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Did media go overboard in Salman's verdict coverage?

08-May-2015
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Did media go overboard in Salman's verdict coverage?

A saga 13 years in the making resulted in Salman Khan finally being pronounced guilty in a 2002 hit-and-run case. It was an event of some magnitude, no doubt; but the Indian media, with its usual uncontrolled vigour, converted it into something that staggers the mind.

For the past 48 hours, every newspaper, TV channel, along with their associated social media accounts has been constantly barraging the viewer with the smallest of titbits on the unfolding drama. It’s been an awe-inspiring illustration of carpet bombing of the senses, perhaps not seen since the epic air raids of the Second World War.


No one denies that the judgement needed to be covered but it has now become something of a trend to see news anchors and journalists take on the role of judge, jury and executioner in debates, which are devoid of quality, whether in content or contributor. It is also a matter of course to come across overly aggressive reporters in a desperate attempt to find THAT different peg; for which they will go to any length.

It is not just that they showered, we feel, too much attention on a topic that did not deserve it but in doing so, other, more significant news items were mostly ignored. The Lok Sabha passed the Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill; it is an important landmark for the country which will have some far reaching effects on the economy and consumers in the years to come. Sadly, for the GST it was passed on the same day as Salman’s jail sentence and hardly got a mention. So much for getting our priorities right.


“In the case of the Salman verdict it was as if the television channels got a free live show to run and give a day off to many other editorial staff in the headquarters and elsewhere. It was a total loss of a sense of proportion that was shown, because there were other important things happening in parliament -- for instance one of which was on the exchange of Indian and Bangladeshi enclaves -- which deserved more than a mention in any news bulletin. To ignore all that and other events in the country and turn the Salman verdict into the sole event worthy of coverage for hours and hours looked as insulting to the rest of the staff who would have been covering and packaging arguably more important news, not to mention the viewing public,” says John Thomas, a former editor who is currently a Bangalore-based journalism professor.


All this and more was once again in ample supply in the hours since Salman’s conviction. About time Indian media introspects a bit about whether a higher TRP rating is worth this Faustian bargain. Higher ratings are all well and good and there is definitely an audience for this type of content but as the fourth estate, the media needs to be a little more responsible about the quality of reporting. This is especially true since our media likes to show itself a moral authority in the country.

A little less sensationalism and little more focus on the content is the key .
 

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