Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On the media in terror attacks

This is a continuation of sorts of my previous post on the Media and Government in Mumbai. I came across this post by Anjali Deshpande and S K Pande in the Hoot that effectively chronicles all that is wrong with media coverage of the Mumbai attacks. Also, Mukul Kesavan makes a couple of compelling points in his article in the Telegraph. At least someone is thinking right! This is reassuring. And both articles make a compelling read.

But today, my point is somewhat different. While there is no debate on the fact that the media behaved irresponsibly, the Times of India came up with something worth reflecting on. In a short write-up on Page2 of the Chennai edition, it spoke of the psychological effect of constant media coverage on kids. This is especially true in Chennai, because kids were home all day, thanks to incessant rains and flooding, and sat glued to TV all day long. They may not understand the gravity of the situation, but they certainly understand that something is wrong. They can’t figure out why people are killing one another. This trauma is especially high when one of the parents is always travelling.

This is exactly why the television media needs to show some restraint in airing unedited images of the carnage. News channels are aired 24/7. There is no censorship possible, nor is it desirable, with respect to news channels. But, is the media not responsible for what it airs on prime-time television. As an adult, I remember being both shocked and traumatised with the gory images and bloodshed on television. The image of two guests lying face-down, shot dead by terrorists at the Taj were too horrible to forget. Of course, with the level of maturity I possess as an adult, I was able to overcome that shock. But, imagine the state of mind of a 10-year-old who watches this on TV. The child, being a child, is scarred for life. Does the media have any answer to all this? Or will they continue to be guided by the cardinal principle of TRPs and viewership? We may never know.

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