Barkha Dutt, Faye D’Souza on Reporting During COVID-19 Pandemic

Faye D’Souza commented on the reluctance of media channels to criticise the government.

3 min read
Journalists Barkha Dutt and Faye D’Souza on Friday, 15 May, deliberated on the critical role of journalists during the coronavirus pandemic.

Journalists Barkha Dutt and Faye D’Souza on Friday, 15 May, deliberated on the critical role of journalists during the coronavirus pandemic, in holding up a mirror to all the citizens and extending justice to the last mile.

On being asked about the different areas of information that the Indian media has helped in making the citizens understand better, Dutt said that 99 percent of the Indian media did not report properly on pandemic.

“I actually think that this was one of media’s big moments of failure. I don’t think the media covered this story. I don’t think television covered this story. I think this story was told by a handful of journalists on the ground and it was told by, what in the trade we call stringers, who are basically freelance contributors... who, across India, provide a network of information,” she said, speaking at Charcha 2020 hosted by The/Nudge Foundation.

Laying out a different perspective on the topic, D’Souza said that passing on the information to such a large population was a challenge in itself.

“In a country like India, to be able to pass on that information to large groups of people, many of whom don’t read, is a challenge, and I don’t think that was particularly a challenge met by journalists, I think it was a challenge met by all kinds of media. I know that radio stations played a big role. Local media played a big role.”
Faye D’Souza, Journalist

Describing media’s role in the case of justice, she said that it’s journalism that will form the “basis for justice that will be sought in the future.”

“Journalism tends to be the collection of evidence on the ground in any big event that happens in history. It is actual journalism that forms the basis for future petitions and arguments in court,” she said.

The two journalists shared their thoughts on how the developmental sector can help individual journalists.

While listing out the challenges that she faced, Dutt said that the coronavirus pandemic has been the toughest crisis she has had to cover. Listing out the reasons for the same, she mentioned how the science kept changing, even for reporters.

“First, we didn't wear masks to save them for the hospitals, and then the norm became to wear them. The invisibility of what you're contesting with. How difficult it was, in the beginning, to get people to care. The poorest were walking on the highway but you had to break people's hearts to get their attention. This is a basic rights argument,” she said.

Faye, Barkha on Television Reportage

Commenting on the financial structure of television news, D’Souza said that all television studios were already undergoing tremendous cost-cutting as television as a medium is expensive to run.

“Why Barkha and I are able to do the stories we love is because we take one story and then put our hearts in it and then put it out. We are not feeding a 24X7 monster that needs to constantly be fed something or the other and, as a result, the quality tends to drop by a great deal.”

Meanwhile, Dutt said that television as a structure is “broken”.

“There is something about the daily formula, you get numbed by it, you get attuned to it, you get lazy and therefore one needs that disruption of technology, disruption of digital.”
Barkha Dutt, Journalist

Further, D’Souza also commented on the reluctance of media channels to criticise the government and questioned if the journalists are really asking the questions that need to be asked.

For sponsors, Faye said, "Be conscious of the kind of journalism you sponsor. Brands are agnostic towards channels with maximum TRPs, which gets there with a lot of communal and wrong news.”

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