Monthly Archives: August 2009
Some ‘insensitive’ reporters unnecessarily sensationalize their stories.Here, I want to mention the sensational double murder case at Noida.On May 16,2008 Police had found Noida school girl Arushi’s body in her bedroom .Later,Hemraj their 45 year old domestic help also found dead.First, they suspected Hemraj for Aarushi’s murder.Even they circulated pictures of the ‘massing servant’.But,Noida Police top brass were embarrassed when the ‘missing servant’ they had confidently accused of killing the school girl turned up murdered .Every time media savvy top officials of Noida Police came up with new theories and murder alibi.Then, they arrested another domestic help Vishnu Sharma,having worked for Talwar’s (Aarushi’s parents Rajesh and Nupur Talwar,both well known Dental Surgeons of Delhi) for twin murders because,according to Police,the Talwar’s had angered him by replacing him with a man called Hamrej who was murdered along with Aarushi.Then,Noida police claimed that they had crack the murder mystery and arrested Rajesh Talwar,father of murdered school girl.The police said the motive was to prevent Aarushi from revealing Rajesh’s affair with colleague Anita Durrani,also a dentist.Rajesh was also angry with his daughter for having an ‘affair’ with Hemraj.News channels blindly quote Noida police.The news channels conducted media trial of the little girl,who was not their to defend herself.Noida double murder case is the biggest crime story after Nithari serial killing case of 2006 where from 2005 to the end of 2006 at least 19 children-all from poor families went missing from Nithari,a slum in Noida,near Delhi.Repeated complaints by parents of missing children to the Police didn’t help a single missing child.After the intervention of High Court, the police found skeletal remains of children buried in a drain running behind affluent businessman Moninder Singh Pandher’s Noida house.Initial investigation revealed that pandher,along with his domestic help Surendra Koli,had sexually abused and killed the children.News channels have reported a jump in their viewership ever since the news of the double murder broke.People are interested to know about who killed Aarushi.From the first day, Noida police mishandled the case.Every time they arrested someone or made up a ‘story’,media specially News channels blindly follow the theory.In the Arushi murder case,the police made the mistake of not taking timely action and missed out vital clues.Though,news channels questioned the ‘mishandling’ the case by the police,they compete each other to improve their TRP.For instance,on May 23,the day Aarush’s father was arrested and Police claimed it to be honour killing, the Television Rating Point of Hindi news channels jumped overnight.Noida police claimed that Rajesh killed her daughter because he had found them(Aarushi and their domestic help Hemraj) in an objectionable but not compromising position.Few days back I got an e-mail from a lady.She wrote me that her 8 year old daughter asked her some ‘embarrassing’ questions -like Aarushi’s ‘affair’ with Hemraj and extra-marital affair of Rajesh talwar with Anita Durrani.After CB took over the case from noida Police,they arrested Rajesh Talwar’s compound er Krishna and Durrani’s domestic help Raj Kumar and questioned Aarushi’s mother Nupur Talwar,their friend and business partners Anita and Parful Durrani and a neighbour’s servant Vijay Mondal.
In these type of cases, I always remember the advice of senior journalists.I personally avoid putting the camera and boom into someones face without asking their permission.I walk down to the person without my crew and tell him or her who am I and express my condolences.I show them how concerned or sympathetic I am.After Spending sometime with them,I tell them that though I know it’s a difficult time for them but at the same time it’s might helpful for others if the subject talk on camera.Here,I want to quote Veteran Photojournalist Angela Grant:I think it’s a matter of convincing the person that you’re trying to tell their side of the story. When I interview people who have lost a loved one, I tell them that I want to ask them questions about the person and create a sort of memorial to them. People usually like that idea … It’s an honor because you’re saying their loved one is valuable, his or her loss was tragic, and the person is worth remembering.If they say no the first time, I’ll sometimes ask again and just make sure that I explain what I’m trying to do. If they say no a second time, I’ll say ok, I’m sorry for your loss. Then I leave them alone. Try to get another family member to talk.
