The media in Bangalore appears to be on loose ends in the absence of spoon-fed news stories generated by coalition politics. A recent newspaper report said journalists were finding hard news stories hard to come by under the governor’s rule. In the earlier regime, reporters on the state secretariat beat had ‘the privilege of meeting ministers twice a day’ and many of them could walk into the office of senior officials, including chief secretary, on working days, ‘for (gathering) information on governance’..
The media report would have us believe that the open-door system adopted by ministers and officials generated a steady flow of news reports on ‘policy issues and development programmes’. Surely, no government can generate ‘policy’ stories for the media on a daily basis. My sense is that ministers fed the secretariat reporters self-serving statements and lofty welfare announcements. What is spoon-fed is usually spin and hype, rarely, hard news. And officials, generally more reliable than their political bosses, can’t be expected to part with anything more than what they would want media to know. Clever officials know how to soft-soap even hard-boiled journalists with tea and small-talk.
In the current scheme of things the governor, heading the state administration, doesn’t need to make self-serving statements to the press. Nor is he looking for media mileage. No wonder, as the newspaper said, ‘the flow of information from the corridors of power has become a trickle’. It is, what they call in journalistic parlance, silly season. It is a period when media, starved of hard news stories, fills space with frivolous stories.
Typical of a silly story of the season was this Page One report in a national daily, headlined – Metro derails business on M G Road. The report says ‘the controversial’ Metro Rail project has claimed its first casualty – business turnover in Bangalore’s most-sought-after shopping centre, M G Road. Nowhere in the 13 paragraphs that follow does the reader get an inkling of what is controversial about the Bangalore Metro project. My take is the Metro is a widely-welcomed infrastructure project that most people say should have been thought of years earlier.
Describing M G Rd as a once throbbing commercial district, the newspaper report says the place now ‘resembles a graveyard’. I have never known of a graveyard-like place that has ‘frequent traffic jam’. In fact, the burden of the newspaper story is that shopkeepers on this busy road are losing business because of increased traffic and huge traffic problem since work on the Metro project got under way two months ago.
A shop-owner is quoted as saying the Nov.-Dec. is his peak season when he did roaring business and made considerable profits. Not so this time – “the (ongoing) work on the Metro Rail has ruined small businesses”. The shopowner talks of having to downsize his sales staff. Sales supervisor in a handlooms outlet complained that traders and employees were having to park their vehicles on other roads and walk to work. Some other trader spoke of the dust-raising construction activity.
Admittedly, noise, dust and traffic dislocation are inevitable when you take up a project of the scale of Metro rail and such elements are factored in when they take up the project. It is not as if they don’t have traffic chaoes elsewhere in the city. If this is a newspaper story at all, it is not very newsy one. It is a ‘lazy’ story, with which those of us in the media are only too familiar. All it takes to produce such story is a cell phone and a few numbers, of shop-owners on M G Rd. As a newspaper reporter once I have been there; done that. Such story-on-demand are produced in response to a farmaish by a hard-pressed news editor who needs to fill a hole in a news page.
A seasoned reporter would have padded out the story, with a few quotes from a worker on the construction site, a Metro rail official, and some shoppers. You need not look for them any farther than your office water cooler. And one other thing, I would have also thrown in an out-of-box suggestion. Why not make that stretch of M G Rd. a pedestrian zone; and persuade the army to allow parking on the parade ground adjacent to M G Rd. ? It is bound to generate a couple of letters to editor.
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