Saturday, 6 December 2014

It is time to stand beside our fallen, fellow journalists

In the first episode of The Newsroom of season three, there is a particular scene when ACN's Mackenzie McHale calls up producer Maggie Jordan in Boston, to confirm whether any arrests have been made in the bombing case.

Earlier, CNN reported that an arrest was made. However, Maggie stuck to the point that there was no confirmation of arrests being made. Minutes later, CNN retracted the news stating that no arrests were made in the Boston bombing. The ACN newsroom, which was earlier tense about not being able to be the first to break in the report, erupted in joy, as the staff starting applauding.

At this point, Charlie Skinner, ACN's executive and Director cuts short the party by saying, "Hey, what you doing? Worst moment in this guy's life and you cheering why? Because you think if someone gets in line in back of you it means the line moved? We still blew Genoa. And if there's anyone in the world who should be able to empathize with CNN right now, you would think that it would be the people in this room! Empathy! He got knocked down! We didn't get taller."

Why am I narrating this story? In the recent past, there have been occasions when journalists, be it digital, print, and electronic, have screwed up. Pictures have gone with wrong captions, sleazy comments have been passed on digital forum by reputed news organisations, so on and so forth. But, let us just think for once - Is it a crime to make mistakes?

We are human beings, and no matter how much we try to avoid, we will make mistakes in our life. The profession that we are in however demands that we don't. Very early in my career, I was told something by my editor, "Make a mistake, learn from it and don't repeat it." It was all those mistakes we had committed over the years, that made us into the near-perfect-yet-imperfect journalists.



Unfortunately, journalism is one profession in which if you make one mistake, the whole world will be laughing at you. It is not a funny scene. Have you ever imagined how would you feel if you were to stand in the middle of the road, and be laughed at by millions of people? Imagine, you ending up at a party and being mocked at. It is likely that you will end up becoming a recluse and honestly, negative publicity does not help the individual, the company only gains profit. The person who made the mistake has to suffer in the most unthinkable ways.

As fellow journalists, we at this point, need to support and stand up for those particular individuals, who tend to fall prey to public laughter and entertainment. For example, the Doordarshan anchor who was mocked, laughed, and criticised, recently came in public to say that she feels suicidal.

"My career has been ruined. I am so distressed I have not eaten in four days. My family approached the cyber crime department so the video was taken off but new people keep uploading it," she had earlier told TOI in an interview. (Text taken from Times of India)

"Of the smooth two-hour broadcast, only my mistakes have been posted. I have been successfully hosting corporate and entertainment shows since college."  (Text taken from Times of India)

Yes, it is true journalism is no-nut-job. It takes "balls" to stand out amidst blasting cannons, loud protestors, crazy fans and report about scenes from ground zero. However, that does not mean they cannot make mistakes.

Unless, fellow journalists stand beside their colleagues, inspite of which company he or she works for there will be cases such as Gary Webb.

Again, journalism is no-nut-job, especially with the kind of rivalry (be it Company A vs Company B, or in-house), and pressure of being the first to break a news and pressure of ratings and pageviews.

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