Every story has its own backup story.in television news duration of each backup stories should be 50 to 60 seconds.For instance,when the police bursts a inter-state car theft racket,the appropriate backup story could be the latest technologies to prevent car theft or when police seizes a large amount of coins,you could do the reason behind these type of activity(intrinsic value of the coin has exceeded the face value).I remember, an angry mob set fire to a woman and her husband after the body of a 5-year old boy was found in the septic tank of the couple’s house in southern fringes of Calcutta.later,we found that the lady was suffering from Schizophrenia.
An idea instantly stuck to my mind that we can do a backup story on people who are suffering from Schizophrenia who suddenly turn violent,normally they are compassionate people.Similarly,on Valentines day,you can do a story on science of love or romance.In case of suicide bombing,the backup story could be the new technology to detect suicide bomber.
Always remember that backup stories should be compact in nature and at the same time should be interesting also.on 23rd January,the occasion of Netaji Subhas’s birthday,the famous revolutionary leader of India we can focus on the worst statue of Netaji in Shyam Bazar five point crossing in Calcutta which was the poor remake of Maj.Gen. Outram by Sir John Henry Folly.When bird flu or swine flu broke out in India, the immediate backup story would be-animals and humans share diseases,from Ebola,mad cow,yellow fever, Blue Nile(stock footages) which spread to human through animals with interviews with eminent virologists or on Mother’s day-a story of a surrogate mother.
Another interesting story which came to mind on 14th November(the birthday of Jawaharlal Nehru the first prime minister of India,the day observes as children’s day because Mr.Nehru loved children very much)that we celebrate the day with much fun fare but majority of children in India specially girls are sexually abused or sting operation against pedophiles(Adults who desire sex with children).When a reporter asked me which kind of story he could do on the eve of the release of a film of a fictitious private detective character immortalized by Satyajit Ray,I immediately suggested him that he could do a story about the reel life vs. real life private investigator.Always think unconventional aspect of stories.I wonder why we still follow the same conventional news structure.After all,we have to attract viewers.
For the eighth consecutive year, Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh today (August 15) unfurled the national flag at the Red Fort in the capital to mark India’s 64th Independence Day.
The National Anthem of India:
Jana-gana-mana-adhinayaka, jaya he
Tava shubha name jage,
Tava shubha asisa mage,
Gahe tava jaya gatha,
Jana-gana-mangala-dayaka jaya he
Jaya he, jaya he, jaya he,
Jaya jaya jaya, jaya he!
Here,Major events in India since Independence:
1947: India becomes independent, with Jawaharlal Nehru as prime minister.
Around 15 million people are displaced and nearly 500,000 killed in Hindu-Muslim riots followed by partition.
1948: Mahatma Gandhi is assassinated by an Hindu fundamentalist named Nathuram Godse.
Chakravarti Rajagopalachari succeeds Louis Mountbatten as Governor General of India.
The first Indo-Pak war breaks out at Zojila pass in Kashmir. It ends in 1948, with Kashmir divided along the line of control after united Nations(UN) intervenes and orders a ceasefire.
Nizam ruled Hyderabad joins Indian Union after military operation.
1949: On July 18,India and Pakistan sign a Ceasefire agreement in Kashmir(Karachi Agreement).
1950:on Jan 26,India becomes a republic.Rajendra Prasad becomes the first president of India.
1951: India’s first Five Year Plan is introduce.New Delhi hosts Asian Games.
1952: Nehru-led Indian National Congress (INC)gets the thumping majority in the first election to the Lok Sabha(Lower house of the parliament).
1954: the term ‘non-alignment’ use by Jawaharlal Nehru to define India’s foreign policy to keep equal distance from the US and the Soviet Union.
1955: After rationalism Imperial Bank of India becomes State Bank of India.
