Thursday, April 27, 2006

The news in black and white and colored

I was going through the weather forecast in the papers here. Nothing to write home about. But it reminded me of the weather forecasts that we get in Times of India (TOI) Bangalore.

On March 4th we had torrential rains for about two days, plunging the mercury down several degrees to the right side of a cool weather. I remember the article that came in TOI the next day.

"Mr. K from the Meterological Department confirmed that it rained in Bangalore yesterday. He predicts more rain in the next 24 hours."

It was cloudy and it didn’t take a weatherman to predict that it would rain, leave alone ‘confirm’ that it had rained.

However at the slightest change in weather, TOI will badger this poor man for news and he invariably ends up looking like a fool.

I remember a news item that came in TOI when Playwin was a big draw.

Family commits suicide due to Playwin!

Or something to that effect. The news went on to allege that the family had run into huge debts due to bulk purchase of Playwin tickets. The Playwin outlet was ransacked by angry crowds and the owner was in hiding for days till police restored normalcy. Deccan Herald later reported that the family was in debt due to a failed business transaction and that the suicide had nothing to do with Playwin.

However TOI continued it’s inflammatory reportage till failing circulation figures forced it to pull up it’s socks. TOI still has readers due to its glitz value but Deccan Herald has surprisingly held onto its subscribers and increased its circulation with a few changes, like the Metro section (which is an excellent read).

Then TOI started a Food Review section and my aunt believed one such review and went to the "Thattu Kada", an supposedly authentic mallu restaurant. The 'restaurant' turned out to be a garage and the food was the pits. The naadan fish curry turned out to be fish boiled in water and tomato sauce thickened with cornflour. She wrote an angry mail to the reviewer, who merely added a "disclaimer" to her reviews after that. Deccan's food reviews on the other hand is very reliable.

This reminds me of the lament of PR people...that unless you invite a reporter and the photographer for do's they will not report. And Press people are the worst behaved at Event Luncheons and Dinners. For a Golf tournament in which my Dad participated , the Press people literally blockaded the Cocktail counter, not allowing even players to have a drink. In fact I have coined a term for them "Professional party goers".

There was a time we took two copies of TOI and still fought over who got to read it. Nowadays the sole copy of TOI lies unread. Namma Deccan Herald is the chosen one, at least in my family.

Moral of the story? When in Bengaluru do as the Bengaluru jana do.


calvin said...

Well I got to be first at least here. :D

Immigrant in Canada said...

when I was little Ammachi used to mock the radio weather forecast and say"ennu mazha peyyanum, peyyathirikkanum sadhyathuyundu"

Mind Curry said...

ohhh mannnnn!!! another long comment disappearedddddd!!!

what you said about the press is very true. they develop this arrogance from the power of their pen and paper, power that should be used for better reasons.

and its true for the whole country, and probably others too.

even in kerala, there is no such thing as responsible press. hype and sensationalism is what sells.

i remember this girl called rajani who committed suicide for personal reasons. at that time she was a 2nd year student in a private engg college. the press, in connivance with some political leaders, reported it as the management suspending her from college due to the non-payment of exorbitant fees - which ofcourse was far from the truth. anyway sure enough, brothers and sisters suddenly sprang up from outfits such as SFI and DYFI to seek vengeance by destroying public property.

the point is, unless we see it ourselves, never believe "news". and always apply thought to make better sense of it all..

this is bbc world..making sense of it all..

silverine said...

@Aashik: lol next time if possible I will inform you before I post at Poomanam :)
@IIC: Our met officer has no choice. I think TOI has permanently stationed some rookie journo at his office :))
@mind curry: Nowadays I copy/paste my comment onto notepad before pressing the 'publish' button. That way I don't have to rewrite if it disappears.
I see a huge difference between the reporting habits of these two papers. TOI will simply ask you to mail the item to be published and they publish it. DH on the other hand will interview you and ask informed questions. Now that makes a lot of difference.
I am not a DH supporter. If they go the TOI way then expect a post blasting them here. But I am glad that DH has held it's ground inspite of almost getting swamped by TOI in the beginning :)
That bit about 2nd year student in a private engg college was so irresponsible esp in Kerala where such news can incite the student unions! I am shocked!!!
this is bbc world..making sense of it all LOL

Alexis Leon said...

What you have said about the press is very true. These days nobody takes the trouble to verify the facts before publishing it. Also everything is sensationalized. Malayala Manorama is a prime example. Whenever the name MM is mentioned it is qualified with "the newspaper with the highest circulation". It doesn't matter, if it appears 10 times in a paragraph. Same is the case of searching the mallu roots of anybody who is famous and nobody beats MM in that area. Somehow they will find a Malayalee connection. When Pronoy Roy was the media darling in his early days, he was described as the Mrs. Mary Roy's husband's brother. But in most descriptions will be at lest 30 - 40 words long to make the connection.

What mind curry said is very true--hype and sensationalism is what sells.

Dr. Pissed said...

aye aye!!

Sujay said...

TOI has even sold their editorial space for money.. In fact the only thing thats original in TOI is Sudoku :P

Even the news channels are becoming a farce these days...

