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!


  1. Oh mate don't get so worked up. The funny thing is the value systems in people is very different in each other. I think feeling strongly and condemning it is the way forward. The ideal world is not what we want it to be. Utopia they say never exists anywhere. The journalism is always sensational. Given the newspaper, TV channels airing the same news content, what do you choose? The one that catches your attention and verbose articles are surely not going to do that. Bangalore mirror? No one voiced their voice against it then why this paper alone? The visuals hold the attention = more sales = more visibility = more money. Deccan herald used to have female tennis stars sitting for a drink in between the game and the picture so strategically taken that shows sometimes the knickers inside or sometimes if viewers are lucky, nothing - yana gupta did, Sabatini did.

    So mate the point is the journalism will operate like this. I read the same news that you said. But you know what I did, I just did not see the picture at all. I knew there was something posted but I just read and said to myself "Son of a bitch" and went on. Can't correct all and no reason to take too much tension and pressure because of this.

  2. I get your point Vik...It's not about wanting an Utopian world or about imposing my value systems on them. It's just that the media under-estimates the intelligence of the average Indian reader. Not all of us want to check out the knickers under the tennis skirt! I understand that all this translates into better sales and all that...Bangalore Mirror is quite another story ! I will not get into that..It's not about this newspaper in particular, it's more about the Indian media in general. There is no choice of switching newspapers, because one way or the other, all of them are into it.Today it was the article in TOI, tomorrow it will be an article in some other newspaper...There is no way I can even attempt to change the psyche of the media. But can I blog out my point of view and get the frustration out? Oh yes I can!

  3. What a bummer that the newspaper went that route. I think teh uncle's picture should have been posted instead of the child. Shouldn't the victim have some privacy?
    Anything to make a buck these days.

    That's why I try and avoid the news and stories like that. Only going to bring me down.

    With that said, good luck on your studies and exam!

  4. I have kinda given up on the morning newspaper these days ! I have resorted to checking out headlines online and leaving it at you said, depressing stuff !

    Thank you so much for the wishes!I am sitting here right now studying for my last exam tomorrow :)

  5. That is heartbreaking! :(

    I'm with you... I can't even kind of understand why that picture would be necessary!


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