The media files
By Chitra Ahanthem
The IFP Saturday edition’s photo, showing a bloodied hand and a shining if not sparkling gun held as ‘proof’ of the: ‘UG fired at us, we fired back and shot him dead’ theory nailed the truth of how fake encounters are played out. Yes, the deceased’s son had earlier related how his father had been dragged away and described his state of attire, which had later been changed but all doubts of over fair play is laid to rest by that single picture. The best part of the photo is that the whole bloodied body is shown and for me, it marks a subtle shift from how most news photos of blood and gore photographs in the Manipur media are carried about on the front pages. In the race for the most ‘tell all’ photographs, crime reporters and photojournalists do cross the line at times while the lack of a general sensitivity towards respect for dead bodies and the sentiments of their surviving relatives at the editing desk do contribute to pictures that most of us want to avoid looking at.
But try taking this angle with the senior folks in the media and they go on and on about how “reality needs to be shown”. Try putting in a bit of “but reality can be shown in a different perspective” but who would listen? And so, all the more appreciation for the photograph: hope this marks a beginning. IFP too have had its share of insensitive photographs and major breaches on ethical and legal reporting in relation to cases of rape and other sexual assault related reports and I am not one to take it quietly: even going to the extent of writing an IFP Saturday Leader writer editorial castigating one such case!
The media is also heartless and photo journalists more so. I remember one case distinctly during the State Assembly Elections when the dead body of an Election Official was brought to the morgue. A group of photojournalists waited for family members to show up so they could take pictures of them weeping. When the family members trickled in, some talking amongst themselves that they hoped it would not be their relative or family member, the photographers jostled them, all trying to get their best shots. The compound at the morgue had minimal electrical lighting but for a brief spell of time, the popping flashbulbs of the photographers more than made up for the darkness.
TV reporters are the worse lot: they pose and make the subjects of the story pose as well! If you are their subject for a “poor farmer with no assistance from Government” story or some such sort, then you have had it. You would have to sit through repeated takes (akin to film shoots) where they would want to catch your poverty through your clothes, your home, your bare essentials but worse? you toiling in the fields! Makes one wonder how much of grey lies between TV news and TV reality shows.
In the media set up, there is an integral team that lies behind the scenes: the people at the desk who file in stories and do lay outs and page designing. They with great typing speeds and the weakest hold over the language and their expression! It is this group that can also inadvertently give you free entertainment. Case in point? There are too many to list here but the most recent one was an interview of the MPCS topper. The Manipuri newspaper was fine and the topper had mentioned how her success was a result of her study groups, her friends, her family and her husband. The English version added just one letter making the girl a modern day Draupadi: it said she was grateful to her ‘husbands’! If you happen to see IFP news stories ending abruptly or not finding the remaining bit of it after a “continued on page 3-4” you know it is the desk staff sleeping it off. The next time you find something like that, send a rose for the desk staff a la Gandhigiri style! No amount of drawing their attention to be careful works: after all, the news that has been printed is yesterday’s news…old story.
And yes! The perception AND the attitude of the people (of all ranks and file) hinges upon which section of the media you come from, which language you write and what level (national, international, TV or web portals). In Manipur, ISTV news occupies supreme importance for no event or inauguration or dharna can start without their benevolent presence! I distinctly remember watching a Shumang Leela that spoofed the way the local news channel had taken over the way things happen in the state: a woman who is part of a protest refuses to come out till the local cable crew arrives on the spot, following which she wants to be in her best attire! Everyone wants their 5 minutes of fame and unlike National TV channels where a news report has a maximum duration of 2 minutes, the fact that the local cable news gives you as much air time to your antics depending on the amount of their stock of other news story stock means YOU are on a roll!
There can be no denying that the subject of news or feature stories warm up the moment you mention you are from TV. If you are a local print media person, God be with you: they do not even answer you properly, much less give you time! Ask me! The hilarious bit is when on assignment for website news portals and you have to interview or interact with those who are not so aware of such media spaces. Try telling you are writing for www. this and www. that. I call such exchanges acute cases of being lost in translation!