvent ourselves. But when malice and rumour are regarded as feedback, there can be no constructive dialogue.

Viewing preferences are highly subjective and always deeply personal choices, and the most fitting rejection of someone who doesn’t appeal to your aesthetics of intelligence, is simply to flick the channel and watch someone else.

The viewer, to that extent, is king.

But, when, comments begin targeting character, morality and integrity of individuals and the commentary becomes more about the individual, than the issue, then frankly, the anger is just destructive and little else.

More than anything else, it is tragic that at this time, we are expressing ourselves in this fashion. Surely, India has bigger lessons to learn and larger points to mull over, than to expend energy over which television journalist tops the charts or falls to the bottom.

The viewer has his own way, of settling such matters.

And the last word belongs to him.

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