September 29, 2012

How personal can media get?

Are we another form of FaceBook?

This was a question that popped up when I read a basket of anecdotes that all the people who made the early days of 'Anna Nagar Times' newspaper shared in a recent edition.

The special pages marked 20 years of this free, English weekly with which I was associated in its early days.

And Robin Sam, who used to report for it wrote that much before FB became a rage, 'Anna Nagar Times' was the FB avatar for the area.

Our newspapers have kept close to people.

Profiles, reportage and photos are an essential part of our coverage and our links with the neighbourhood we cover.

But how close should we get to people?

A report in a recent issue of a daily newspaper made me think.

The report was filed by a crime reporter and it was on a person who had committed suicide in the Adyar neighbourhood. It was evident that this was a straight case of a man who had decided to end his life for his own reasons.

That the man's wife happened to be an old friend of mine had its own personal ring to the development.

The report though did not stop at treating the case as it should have been - a two or three - para report.

Instead, the reporter freely fed into all the intimate details that any policemen working on a case would gather and log into his files.

So, here we had a report that touched on the woman's early life, her marriage and the subsequent divorce, her present occupation and her relationships, more on the man and his occupation and all the steps he had taken before ending his life.

How personal can we in media get?

The question becomes grave for a small, neighbourhood newspaper.

There was an occasion when we at 'Adyar Times' had a debate on a story we had done. We had carried a picture of an apartment where some people ran a prostitution business.

Was it right to also feature a picture of that complex?

Would the residents of that place feel uneasy about the coverage?

We have lessons to re-learn ourselves. Readers' feedback can also help us.

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