1956: States are reorganised on the basis of language. Several new states like Kerela and Bombay are formed.
1957: INC wins the second Loksabha(House of the people) election.
1958:Harold Macmillan becomes the first British prime Minister to visit India.
1959: Dalai Lama crosses into India with 10,000 followers after a failed revolt against China.
Government of India forms state-owned television broadcaster Doordarshan.
1960: the state of Bombay is split and made two states Marathi dominated Maharashtra and Gujarati dominated Gujarat.
1961: Indian Military liberates Goa,Daman and Due from Portuguese.
1962: Jawaharlal Nehru leads Congress to a third straight win in general election.
India loses war with China.Around 1,383 Indian soldiers are killed.
1964:Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru dies.
1965: Second war with Pakistan over Kashmir.
Hindi becomes official language of India,but President S. Radhakrishnan assures the parliament English continues as a major language in India, .
1966: India’s second prime minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, dies in Tashkent after signing a pact with Pakistan President Muhammad Ayub Khan ending the 1965 Indo- Pak war.
Jawaharlal Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi becomes prime minister of India.
1967: INC wins general election.
Radical Naxalbari movement starts in West Bengal.
1969: INC splits into two, one faction led by Indira Gandhi, the other by veteran INC leader Morarji Desai.
Backed by Indira Gandhi, V.V. Giri defeats official INC candidate N. Sanjeeva Reddy and becomes the President of India.
Privy purses for rulers of erstwhile princely states of India are abolished.
The government nationalises 14 Indian commercial banks.
1970: The National Dairy Development Board starts Operation Flood, the establishment of a national milk grid.
1971: 25-year treaty of friendship signed with the Soviet Union.
Indian National Congress (INC) led by Indira Gandhi wins general election.
Third war with Pakistan, East Pakistan becomes Bangladesh after Pakistani army is forced to surrender by the Indian army.
1972: Indira Gandhi and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto sign the Shimla pact. The pact says India or Pakistan will not change the borders unilaterally.
1973: Opposition protests against government run by Indira Gandhi intensifies.
1974: India explodes its first atomic bomb in the Pokhran desert.
Allahabad High Court finds Indira Gandhi guilty of misusing official machinery to win election.
Major railway and other strikes paralyse India.
1975: Indira Gandhi declares state of emergency, suspends civil liberties, postpones elections and imprisons many opposition leaders, journalists and other eminent persons.
India annexes Sikkim following a referendum in the hill kingdom where the majority favour joining India.
Multi starer Hindi film ‘Sholay’ becomes the biggest box office hit in India.
1976: Compulsory birth control brainchild of Indira Gandhi’s younger son Sanjay Gandhi introduced.
1977: Indira Gandhi’s INC loses general elections to the Janata Party. Morarji Desai becomes the prime minister.
1979: Janata Party government collapses due to internal problems. Charan Singh becomes prime minister with the support of the INC.
1980: Indira Gandhi returns to power,with an absolute majority
Government nationalises seven more commercial banks.
Indira Gandhi’s younger son Sanjay Gandhi dies in plane crash in New Delhi.
1981:India’s worst train accident over a bridge near Samastipur,Bihar killed at least 400 passengers.
India and China start talks to sort out border dispute.
1982:New Delhi hosts Asian Games.
1983: India wins World Cup cricket.
At least 2,000 Muslims are killed in Nellie in Nagaon district of Assam.
1984: Indian soldiers storm Golden Temple in Amritsar,Punjab to flush out Sikh militants
Indira Gandhi assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. It leads to anti-Sikh riots in which over 3,000 sikhs are killed. Indira Gandhi’s son Rajiv Gandhi becomes prime minister.
Gas leak at Union Carbide plant in Bhopal kills 3,000 people,15,000 disabled for life.
1985: Sikh militants blow up an Air India flight off the coast of Ireland.
1986: The century’s worst drought affects major parts of India.
