Thank You, Media!
It is with pride I can now say that Indian media has indeed evolved. For long, I have been very critical of the prime-time shows, their anchors and their guests. In this post, I would like to focus on the anchors and their diligent covering of news and their follow-ups.
When the news of Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Koppad being alive after 11 days buried in snow came about, it was heartening to see Bhupendra Chaubey rush to Betadur village in Karnataka to share the happiness of Koppad’s wife and mother. The interview really bought tears to my eyes. He wonderfully followed it up with asking Indians to have silent prayers at the India Gate. When all their prayers didn’t bear fruit and Hanumanthappa Koppad martyred, the nation wept along with his beleaguered family.
I expected the media to let the family mourn in private. After the burial, it was Ravish Kumar this time – who went to South India for the first time and talked to the Koppad family. After all, the Koppads were also poor – very much like a JNU student who was put behind bars. I give Ravish immense credit for not asking his favourite “jaat” question too. This is a case study for future journalism students on how language must not be a barrier or excuse to not cover news.
This is the site of Koppad’s mortal remains as shown by Ravish on his show. Two flags respect the martyr. The State government has promised to make this site a memorial. I am sure Ravish will follow-up on this news. In the mean time, I cannot forget those 60 minutes on February 13 when the Indian tricolor flew proudly in his show – no talk, no guests, no news. What a way to mark your respect to the soldiers and a message to the government to take care of our heroes!
This was not all. I had many more surprises waiting for me.
Rajdeep Sardesai, of all people, proved me wrong. I had expected him to not move out of his comfort areas of Lutyens, Montenegro or New York. But, there he was. He and his team visited the home-town of each of the 10 soldiers who were buried in Siachen. The pain of the families of the soldiers left me speechless. It was natural that Hanumanthappa’s story was the limelight, because of the odds he had faced to come alive. But, it was Rajdeep’s prime time show that made me realise that 9 other soldiers who were buried – their dead bodies were stuck in Kashmir. Weather didn’t allow the bodies to be flown to their home-towns for the final-rites for days. Rajdeep and his team were on the job taking the government to task for not being able to devise alternate ways to ensure the families get the bodies of the martyred soldiers faster. Talk of holding the elected government’s feet to fire.
The biggest surprise for me was from Barkha Dutt. I have to confess I hated her for the Radia episode, for her chubby relationship with Congress leaders and many other things. But imagine Barkha reporting from a war zone in Chattisgarh. It is not like a daily routine where she can hop onto a ride to JNU or 10 Janpath for a talk on how to change a narrative. But in this ongoing anti-maoist operation, based on various reports, fifteen CRPF commandos are injured and three are killed. The visuals of Barkha running from the operations center in Raipur, asking for minute to minute updates from the commanding officer, reminded me of 26/11 where she was giving a live commentary to India. Her cameraman running behind her, as the shaking images make it clear – was the type of journalism we have romanticized for ages. It is a different matter that Maoists may not have TV sets, so that they could have benefited from live updates from Barkha. Her concern for the soldiers and the villagers in the line of fire was palpable in that breathtaking reporting.
I had given up hopes on Indian journalism. My friends would tell me to watch or listen to local media to get local news. But I would argue that in Karnataka, how can I know what is going in naxal afflicted areas of Chattisgarh. I am so proud to be proven right. The prime time shows have re-affirmed common man’s faith in media. It was indeed “sense over sensationalism”. Borrowing quote from a favourite politician, I can say “Proud of You, Media!”