Friday, January 7, 2011

Sometimes, a picture is NOT worth a thousand words !

       Today’s front page of the prestigious (?) Times of India Bangalore edition had me fuming. Right in the middle of the first page, the paper carried news about a child in Mysore who was chained like a dog for disobeying his uncle’s orders. Next to the news article was a picture of the child with his hands bound to the chain, sitting on the floor, turning half way away from the camera . To say that the picture angered me is an understatement. More than the hideous news about the child getting chained, it was the newspapers’ irresponsibility that irked me. The child’s picture was totally unnecessary. I am no big authority on journalism, so I accept the fact that my knowledge about journalism practices may be half baked. But it certainly seemed to me that the story could have been effectively conveyed to the world without the humiliating picture of the child chained to the wall.
       Sure, the picture drives the point home, giving visual proof the torture inflicted on the child. But how does it even contribute to the news being reported? I, as a reader would read the story and believe the newspaper’s version of it. But for the child, to be exposed to the world in that state, on the front page of a morning newspaper, is traumatic to say the least. There is a reason why war photography, containing graphic images of dead bodies of slain soldiers do not make it to the newspapers. The same applies to pictures of murders, rapes etc. Sure, your newspapers would be sold out like hot cakes if you carried all those pictures. But owing to the fact that the departed person deserves to leave in dignity , without having to be exposed to the world in his dead form, as a form of basic human courtesy, such pictures are excluded from the newspapers.
       But the child, whose photo was flashed today, is still alive. He is still in primary school and he has an entire life ahead of him. The chained torture that he was subjected to brought him into news. Few years down the line he may even wrap his mind around the fact that what happened to him was an unfortunate, inhuman incident and may even begin to forget it. But the humiliating chained picture of the child that was flashed to the world this morning, will serve as a constant reminder of the extremely vulnerable, embarrassing state that the world has seen him in. What would the journalist do if his own child was chained to the wall? Would he flash a picture of his son lying on the floor like a street dog? Or would his first instinct be to run to the child, rip the chain apart and free him? Wouldn’t he want to beat the hell out of that devilish uncle? Or would he rather prefer to click an image of the child in his sorry state and show it to the world in next day’s newspapers?
       The Indian media is pathetic! Sensationalizing the news seems to be their top priority. Reporting the reality is one thing, sensationalizing the reality with unwanted pictures is quite another! Agreed that the picture would go in as a visual proof of the uncle’s atrocity. But that’s for the court dammit ! At least, save the child from such embarrassment in newspapers .Responsible, quality and humane journalism is what the public looks for, more than anything else. What would a journalist do if he/she were to witness a person getting shot? Would his first instinct be to run to the aid of the person who was shot or would it be capture a picture of the crime? What if you are at an accident spot where the person involved in the accident is still battling for life? What kicks in first? Who screams out first? Is it the human in you or is it the media person within you? I am sure every photo journalist goes through the mental turmoil of having to decide the right thing to do in such situations. And at some extreme level, I do understand the logic behind photography at war sites. Many of these photos go on to win awards for portraying the emotions at play during those hours of turmoil. But in the wars, everything is said and done. People are gone!
       But the child in question here, has to face the world every single day. And ever since I saw that picture, I cannot help but wonder what he and his parents must be going through right now. The uncle, who inflicted this on the child, escapes almost scot-free out of the media glare, with just his name being included in the article. How does that even make sense? If the article needed a photo, it was a full blown close-up of this atrocious uncle. Flash HIS face to the world. Embarrass HIM, not the child. Let him know that the world now knows him as a man who chained his nephew. He deserves a grim reminder of his act every single day!
      I know each one of us would have a take on this issue. There may be some of you who would think that the picture was necessary. But seriously I don’t care! I am not even posting the link to the online version of the newspaper, for obvious reasons. For those of you who have seen the pic, this post may make sense. For the rest of you, you just have to take my word for it!
     I have to write an exam tomorrow, but I just had to get this out of me! Back to studies now!

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