1987: The Mizo accord signals an end to one of longest secessionist movements in north-eastern India.
India deploys troops in Sri Lanka’s northeast (LTTE dominated areas).
1989: INC loses to Janata Dal-led coalition of left and the right in general election. V.P. Singh becomes prime minister.
1990: Indian security forces (IPKF) withdraw from Sri Lanka after losing nearly 1,200 personnel.
Muslim separatists begin campaign of violence in Kashmir.
The decision to implement the Mandal Commission recommendations and provide reservations to Other Backward Classes (OBC) leads to countrywide violence. Rajiv Goswami,a student in Delhi University immolates himself to protest the implementation of the mandal Commission recommendations.
Janata Dal government falls after BJP withdraws supports from the V.P.Singh government.
Chandra Shekhar becomes prime minister with Congress support.
1991: Rajiv Gandhi assassinated by a LTTE suicide bomber at an election rally in Sriperumbudur, Tamilnadu.
INC wins general election. P.V. Narasimha Rao becomes prime minister.
Economic reform programme initiated by the Finance Minister Manmohan Singh.
1992: Hindu fanatics demolish Babri mosque in Ayodhya.Sporadic Hindu-Muslim violence killed nearly 700 people.
1993: On March 12, 12 Bomb blasts in Mumbai, killing 300 people,injuring 1,500.
1996: INC suffers worst ever electoral defeat.Right wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) forms a minority government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee but the government lasts only 13 days.
A 14-party United Front coalition takes power. H.D. Deve Gowda becomes the prime minister.
1997:After INC withdraws support from the Deve Gowda government,Inder Kumar Gujral becomes prime minister. After eight months, INC withdraws support again and Gujral resigns.
1998: BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA)forms the government, Atal Behari Vajpayee becomes prime minister for the second time.
India conducts nuclear tests.
1999: Vajpayee makes a bus trip to Lahore, Pakistan to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and signs a peace declaration.Indian army recaptures lost territories from Pakistani infiltrators in Kargil,Jammu and Kashmir.
BJP-led coalition losses a confidence motion in parliament. In fresh general election, BJP-led NDA again wins. Vajpayee remains the prime minister of India.
2000:On May 11, India’s population crosses the one billion mark.
2001: Massive earthquakes hit Bhuj,Gujarat,death toll reaches 30,000.
The prime minister of India A.B.Vajpayee meets Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in Agra over the Kashmir issue.
Pakistan based terrorists attack parliament in New Delhi. India blames Pakistan and imposes sanctions.The largest deployment of troops along India-Pakistan border.
2002: India test-fires nuclear-capable ballistic missile Agni.
Anti-Muslim riots break out after 57 Hindus returning from Ayodhya are attacked and killed in train fire in Godhra, Gujarat. More than 1,000 people are killed.
2003: On August 25,twin bomb blasts at the Gateway of India and Zavari Bazar,Mumbai killing 52 people.
2004:Indian national Congress (INC) led United Progressive Alliance(UPA)wins the general election. DR. Manmohan Singh becomes prime minister after Sonia Gandhi declines the post.
at least 10,000 people die when a tsunami devastates coastal southern India and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
2005: Bus services between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad in Pakistan for the first time since partition.
2006:simultaneous bomb blasts in packed commuter trains at Matunga,Mahim,Bandra,Khar Road,Jogeshwari,Bhyander and Borivli railway stations,Mumbai killing at least 187 people
2007: India growth figures reaches 9.4 percent highest in recent years.
Pratibha Devi Singh Patil becomes first woman president of India.
2008:Major terrorists attack including 26/11 killing hundreds of people.
2009:Indian National Congress(INC) led United Progressive Alliance(UPA) returns back to power with a bang.
