Monday, December 01, 2008

Watching Mumbai's Terror From Afar

We were on the road on Wednesday, driving down to Asheville, North Carolina, for the Thanksgiving break when we heard. We ended up watching way more television than we intended. It helped that there were two television sets in the condo we had rented. C watched some of the coverage but the kids were focused on movies for the most part.

A few stray thoughts:

  1. MSNBC carried sporadic live coverage with feeds from NDTV, but CNN pretty much stayed on Mumbai for the entire duration of the siege with live feed from its "sister" network, CNN IBN. It was not long before CNN got its own reporters, Sara Sidner, Matthew Chance and Nic Roberts into Mumbai. For much of the time, CNN's own reporters and MSNBC's anchors provided voice-overs or commentary on what was transpiring on the screen.
  2. As the coverage progressed it became hard to ignore CNN trying to distance itself from IBN's pronouncements, choosing to slap a disclaimer - "Our sister network CNN IBN is reporting .... However, CNN is unable to independently confirm this information."
  3. One striking aspect of the coverage is the stark difference in the demeanor of the Indian and the US reporters (panicked vs. calm, intent on providing information vs. stoking the already rising passions). The Indian TV channels' coverage has come in for some criticism and might be on the hook for more than just bad journalism. Variety reports that the channel bosses have already been summoned to explain their actions (via SAJA).
  4. Even in the middle of the terror and the chaos and the sorrow, a mob suddenly converged around the CNN reporter Sara Sidner did not pass up the chance to harass her (via Huffington Post and Mediabistro). It was sickening to watch. I wondered why she went off the air towards the later stages of the siege and sent in her reports via telephone. Perhaps this was why. She had stood her ground in the face of the carnage in progress just a few yards beyond her position in front of the Taj - the bombs still going off, the intermittent gunfire - but perhaps the physical assault on her person proved too much. Who can blame her? Click here to see the video (also see update below).

    According to Mediabistro, "Sidner would later report, "As we were standing outside a large group of people came around, many of them young, with the smell of alcohol on their breath, frankly. They were standing very, very close and suddenly chaos erupted.""
  5. What was with the funny map of India on CNN? All of Kashmir seemed to be gone. Trying to find a picture of it. Will put up a link if I can find it.

The CNN Sara Sidner video showed up on the published post. I still can't see it in my draft or on the Edit Html page. Hmm.

Update 2: Argh. Now I can't see the video. The link still works I hope.


Jawahara said...

Of course, CNN's discomfort might ring more true if I hadn't watched live coverage of 9/11. And seen the panic, the passion, the genuine emotion, the finger-pointing. Don't get me wrong. There is much wrong with Indian media and NDTV usually drives me insane with its sensationalistic and insensitive reporting. But I don't think CNN has any leg to stand on either.

The Indian channels did do retarded things like show the positions of the security forces and snipers. And who can forget Barkha Dutt's giving away of sensitive army locations on air, leading to many Indian casualties during the Kargil war.

But then, we also had a reporter (can't find this on the web but it was either Koppel, Brokaw or Rivera, i.e., some big-name newsperson) who signed off from an undisclosed location during a newscast and actually put the name of the place in his sign-off. It had created a huge furore.

There were the spate of American reporters wearing flags on their lapels for months after 9/11. Their dereliction of duty in not effectively de-linking 9/11 from Iraq in the build-up to the war.

I also found CNN's almost instant criticism of the situation in India, including a tone of "this and this thing wouldn't happen in North America or Europe," superiority, or how things would be handled so much better in the U.S., quite infuriating and insensitive.

It's not that those things cannot be discussed but not when the situation is still on-going.

Choxbox said...

suj, i would have to agree with the commentator above. a lot of the indian channels were overdoing it totally but even so CNN sounded very patronising.