A few hours into coverage of the Mumbai Attacks – something didn’t feel quite right to a lot of viewers.
There seemed to be almost too much coverage. This was a key topic of discussion at a session with Dan Harris of ABC, Indira Kannan with CNN-IBN and Samanth Subramaniam from MINT as panelists at the SAJA convention.
“Media circus” and “security breach” became the buzz words. As the coverage continued, viewers began to express their dismay and anger on the Web. One of the first forums online was the Facebook group “Can you please take Barkha off air,” referring to reporter Barkha Dutt who covered the attacks for NDTV of India.
The group's "wall" was filled with messages about “irresponsible and insensitive journalism” and reporters trying to be celebrities.
ABC's Harris (above) said the Indian media had done a good job of covering the attack, and all media outlets do make mistakes while covering big stories. A case in point, he said, was the American media’s dismal reporting in the run up to the Iraq war.
Part of the problem, all three journalists noted, was the mismanagement by the government. Reporters found themselves in a “chaotic mess” where there was no point person or organized way of receiving accurate information from the authorities.
One reporter in the audience noted that the Indian media should be applauded and not censured for their extensive coverage.
Mint's Subramanian (below) said that the coverage involved a lot of irresponsible statements being made on air such as Pakistani flags were being flown in Muslim neighborhoods of Mumbai, and journalists blaming the attacks on Pakistan prior to any investigation.
The initial momentum failed to hold up. While the posts continue on Facebook about the attacks, follow-up coverage by media outlets has been lukewarm, the panelists said.
Subramaniam pointed out that only two print publications were regularly following the trial of Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, one of the accused attackers.
“We haven’t learnt anything,” Subramanian said.
Photos by Preston Merchant