Nellie Bly,one of the finest Investigative Reporter of all time .Bly, the young Investigative Reporter of the Pittsburgh Dispatch and later Joseph Pulitzer’s The New york World specialized in undercover reporting.Bly’s journalism style was marked by her first hand tales of the lives of ordinary people whether in mental asylum or in factory which employed child labour.
Elizabeth Jane Cochran born on May 5, 1864,home of Mary Jane and Judge Michael Cochran in Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania, but shortly after her sixth birthday her father died.They faced severe financial crisis.When Elizabeth was 18 years old, she wrote an anonymous letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Dispatch in response to an editorial.George Madden,the managing editor of the Dispatch was so impressed by the letter that he placed an advertisement in the Sunday edition of the paper asking the letter writer that she would introduce herself. The following day, Elizabeth met Madden and soon joined as a reporter of the Pittsburgh Dispatch. When Madden decided to make her a permanent member of his staff, he suggested a pen name for her, as it was quite improper for a woman to write for a newspaper at that time. After several brain storming sessions with his staff,he found a suitable pen name for her- Nellie Bly after a song “Nelly Bly” written 35 years earlier by Stephen Collins Foster, one of Pittsburgh’s native. From day one,Nellie focused her attention on women’s right issues. She was the inventor of investigative reporting and an expert at under-cover work. She posed as a poor sweatshop worker to expose the inhuman conditions under which women worked. When shop owners threatened to pull their advertising from the the paper, Nellie was put on an unimportant beat(fashion). She responded to her new assignment by taking a six-month working vacation in Mexico. She continued to write articles for the paper which focused on poverty and political corruption in Mexico. Eventually,the respective government expelled her from the country.
Returning to the United States, she concentrated on New York City where she wanted to work for one of the city’s top newspapers..In September 1887, Nellie admitted to a mental Asylum on Blackwell’s Island as an undercover reporter for the New York World. Nellie continued her undercover reporting for the paper until 1888,When Newyork World’s top brass decided to send a man around the world in less than 80 days. Nellie, took it as a challenge to do it in less time for any another newspaper if they did not agree to send her instead.
On November 14, 1889, Nellie Blys started her world-wide journey on the Hamburg-American Company liner Augusta Victoria from the Hoboken Pier. Bly’s travel experiences were published daily in the paper and appreciated by readers.After,Seventy-two days, Nellie arrived home. But dismayed by the lack of appreciation from her employers, Nellie submitted her resignation. In 1893, Nellie made her comeback at the New york World. She wrote mostly on women oritiented issues and corruption in high places.
On April 5, 1895, Nellie married a man named Robert Livingston Seaman 40 years her senior and retired from journalism.and again restarted her journalism career, for the New York Evening Journal in 1919.On January 27, 1922 , Nellie Bly died at the age of 57 of pneumonia.
I still remember that when I first read the book ‘The History of the Standard Oil Company’,I was in the ninth standard.I was fascinated by the detailed research by the author .Later, I learned that Ida was one of the America’s most respected journalists of all time.I visualized since then that I would some day be an Investigative Reporter like her.I later found that the author Ida Tarbel (1857-1944)was the most respected American journalist in the earlier part of the twentieth century.The lady became my inspiration.In this book she unearthed the illegal way by which the business tycoon John Rockefeller monopolized the then oil industry.Ida Tarbell spent much of her time searching documents,archives.She proved that documents played a major role for muckrakers.Ida proved that ‘document oritented’ Investigative Journalism is much more authentic.
Lorana Sullivan(above right) whom I consider as one of the finest investigative financial journalist of all time.Another reason why I consider her as one of my favourite Investigative Journalist is that Lorana worked as a freelance writer and researcher for The Observer(London)and other publications in Britain and the US at the later stages of her carrier.She started her carrier for her hometown paper the Elmira Star Gazette in 1961.She studied at Cornell University and Cornell Law School.She also attended School of Journalism of Columbia University.After getting a Pulitzer travelling fellowship,she worked as a reporter for The Sunday Times in London.
