When Sai Baba was taking his last few breaths at Puttaparthi, I overheard a colleague expressing concern about the Godman’s health. What caught my attention was that my colleague was more concerned about who will break the story if the spiritual guru died at an unearthly hour when no one is in the office. To my utter amusement, the other colleague also expressed the same opinion that if the Swami died late after midnight the story would only be filed early in the morning and that would increase the possibility of news getting published in another news site ( read: a competitor) first.
In the age of multiple news channels, news websites and cut throat competition have we forgotten to be humans? We news hungry journalists are always on the lookout for an interesting scoop or story, we are more concerned to break a story, be the first to report and somewhere forget to feel for the issues. For both my colleagues, the concern to break the story was far more important than the person who is looked up by millions of people was on his death bed. The fact that millions of people would undergo a feeling of despair after his death meant less. It was treated as big news and that’s about it.
I have to admit that even I fall into the same bracket. As much as I’d like to admit that I try not to invade other people’s privacy, stick to the morals that I was taught in my journalism school, I most of the time ‘succumb’ to competition - the competition to break a story, to write an article thinking from a reader’s perspective and not from the celebrity’s point of view.
Are we wrong in what we are doing? Perhaps yes. But don’t the readers want to know a little extra about their guru or their favourite star? And that means some additional readership for our website, couple of more hits. Of course, all this comes at the cost of someone’s privacy, someone’s emotions.
On day 3 of Anna Hazare’s fast against corruption, the journalist fraternity was scared that if the old man died, it would mean double the work. The media had thronged Jantar Mantar to witness modern day Satyagraha. Every magazine, news channel, websites was looking for that exclusive piece. And why not, because the modern day Satyagraha had captured the attention of the entire nation, where all eyes were glued to TV sets. Everyone supported Anna, everyone voiced their opinion and media was just doing its job by reporting about the latest. But in the midst of all this, one also forgot several similar other crusades that have been going on for years and are yet to get the same publicity. Anna Hazare’s crusade against corruption was obviously more interesting because known celebrities also supported the cause. Film stars thronged the place to get their two minutes of fame ‘for the right cause’. And of course, everyone made headlines. It was news worthy.
Perhaps Irom Sharmila’s crusade would have also garnered as much support from the public and press if there was a known celebrity supporting the cause. Because then the news would have been eyeball grabbing, more juicy, more interesting. Kate-William’s wedding is flashed all over the papers, but the silent protest of a lady fasting for 11 years for basic rights is merely mentioned in one small column.
It is a vicious circle really. We deliver what people want to read, what they want to watch because that is way to survive in today’s world. But somehow in the middle of all this, sensibilities of being human are slowly fading away.