The Fourth Estate?

"To get latest updates on Mumbai Terror attack, SMS ... " is for me the one line that sums up the state of the Fourth Estate; the media, newspapers ... our 'messengers from around the world'. A broad (make that extremely broad) perspective of looking at the media's handling of whatever has happened in the past 60 hours might seem like they were just doing their job; in the face of severe competition amongst themselves and blah. But, personally I think, there is line that just shouldn't be crossed.

"We have just heard a loud explosion! We have just heard an explosion! On second thought it was maybe just a loud gun-shot ... there was a gun-shot ... yes there was a gun-shot!" Next - running with the cameraman ... reaching the police barricade ... grabbing hold of a policeman ... "Sir what was that? Was it an explosion?" Policeman doesn't say a word ... pester him ... pester him more ... "Please move back". Moving back ... refocusing the camera ... "As you can see we have confirmed that there was indeed ... something! And as you can see we have been alerted to expect more!" There was something? Bird-crap maybe? Not that it will matter or make a difference, but I have lost any ounce of respect that I had for Barkha Dutt. What are you, a sooth-sayer?

"As you can see there is a big building behind me with fire at the top. These pictures exclusively on channel ... to know more of what is going to happen stay with us!" So now they know beforehand what is 'going to' happen? Of course they do! They have the experts don't they? "Sir if you could stop chewing the cap off that pen and talk some bullshit. Goddamit, we are paying you for that! W are out of sensational pics of buildings on fire at the moment. No no, stop cleaning your nose, the camera is on you now ..."

"Just a moment sir! Just a moment! We will continue our discussion but first I am going to immediately go back to our reporter xyz who has some breaking news! xyz can you hear me? Can you hear me? Speak to me man!" Half the screen shows the expert still shuffling papers, the other half is now with the 'ground-zero' reporter. "What just happened xyz?" ... static ... "Yes! Yes! As you can see (we can?) something major seems to have happened here! Some people are coming this way, some are going that way so clearly ... there are a lot of people. We don't want to speculate but ... something is going on ... or someone is going somewhere ... back to you!"

"Yes indeed a ground breaking revelation from our on-field reporter there! Bringing you all the latest happenings from the zone!"

Why does the media treat us as fools? Why is it that every news channel seems like an Ekta Kapoor serial instead of giving serious hard news? Major Sandip Unnikrishnan, a 31 year old, laid down his life trying to protect his comrade at the Nariman House while leading from the front. A person who, when he could have saved his own life, chose to go back in the face of terrorist fire to save his comrade. "Are you surprised that he chose to lead from the front?" is definitely not something to be questioned about him when interviewing his friends and family! Its' shameful!

Every single channel was reporting its own fake figures before and after the entire operation was completed. For example upwards of 60 young men entered Mumbai in small inflatable boats on Wednesday night was a popular figure at many places. Even before the security forces allowed Mr Ratan Tata to survey the damage at the Taj Hotel, all channels were already reporting the number of dead bodies at that place along with the amount that 'will' be required to restore the entire hotel.

Nothing will change. Tomorrow the media will cash in on another incident. Everyone of us will watch ... some will believe, some will debate, some will mock and ridicule, others like me will choose to write and vent out their ire. But nothing will bring any change to the Fourth Estate.

Addition (30 Nov '08):
News channels have been harping all day long calling this tragedy as India's 9/11. Firstly, I am not a really big fan of reducing such tragedies to catchy dates like 7/7 and 9/11 and blah. But now I feel ashamed of the media. Don't you guys know the proper date? And even that totally leaves out the relevant fact, that this attack on India was fundamentally different than the 9/11 tragedy that happened in the US. Is it a sin to recognize this as an Indian tragedy? What are the chances they even start calling this 'India's equivalent of Pakistan's J W Marriot tragedy' some time later? Aren't there any morals left in you? Why don't you pick some action movie thriller and sensationalize that???

Addition (3 Dec '08):
Putting up a few links of blogs/petitions sharing my view that I have expressed here.

Twin horrors strike Mumbai: Terrorists and TV journalists
... thanks Manjunath

Small Change - a petition to the High Court against the insensitive and irresponsible portrayal done by the media
... thanks Srinidhi