After returning to US, as a reporter for various newspapers like Providence Journal Bulletin in Rhode Island,Wall Street Journal,The Sunday Times,The London Observer,she unearthed major financial irregularities such as the financial dealings of Mohamed Al-Fayed after he acquired Harrods.Like Ida Tarbell,the pioneer American Investigative Journalist,Lorana exposed major high profile financial frauds.
After her premature death at the age of 61 years(1999),the Lorana Sullivan Foundation was established to improve the standards of Investigative Journalism.The Foundation who sponsors the London Investigative Journalism Summer School,provides two scholarships a year for students.
India has over 40 confirmed cases of Swine Flu.Total deaths due to Swine Flu rose to 17.In June 2009,the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global flu pandemic.The swine flu (H1N1) related cases were first detected in Mexico in April and has spread to 74 countries.
OnFeb.19,2006 the deadly H5N1 the bird flu virus had detected in India—in the tribal pocket of Navapur in northern Maharashtra’s Nandurbar district.In 2008 an outbreak of bird flu infected several districts in the eastern state of West Bengal.
on August 24,1994,first case of Bubonic plague reported in Malma of Maharashtra state.Total number of people affected rose to 107.On Sept.21,1994 first case from Bubonic plagued occurs in Surat.More than 41 people died and 450 people effected.
With the advent of technology,miniature and less expensive cameras are available in the market,TV stations now able to cover stories that they earlier avoided.Usually,Newspapers don’t need pictures for this kind of stories.Newspaper reporters work quietly and write a copy based on their observations.Earlier,Broadcasting Journalists and their crews faced difficulties due to their heavy equipments.Though,occasionally newspapers,magazines use hidden cameras,spy-cams but it’s not necessary to use them.In India,Tehelka,a magazine deals with serious issues often use spy cameras to prove their points.Now,online editions of newspapers in America and other countries use videos along with still pictures and even try to compete with Television Networks.In Broadcasting Journalism,’sting operation’ where reporters loaded with spy-cams,hidden cameras cover sensible stories but the way they use spy-cams,hidden cameras to create drama.They can do the same thing by using the traditional methods of reporting.Though,I believe that we cannot cover certain stories without using spy cams,hidden cameras,often methods adopted by reporters,producers cross journalism ethics.Deceptions,provocations play a major part of any sting operation.Last year, Aaj Tak(a major Hindi News channel in India) carried out a sting operation where K.Jyothi Kumaran,secretary of Indian Hockey Federation(IHF) allegedly took money from reporters posing as businessmen who want to organise an International Hockey tournament,to inducted a young player in the national team.Though,the intention of the ‘sting operation’ was to expose serious wrong doing,but reporters lured K.Jyothikumaran by offering him money.The channel could have done the same story with traditional methods used by muckrakers.Muckrakers spent much of their time searching archives,documents.The word muckrakers was introduced by American president Theodore Roosevelt for the Investigative reporters who dug the shit.
