Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mumbai Attacks - When Radio Fails

I must confess I switched the radio off this morning and came downstairs to consult the webpages of the same station. It was truly an awful story out of India today. But the reporting and analysis on the radio was truly awful too.

I have seldom heard so much muddled story-telling and pure speculation. There was even a piece about the possible effects on the entire Indian business community. The context to the disaster was totally lacking on the radio and they were spinning out 4 minutes of news into an entire half hour. Yes, I learned they had a reporter outside one of the hotels and no, he didn't know any more than the agencies that there were people inside who'd been taken hostage. But I wasn't told how this had affected travel in(to) the city. All the other news didn't exist in the hope that there would be more breaking statistics to "switch live to". There was so much confusion on the wireless, I switched it off.

In contrast the web gave relevant facts about previous incidents of this type, all the statements from international leaders, maps, and travel advice from people in the region.

Al Jazeera English has the best TV coverage out of the region at the moment. Again, context is so important. Radio used to have the best "pictures" and analysis. Not any more.


Anonymous said...

I watched the Indian all-news channel NDTV for quite a time yesterday. I thought their coverage was very good. At one point they had the screen split three ways with the studio anchor and reporters near the two hotels.
The reports were live, but they explained that the security staff would not allow them to carry live pictures of the surrounding activity, so they used pictures recorded earlier while the reporters were talking. That was slightly confusing because they had on-screen captions saying 'recorded earlier' while the live voice reports were going on. I thought at first that this also referred to the audio.
The main problem for a non-Indian viewer was that everyone was talking a bit too fast, and with the Indian accents it required concentration to avoid missing something. It wasn't hysterical, though, just fast-paced.
NDTV simply abandoned its regular format, and went into continuous coverage and dropped all commercials. From what I saw, it is a very professional operation, and seems to have picked up a lot of presentation tips from the likes of CNN. But it is geared to Indian viewers and does not present itself as an international news channel for a general audience.

Anonymous said...

The main All India Radio website carried no mention of the attacks at all in their news coverage for some hours after the event. I know it was the middle of the night local time, but for hour after hour nothing appeared! Asleep or censored?

Unknown said...

It seems the "CNN model" (for want of a better identifier) of wall to wall coverage of one event to and past the point of exhaustion has come to India as well. When networks like CNN and Sky first unveiled their 24/7 news channels, it was hoped by some of us that this heralded the advent of more comprehensive coverage of a wider variety of events and issues. Instead, the entire world is being asked to accept that there is only one important thing going on in the whole world at a time.

This comment should not be misinterpreted as an assertion that events like the World Trade Center bombings, the Iraq invasion, the Mumbai terror attacks are not important or even that they are not somehow more important than other matters for a time. But CNN, Sky, BBC et al ought not to pretend that they're the only things going on.

To bring this back around to Jonathan's initial point--it does seem to be the internet that has this in more proportional representation.