A reporters perspective on this whole phenomenon of media melees and outraged readers and viewers who seem to despise reporters for over- coverage of sensitive issues, and fail to recognize that they are very much a part of the problem.
Now that social media is done outraging over TV media’s coverage of Sridevis death, let us talk about those unfortunate reporters who were busy reporting the event while everybody was abusing them. Yours truly was one of them.
It all started with a late night call (at around 3.30 am) from the boss informing about the untimely demise of the first female superstar of the country. I was asked to move to her residence as the fans had started coming there.
I got out of my bed half-heartedly. Made necessary calls regarding my camera unit and other logistics, I also called my friends from the industry who cover Bollywood/Entertainment to get more info as that is not my beat.
When I reached the Lokhandwala residence of the actress, many TV crews were already there, reporting and doing live coverage. I joined in, not knowing that this was the start of four trying, tiring days for us.
All the reporters were on the field before 6 am. Bulletins were rolled early and we were supposed to show the situation outside Sridevis residence.
Continuously, we kept telling our respective desks that there is nothing to show other than our faces. But the desk had to fill the bulletin without doing much of writing work.
For people who are not from the industry, taking a reporter “on the live” is the easiest way of filing a bulletin. It saves everybody the pain of digging out information, writing packages and editing.
Anyway, the coverage continued, all the reporters and camerapersons were doing continuous ‘lives’. As the day passed the sun became ever more harsh.
As often happens, there was no place to sit. And when our feet began to disobey us, we sat on the ground. We took turns to sit under a tree (for shade), on some stones, the base of police barricades (man, it hurts!).
Then came the so-called fans of the late actress. I know I will be hated for saying this. But the people who blocked the roads of the city claiming devotion to Sridevi are, 99 percent of them, just star stuck. Meaning, like ghoulish voyeurs, they were out to catch a glimpse of just anyone from Bollywood.
They were not Sridevi’s fans. Many of them were drunk. They started troubling the suffering press and targeted female reporters and camerapersons.
They shot our videos, they showed us to their friends on video chat when we were doing our ‘lives’, and because we can’t react during broadcast, there was little we could do to stop the nuisance.
We sought help from Mumbai police but cops also decided to fight with us. I can understand their pressure as well, but media people are also common citizens and protecting us was their job. It took a number of calls to senior cops to get help from the general gundagardi of cops on the field.
But these incidents took place daily at all the locations. It seemed as if cops were having fun while shoving us around.
We had very little choice in the way of food. Have you checked out the prices of restaurants in Lokahndwala?
Plus it was the end-of-the-month! Still, we continued our coverage. I remember female reporters not drinking enough water on that hot day as there was no place to pee. It was only after we requested the nearby restaurant people to let us use their washrooms that our bladders got some peace.
Mosquitoes also had a field day; with so many blood groups present on one location, they had a feast.
Harassed by the crowd, manhandled by the police, hungry, thirsty, bitten by mosquitoes, we continued our coverage – nonstop.
Then a lot of anchors and senior reporters were parachuted to Mumbai. The reporters who cover the beat did not even get a chance to do crucial coverage, instead, they were asked to do stupid things, like getting visuals of the crematorium and all.
Meanwhile, the parachuted princes and princesses, being clueless initially, chose to go the way of sensationalism.
The remaining three days were exactly the same. We all have different tales to tell. We, who do not have the luxury of sitting in our AC cabins are used to of all these inhuman situations. Generally. But this was taking a toll on our self-esteem as well.
While we were busy doing lives from Sridevi’s Lokhandwala and Versova residence, Anil Kapoor’s house and the airport, the news regarding the accidental drowning as the cause of death, broke.
All hell broke loose after that. But we were busy on the field, with little idea of how our respective channels were busy making graphics of Sridevi in a bathtub.
Please trust me, not even a single reporter or cameraperson had any say in those obnoxious and insensitive reports. But we bore the brunt of it.
We were mocked on social media, we were humiliated by those who don’t have the brains to understand that we are the smallest unit of our channels. We simply follow orders. That is it.
We all remember the screenshot of a reporter lying in an empty bathtub with the boom of his channel in his hand, the one who was humiliated on social media. Please, guys, do you really think that he wasn’t smart enough to understand that what he was doing was stupid?
But because I come from the same field, I can say that he was simply following instructions, the poor guy was trying to do his job. He did not have the power to take a stand.
On all these four days we worked for more than 18-20 hours a day. We were exhausted, hungry, thirsty, embarrassed, humiliated and fed up.
Then came last nail in the coffin; almost every channel claiming that theirs was the only dignified, sensitive, considered coverage of the death.
Let me repeat this, the people on field do not have any say in what goes on air. So please understand this and spare us your judgments and convenient social media outrage.
We’d like you to come and show us, how you would do it better, given the timelines, the conditions and the technological processes around, under and over which we work.
Till then, shut the hell up.