The Demise of Decency

24 03 2007

In the past few days, Indian media coverage has been dominated by the news and the speculations [and now the official statement by the Jamaican police] about Bob Woolmer’s sudden death. The day after it was reported that he was dead, I happened to flip the channel to CNN-IBN [the Indian edition of CNN] and found myself bombarded with possibly the most rabid of speculation as to “Who Dunnit? Why? How? etc…

The term media circus is a bang-on description of the way in which the two hosts of the show, sorry “special”, went about trying to push the theory that this was not a natural event, but a conspiracy involving bookies, gamblers, underworld dons, and the attitude of the Pakistani cricketing establishment. That’s how I saw it. And while they may be justified in this theory that it was not a natural event, the issue I have with these guys is the way they went about trying to impose their agenda on the viewers.

They brought in pundits, former cricketers, coaches, and associates of Woolmer to dissect his state of mind, one theory was that he committed suicide, motives, who was to blame, etc. They tried to dig into whether it was stress-related, and called in people who have experience in coaching as to whether the elimination of Pakistan from the World Cup brought this about. There were accusations flying that there was division in the team, that he was going to reveal information about a gambling ring in Pakistan.

I know you’re thinking “So what? Isn’t that what the media is supposed to do?” I think its a yes and no answer. Yes, the media’s job is to report to us what has happened. But at the same time, there should be some decorum in the way this approached. You don’t bring on people as experts and cut them off halfway because they may be undermining your agenda. And given this is such a sensitive topic, not just politicially, but emotionally for his family, you could show some respect to the man. I found bringing on a psychoanalyst to speculate on Woolmer’s state of mind bad, but bringing on the man’s wife, who was on the other side of the world when it happened, and asking her “How do you feel? What do you think happened?” just smacks of really bad taste.

What the heck is she going to say to something like “How do you feel? What do you think happened?” “Oh, I don’t know???” Or “I’m walking on sunshine now???” Come on guys. The least you could have done is give her some time to digest the fact before putting her on national television and making her relive her loss in front of you clowns. But NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! You’re the media! You need to get to truth ASAP, NO MATTER WHAT! Your audience needs to know!

Well, guess what, you guys need a lesson in decency on how to manage these things tastefully. I’ve watched plenty of serious debates on international channels like the BBC, and the participants do seem to maintain some decorum, no matter how charged the atmosphere may get. I don’t know about others, but I find these special programs and talkshows here in India quite in poor taste. Most of these debate shows and political commentaries remind me of the Jerry Springer show, rather than serious programmes on serious issues. The usually de-evolve [and i do mean it in relation to evolution] into shouting matches, with the common approach being “If you cant win by reason, win by volume. And cut off any dissenters while your at it.” What’s really sad is that the Indian public seems to be lapping this up, and accept this as the proper way of doing things, which filters into other aspects of society.

Why can’t decency be balanced with the desire to get to the truth? Don’t tell me that to get to the hard truth you may have to drop decency. Thats a cheap excuse, that smacks of ineptitude and ignorance. Maybe its part of the learning curve, and the Indian media is still not mature enough to move away from the “Volume Rules” approach. But, as a viewer, I think its about time they at least try to grow up. There is no counter-threat here. Its just an appeal to basic decency. I’m assuming that those in the media to still possess this.

While I write this, I’m watching India fight a losing battling to stay in World Cup. I just wonder how crazy the media spin on this disaster will be.




One response

29 04 2007
On Life, The Universe, And Everything - Part I « chronicallysane

[…] There are limits to journalistic license. I’ve mentioned this before in an earlier post, The Demise of Decency, on the early coverage of the murder of Bob Woolmer last month. Fine! It was a marriage between two […]

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