The coverage of the Sushant Singh Rajput tragedy, I think, has shown up how banal, mindless and dangerous television journalism has become in India. A mob frenzy has been created to the extent that it’s almost like every night a pack of wolves is unleashed from television studios to go hunting. That weeks of this has occupied primetime is even more shameful, given all the other news around us—Covid numbers, the stand-off with China in Ladakh, unemployment, closed schools, GST shortfall. But, beyond the quantity of coverage, TV has have sat in judgement on people’s personal lives. Television has broadcast personal conversations of WhatsApp; it has substituted gossip for news; it has chased cars and delivery boys!
I don’t watch television, so whatever I see is from what is posted online and it’s enough to make me feel ashamed of my former medium. And I know this: that had I been growing up today, I would never have been inspired to be a journalist.
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Among channels, there are the obvious offenders, but I also see great hypocrisy in the response of those who claim to be different. There are veterans who insist that they are cut from a different cloth and will focus on the more substantive issues of our time. But they leap to cover the same story in the same salacious way with the same sexist and invasive line of questioning. Their channels also have offensive captions, hysterical countdowns and an elaborate combination of good cop-bad cop comments to try and satisfy both constituencies as they imagine them. So really, it’s tough to find any exceptions here.
The only part of this story that I covered was to provide Susan Walker, a therapist who said she had treated Sushant in 2019, space on my platform, Mojo Story, to share what she felt. Though she knew she was breaking patient privilege, she believed it was her “duty” to do so. She was concerned enough about what she saw on TV and social media to go public. According to her, she feared for Rhea Chakraborty’s life and well-being, and hence was going public. A lot of people said this was a mistake, but I believe that since everything was playing out in the public domain, she felt her counter and statement had to be made public as well.
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Since then, I have entirely stepped back from this story. I don’t want to be involved in any dimension of it, either this side or that side. I am not saying it was not a valid issue for a couple of days. But to see it occupy virtually every news slot minute by minute, to see the coarseness and misogyny it has smacked of, to see the trivialisation of reporting is a colossal shame and I’d rather stay away completely and focus on the issues that actually matter.
The audience must also reflect on their thumbs up to this content. Otherwise, as they say, we get the media we deserve.
(Views expressed are personal)
The author, a television journalist and writer, owns YouTube channel Mojo Story