Jiby said...

yeah i used to read the deccan herald on the net while in the us and along with the calcutta published daily telegraph, the hindu and the hindustan times are among the better newspapers in the country i have read.

as for times of india...i wouldnt go anywhere near it...its legacy isnt great either...was the british govt's prime supporter and propoganda-pusher during pre-independence!!! newspapers shud atleast now clean up their act...stop resorting to baseless sensationalism, selling out to interests & ideological that blogging, the internet and tv news channels are posing a big challenge to their hegemony.

reading abt the indian express bringing out a blank front page when gag orders were given at the proclamation of the emergency gave me goosebumps...becoming a journalist just doesnt seem tempting any longer with all the compromised reporting thats taking place...neways with blogs we are all free-lance journalists who have noone to edit us out!!!

good one!!!

Pradeep said...

The big problem about weather prediction is that our systems are still outdated. We can't blame the weatherman since he is handicapped with poor facilities.

About media responsibility: Well, every profession has its own unique occupational hazards built into it. (How readily we blame the doctor, when the patient is not cured!)

Media -- not just in Kerala, Bangalore or other parts of India -- all over the world, are constrained by many factors. Just a couple of them: inadequacy of time, and two, information is very difficult to come by.

Everyone likes to talk to Press about themselves and the good they have done: but few will welcome a journalist and clarify when things have gone wrong... they are always at meetings or out of station!

So, for "hungry" readers, journalists have only one option of quoting "unreliable sources" and putting out "unconfirmed reports".

Or, else the reader himself would say, "o! this paper has nothing to read!" It's often a case of print, you are damned, don't print, you are damned!

silverine said...

@Alexis: I heard they claimed that Anil Kumble was a mallu too as his mom lived in some village in Kerala.After reading Babin's post on Kerala Press all my preconcieved notions about the glorious Kerala Press vanished. The Kerala Press could have actually influenced public opinion about the need for development and job creation in the state. But then they didnt take the gauntlet. It is their loss. This was an excellent chance to make history. I guess news has become just another industry with an eye on the bottom line.
@Sujay: Very true. It's business now, not journalism anymore. You should have read TOI reporting on Aishwarya Rai's injury last week.The news talked about Aishwarya's Dad calling her and talking to her, and that she was taking bed rest and that she had a chat with her mother over the phone etc. On the other hand DH reported it just like any other news.
@Jiby: TOI was the british govt's prime supporter and propoganda-pusher during pre-independence
Jiby is this brand new information ( as Phoebe wud say). Thanks for this bit of info!!!! IE bringing out a blank front page was during the golden era of journalism I think. I am really glad that the other papers like DH and The Hindu are doing well inspite of straightforward reporting. There is still a vast majority of serious news readers there. And as you said Blogs rule!!!
@Pradeep: As a TOI journalist I was actually waiting for you comment with trepidation. But then you have replied with the same maturity with which you handle comments in your blog. Don't get me wrong, but someone once said that they didn't undersatnd what Pradeep was doing with TOI. He has such high regard for you as a journalist :)Thanks for presenting the other side of reporting.

Footnote: Maybe TOI has it's own style, but I think it is a very immature newspaper.

silverine said...

@dr pissed: Glad you agree :))

Sreejith Narayanan said...

Another great feature that I noticed in TOI is its page 3. There are captions for the photos such as pooja and sanjana having fun at Vivek's Birthday party.
Now, who the hell is Vivek, Sanjana and Pooja? :O

Mallu newspapers are famous for its charamam column. One full page is dedicated for this purpose. True, mallu community is much better knit that these cosmo ones, but the news such as "one ammoomma who was going to see her grandson, who was in the hospital as a coconut fell on his head, died as another coconut fell on her head." I have seriously read this sometime in one of the mallu papers :D

silverine said...

@sreejith: I wanted to put that in too. It is stupid and I have stopped reading Bangalore Times cos of that now.
I have wondered how a paper can make money by putting the charamam column like the mallu papers do or do they charge a bomb for it?
But the ammoomma story takes the cake LOL

Matter of Choice said...

I am an Indian Express fan!...they are the guys who have some commitment to independant journalism. As Alexis pointed out MM is the worst, i have been after my dad to change MM for ages unfortunately MM seems to be a part of our community no matter what crap they report!

I am not so sure about Rajni's case!. I dont think it was so open and shut..the gal had financial problems..the bank did refuse her a loan and the college was pressurizing her a bit to pay the fees. Dont know why exactly she committed suicide but inability to pay the fees could be a part of it

Pradeep said...

Everyone has a choice to see what they like to; and everyone has a choice to make the judgement they like to. Your points are well taken.

silverine said...

@MoC:Interesting perspective on the Rajni case. I don't know much about MM but it is a staple in my home in Kerala too along with Mathrubhumi and Deepika.
@Pradeep: Thank you :)

Jagan said...

i think the oonly thhing tht attracts people towards TOI is the supplementory paper that comes along ..the bangalore times or whatever .

And being from chennai , i prefer the hindu to any other paper.havnt tried deccan herald tho.