New Delhi Dec. 2: India’s best-known television journalists appear to have finally beaten Ekta Kapoor in the battle for TRPs. In six days flat. The all-out war witnessed editors being paradropped, reporters lying prostrate on the ground when not blaring into the cameras, and a thousand “breaking stories” every day. Here’s how the TRPs were garnered, shot by shot, starting around 10.30 pm on Wednesday, November 26:
* Close in on the woman in tears — show her from every possible angle
and deliver a soul-wrenching commentary of what might be going through her mind.
* Repeatedly flash shots of the adorable, crying child. Shove your mike in his face. Oh! hasn’t learnt to talk yet, not even Yiddish? Ask the woman carrying the child how she rescued him from the carnage. Not maudlin enough? Ask how many dead bodies she saw, get a blood question in. Ask if she was scared, ask what she was thinking while bullets were being sprayed around.
* Download all background scores of Ramsay and his brothers —especially Khooni Shikanja, Vehshi Aatma and Shaitan Khopri — and play it every time (that is at least 25 times a minute) pictures of the terrorists are flashed.
* Catch a victim. Chase him. If it’s a “her”, then your channel’s reputation depends on getting an arousing account of how she felt — when she saw the bodies, the terrorists, when she heard the screams. Feelings. And get her to tell viewers what she was feeling when she saw her best friend’s body.
Remember, all world-class reportage always begins with that one question: “How are you feeling?” But it wasn’t just on borrowed ideas that the news channels competed for TRPs. The skills these news channels have been honing for a long time came in handy too. In order of priority:
* Flash “exclusive” — even if the reporter is sending in reports from outside the Taj Mahal Hotel, where at least 400 reporters are stationed. And for viewers gone blind while watching blood-curdling reportage, scream “exclusive” after every nine words.
* Forget that commandos are in the hotel trying to rescue innocent people. Scream into the mike and tell the world that you, and only you, have an “exclusive” bit of information from your source, now on the hotel’s 19th floor.
* Get your reporters to lie down, ducking killer bullets, even as the cameraperson is standing next to him, recording histrionics.
* Ask anxious relatives if they think their friends and family members, who are still inside, will be able to walk out alive.
To finally clinch the TRP race, many top television editors were paradropped and the story was turned around. It became all about them and their trauma. Barkha Dutt took viewers on a tour of the Taj Mahal Hotel, choked up and emotional, gesturing violently, shrugging, crouching, hand on her aching heart. Rajdeep Sardesai rescued a foreigner from other reporters, to ask, “How are you feeling?” Arnab Goswami, of course, was kept in the studio. No one shouts “breaking news” louder than him.
When it was all over, after the commandos had gone home and the funerals had run their course, some passers-by were collected, handed candles, and in the glow of burning wax, victims were hugged, preferably Muslims, and asked again, for a final boost to TRPs: “How do you feel?”