Friday, May 06, 2011

Osama is dead! Long live Print

The last word on the Osama bin Laden killing has not been spoken or written yet.  Questions are flying all over the world; there is a deliberate opaqueness in the selective information released by the United States that is fueling speculation and scepticism.

In such a situation what is the role of the media? Should it try and glean as much information as it can and put it out in the public realm before it launches into airing opinions?
Indian news channels, given their past record, routinely fail to provide essential information on a development before they start bombarding viewers with opinion. The hours after President Obama announced the success of his country’s operation to kill Osama bin Laden were not very different. It is true that little information was available barring what the President had announced. It is true that Indian channels do not have reporters in Pakistan and had to depend on feeds from Pakistani channels to get the first images and information.
But surely, in this day of the Internet, it would have been possible for news desks in this country to put out cogent information about the site of the attack, Abbotabad, and piece together background that would help viewers make better sense of the story. But if you watched only television, you were left with dozens of questions unanswered. So when May 3 dawned, it was a relief to turn to the print media to fill in the gaps in information.
Of course, in the middle of all the grim business, we got a bit of entertainment. For some channels, it was not Osama who had been killed but Obama! NDTV India was the first off the mark killing off the American President and through the evening, talking heads on other channels kept slipping up on the two names, making them virtually interchangeable. The prize for doing this repeatedly should probably go to the irrepressible Arnab Goswami of Times Now who repeated his trademark command performance by inviting Pakistanis to the channel and not allowing them to speak.
Kalpana Sharma in The Hoot. Here

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