Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Royal tale

It was a story that gripped the heart of entire nation, the way all stories these days do. As the smallest items starts emerging from a remote corner of the country (and may be the world for some) and takes form in our living room, thanks to the unilateral focus of all news channels alike, all of us entertainment starved Television viewers find ourselves engrossed in these forms. And thankful for being part of this participative form of "infotainment", we play our part to perfection by kneeling down in prayers or sending dozens of messages to the news channels alleging our concern for the cause - whatever it may be.
We have seen this fever take the country by storm beginning from the days of 9/11 and spreading through the parliament attacks to Mumbai rains and to the 7/11 blasts. Yet to see the same fervor for the misery of one kid who met the misfortune of falling in a 60 ft deep hole that had been left uncovered in an act of inhuman unconcern, is certainly puzzling. Its puzzling not because its a singled out event affecting only one person - it is puzzling mainly because in our country finding ditches is more natural than finding a straight even path. It is puzzling because many a people do fall in these ditches perhaps everyday and lose limbs if not lives.
But even more than the ditches, it is puzzling because we collectively look away when we see a mishap happen in front of us. We regularly fail to find "eyewitnesses" to any crime. We ignore rapes and we ignore murders and we ignore reservation bills - yet we are singularly absorbed in the rescue operations of a kid living in an epic town. Only beacause the media conviniently chose to play the drama over and over again in our living room and in our minds? Aren't we being hypnotized to chose our concerns and the themes for our prayers?
It is not that it wasn't a commendable task. By all means it was - with its focus, media did indirectly rope in the political and administrative support which would perhaps not have come otherwise and a kid was saved because the entire nation was looking out for him. But if it does possess that power, is it not media's responsibility to make the citizen more concerned for matters that can directly use his/her help? Is it fair to dramatize a misery to mint revenues? Is it right to sell stories on an emotional appeal, disregarding the need for rational information and a well-rounded picture of the world. I find it hard to believe that for 48 hours Prince's plight was the only matter that could have concerned the 1 billion of people inhabiting this nation. And yet, that was the pne news that kept flashing over and over.
Media's independence is a much celebrated virtue in our land, and mercifully our journalists have traditionally made good use of this virtue. But lately, with episodes of this kind, the 24 hour news channels are turning into a day long version of afternoon tabloids, prying into the private miseries of people and leaving the nation largely ignored. It may not be particularly worrying, it does somehow seem to be an unwelcome twist in the story.

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