It was an extremely hot June evening,but I was comfortable inside one of my haunting grounds,a small bar in Central Calcutta.After waiting for 15 minutes, my contact, a 40-year old small time trader entered the bar and sat beside me.He is favourite among the crowd and the bartenders.I remember,three summers ago, around this time, I met him at the same bar for the first time and became my close buddy.We were chatting for a long time over a glass of vodka .After that,I didn’t see him for several weeks,until I got a SMS from him ,suggesting that we meet up at a restaurant after two days.There,he came over to meet me with a chirpy young lady who was a part of a well organised sex racket.Later,loaded with spy-cam, I met her ‘boss’,a middle aged man in an undisclosed location.My anxiety grew when I found that he was not comfortable with me and became suspicious about my identity and ordered his henchmen to search my body.But,luckily with the timely intervention from the lady and others present at the room,I survived.I always enjoy my undercover reporting.Whenever I got chance,I went underground.I always fascinated by the stories that most of the beauty parlours in small towns are involved in sex trade.So, to get a first hand knowledge,it was necessary for me to get involved in related trade.Luckily,I got a job as a sales representative for a little known company deals with beauty products.I started visiting various retail outlets and beauty parlours in suburban towns.To my utter surprise, I found that most of the parlours in the outskirts of the city turned into brothels.In ladies parlours presence of male customers puzzled me.Then,I found that these beauty parlours mainly deal with these type of customers.In Howrah,I visited a small ladies beauty parlour.When I approach the ladies inside the parlour,they told me to wait . A small room separated by a curtain.I noticed the movement of shadows behind the curtain.I heard the ticking of the clock hanging in the room.I have been waiting for more than a hour.It was about 7:30 on a warm evening.Then a middle aged man,completely drunk, entered the room and told me that customers who visited his parlour didn’t need any beauty products.They only want entertainment.He was right.Beauty parlours in small towns are involved in sex trade because they don’t get steady customers throughout the year and they found that it is lucrative enough to resist.Here I met a young lady. I want to know her family background.”Don’t tell my husband you called me,don’t tell him you have my phone number”,she begged.”Hey,don’t worry, you know you are my close buddy”,I assured her.”Thank you”,she said with a satisfied grin.Few weeks later,at about 3 A.M, I woke up and headed for the bathroom.When I returned to bed,I got a call from that lady…..She desperately needed help …..
I get lots of story ideas by going underground and when possible,I use my experience to cover a story.Few years ago,one of my source brought a young lady to me.He introduced the lady as a call girl.After that we regularly met and she revealed ‘trade secrets’to me.She believed me a lot and I always protected her identity.But now she withdrew from it entirely.Despite my best effort to built a co-ordial relation with them,sometimes they put me in trouble.Here, I want to recall one incident where I was compelled to take action against one of my contacts.Few months ago,my source a husky guy came over my office and struck up conversation with me and pull pranks-then he told me that he needed one of my mobile phones to capture some videos for me.As I trust him, I hand over my mobile phone to him and he promised to return it after finishing his job.But two -three days later, when he didn’t return my mobile, I tired to contact him,found that his mobile was switched off.I didn’t remember his home address.I was at my wits end.After waiting for ten-twelve days,I informed the police.Though it was not a strong Case because I willingly gave it to him,they considered the case seriously.Rajiv Chatterjee a young officer of Lake police Station nab him from his hideout after three months and several rounds of raid.I later learnt that the guy involved in white color crime and earlier police booked him on several charges.
Despite these types of setbacks, I still trust my sources and regularly meet them.I follow the footsteps of Pete Shellem, a chain-smoking investigative reporter of Patriot-News of Harrisburg,Pennsylvania who meets sources in bars and knows most of the bartenders by name.When his immediate boss or any other person from his newspaper needs to find him,they know where to find him.By his tireless effort four innocent people were freed from jail after serving several years in jail.Hats off to his temperament.Few years ago,I went underground to unearthed a sex-racket.I took a job at a message parlour.For this purpose,I underwent training as a masseur.As a freelance reporter,I believe that I have to ‘protect’ myself.As an investigative reporter,we should know how and when to use the hidden cameras-spy cams.I think when I use deception to gain access for reporting,I should maintain my cover.Therefore,I personally take some precautions such as I behave like them,learn their lingo and use my contacts to get access.I think that without preparation and proper planning we should not go into the field.Before any undercover operation meticulous planning is necessary -use of hidden cameras-spy cams without planning and preparation may ruined reporter’s carrier and badly damage the image of TV stations.
