Thursday, November 27, 2008

Watching Bombay Unfold

It's way too early but from what I see there are a few outright stories of bravery already emerging from the mayhem in Mumbai/Bombay:

First, the Taj Hotel Staff has come in for unified praise by guests who were trapped inside the hotel and made it outside. By all accounts, they appear to have been calm, clear in instructions and with a clear plan for what the guests should do. I can't imagine how people can stay professional and calm in such terrifying circumstances. Amazing.

Second, the NSG, Army, police and firemen who despite crumbling infrastructure and rampant chaos have persevered for more than 34 hours now, despite losing some very important figureheads.

Third, stories of heroism from Bombayites and from foreign visitors who focused on the task at hand and displayed an unnatural calm. This is the least surprising given what one knows about Mumbai/Bombay but remarkable nonetheless.

I will not single anyone out for criticism but I'll just say how appalled I am by the Indian news media's coverage of this whole situation- initially they were hysterical and breathless which is perhaps understandable but as time has gone by two things have really disgusted me 1. the insensitivity towards waiting relatives and 2. the absolute lack of restraint and respect for the requests of security personnel not to reveal details of the operations that are going on. They keep parroting how they've been asked not to reveal anything but then happily reveal all sorts of information that even to my untrained eye are patently sensitive.

There is a lot of growing up that clearly needs to occur but perhaps this is the turning point for how the media handles situations such as these. This reminds me of a conversation I recently had with a Professor of PR at the Newhouse school about the lessons the US media leaned from the terrible mistakes made during covering the Lockerbie bombings. There must be a lot of introspection later about the language, tactics and thrust of the way the media has covered this event.

Can someone please shut Barkha Dutt up? She might as well be directing the terrorists with a GPS system and don't even get me started on her interrogation (there is no other word) of relatives and victims.

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