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Sunday, 28 December 2014

Whether or Not the Nation Demands to Know

Arnab Goswami, a man many Indians love to hate, is not a corrupt politician or a goon but a news presenter.

It is strange how social media posts update one of things back home in their country. My friend argued why he saves his little one from Indian TV. "C'mon! Horror movies and Arnab are not meant for kids. The time of my wall post will tell you when I watch it [mid night when the child is fast asleep]. But I won't be surprised if she asks one day: Dad, where are my chocolates? The nation demands an ANSWER!." 

I have been away from my home country for long and now am mostly between travels. It is by chance I get to watch Indian TV, especially its news channels. Sometimes it is entertaining to watch almost-comical presentations crammed with loud anchors seated in wrong emotions - venting out their childhood anger out on some new bully who must have taken the avatar of that new guest... they have now got a chance to attack in their studio. Forget it for a moment that the guests are not wise cracks. Then viewing becomes laboured and leaves one furious as TV proves it is nothing but an idot box [or must I say an idiot's box?]... with its own idiots almost energetically pulling the viewer's emotional state to that of the presenter's. 

Goswami is the anchorman of a news hour programme in one of India's many news channels. Complete with theatrics he loves to grill/fire/shoot/make faces/round his eyes/thrust some a4 sheet papers/shake his head in denial... at politicians and celebrities. It seems for years this anchor has been hogging airtime with all this... and his favourite line that interrupts the guest - 'the nation demands an answer'. This is repeated like an ad jingle though out the programme. This line is now a new favourite among the comics of the nation. Bollywood copies everything faster than Chinese fake-bag units. Hindi movies now cashes in on Goswami-theatrics to promote new releases... I happened to watch the SRK promo on Happy New Year where a con-man dressed like Goswami, complete with his idiosyncrasy entertains the viewer to have the name of the film registered well at the expense of the newsman.

To be frank I have nothing against his programme with a curious title 'Frankly Speaking'. Thanks to YouTube clips on Facebook reposts, I have only watched a few minutes of this journalist's work and it gives me palpitations... not that the guy intimidates me... but to know the whole world is probably watching such programmes. Though am not that weak or old to start complaining about my health but I have serious concerns for my countrymen and their children who may be subjected to this sort of entertainment/information options.

I recommend Indian television news channels to please start keeping a statutory warning line that 'TV news viewing can be harmful for your mental and emotional wellbeing'. This can probably warn heart patients or at least give a heads up to parents who may want to switch to other channels when children are around.

By better news channels, I don't intend to point at the western media. Western media's propaganda layers are as thick and gooey... but presented just as fine as Tiramisu. I will not speak of news in the Middle East yet, because I work and live in Dubai on a freelance journalist's visa and 'frankly speaking' will not do anything at this point to revoke my sole proprietor's license.

Why do we need to watch news on TV? For reasons to keep human resources of a now-not-so-relevant industry busy? I don't see any relevance in watching a 24-hour news channel when your phone can beep you the latest news for free!

I am sorry to let my industry colleagues know that the job of a TV news anchor will fast become redundant for two reasons. First of all, the new age of information dissemination is really easy, free and in your hands with the mobile technology... and this suits the busy/choosy/attention deficient/impatient mass population of hand-held-gadget-addicts who are the real majority of today's human race who has access to TV etc. 

Secondly, to produce a news package for TV takes so much more effort, human labour, man hours and is far more expensive. I was a TV journalist before I joined print media. You work more hours under constant pressure as the deadlines are hourly there... and then if you are lucky you will definitely get the golden chance to be the butt of some joke... for the right or wrong... reasons depending on the humour of management and/or sponsors. I am not against anyone dreaming a career in TV news journalism. For that dream to come true there must be better channels run/owned by real journalist-entrepreneurs who conduct themselves better/or are constantly trained to monitor their tones and undertones... and this breed should ideally not have a price tag on their news finding souls. Am not sure if you get all that I mean. Is it too bluvian? [Feel free to let me know ;)].

Online news reporting is a much better alternative for aspiring journalists. I worked for online portals before heading to TV news. It is the fastest and the most effective mode of mass communication for over a decade now and is here to stay for some more decades. The portal desk also gives you a lesser injurious environment to work if you can ignore office politics. The word that you typed wrong can be corrected as soon as it is found out… unlike when it is dramatised in a TV news relay that is recorded by enemy channels. 

In this matter, the worst place to work is the print media. In a Literary Festival last year I spotted a book by the name - UAE Newspaper Goof Ups. Believe me I was shocked to see a book full of newspaper clips with bylines of few of my contemporaries. Empathy made my ears turn red. Trust me this is exactly how it feels to be a news journalist. And exactly why many are happy to choose the desk and burry their life's purposes under spelling errors and silly human slips by those who must have made history while exposing a certain story... those envious reporters I mean!

It is only apparent that I admire a journalist, especially a good reporter. Trying to be a good journo for most of my career, I also know where the shoe bites the wearer. It is essential that editors served as reporters before they got there... cos experienced empathy powered leadership is the only thing that will run this creative brand of fire fighters.

For Goswami, I have little more to say. He is simply fighting... and is watched by an angry nation... of emotional viewers who thrive on drama over matter... and unfortunately all his research or study do not prevent him from morphing into the viewer's puppet monkey in the act. Am not sure if his manager watches him closely... not sure if the HR took a psychometric test before admitting him to that seat! Am not sure why I don't like this reporter though he seems to be doing his job well... perhaps it is the presentation. Am sorry I must confess it is bad!

Why am I writing this on/for a presenter whom I know not? He may never even read this. Well, being a reporter am 'frankly speaking' about what I found completely by chance. It is my duty whether or not the nation demands to know.

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