Breaking news or broken news?

Posted: April 3, 2009 in Media

If I was the anchor of a popular news channel that flashed the story about the 26/11 terrorist molesting some woman at the Taj, I would switch off my mobile, lock myself in my room and drink myself into a silly stupor every day for the next week — or find a really big rock to hide under!

The report must rate as one of the biggest boo boos by the Indian broadcast media. And it wasn’t even an April fool’s joke! When I read today’s Pune Mirror, which carried the authentic version, I would have been ROTFLMAO, if I hadn’t been rushing to work. The paper reported that the ‘terrorist’ wasn’t a terrorist at all but just a female guest (incidentally also from Pune) who was consoling her friend as they were being ushered out by the fire brigade personnel!

But, I doubt if the anchor will be too worried by the flak she would have copped. She along with her channel will instead brazen it out and invent another breaking story! Like the one some of the channels did at Mangalore when the pub was attacked?

As a fresher into journalism, the most exciting and powerful part about being in the media was to understand that any news story that broke reached me before it reached the audience. This was true when 24/7 news channels were still to see the light of day, and holds good even today. Unfortunately today, breaking news is anything that catches the eyeballs – be it some kid who falls into a hole, a car that mows down pedestrians, the Prime Minister’s health bulletin or sound bytes of a martyr’s wife or mother being asked how they feel!

Some years ago when I worked at HT, a very senior editor told us that readers were not interested in the news anymore. They wanted to know what’s behind the news. Considering the number of TV channels today, that may be true to a large extent.

Most people pick up the morning papers and read the page 3 stuff, the peccadilloes of the rich and famous, and the sports pages, because hard news is old news! The down side of this media explosion is that with news channels in a race for TRPs the concept of ‘breaking news’ has been sent to the cleaners!

As my friend Zubin commented in a reply to one of earlier blogs on the broadcast media, “…They need to get a life.”

  1. Joe Pinto says:

    My dear Mohan,Yours is exactly the kind of defeatist attitude that the free market wants. If the best and most honest of journalists like you get cynical enough to believe that, “Most people pick up the morning papers and read the page 3 stuff, the peccadilloes of the rich and famous, and the sports pages, because hard news is old news!” no wonder those who actually believe and spread this propaganda are running the mass media today.No, I do not agree with you, Mohan.I believe the common people want good hard news — readable and well-presented. They are fed up with Page 3 garbage and celebrity gossip. They can see through the lies of endorsements.Look at the response that Vinita Deshmukh got with her story on the Dow + MPCB scandal and the way she invoked RTI. That is why she got the Chameli Devi Jain award. Get hold of a copy of the Intelligent Pune every Friday, and your cynicism may get the medicine it deserves.Also Nirupama Subramaniam of the Hindu, writing her powerful stories for three years from inside Pakistan. See the perspective you get when you read her compared to the drones on TV.Don’t get yourself down, Mohan.The world is a great and beautiful place, as good and great as it was when we were together — with Harry and Taher and YVK — at the old MH on East Street. We need honest journalists like you to tell a good story. Don’t lose heart, Mohan.Warm regards,- Joe.

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