Saturday, February 3, 2007

'catching it live'

This piece comes courtesy my friend Taher, mt2222@yahoo.com, an inveterate blogger, an accomplished librarian and my most trusted online resource centre. Dr. Taher lives in Toronto and was associated with the American Studies Research Center (ASRC) in Hyderabad for many years in a senior capacity.

It is not just nose for news but a fit and athletic body and mind that should become the criteria for hiring reporters, particularly for the Crime Beat.
Don't laugh, if things continue the way are now my contention would become reality. Assignments across the news channels have already started proving my point.
Whether it's the fire in Meerut or the Nithari killings, the yardstick for which reporter should cover the event is simple: one who understands the crime beat and can withstand aggression. To feed the common man's growing appetite for news, these have become necessary.
Remember the fire in Meerut that destroyed three pandals and trapped dozens of people in Victoria Park. Despite a thick police presence on the spot the mob began targeting the media.
The next day thousands of angry people gathered at the spot and protested against the 'live coverage'. People thought their action was justified, as the "media had sided with the district administration by reporting the death toll figures provided by officials."
While we journalists were doing our work, the mob converged on us. Our mikes were snatched; we were pushed, manhandled and abused. The police remained aloof. Reason: the media was blaming the administration for the fire.
By allowing the protestors to target us, the administration taught us a lesson. Journalists took refuge in the police training ground. I fell over a burnt AC and got some bruises, but my cameraman was badly injured.
Journalists have to understand that for a mob a spark assumes the shape of an inferno and it is no point braving the odds at that point. When the police choose not to act, a single reporter is no match to the crowd. Journalists are the most vulnerable targets of a mob's ire.
I had a similar experience while covering the court appearance of the accused in the Nithari killings in a Ghaziabad court. Reporters tried all possible tricks to get inside the courtroom, but it was locked and the policemen were on guard.
Some lawyers demanded that they be allowed into the courtroom. The policemen didn't budge as a mob started building up.
Within minutes, the mob started shouting slogans against the judge and then suddenly windowpanes were smashed. As the police tried to control the protestors, the 'agile reporters' had already flashed the news.
The mob became angrier when the Moninder and Surendra were being brought out by a bunch of policemen and CBI officials.
Once they were out of the courtroom people competed with each another to rain punches on the duo. Reporters tumbled over one another and cameramen had a tough time adjusting their focus in the melee.
It all lasted for over 5 minutes, before the police finally managed to transport Moninder and Surendra to safety. The bosses in the news channels had by that time sniffed a "day driver" in the story and naturally wanted a minute-to-minute update through lives.
With the talkback tucked in my ears, I was preparing for my live when a bunch of lawyers came menacingly towards me. Their leader demanded that cameras and OB vans be removed immediately.
To prove they were serious one of them even showed me a danda and threatened to hit me if I continued on the spot for another minute.
I escaped but not a cameraperson from another news channel. He dared to defy the mob and ended up with a bloodied face. I assured the crowd that we would leave the place and was spared. But reporting from a crime scene has it's own thrill, so we decided to stick to the place and continue our lives once the crowd melted away.
That was a judgement error on my part. The moment I started answering the questions, another bunch of lawyers came to the place, snatched our mike and what followed was an angry outburst on the news channel.
Probably now you will endorse my views that reporting for sensitive cases requires physical abilities more than the mental abilities.

1 comment:

Hyderabadiz said...

It is a pleasure to have someone you trust.
Keep up blogging, dear.