Rachit Vats

How did Prince become so big?

The national news channels cashed in on the drama of the little boy who fell into a deep pit, transforming it into a two-day emotional see-saw. Is this how news coverage is going to evolve in India?

Earlier, it was the Gudiya story which proved how news channels strived to get maximum viewership. Last week’s Operation Prince was yet another piece of news that kept the entire nation glued to its TV sets.

The broadcast of the rescue operation for five-year-old Prince began late Friday (July 21, 2006) evening. The Hindi news channels started reporting the incident from Kurukshetra. The report was quickly picked by the other media and the story kept unfolding till it grew from a local mishap to a national attention grabber.

For the uninitiated, Prince was rescued 50 hours after he fell into a 53-foot-deep pit. His rescue was broadcast live and, despite there not being much to say, almost all the news channels focused on just this story!

How did Prince become so big? Wasn’t the whole incident over-played?

Says Sanjay Kaw, deputy head, Sahara Samay Rashtriya, “A human story is the biggest story and that too when it involves a child. Every mother saw Prince as her own child and was affected. People related to all that was happening. I am sure people addicted to soap operas and other GECs also switched to the rescue operation. It was a human drama, which went on to become a national headline.”

Kaw disagrees that the incident was blown out of proportion. “People were worried about the child. They wanted to know whether he was safe or not. This is the reason why other news channels, which had kept a distance later, joined to report the incident live,” he says.

Is the definition of news changing? If we go back 15 years in time, news was all about information being broadcast. But now, it seems, it’s more about involving the viewers emotionally, given the fact that competition among the news channels is high.

Explains Kaw, “The news is what concerns you and me. Anything which affects you and me is a story. The definition hasn’t changed, only in this case, the involvement of people was really high. People wanted to know about the welfare of the child. So, all we had to do was report it.”

Was there a lot of drama involved in this story? Times Now was one of the news channels that followed the story from an early stage. Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief, Times Now, says, “For us, it was not a drama at all. We had a unique perspective, that of government apathy. It was a serious news story for us. This case highlighted the plight of many Indians across the country. I do not know why people are surprised about it. The other news channels did not play up the story initially. We followed the story from the beginning.”

“We were a part of the serious pressure built by the media to get the government to react. We got thousands of SMSes and lots of voices from people across the country. For the other English news channels, it was not an important story. There are some Hindi news channels which might have gone overboard, but not us,” he stresses.

Was this a ploy to involve the viewers emotionally and keep them hooked? QW Naqvi, news director, TV Today Network, says, “It is not possible to involve viewers just like that. Viewers do not get involved in all human interest stories. They get involved only when they are genuinely attracted to a story or a situation. It is not possible for the media to create hype and emotionally charge the viewers.”

So, why were the viewers so involved in Prince’s story? Explains Goswami of Times Now, “Because people in this country feel for others and it is a very good trend. Stories like these are very important. It is not a case of hype at all. It shows that the media in our country is changing. It is not here to just follow political meetings.”

The incident has been the talk in all circles. On television, mothers have cried, fathers have promised donations, prayers have been read out.

There is no doubt that the story certainly needed a mention in the daily news. But was it right it make it a national headline on the news channels and dailies? The listeners of Radio Mirchi do not agree. According to Radio Mirchi, almost 90 per cent of the callers agreed that the media did not provide valid coverage.

A few of the listeners were of the opinion that Prince became a national headline because the media played it like an emotional story.

Some even said that there were other important topics that could have been covered. On the other hand, some news channels are of the opinion that it got the country together.

One thing is for sure. The Indian news media is changing fast and so are the people. It is becoming impossible to predict what may or may not become a national headline.

© 2006 agencyfaqs!

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