Media Coverage

English: Durga, Kathmandu, Nepal Español: Durg...
English: Durga, Kathmandu, Nepal Español: Durga, Kathmandu, Nepal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are the Thakres in Mumbai, and the Owaisi brothers in Hyderabad, and (in media) the Dixit brothers in Kathmandu. Kanak Dixit cemented his reputation with the Himal magazine a long time ago, and they have branched out since. I have thought of Kanak as a distant comrade on the democracy issue back in 2006, in the more recent years I have thought of him as an opponent on the federalism issue.

Let me make it clear, I have never had issue with any trending topic on Twitter, and #GoHomeIndianMedia was no exception. Free expression is a beautiful thing. I can disagree and celebrate at the same time.

But I have been curious. I have had the disadvantage of not seeing the TV coverage that brought about that Twitter storm. For the most part. I have seen a few minutes here and there on Facebook. But I have yet to come across something I might find offensive.

TV coverage is what brings in the help and the aid. TV coverage gone, most of the incoming help also comes down to a trickle, as it predictably did.

Of course the media is going to report on the extremes and the dramatic. That is how they work everywhere. The Dixit brothers are in the print medium. Maybe they should jump into the online video segment as well. That will help them appreciate.
In fact the first foreign correspondents to parachute in the next morning were surprised on the drive into the city that they didn’t spot a single ruined building. Had they flown into the wrong hotspot by mistake? ....... there is a formula for news and it’s hard to file a story that doesn’t fit it........ Which is why from Haiti to Haiyan, from Nargis to Nepal, it is, quite literally, the same old story. ...... The international media arrives in herds and hunts in packs. Everything has to conform to a preordained script: you parachute in and immediately find good visuals of ‘utter devastation’; recruit an English-speaking local who doesn’t need subtitling; trail the rescue teams with sniffer dogs you flew in with as they pull someone out alive, after 12 hours (the rescuers need their logos on TV as much as you need them in the picture). ....... Then it’s back to the hotel bar to swap stories of derring-do, before calling the desk to plan tomorrow’s story of slow government response, and the day after tomorrow’s account of yet another survivor pulled out alive. After that, get a ride in a rescue helicopter for the out-of-town visual of utter devastation in a remote mountain village.
Why is this surprising? Is this Dixit trying to pull a Go Home Western Media?
To my knowledge no foreign correspondent went around shooting streets in which all the buildings were still standing. They didn’t have time to look at farmers harvesting potatoes by the roadside as they rushed to pan across more historic ruins. ...... No-one found it extraordinary or newsworthy that the phones were working, that they could tweet even from the hinterland, or that Kathmandu got back electricity in three days. Such bits of information didn’t fit the script. ...... Because competing TV channels are in the same helicopter, there is a temptation to over-dramatise, embellish and overstate. And countries like Nepal better have their disasters on a slow news day in North America - otherwise they might not make the bulletins.
And now the money quote.
But in Kathmandu this month it was the arrival of Indian TV journalists that exposed the worst shortcomings of the international media. It was as if the reporters were selected for their archetypal crudeness and rudeness, and ability to be insensitive to survivors. Nepali villagers who had just lost relatives were treated like hard-of-hearing hillbillies who should have been thankful to be on camera. ..... the most biting criticism came from India’s own public sphere, with many criticising the country’s TV coverage of the Kashmir floods last year as equally crass and overbearing.
This always happens, no?
Although many correspondents tried to get more minutes on air, the media had moved on to the UK elections, Syria, Yemen and Iraq. The challenge now is to keep the spotlight on Nepal when another disaster strikes. Not another earthquake, but when the monsoon rains in July-August trigger landslides on mountains destabilised by the tremors.
Do that on social media. Become your own media.

Summary: I am surprised Kunda Dixit is surprised the global media was interested in fallen temples and houses and not those intact and standing. That is how TV works. Of all people, he should know.


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