Reporters, a new TV drama on Sony launched last week with the tagline: Khabar Dil Se.. Dil Tak. Earnestness aside, a newsroom can be full of adrenaline, bringing together the thrill of chasing a story and the race to break it first. Journalism, at its core, does subscribe to the elusive ideal of searching for truth. It’s surprising it took a storyteller so long to tap into this environment for inspiration. Maybe, producers have finally tired of the saas-bahu formula or dare we hope, India’s TV watching audience has matured to appreciate an entirely new backdrop.
Reporters doesn’t push any boundaries (so far) or address any of the existential questions plaguing journalists these days, mainly their relevance in the digital age. In the last decade, the industry has lost one-third of its jobs. All the parents of the 18-year-olds I know don’t seem to think writing reasonably clear sentences about important issues can amount to a real career. So one wonders about the timing of a show with a scribe as hero, considering the profession itself is under siege. In the first episode, we see Kabir (Rajeev Khandelwal), an ambitious star reporter talking to students about his passion for news. Ananya Kashyap (Kritika Kamra) is an enthusiastic newbie, smitten by Kabir (this is TV after all). The firewall between the editorial and business side is carefully constructed with an acerbic and heated exchange between the editor and owner, who is concerned only about TRPs. So far, so good.
It may be fiction but what is truly incredulous to anyone who’s ever worked in a newspaper or channel is these reporters’ news gathering skills. In an utterly baffling scene, a journalist hops onto a table in a crowded hospital with the camera on and threatens the doctor for keeping a patient waiting. In another, they scale walls to enter a politician’s home to film him forcing a girl into marriage. Maybe the director, Goldie Bahl, is getting his cues from the current TV news scenario in India since he seems determined to establish the journalist as a self righteous and passionate crusader.
An earlier generation of journalists were cautioned against moral presumption. The rules were to tell it like it is regardless of how you think it should be. This trend of highlighting issues with theatrical outrage instead of plain facts is relatively new. Frighteningly, this new style of reporting has found its way into a fictional depiction where accuracy and objectivity come second to opinion. It’s been a long time since The Insider, that defining film on journalism about an uncompromising producer who fights to air his shattering exposé on the tobacco industry. In the more recent House of Cards, a female newspaper reporter has a pivotal role but it follows the tired cliche of her involvement with a source. The image of a journalist as a slightly shifty and sloppy character of questionable ethics prevails. In the second episode of Reporters Kabir (Khandelwal) quits his job in a paper for the glamour of TV with the rather dramatic line “Jo dikhta hai, woh bikta hai.” The profession may have a diminishing profile but in this case, the truth is way less strange than fiction.