Media matters and such (updated)
Note: I have been having synchronization issues with my blog-editor and WP.com – hence this post may have appeared multiple times if you are using a feed reader. I apologize for any inconvenience.
A day after, the official death toll from the Mumbai blasts is 190. As expected, the famed resilience of Mumbai-ites is coming through and life seems to be getting back to normal: schools were open today, railway service is being restored gradually and the stock market is stable – even bullish.
I wanted to take this opportunity for a perspective on media coverage of the blasts. For me the best source of reliable information throughout has been the Indian blogosphere. Gaurav Sabnis, Amit Varma and Manish Vij did an excellent job updating regularly about the ground situation in Mumbai. Just plain and simple reporting of as much useful facts as possible – no sensationalizing, no opionionated discourses (Gaurav and Amit have since then voiced opinions as well). On top of all, kudos to all the bloggers at Mumbai Help – they went above and beyond and provided actual help, especially for friends and relatives trying to find news of their loved ones.
Other bloggers have shared their thoughts and experiences (loads of links as usual at DesiPundit). Of all of the blogs, this one post by Bishwanath Ghosh touched a chord. It examines our familiarity with the city of Bombay through the prism of ubiquitous Bollywood films.
Outside the Bandra station, I walked up to a man who I had known for 25 years — the good, old Bombay taxiwallah! Dozens of heroes — and dozens of times — have sought his help to chase the heroine or the villain or to simply go to work. He put the metre down and we set off. On the way, we crossed a stretch which I had known for — once again — 25 years! The Marine Drive.
That’s the thing about Bombay: you don’t have to go to the city to see it. Those into Hindi movies have grown up in it without even setting foot on it. That’s why it hurts even a Bihari or a Bengali when tragedy strikes far-off Bombay. It is the surrogate hometown of every Hindi movie-watcher.
The Indian visual media, on the other hand, seemed to be intent on an over-hyped and sensationalized presentation of the news – even to the extent of being exploitative . Many people have mentioned Rajdeep Sardesai’s shameless pandering to advertising interests. As Buchu points out:
Rajdeep Sardesai has been shrill and shrieking away, banging on about how CNN-IBN has these exclusive photos or whatever, his voice getting louder, like a child opening new presents as the death toll rises.
I also mentioned yesterday about the scant coverage of the blasts in American news media’s evening stories (perhaps they considered the news as old by then and less important to Bush’s apparent change of heart on Guantanamo prisoners). CNN’s Situation Room was particularly irksome. Considering that their partner in India (Sardesai and CNN-IBN) has been tooting their horn so much – I was surprised at the lack of on-the-spot reporting. Also, not just for this story – I simply don’t get the deal about Blitzer walking around a big room with overlapping news-feeds being projected on the screen. When I want news-feed, I will check the internet – on TV give me something in-depth. Over the last two years I have in general given up on traditional media, especially cable news with the thought that if anything is really important, it will be spoofed on The Daily Show or the Colbert Report. Yesterday I reaffirmed my decision.
With regards to MSM, particularly galling was how BBC and today’s NPR Morning Edition gave so much credence to Musharaff’s ‘condemnation’ of the attacks. The Pakistani president’s statement is like a Columbian drug lord shedding tears for victims of overdose.
Getting back to alternate media, there was nothing, repeat, nothing – no mention at all about the incident on the left-wing American blogosphere (DailyKos, Washington Monthly etc). Last year, after the London Bombings, even Boing Boing had a few posts. Less said about the right-wing blogs, the better. They took this opportunity to further some of their Bush-worshipping, liberal-bashing agendas. Their ignorance, deservedly fisked by the Curious Gawker, is breathtaking.
Now, I am not saying that we should be attention hungry on the issue – if the western media chooses to ignore us – so be it. But to me it has been a little intriguing especially after Time magazine dedicated a whole issue recently on India’s so-called resurgance. Also, as mentioned by Confused in one of his comments, this aparent lack of concern should tell us how much Indians and Indian lives really matter to the West. Very little – unless of course, there happens to be a massive flood, earthquake or a natural disaster where they can they can feed their guilt-conscience by sending some tax-deductible charity.
As Manish says:
You’re not American or European or rich, ergo not like us, ergo nobody cares (via)
Before I finish up here, one of the best posts of the day in reaction to the events in Mumbai, particularly on the possibility of communal violence and also how we should react.
UPDATES: 1. Sepia Mutiny has a post about the lack of participation from the American blogosphere. One (anonymous) US blogger has defended him/herself by saying there was nothing new in terms of opinion for them to add ! Such logic did not stop cloned posts parroting the ‘we are all Londoners today’ and such on numerous blogs around the same time last year.
Again, I am not downplaying the London bombings – all types or forms of terrorism are equally henious. Just seems to me that some acts of terrorisms are less henious than other.
3. Finally, BBC covers the blog coverage of the Mumbai blasts – mentions Ultrabrown, Sepia Mutiny and others but does not link to any of the blogs ! Also, no mention of the good work done by Mumbai Help.
Another UPDATE: Now New York Times has an inane article that implies that the bombs were meant for the well-off in Mumbai.