November 22, 2010

De-Pressing Press

Once upon a time, not so long ago, folding a newspaper earned me a praise from my parents. It was during this golden era of color TVs when I first came across divine souls called newscasters. Baldevanda Sagara, with his famous starting line संस्कृत वार्ता .. प्रवाचीतः बलदेवानंद सागरः, Pradip Bhide of the evening news in Marathi, and the English news presenters of Doordarshan were my demi-gods. As I grew older, I witnessed an exponential growth in number of news channels. It was during this time that I actually experienced an even faster decline in the quality of news. I have seen the Times of India evolve into a soft porn magazine which sells sex in the name of art and erotica. Pune Times (previously known as Pune Plus) evolved to having two kinds of articles: how much did one have to expose just before sleeping with Mr/Mrs. X; and whose make up can scare you more than all the Ramsay movies put together.

Things were a bit different during the Kargil war though. It was during this war that I witnessed some really courageous reporting. I can still remember Barkha Dutt interviewing soldiers and seeing the courageous fuel tank drivers piercing the fire from other side. One of the interviews I cannot forget was that of the great Capt. Vikram Batra. Sadly over the years my respect for this reporter and her so called journalism has gone so low that I do not want to write her name in a sentence having the name of Vikram Batra. This decline in respect began a few years ago when I saw some of her debates. During each debate I was getting a feeling of some preconceived idea being forward. There were times when someone making a valid point was stopped by really stupid excuses such as, "I believe Mr. X has something to add to this; lets go to Mr. X". The level went really low during some of the interviews I saw of the CommonWealth Games. These have been criticized in my previous blog posts "Where are the reporters?" and "The Great Indian Tamasha: Common Wealth Games." Here are the two videos that really highlight the lack of any spine in her interviews.



Sadly she is not alone and is part of the mother of all reality shows called News channels. The flashing news in these channels literally flashes. Lighting flashes are less painful to the eye as the colors used by these channels compete with the creativity of Ekta Kapoor. One question to all news channel - Why are you bombarding us with inconsistent text and video? If there was some consistency then the brain would not have any problems getting the message. However, most of the text you show is completely out of context and many a times makes no sense at all. Due to this inconsistency I can either read or listen but never comprehend what you want to say. There was a time when news clips came without background scores. These news clips were neat and simple presentation of facts or events. Lately, rather than the voice of the presenter, I hear background scores trying the vibrate the very emotion chords that have been incapacitated by the works of Ekta Kapoor & Co. Such cheap tricks were once used by the Times of India when it started highlighting some words of a news article. Did the editors of the Times forget the purpose of something called a headline? Was the editing time so less that the editor just highlighted the words he/she read before publishing the crap.

For me the press died the day newspapers evolved from a समाचारपत्र or journal to a PR newsletter; the press died when it became a medium to brainwash the masses and stopped being a medium to inform events and facts; the press died when ratings took precedence over the very conscience that separates us from parasites. Just like we want Kalmadi to resign, it is high time that people like Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi, and their partners quit. The impact of paid news is worse than every scandal that rocks the country as paid news can control and manipulate how people can perceive the scandal. There is an age old saying that being स्तिथ प्रज्ञ is a necessary condition for understanding the truth. I can only say that the press in its current form does not satisfy this condition.

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