Yesterday, DNA, on Twitter (@dna), wrongly announced the passing away of actor Shashi Kapoor.
A few minutes later, this exchange was visible on their twitter timeline:
Apologies. Shashi Kapoor is alive. Confirmed about 12 hours ago via HootSuite
@kalpak_s it was a mistake. he is stable
Actor Shashi Kapoor ALIVE. Apologies for the earlier tweet. He is alive about 12 hours ago via HootSuite
@twilightfairy we have put out an apology. about 12 hours ago via HootSuite in reply to twilightfairy
This is not the first time that a media house has prematurely announced a person’s death. It certainly will not be the last.
Indeed, my guess is that we will see more of this kind of error than we’ve ever seen. The instant ‘publishing’ that tools such as Twitter allow will ensure this.
As we see with Twitter and the need for a set of users to be the first to report something, news TV channels, too, feel the need to report instantaneously – because they are able to do so.
The Shashi Kapoor misreporting is just one instance of erroneous and irresponsible reporting – and we notice and remember it because it pertains to death.
Each day, all the Indian news channels (and I refer only to the English news channels, because I do not watch the others) misreport, distort and misrepresent news.
And they get away with it.
And, amazingly, I think they’ve reached a point where they just do not care.
In addition to the errors (only those of commission), it’s getting increasingly tiring to see news anchors and reporters bullying, bludgeoning and almost shaming people on the channels.
As a viewer, I cringe when I see this kind of behaviour – and I refuse to believe that I’m alone. Indeed, I know that I am not alone; all my friends are in agreement, all whom I speak to on this issue are in agreement – even those who I cannot count as friends.
Yet there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
Or is there?
The ratings on the news channels are too small for viewers to ‘vote’ by tuning out the channels. English news channels get yields which are completely disproportionate to the viewership.
That’s where a possibility exists – pressure from advertisers.
News channels have proven, time and again, that they care little for criticism. I’ve seen no demonstration in the last few years that they are bothered.
What if ten major advertisers got together and spoke to the owners and editors of news channels and tabled their concerns with the way news is being delivered? What if they threatened to pull out if the channels continued to ignore them?
Very often, marketers have the power to change the way things are being run – after all, they pay the piper, and, as a consequence, they can call the tune.
They could have reined in Lalit Modi – and that was an opportunity missed. If they had protested early enough against his high-handedness, the mess of today perhaps, would not have come to pass.
This is another opportunity for them to make a difference. Get together and get the channels to agree to some minimum levels of responsible journalism, ethical journalism.
There must be many CEOs, marketers and heads of media buying agencies who are equally disgusted with the state of affairs as I am. To them, here’s a simple request: ask your peers and your friends if they’re in agreement with you that something needs to be done.
If the answer is yes, and I’m confident it will be, explore the possibility of getting together to speak to the news channels.
You just might make a difference.
And that’s an important difference. A responsible, credible fourth estate is something we need desperately now.