Here,I want to quote Ashish Kira from a piece where he described the ordeal he had faced as a undercover reporter when he extensively investigates the involvement of Hindu fundamentalist in Gujrat carnage 2002 for Tehelka.:….At the appointed time,I walked into the high-Celinda reception room of the Vadodara BJP office.Half an hour later, Dhimant Jain walked in, a sort man in his late 30s with a newly-acquired punch.He was fixated with Muslims,whom he evidently considered the root of all evil…..Struggling between pursuing files and answering a near-incessant phone calls,he was most hospitable,offering me water,then tea,then showing me the way to the toilet(where I switched on the two spy cams I wearing)….A few minutes later,Dhimant Bhatt’s driver steered the car off the main road and turned into a narrow,deserted,kutcha road.As the car stopped outside a desolate,one-storey house,another car pulled up and two men got out.Bhatt and these men went into the house and told me to wait.I had two spy-cams on me and all it needed to blow my cover was a body frisk.I prepared for the worst……These are the common professional hazards we face every day.
My sources are my friends.They trust me a lot and without any hesitation they pass vital information to me and I always prefer to go undercover for my assignment their knowledge of the darker side of the society come as a handy.I treat my sources as my friends.I chat a lot with them and try to solve their problem.I do believe that a good investigative reporter protects his source.He prefer to go to jail rather than reveal their identity.
So,news researchers often work like Investigative reporters build up their source.
Though, I personally believe that content is the king in any Television production,minimum production quality should be maintained.I,here like to mention the shows based on crime in local TV stations in Calcutta.Everyday,one of such shows closes with uninterrupted praise for their Anchor-producer-Director(all rolled into one)-projected as crusader who fights for justice.Though the show became popular,I personally don’t like their presentation.Anchor as well as reporters are basically arrogant,disrespectful.They often cross their journalistic ethics.To cover these type of sensitive stories,one should avoid usual equipments such as tripods and lighting instruments.So that,subjects can forget about camera’s presence.To shoot in the environment friendly situation,subjects can express themselves naturally.You don’t behave like a crusader.Whether hard news or soft news,tell the story visually.Local crime-investigative shows follow the same pattern.In 30 minute show,they drag a single story-sometimes,viewers feel irritated-bored.If we have enough footages-cutaways,various angle shots( according to vetern news videographer Angela Grant, always try to get at least four shots of every single thing you want to shoot.),we can create impact in mere 180 seconds or 240 seconds.We can easily put 3-4 stories in 30 minutes format.We should be cautious to cover a sensitive story like someone who has just lost his or her loved one or an accused person or one who has been an eyewitness to a tragedy.The question that a senior Journalist ask for himself is how do I do it and still retain my journalistic ethics.Don’t ever shoot anybody without his or her permission-I agree with others that this strategy doesn’t apply to most other situations,but I myself apply this strategy where emotions are running high and the person whose visuals we want to take,is an ordinary person not a public figure. After all we are not here to merely make a living.One should believe in the mission of journalism.
Before every assignment,I feel the urge to follow the procedures mentioned by Radio & Television News Directors Association(RTNDA)such as:
What is the role of video in the story?Does it bring real value?
Is it necessary to use a hidden camera in this story?why?
Does the story involve insignificant Private matters(even if emotional)or are there matters of vital public concern,prevention of profound harm or system failure?
Is the rationale for the story simply to win a prize or beat the competition?
Do your motives involve getting the story quickly and cheaply,rationalizing that others have done it or that the story subjects themselves unethical?
Are hidden-cameras to be used primarily to create drama?Can a visible camera be used with the same impact?
Have you used all traditional means to investigate the story,including interviews and reviewing public records and documents?
What happens if the reporters cover is blown?
Can a reporter lie to maintain his cover?
What happens if the reporter sees a crime being committed?
Where will the camera be used in a public place?quasi Public? Private home?
Will the reporter enter private property without consent or owners to tape?
Will editing be allowed to alter contents?
Though this guidelines are adopted by an American organisation keeping in mind the American perspective and legal system, but I think that Investigative Reporters of other countries who use hidden cameras-spy cams regularly, should follow these guidelines because we in India don’t have any watch dog like print media.