Modi hogs the limelight and ensures Indian media is at work and takes the news away from Clinton and Trump and Tata and Mistry
Around 8.30 pm, while driving home, one felt the urge to get on the phone and check on what’s happening with the US Presidential polls as voters in that democracy trickled into voting booths to cast their votes.
Around the same time, in the Indian democracy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was addressing the nation on All India Radio and Doordarshan. Within minutes, television news channels started flashing that Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes would be invalid as legal tender from midnight.\
I just reached home to turn on my favourite channel to catch up on the US poll and simultaneously I was flooded with whatsapp messages, SMSes and phone calls from panic stricken relatives, friends and colleagues. ``Did you hear it?’’ they all asked. By 8.45 the entire nation knew and had watched Modi either live or on repeat.
By 9 pm, journalists in news rooms scrambled back, sprung into action by Modi’s statement. ``It was as if there was a death in the family,’’ said one journalist from Delhi who works for a Hindi news channel of a feted world news entity. Everyone was worried and wanted to know how best to exchange or get rid of the damn crisp notes dished out by the ATM.
As anchors struggled to make sense on their prime time, the Nation for once, really Wanted to Know what in the world was going on.
Modi had succeeded in hogging the limelight once again and in the process created large scale panic. Friends tipped off that queues at ATMs were getting longer and a hawk-eyed colleague spotted people scrambling to cash deposit machines in some ATM’s while watching news on TV. It was of no use, the machines had long stopped accepting the cash much before the midnight deadline. The TV guys go everywhere, even in a flood. And here too they were wading right into a flood of misery.
In news rooms across the country, everyone got down to basics – the five Ws and one H - which they had long junked in favour of PR pieces that masqueraded as journalism. ``The naqab (mask) has come off and this is truly Modi at work,’’ said one tense financial journalist rather mournfully to another colleague who covers politics at a Bengaluru newspaper. ``No, its Modi’s promise to curb black money truly happenning,’’ replied the politico.
They both worked hard into the night, like many journalists across the country, relying on irresponsible television anchors and gauging for themselves the footage for people’s reactions. Every quote mattered. From an Ola driver, to a bar cashier, to a petrol pump attendant, all of them mostly flush with customers’ cash. Meanwhile, senior editors mailed each other furiously back and forth on the stories that could be done for tomorrow.
For the time being, Indians will forget the US polls and hedge their bets on the rupee. And don’t forget, Cyrus will remain a mystery for some more days as we have to say Tata to other news.
Watch this page is all one can say.