Samrat has explored a wide range of writing as journalist, columnist and author. He’s been Deputy Editor of Hindustan Times (Delhi edition) and Editor of The New Indian Express (Bangalore). His last assignment was to start a daily broadsheet English newspaper in Chandigarh from scratch. Balle-balle and Chak-de-phatte to that.
I was watching TV news the other day and it gave me a fit of apoplexy. This is a professional hazard. As a newspaper editor I have to watch TV news to know what’s going on. My reporters are good souls and I have a few sources of my own, but do I go chasing after news the whole time? No, of course not, because now we have so many 24×7 news channels doing it for us that it is practically impossible for anything “visible” to happen without it becoming news. So we just watch the TV news. The more visible an event, the bigger news it is on TV. If it’s invisible like spectrum, or underground like coal, it could take a while to make news.
Unfortunately, restrictive laws get in the way of the most visible things, such as a naked Sherlyn Chopra, from becoming the biggest news. However, I’m sure all journalists know by now that we are expected to provide content which viewers and readers like. Could viewers and readers like anything more than Sherlyn Chopra naked, unless they happen to prefer Prince Harry naked? I think we should ask Justice Katju.
Sometimes even the invisible does become news. This is where news channels get to display their abundant but often thwarted (by restrictions about fiction) creativity. For example, India TV in 2008 broke the biggest story since the creation of the universe. They ran a “breaking news” story predicting the end of the world in three days. Since there were no readily available visuals for this event, they spliced bits from a number of Hollywood disaster films. I think some bits from alien movies also got mixed up. Anyway, the story was about the Large Hadron Collider experiment, the one that found the “God particle”. I think there were concerns among the nuclear scientists in India TV that CERN might discover the Devil particle instead, and thereby end the world.
Now, from my extensive reading of nuclear physics in the daily newspapers, I know that many of these subatomic particles come in pairs, like Tom and Jerry or Manish Tewari and Ravi Shankar Prasad. So it is entirely possible that the Devil particle is out there somewhere. It could be in our Parliament right now, or it might be lurking in the darkness of a coal mine somewhere.
In fact, it is also possible that the India TV story was actually right, and the world HAS in fact ended. We just don’t know it yet. If a normal day on earth is getting so bad, hell can’t be a helluva lot worse.
At least that’s what it looks like from the news, though I’m now watching less of it since my attack of apoplexy. That was brought about by a case of watching too many TV debates in succession. I had no option. I actually wanted to watch some news reports, to figure if I’m missing significant developments such as the impending end of the world, but instead I got a series of talk shows. They were all so heated that I thought the world was ending, and this contributed to raising the temperature of my brain, which led to apoplexy.
Had there actually been any news on the news channels, I might have escaped becoming brain dead. Had they even bothered to change the panelists I might have been ok.
However the show went something like this. “And now, we have Mr T to explain Coalgate to us”. “And now, Mr T will talk about Palmolive da jawab nahin to us”. “And now, Mr T is explaining anulom vilom with Baba Ramdev to us”. “And now, Mr T is explaining that the God particle is actually a Higgs Boson which Higgs bought from Bose in an auction, to us”.
Sadly my poor brain could not absorb so much knowledge and profundity all at one go from one person. To misquote Rakhi Sawant, those experts may be babas or Misters to you, they are swamis to me.
Since then I have become more cautious about my TV watching. I see Jhalak Dikhla Jaa on Colors for news that’s pleasant to watch. I would urge all TV news channels, as a viewer, to include clips of Isha Sharvani from Jhalak in their daily Parliament briefings. Remember, smartypants, you must provide content we viewers like, ok?
Sometimes I do tune into All India Radio to know about more mundane stuff like diesel price hikes. They give it to me straight, and I don’t even have to look at them.
I also read the day’s papers, which is another professional hazard, but I can’t tell you more without getting fired right out of the industry. All I’ll say is if anything is happening in the world today, we’ll fit it for you in less than seven stories of less than 300 words each, all on the front page of the daily newspaper. You really don’t need to know any more, trust me. Besides, this article just crossed 700 words, which is more than I’ve been trained to write as a newspaper guy, and way beyond what you’re used to reading.
I don’t want to give you apoplexy.
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