Those dumb questions

IN Media Practice | 23/04/2006
At last, during the Mahajan crisis, pesky reporters met their match. Vignettes from the 24 hour coverage



 A man is fighting for his life, but that doesn’t stop him becoming fodder for the soundbite brigade. The coverage of Pramod Mahajan being shot by his brother Pravin provided ample examples of the typical senselessness of questions being asked by television news reporters and some wonderful examples of their being snubbed.

The well-deserved snubbing was done by both Pravin  Mahajan`s lawyer and the Mumbai Police Commissioner A N Roy. On Sunday, an NDTV news reporter asked Roy, who had said that Pravin had undergone a psychometric test, what exactly the test involved. "I don`t know. These are medical procedures. You will have to ask the doctors," was Roy`s response.

On Saturday, the younger Mahajan’s lawyer who met the media, was asked what exactly was wrong with his client’s mental condition. "I am a lawyer, mental conditions can be described only by a doctor. Go ask a doctor," he replied. The lawyer truly deserves an award for the way he responded to the media`s intrusive, repetitive and puerile questioning.

One reporter demanded to know why a mentally unstable man was given a licence for a revolver. "he is mentally unstable now. When he was given the licence he must have been ok. The police gives the licence after due enquiries. It doesn`t go to a mental hospital and give out gun licences."

Another reporter asked, "what made Pravin shoot his elder brother. "I never said he shot. Did I say that?" the lawyer, who had constantly been saying "whatever would have happened" (wahan jo bhi hua hoga). But the cake was taken by a reporter who asked the lawyer about the exact sequence of events that led to the shooting and afterwards. "I don`t know. I wasn`t
there when it happened. I was at home, sleeping," was the lawyer`s deadpan reply.

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Someone needs to tell television reporters that suffering from depression or being of unsound mind is not a mental disease. That was the term they kept using when talking to Pravin`s lawyer and his  other brother, Prakash.

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NDTV, more specifically, Sreenivasan Jain, took the occasion to flaunt its closeness to the Mahajan family. Jain, who was at the Hinduja hospital, was asked what the family was going through. Jain first prefaced his answer with a long-winded spiel about how on some occasions the dividing line between the personal and the professional got blurred and how he had developed a close, personal rapport with Mahajan and his family, especially his children, and that is why he got the kind of access he did, to go right up to the family where no one else is being allowed. Do viewers really care? All we wanted was for him to tell us what was happening.

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BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar  was caught off-guard by the camera. He wanted to look presentable as he hung out in the range of TV coverage. He took a comb out of his pocket, combed his hair, then combed his beard and then put the comb back. The camera stayed trained upon him throughout that sequence. Any action, apparently, is better than none.  






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