The Secret Diary of A Television News Editor In India

News channels have spun innumerable conspiracy theories following Sushant Singh Rajput's death

Updated02 Aug 2020, 05:43 AM IST
Hot Take
5 min read
"There are different ways to speak truth, not all of them honest…Truth comes in many forms and experienced communicators can exploit its variability to shape our impression of reality".
Hector Macdonald, How The Many Sides to Every Story Shape Our Reality

That threw you off, didn’t it? You didn’t really expect this to begin with a quotation – that too, a self-aware one. But don’t expect the expected from me. I am a television news editor in India – and my job is to be a seasoned showrunner for the reality show I put up for you every day. Twists, spins, speculation, conspiracy theories – whatever it takes to keep you engaged and entertained.

I am not a particular news editor – I am a generic now. I am a type now – I holler, I moralize, I speculate and I put up one hell of a performance.

If Bollywood didn’t only launch star kids, my histrionics would have made me an A list star. I am both a man and a woman. Over primetime on various channels, my multiple avatars take over, morphing into each other. We don’t look like each other, but we are all clones. You see, it runs deeper - it is our souls which are conjoined. Contrary to what my detractors say, I am very interested in facts – especially because you can always find a set of facts that will fit in with the narrative you have created. Facts are flexible and accommodating – they are like the girl Sima Aunty will set you up with. I love facts.

Anyway, I have had a bit of a week – there was the boring stuff. The Government of India came up with a new education policy after three decades. Now, this will pretty much change how your children will be educated. Luckily, it launched on a day I was having trouble sleeping – two paragraphs down, I was knocked out. Then of course there is a pandemic on – and that now is getting on my nerves too. I mean not coronavirus in itself – just people getting their knickers in a knot over rising cases. It is a pandemic – people will fall ill, some will die, some will not. Deal with it. I can’t get worked up over that now. Wear a mask or something. Buzz off.

And then bummer – like a huge bummer.

So in the last month or so, I was having such a ball with these panels on insiders and outsiders in Bollywood – and running stories on suicide clubs of Bollywood.

None of these star cliques showed up on my news discussions, so I got a horde of people who know nothing about anything ( which means there is an expertise match with me) and we got Bollywood to run for cover. I was also quite distressed about Sushant Singh Rajput’s death – I hid it well. But then, his family decided to pin the blame on the girlfriend and it was a bit of a low blow. I took it personally. Here was this fact-based narrative that I had set up to expose the evil within Bollywood, and here comes his family making it a bit of a gharelu (private) affair. Apparently, they were prompted to do this because they felt the coverage behind the actor’s demise was going in a direction that didn’t make sense to them. Basically, our coverage had made them file a FIR, which said something else together. Do you know how that made me feel? Absolutely delighted – we had goaded them into action. Therefore, we took credit for it – it wasn’t for our crusade, this would have never happened. Who says journalism doesn’t have a purpose?

I am not one to b**ch out my colleagues – but there were one or two who felt that while we should report on the FIR, we should let a court of law decide innocence or guilt. Sure – and go out of business. That makes so much sense. Duh. Everyone knows it is guilty till proven innocent -so we set out to corroborate everything that was alleged. And then some more.

So if the family said the GF was manipulative, we put out an unverified video where she is playacting to prove just how manipulative. And please don’t get self righteous – we said it was unverified.

We didn’t colour your judgement – we just put out a caption which said ‘Rhea says she can control her boyfriend’. The video exists – it is not a lie. Then we investigated the mental health aspect with an expert– we spoke to the former partner who was not in touch with the actor for four years and she said there was no way he could be depressed. You really don’t need any other proof. There was some flatmate who was mumbling something about a prescription and a psychiatrist from Hinduja hospital- but I could see through his lies. So we shut up that bunkum theory.

And then this furore over propagating black magic – did we say the GF was a black magic practitioner? No. The family reportedly did. We just made it easier to understand by making a huge graphic plate which said Rhea Ka Kala Jadoo.

When did explaining something become a crime? Honestly, this has been a triggering week for me – we have consistently followed facts and yet been lambasted by these woke gangs of commentators. Libtards. Nepo gangs. Cabals.

Anyway, I have calmed down a bit. All the comments on our videos on Youtube have been so supportive of our relentless pursuit of facts. It warms our conjoined souls. Don’t hold me to a hard and fast notion of facts though – they can change and it is our discretion to decide which set of facts to play up. Let me tell you a story. In 1998, a medical expert in Britain called Andrew Wakefield wrote a paper which said that the rubella vaccine causes autism. This paper was retracted and discredited later – but since it was widely reported on by the British media, it led to a decline in MMR vaccination, leading to outbreaks of measles in later years. What seemed like hard facts were reported widely, the retraction not so much. The retraction became a fact, and the fact became a controversial opinion – but stayed on much longer. We always report on the facts – they change sometimes. We retract too. We can’t help it if you didn’t notice.

( Naomi Datta was a television journalist and is happy with the was part. She tweets at nowme_datta and is the author of How To Be A Likeable Bigot published by Penguin Random House. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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Published: 02 Aug 2020, 05:37 AM IST
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