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Telescope: Between disaster and tragedy

TV rushes in with some disaster tourism, some sensitive coverage

Written by Shailaja Bajpai |
Updated: April 14, 2016 12:04:58 am

kerala, kerala temple, kerala fire, kerala temple fire, kollam temple fire, Puttingal Devi temple fire, Paravur temple fire, kerala temple fire updates, india news, kerala news, latest newsAt approximately 3.58 pm on Sunday, there was an earthquake at the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border and its tremors in Delhi saw intrepid reporters abandon their office premises with alacrity. Out of a sense of duty, you understand. CNN-IBN and India Today took one look at the swaying ceiling fans inside and rushed out — to speak to passers-by; Times Now took to the streets of Srinagar, looking for cracks (in the relationship between the PDP and BJP?). And NDTV24x7, seated bravely in the studio, dialled a rattled Pakistan with commendable foresight but premature speed: How many are dead, do we know, the anchor asked the Pakistani on the line, minutes after the quake.

Just under 12 hours earlier, a display of fireworks exploded into a huge consuming fire at a Kerala temple, killing over a hundred people and injuring hundreds. TV teams were on their way immediately and, soon enough, videos from the scene — many from mobile phones — were there for all to see. By afternoon, the negligence of the organisers lay in the debris — India Today showed us “unseen footage” of the tragedy. In the evening, Times Now had discovered an illegal cracker factory and CNN-IBN that banned explosives had been used.

In between the natural disaster and the human tragedy was the continuing story of a partially man-made natural disaster: Water scarcity. While the focus was Latur — NDTV, APB, News X had fairly extensive coverage — India News reminded us that the drought was more widespread: Chhattisgarh and Shivpuri in MP saw villagers as parched as the dry wells around them.

Swaroopanand Sarasawati, meanwhile, looking weather-beaten and speaking like an anachronism, declared that women entering the Shani Shingnapur temple would lead to more rapes. TV news, which along with the courts, have highlighted the issue of temple entry by women, pounced on this comment: The nightly discussion roundabout took on the swami.

Actress Khushboo was apoplectic with rage: How can men decide what women do, who gave them the right?

Quite right.

Wonder if it was appropriate for the Lt Governor of Delhi to give an “exclusive”, “explosive” interview to India Today’s

To the Point, aired on Monday. Either way, it was a good interview for Najeeb Jung and his inquisitor Karan Thapar. Jung revealed many things, including his ambivalent feelings for Arvind Kejriwal — “not a friend” but they get along; JNU’s Kanhaiya Kumar (“he speaks well… he is persuasive”); “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and how he didn’t “have the courage” to be odd and even.

In a telling exchange, he managed to damn with faint praise this AAP initiative without criticising it even once — a measure of his adroit side-stepping and Thapar’s circuitous questioning technique.

M.S. Dhoni may well ask himself why he advertised for Amrapali builders, as flat owners in the complexes built by the builders complained of delays and forwarded him their complaints. Dhoni’s smiling face was plastered on many TV news channels, Monday, as the companies’ mascot, hardly the kind of publicity he’d want.

Have you noticed that besides yoga, noodles, biscuits and countless other consumer products that prompted The New York Times to crown him the “King of ‘Baba Cool’” (on April 1, but no joke intended), Ramdev is also the sponsor of many news bulletins and programmes on ABP, News 24, etc? Saw his curiously but catchy “Jolly Fat Go” promo with a news item on how Anant Ambani had dropped over 108 kilos in 18 months, as the 21-year-old Ambani drew praise from the likes of Dhoni and Salman Khan, News 24 quipped, “Hit aur fit”.

That’s TV journalism for you. Or, wait on. CNN-IBN is promising us “Journalism that pushes the boundaries”, “Are you ready?”

Almost scared to say, “Yes.”

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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