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Babus wanna byte



Vartika Nanda.

BREAKING NEWS may bind the erratic TRPs of news channels but it invariably sends a panic down the babus' elastic spines. Fumbling speech spells sham and silence doom. Even shaky hand and feet movements are captured - a dressing down in front of millions that every bureaucrat dreads. Taking stock of changing scenario, the Indian Administrative Institute at Mussoorie recently organised a two-day workshop for IAS trainees on how to handle the media. Vartika Nanda, Associate Professor with Indian Institute of Mass Communication and former NDTV correspondent conducted the workshop. "I told them how to handle negative stories, live on the spot and studio discussions because it is where the problem lies. Stories like Godhra and jailbreak were given to them and were asked to answer difficult questions. They were told there is no point in hiding facts unless it is in the national interest," says Vartika.

Vartika, who covered crime beat for NDTV for almost eight years, advises bureaucrats should understand the requirements and mindset of a media person. "A journalist doesn't usually need more than a 30-second byte but he has to meet four-five hour deadline. There is no point in keeping a journalist waiting for a small byte or giving answers in a roundabout way. The official should be able to summarise his statement. Sometimes, the cameraperson takes the cutaways in the beginning of the interview so the official should not ask for changing his shirt before the interview starts."

As for the hierarchal competition in bureaucracy, Vartika finds it unavoidable in breaking news but in other stories, "bureaucrats should decide their respective quotes before hand so that the official point of view should not sound jarring in the final outcome."

However, Vartika has a piece of advice for media houses as well. "In an attempt to increase the ratings, the reporters are under constant pressure of their bosses to deliver breaking news. This sometimes prompts the reporter to add spice or sensationalise the news which should be avoided."She concurs that the shining campaign that was being carried by news channels in their stories with overwhelming tilt towards fashion and parties has also backfired and hopes that post-election they will emphasise human-interest stories. Well, communication is a two-way process.

ANUJ KUMAR

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