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News as we know it now

The Google Brunch session on Day 4 of the Kolkata Literary Meet saw journalist and authors Ian Jack, Mark Tully and Adrian Levy discuss the ins and outs of journalism, especially disaster reporting — from taking time to report and going deep into the issue to presenting news, media’s role in society, guarding against contamination of sources and digital revolution.

All three, however, disowned the tag of disaster reporting and Levy spoke about the Ryszard Kapuscinski approach of being the last to the story and last to leave. “I like the idea that you wait for the dust to settle to tame chaos if you truly want to understand some of the characteristics of the crisis,” he said at the session titled Dateline Disaster at Calcutta Club.

Tully felt there is a tendency of parachute journalists who come in to disaster zones to just tell the very immediate and most sensational aspect of the story and then disappear.

Jack, however, felt that news is news and things have to be reported as it happens quite quickly and briefly and entertainingly because the drama is very useful to news.

All three also spoke strongly about the role of breaking news, with the reporting of the Mumbai terror attacks as the focal point, and stressed the need to acknowledge that access came with responsibility.

On the role of media in society, while Jack believed media had replaced religion as a source of authority in society, Levy believed one could stay inside the media and tame the chaos. Tully, however, criticised the role of the television media in India and questioned why the media can’t do a better job by going back to the incidents later. “The television media here doesn’t want to follow up even yesterday’s story. They want what they call a new ghotala all the time,” he said.

The digital media and its ramifications were discussed too as the speakers brought up the question of trustworthiness in journalism.“What the Internet has done is it has made writing free. So if I write for the Net, nobody is paying me to do it. That means I’d be less inclined to get out and report. It is not the opinions expressed that are the problem but the checking of facts and that I think is going to have a very bad effect on journalism,” Jack said.