Monday, December 27, 2004

EarthQuake: TV coverage

Well... here is what happened yesterday ( on TV and live)

Stupid Moments:

1) Sun TV trying to gain political mileage for the DMK party even during such an hour of grief. The unethical, biased, immoral SOB's used a natural disaster where people were dying to promote their political agendas. They kept saying constantly that no official authorities were there to help. The kept lying and spreding false propoganda that the police and the government were lackadaisical in coming to the rescue of the people. When all to the contrary was true.

2) They put an amateur newscaster during an important hour on Sun News. He read out the prepared first two lines well and then started blabbering like a fool, when he had to improvize on live TV. His eyes shrunk as he struggled to talk ( too nervous) couldnt get any logical structure flowing to his thoughts. Did not lead us to any particular point or thought process.

3) He said "please don't panic" so many times ( about 5 million times) that even some coma patients started getting worked up in panic. He did not back any of his "dont panic" claims with data. He kept saying like a baby " don't panic! everything will be allright". He kept on saying "dont believe or spread rumors" and unfurled a couple of rumors on his own ( in the pretext of giving examples of rumors people should not spread)

4) A Sun TV Journalist (Swaminathan.. his name wasn't it ?) behaved badly. This dude is standing in the middle of the beach with hundreds of people around him and he started saying "people are angry. people are boiling. they are upset with the government's attitude" . The irresponsible idiot was actually pumping up the people in the wrong way and creating a mob mentality.

5) Sun TV did not show even a single government official helping ( it was cut out). There were many ( infact a lot ) who were actually doing some good work. Helicopters were around at 7:30 AM itself. These people carefully filtered that out!

Good/ Profound / Touching Moments:

1) The wailing grief stricken bearded man who could not believe the shock of someone close to him passing away. He kept shouting with folded hands "iyyappa" as someone kept pulling him away in a different direction to console him. Man! I was just moved to tears!

2) The Sun News reader who was reading live at 6:45AM. The earthquake hits and his table & monitor etc starts shaking. He is confused for sometime and then shouts "Ravi building aaduthu.. Ravii building is shaking.. bayangarama aaduthu"

3) Dr. J announcing to the news channels asking for relief funds from the center and contributions from good-hearted people. She said this announcement in English! And then some journalists asked her to repeat the full speech in Tamizh. She first did not understand what she was being asked to do. She said " enna! sonnatha ellam tamizh'la sollanuma.. Ellathaiyumaa" (Should I repeat everything in Tamizh? ). She was visibly annoyed at being asked to do this when she had important work to do. She paused for a moment said the first line " 1537 people have died" in Tamizh. Then dunno what she thought, she just snapped and said " Please donate money to Chief Ministers relief fund" and went away. My respect for her increases everyday. Given the important tasks that lie ahead who the hell wants to be giving out stupid TV interview. Bravo!.

4) Union Ministers Mani shankar Aiyyar and D. Maran being visibly moved to tears on seeing the number of dead people arranged in marriage halls.

5) A woman still in shock narrating how she lost her child. She said " I held the baby in my hands. It was sleeping. I ran very well as fast as I could. I tripped on a stone and the baby slipped out of my hands and dropped it into water. It did not get hurt. Not even a scratch. It died because it drowned but it looked as if it was still asleep. It was a big stone otherwise I wouldn't have tripped" ( and she breaks into tears)

6) It was still early days and the extent of the earthquake or the death toll was not known. The Sun TV news anchor was talking to live reports from the beach ( he was calling people on their cell phones). He is saying " There maybe property damage. But it has been an hour so far and there have been no death tolls reported. So I guess there is no casualities". The person on the other line agrees and is giving some comments on the water flowing into the road when he suddenly cries out " I see a body.. its a dead body". On Live TV the anchor realizes that there are dead bodies around.

and now for the...

Funny Moments:

1) Our jackass Sun TV fellow in the morning decided to call up Seismology department professor from Anna university.

JackAss: " Now about the earthquake . Can it be predicted?"
Sleepy Prof: " What ?"
JackAss: " The earthquake sir!!. Can it be predicted?"
Sleepy Prof: " What ....?"
JackAss: " Earthquake Earthquake sir!!. "
Sleepy Prof: " What ....? Earthquake.. what ?"

(cuts off the line)

JackAss: " We are experiencing some communication problems....."

2) Our jackass Sun TV fellow later decides to call up Seismology Department, Chennai.

JackAss: " Since earthquakes cannot be predicted. Can at least the after shocks be predicted ?"
SeismGuy: " Eartquakes can be predicted easily ?"
JackAss: " Okay..(then realises what the other guy just said) WHAT! they can be predicted"
SeismGuy: " Yes they can"

now jackass is in conspiracy theory mode

JackAss: " Do you think the government deliberately held back the information"
SeismGuy: " No! I dont think after-shocks can be predicted. But I along with three other people have written a paper on Earthquake prediction presented in International conference..bla bla.. in Hyderabad talking of methodologies to predict earthquakes"

He goes on to explain and market his thesis dissertation. Jack ass gets confused regarding his credibility. Seeing the moment slip away.. he says

JackAss: " Sir.. please hold for a moment.I will get back to you."

General Stuff:

Madras was pretty peaceful for the rest of the day. In fact, I think the police, navy and the coast guard did a wonderful job in responding to the crisis. Looking at various TV channels and whats going on in Chennai (where I was on Sunday) they did whatever was humanly possible. The main advantage was Madras having the best hospital infastruture in the country. So it was able to handle the "injured" people very well.

The police Inspector General R.Nataraj was confident, assured and pretty articulate when he said " We responded immediately. Everything is under control. It is a natural disaster and we are responding the best way we can." Looks like there was one policeman in every square foot on the beach road in Chennai.


The sad thing is among the casualities in Chennai, a major number belonged to the people who play cricket on the beach. I remembered my college days where we used play cricket on the same place every Sunday morning ( ya! Sunday ). We use dto go there at 5:45 AM to reserve spots to play the game. By 7:00 AM the place usually becomes pretty crowded with 20-30 games of being played by some 50 odd teams in a small space on the beach. It was like a tradition.

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