Campaign India Team
Aug 01, 2008

Why should TV channels outdo Perry Mason?

I think it’s time someone said to the news television channels:“You are not the Home ministry. You are not the Central Bureau of Investigation. You are not the Director General of Police. You are not even a beat constable.” During the past few days, I’ve been flipping (English) news channels to catch the coverage of, first, the Bangalore blasts, and a couple of days later, the Ahmedabad blasts.

Why should TV channels outdo Perry Mason?

I think it’s time someone said to the news television channels:
“You are not the Home ministry. You are not the Central Bureau of Investigation. You are not the Director General of Police. You are not even a beat constable.” During the past few days, I’ve been flipping (English) news channels to catch the coverage of, first, the Bangalore blasts, and a couple of days later, the Ahmedabad blasts.

And I’m appalled at the coverage (and frightened of what the coverage on the non-English channels might have been). I will refrain from naming any one channel because all have been more than a bit remiss in how they deal with news like this. Why do news channels feel that they need to “crack” each case before the official investigative agencies do? Why can’t they limit their coverage to accurate and timely reportage of the news and of the facts? I still am unclear as to how many blasts there were in Ahmedabad; I’m unclear as to how many were killed, how many were injured.
These should be the simplest of the facts to bring to the viewer – but, looking at the channels, it seems to be a gargantuan task.

Imagine, while they breathlessly speculate on the perpetrators and the composition of the bombs and the various possible reasons to choose the target locations without a modicum of knowledge in their never-ending hunt for breaking news, they could have scooped all their competitors if they told viewers that they guaranteed that there were only x blasts, y people injured and z killed.

If I was certain that a particular  channel was accurate about these three numbers, I would be more likely to stay on the channel.
I find it an insult to my intelligence if a reporter, within minutes of the first blasts, propounds a theory on why the terrorists selected locations a,b and c. I find it an insult to my intelligence if a reporter, within minutes of the first blasts, tells me who is responsible for the attack.
I’ve used the first person singular, but I refuse to believe that I’m alone.

Instant crime solving by TV channels is the fastest way to lose credibility, not win it. Unless, of course, the channel is later proven to be correct. Which, as history has shown us numerous times in the last few years,  is almost never. One would have thought that the embarrassment of the Arushi double murder case would make channels more circumspect, but that is proven today to have been mere wishful thinking.
Newspapers have more time to delve into details and do not have to deliver news and opinion to their readers instantly. Logically, they should be doing more of the speculation than the news channels do. Pleasantly, none of the newspapers that I read has walked the same path as their TV counterparts; their reports are based on fact and official announcements.

Is that why, during times like this, I stay away from the TV set and wait at 6.15 in the morning for the welcoming thud of the morningers on my doormat? Is the 21st century news TV industry endangering the cornerstone of their business – credibility – to other factors that technology enables – reach, speed and audiovisual content? Am I alone in feeling I’d trade all the tech advancement for credibility?

 

Source:
Campaign India