>A couple of days ago an angry friend invited me to what I discovered was one of many anti Indian-media web groups and specifically targeting Barkha Dutt. I knew that people were not entirely happy with the way the media had handled some of the coverage of the recent terror attacks.
In response to all this criticism that had been brewing since the Mumbai attacks, Ms. Dutt wrote an article yesterday to answer some of her, and the broadcast media at large’s, detractors.
Im sure there will be many angry people out there who will not listen to her arguments and will likely not be looking for reasonable attitudes – and they can’t entirely be faulted in the wake of all that has happened. There are those out there who while angry and hurt, still will be willing to hear her out.
Being one of those myself and having some experience in the media field, I felt it only fair to try and be honest and give a fair response without bias to the article. With that in mind, here is my open letter to Burkha Dutt. I am hoping to get this to her personally and am trying to do so right now, but at the very least I felt it should be put out there.
It is a very honestly written piece which I am sure will put a lot of peoples doubts to rest, for those who are seething and projecting anger, there is nothing that can be done but to bear it.
To be honest, I don’t think that your talking to the families or the freed hostages was either inappropriate or insensitive. Nothing personal, but you do have a somewhat brusque manner which given the stressful situation, may be misinterpreted as being insensitive.
The only point on which I do not entirely agree with you is that there should be a framework built and that the media ‘broke no rules’.
Firstly, there can obviously be no rules to cover each and every detail of how people in every single job behave, but in journalism – a profession historically considered one of integrity – as much if not more than other fields, there must be some application of common sense and decency. While a dangerous and very difficult operation is being undertaken where people lives are at stake, I should think the media would have enough sense to show everything in the area EXCEPT the actual movement of those involved – especially in this techno day and age.
Secondly, there have been many reports of some (not all) reporters doing things like showing too much detail of the action and even one I was just told about who actually asked one of the commando’s what the condition of the dead bodies was. This shows a desire to find something shocking that will generate controversy and thus – ratings.
Now for most of us, I don’t think we care about the vast majority of Indian media outlets. I myself watch only BBC, NDTV and occasionally maybe CNN – the rest are barely worth watching I find, with sensationalist attitudes, weak reporting and highly repetitive.
My feeling is that yes people are blaming the media very largely out of frustration and a need to see someone pay for what has happened in some fashion – and lets be honest, politicians are not likely to suffer too much because of this, its already a central argumentation point and the coming elections and what must be done for that are seeming to be the main topics of interest. But that is another matter.
I guess the point in all this is that a channel like NDTV is one that a very large number of people watch and respect across the country (from what Ive seen) as a national new channel. As a result, that channel and you as a very prominent face on NDTV, are akin to our window to the world. We look to you to go where we cannot, to see what we can’t and to keep us informed so that we don’t dwell in ignorance.
You are a larger public figure and in many ways with shows like the one you host, you are not just a media figure – you are a little like one of us. I hope you understand this.
This all is why people are hurt and angry and lashing out at you.
Bottom line, just because there is no written rule, does not mean that crossing that line isn’t wrong. And arguing that you did nothing wrong at anytime is not worthy, it is not honest and it is more than a little dishonourable.
We cannot change who you are, you either will admit what mistakes you make – small or large – and if it is in you, you will apologise for the, and do so sincerely. If after that you find the people embrace you again, it makes for a better equation between you and your viewers; if not, well then theres little you could do further anyway except keep going. But at least then you would have a clear conscience no?
Anyhow, I did not intend to lecture, my apologies if it comes across as such. I merely want to say my piece and not do it in a bias fashion and hopefully that aim has been accomplished.