Sunday, November 25, 2007

From the Mouth of a Television Reporter

You'll never guess who said the following:

"[ Nothing] irritates me more than the glamorization of television. When I joined television, it was not about how you looked, or what makeup you wore; it was not about what clothes you adorned. It was about going out into the field and reporting old-style, good journalism. All these TV anchors and news readers that you watch now are extremely beautiful, they are models and air-hostesses. [excerpted] ” Where are their brains? Everybody thinks television is a very easy business. But if you want to be a cracking good reporter, you have to be prepared for hard work. You have to slog for 16 hours a day. When we went to cover [an international incident and the tsunami], we would go without food for four days at a time. We would survive on water and dry biscuits. Today’s generation does not understand that. They look at it from a distance and they think TV is glamour. Yes, for some people it is glamorous. I know the psyche of viewers. They may say ‘Yes, that girl is beautiful’ but they will not respect her until she has done some real reporting. These 24-hour news channels have resulted in a lot of sensationalism. Do you think competition has led to compromises in the standards of journalism....

[W]e have to acknowledge that we have created a certain amount of tabloidization of the news process. I am in favor of a self-created code of conduct that we all follow. Just as there is an ombudsman for newspapers, we in the television news industry should also set up a panel of eminent citizens to regulate our conduct.
One view is that television channels are more into providing entertainment than news. I think television has done very good things in South Asia. It has made journalism much more active. Television created campaigns for justice. It brought the Jessica Lal murder case into the limelight. The whole court case was reopened because of the media campaign. But yes, in our Hindi TV channels in India we find that superstition, rituals, blind faith — all nonsense — is being dished out in the name of news. Those channels are entertainment channels instead of news channels. They have no right to call themselves news channels. The time has come for us to scrutinize ourselves just as we scrutinize other institutions. We have to maintain some standards. I believe that despite the sensationalism, our viewers are intelligent and that good journalism will survive."

If you're an American without roots in India, I told you: you'd never guess this award-winning journalist who has lamented the fate of media there. Barkha Dut's shot above the bow is one that travels across major metropolitan and cable news markets of of these United States. Think about it. We've had a much longer time to become beautiful media obsessed. Overly so. Now male and female models get even more screen time as they grace our televisions with their obsessively handsome appearances. The audacity of people with wind-swept hair, strong chins, and hulking builds (or svelte-leaning-toward-gaunt-shapes in nice sheep's clothing) to tell us about who we are. And we sit and watch them tell and actually listen. But, honestly, have they spoken to you? They talk to a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of us (really, how much time do they have to really ferret out meaningful information on any given day that we didn't hear the day before? But we don't care.
We still like to look.

I'm not looking at the news as much, and I'm getting a lot more work done. And truthfully, it's more entertaining to watch people make fools of themselves on reality TV like I Love New York than to listen to the news media celebrities spin their own personal version of reality. What a weird world, to look into a camera, day in and day out, and not know who is looking back at you. Yet the announcer proposes to know us and tell us how they think we feel. And they are usually wrong, and the end result is that we feel bad about all of the bad news they give us . Even their forced attempts at jocular light news are so
forced that it suggests emotional manipulation.

So What Do We Do America!!!

I say let's bring Miss Cleo back -- you know -- the West Indian wannabe with the yellow turban who told fortunes, usually starting at midnight. She was on a roll until she failed to divine her own fortune and that of her company, implicated in some wrongdoing (could it have been fraud? not sure, but apparently she picked up her accent on the downlow, as she was born her in the good ol USA. Anyway, really, is she any different than these media people who spend hour trying to figure out what we think -- and they're usually wrong. So Bring her back. She was average looking but more entertaining. She can tell us about as much as any newscaster can divine on any given day.

I'd rather get the truth from a bald-headed geek who does the news, than watch an ex-jock turned savant (not) tell me about myself and what I think as an American. I might take a break and go to BBC America where there's real news and less distraction analyzing how someone is dressing and what she did to get her hair so silky. But that's another blog another day. Keep coming back [2] readers. I enjoy writing for you.

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