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News mania

  • Published at 04:09 pm December 8th, 2017
  • Last updated at 05:57 pm December 8th, 2017
News mania

I strongly believe that the media has contributed a lot to this country.

If it weren’t for the media, the state of the affairs, I believe, would have suffered an insurmountable setback. It’s the media and the media professionals that had come running during the dire needs of the nation. Almost all our national crises could have been averted through the work of our media professionals.

However, sometimes, they also falter, and when they do, the image of the nation also dips into the bottom of the ocean.

A recent event bears the testimony to that. Udisa Islam of the Bangla Tribune news portal has reported on the astonishing behaviour of a few TV camera persons who went to cover Minister Obaidul Quader’s visit to Pongu Hospital in Dhaka.

In their attempt to video the minister sitting by an ailing junior colleague, many of the camera persons stood up on the beds by the patient for filming.

That was very surprising and unacceptable.

This is not the first time we’ve observed such a behavioural issue. I remember a TV reporter going down in a grave for a live after the Rana Plaza incident; I also remember a TV reporter trying to interview a person who was lying on the street and bleeding when the bombs he was carrying exploded inside the bag.

In their news race, reporters of TV channels always tend to go out of the journalistic grammar. This is where some soul-searching is required; this is where the reporters need to ask questions to themselves before jumping into action.

I’m also to blame in this regard, from back when I was working in the Ekattor TV newsroom. When we launched the TV channel, we wanted to drive out the competitors with our live operations.

As humans, when we err or falter, most of the time we ourselves cannot always assess our own slips or mistakes

That we successfully did, but in process, we had to commit many grammar errors of journalism. We used to deploy a reporter in the government secretariat in the morning. One day, on a cabinet meeting day, I asked my reporter to go for live at the nine o’clock bulletin.

His heart sank and he asked me: “What will I say on live, bhai; the meeting hasn’t started as yet!” I told him: “Keep saying what happened in the last meeting and try to speculate something about today’s.” He was very angry, but did his job as I had directed.

Poor me, I wasn’t shouldering my responsibility responsibly.

Professionals of every discipline perform their duties keeping a set of ethics in mind. So do journalists. This is exactly the reason why thousands of news organisations across the world have a published editorial guidelines for their workers.

Those who made it mandatory for their newsmen to follow the guidelines have been seen fairing much better than those who don’t have them.

A few news outlets in Bangladesh have some sort of training facility for the newsmen and other related workers, but most, especially the television channels, absolutely don’t have any such facility.

Their only resorts are the senior journalists who look after their operation. In the absence of any editorial guidelines, it’s the responsibility of the senior and experienced journalists to keep others up-to-date with journalistic knowledge.

I’m sure the prevailing “news race” has provoked the camera persons to stand on the hospital beds for filming the minister. I’d request you to pause and think about a few international TV channels such a BBC, CNN, Sky etc.

My question is: Which is the most credible one among them? Till now, BBC is still the most trusted media. Have you noticed that the BBC, most of the time, is late in providing the news? Yes; and it commits less mistakes than those who rush to a story.

I believe there’s something to learn from the BBC operation.

The Bangla Tribune report also mentioned that these-days the shangbadiks (journalists) are sarcastically called “shangghatiks” [dangerous elements]. To my mind, the reporter is absolutely right about how society feels about the newsmen.

It may sound sarcastic, but it may also reflect how the customers of the news and news-related products actually feel about them. This situation hasn’t evolved overnight; it took at least a decade to be branded like that.

As humans, when we err or falter, most of the time we ourselves cannot always assess our own slips or mistakes; it requires others to point them to us. I believe that’s why news organisations may think of running a survey as far as what the people -- who are consuming the news and news-related products -- think about them. Running such a survey would only do good for the profession.

We may have to ask ourselves many questions. Do the members of the public want what we’re providing them? Does the audience like what we’re delivering? Is Mr Quader visiting a sick colleague worthy of news? What does the business world think about our own way of delivering news and views? There are many.

I believe that the situation needs to reverse. I also believe the gate-keepers who are running the news operation are highly qualified, and they need to come forward to imbue the right knowledge to those who haven’t been trained enough to perform.

Ekram Kabir is a story-teller and a columnist.