Reporters from Kashmir face a lot of challenges
Mahrukh Inayet worked as a Senior News editor at Times Now and is currently works as the Course Director of a TV anchoring institute “Studio Talk” in Mumbai. She talks about her experiences and thoughts in a conversation with Altaf Khan from GK Magazine.
Being a Kashmiri how difficult it is to balance news coming from Kashmir?
It is very very difficult. When you belong to a place like Kashmir, there is also the local sentiment. At times, it becomes very difficult to become objective about the matter. During the land transfer row, and the summer agitation, I was the news Editor. You had to constantly be looking at the news purely in terms of what the facts are and let your Editor, at the newsroom take the editorial call.
The toughest assignment you had.
For me the toughest assignment was 26/11. I was outside the Taj hotel for 62 hours from that late evening till the last militant was killed on 29th November. The toughest part about that was, that you were so overwhelmed by what was happening around. Nobody had seen what was happening in Mumbai. I said I am going to report whatever is happening, what is called as event reporting and I will try to keep myself calm.
The general impression here in Kashmir is that the reporters working for Delhi based News channels are dictated by their bosses in Delhi, how far do you agree?
There is a fair amount of truth in it. If you look at it purely in terms of how journalism is done, a reporter should report what is happening on the ground and an editor should trust the reporter, who is reporting from the ground. But in television today, the news desk-the nerve centre of a news channel, 7 out of 10 times, the editor decides the editorial slant of the story. Suppose there are two factions fighting, you can either take sides or you can make a judgment call on that story. Of course, people may call it bias, some may call it sensationalism, and some may call it over the top and over-reporting. Honestly speaking, the editor should believe what the reporter is saying. Having said that, reporters from Kashmir face a lot of challenges, under the circumstances, with the kind of pressures that they have from the editors; I believe they are doing a fantastic job.
Ask any Kashmiri viewer about Arnab’s way of anchoring and he would tell you, he imposes his views on others. Seeing him conduct the interviews of Kashmiri leaders and having worked with him for some time, do you think it is a fair accusation?
Arnab has been my boss so I won’t go beyond a certain point. All politicians know what to expect from certain media personalities. When they talk to him, they know this person is going to be more aggressive than others. They do a background check and some research over him. Despite it, sometimes he foxes them. He is aggressive that is his style of functioning. And that is what is expected of him.
How massive erosion of credibility was the 2G scam?
Tremendous, while some people may try to defend, there is a certain kind of rapport that needs to be built with politicians, because they are your sources. It was not just the erosion of credibility but also the exposure of massive nexus that existed between very powerful politicians and very powerful Journalists. You are a journalist, your first job is to report, and if you are an anchor, maybe to debate, but you can’t suddenly become the topic of the debate. There are certain things that you can do and certain you can’t do.
What is this Cricketainment doing to news. Are the news editors more concerned about the farmers committing suicides or Shahrukh’s brawl with Mumbai cricket officials, which hardly concerns the common man?
That is the unfortunate part, where we are losing on journalism. Do you want eyeballs? Obviously everybody will watch Shahrukh Khan. It is an ongoing debate. There is a certain kind of show Satyamev Jayate, hosted by Amir Khan, which again created controversies; people are saying, “he is a star, and he is going to be paid for saying all this”. At least he is trying something different. He is talking about issues which nobody else does.
As a reader, where do you think the print media in J&K stands?
It has a vibrant readership. I largely feel the reporting is unbiased, at the same time there is a drawback as well, with due respect to the editors they are far more experienced, some of the newspapers come with a certain agenda. You have a massive responsibility. And some newspapers realize this responsibility. Take for example the news about deaths at GB Panth hospital, Greater Kashmir said “horror in hospitals” ,this is what CM said, and this is what people say, fantastic story; this is how it should be.
Does gagging help in an era of social media, where everybody is free to make a comment about any subject, particularly in a place like J&K? There is a ban on telecast of news from local cable channels since 2010 in Kashmir.
It doesn’t help. You need to have complete freedom of press. Bans have never helped for whatever reason, in the name of security, in the name of law and order, national security or domestic security. Unless and until there isn’t an extremely interactive relationship, between people who watch news and those who disseminate, you can’t have a society that grows in the real sense.
A story of academic excellence is given a political twist; I am talking about Shah Faisal topping the IAS list and the stories in the national media afterwards. Is it the way it should be done?
Absolutely not, that is why we are inching towards sensationalism. We are trying to find sensational aspect to a story which it has not. There are also happy stories, from Kashmir like the one you mentioned. It gives a lot of inspiration to other kids as well; else it gets mired intro controversies. Why can’t we do straight stories? Some channels thrive on controversies because they think they sell.
Why did you quit Times now?
I wanted to do something different. Sometimes you take a sabbatical to see if you are capable of doing something else as well. My mother says try to reinvent and challenge yourself. When you do it over 10 years you tend to get complacent, start thinking you can do it with your eyes shut. You need to reenergize and reinvent yourself and stimulate your mind for newer ideas.
Your experience about the recently conducted workshop with Media students at the University of Kashmir.
I found them extremely enthusiastic. But in terms of infrastructure and course structure a lot needs to be done. A journalism course should only be about practicals, more so the broadcast journalism. You need to have a camera on their side, you need to understand the stories in terms of pictures and audio. If people say they are good writers and they want to come into television the whole point is lost. TV completely drains, so more than talent they need to be enthusiastic.
What more needs to be done, if we have to absorb people in broadcast journalism here in the state?
In broadcast journalism there needs to be enough news on Kashmir based news channels. A lot of people don’t want to be into entertainment, many want to be active reporters for television and in a place like Kashmir there is so much to report. There needs to be a lot of space. Once you have that you can absorb young journalists.
The stories about Kashmir you couldn’t do because of a certain editorial policy.
Several; about missing people, about mass graves and one more about the encounter in north Kashmir that was reported in a certain way. There are 3 or 4 massacres, which I wanted to cover and do detailed documentaries on.
Lastupdate on : Fri, 25 May 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 25 May 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 26 May 2012 00:00:00 IST
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