Are you really interested in what happened between Hrithik Roshan and Kangana Ranaut? If anything happened between them at all?
Whatever be your answer, the mainstream media, popularly known as MSM has decided we are really interested in it. I mean, the collective media channels and newspapers think, that we are dying to know what happened between them or didn't happen between them, over and over again.
They think that we are really interested between a fiercely contested consensual relationship between two film stars for FOUR years without respite. For four years, they have been bombarding us with the same information, same facts (or lies), same shots, same graphics....
If you go by the reactions on social media, and if that is any indicator of the current mood of the readers, everybody is saying, "Please stop. We know everything now. We don't need to know more. It's okay. We don't want to know. Get this thing out of our face. NOW!"
The audience surely was initially interested when all the dirty details were spilling out, police cases were lodged and dirty linen was being washed in public. The problem is: We have already seen the dirt and the washing is long over. How long will the media, keep talking about the same thing and keep roasting the readers?
The problem is: Nobody in the MSM is listening to you, including the hot-shot editors at the MSM powerhouses. You want to know why? Let me tell you why.
To give you an idea of what's happening here in the media, I want to take you back to the newsroom where I belonged once as a senior reporter, many years back. It appears that though the medium has largely changed, the mentality (or sensitivity) has gone from bad to worse.
So, this is what used to happen some eight years back in the newspaper newsrooms....
THE EDIT MEET
Everyday, we used to have an editorial meeting in the afternoon, it was a fixture wherever in newspapers or digital media. In the afternoon meeting (usually around 3 pm), we decided what we are going to do the next day.
It was in that meeting that we used to brief the editor about the interviews that we have conducted, the stores we were supposed to do in the evening (or the morning next), the developing news stories, the follow-ups of big news breaks and of course, the 'exclusives' which were the most important points of discussions in the meeting.
For strike (senior) reporters these editorial meetings used to be a game of "hold".
"Hold" is the most important term for senior reporters who are mainly on the lookout for exclusive stories.
The term, 'Hold', is used in a sentence as, 'How many days will the story hold? It meant the number of days the article would remain relevant and exclusive to the reporter (or the paper). Once we got a breaking news story, it didn't always mean that we immediately released it.
Some of us, used to play the holding game with perfection. This is how we played it.
We, as reporters, knew in our hearts the importance of our breaking stories and how important they were to us.
Alternatively, for the news editors or the editors, the most important role is to prioritise the day's stories. So no matter how important an article is, it will always get prioritised depending on the number of important news stories breaking that particular day.
For example, you have a breaking and exclusive story about how a section of contractors in the Municipal Corporation usurped money over the years. Important story no doubt. But on the same day, if there's another breaking story about a national level politician getting involved in a scam, your Municipal Corporation story will get lesser priority.
But on a day, when the city has witnessed nothing significant or newsworthy, your story might get a page one banner slot (top half) with a "breaking news" tag on top. It is because, on that day, as per priority, your story tops the list.
A day, when nothing significant happens in the country, only routine incidents follow, is called a 'slow news day'.
For us reporters, when we used to get a breaking story, we always used to find out how many days the story will remain with us. That also included our efforts in extending the 'hold' by telling our sources not to reveal it to anybody, keep the documents neatly tucked in a drawer and not discussing it in office, including at editorial meetings.
SLOW NEWS DAYS
The slow news days were a boon to us reporters because it meant our stories would get the top slot. So, we used to keep an eye on what's happening at the editorial meeting and on news agencies like PTI, UNI and IANS to determine if we are going through a slow news day.
When we were sure that it was going to be a slow news day and we saw the editor retiring in his chamber with a long face, then BAM! That was the opportunity!
We used to brief our stories to him as exclusives. Man, we loved the expression of the editors!
But there was a larger picture to it too. I always belonged to the entertainment bureau. In most media houses, the entertainment bureau works on its own and never used to mingle much with the main news-room unless there were specific reasons for us to work together.
When I used to be in the entertainment bureau of a prominent newspapers, once in a month (sometimes two), the executive editor would hurriedly come to the chamber of the entertainment editor, usually just after the after the entertainment editorial meet got over around 4 pm.
We had glass cabins and we could see everything. They would discuss intently and the executive editor would be usually seen holding the day's entertainment news budget (news-list) in his hand.
Those days were called 'Jackpot Days'.
Those were the days when the main newspaper didn't have great news stories for the following day and the executive editor was likely hunting for a breaking story from Bollywood to fill up prime news space.
On those occasions, we used to knock on the doors of the editor, and take out our best stories that were "held" with us. More often than not, our Bollywood stories ended up getting prime slots (on page one) the next day.
We also banked on the fact that most mainstream editors and news editors were clueless and often illiterate about Bollywood and the news value of Bollywood information. I have worked with most of them (hot-shot chief editors/ news editors) and can say this with certain amount of certainly that most of the hot-shot editors in India know virtually nothing about Bollywood. They always rely on Bollywood editors to ascertain the importance of a story from the film industry.
So, for a reporter, if the story could be packaged well, then in all likelihood, that the story would end up on page one or prime time.
However, I remember very few strike reporters, trying to push an old story as a new one. Even though some made the efforts, there were enough people in the newsroom to call the bluff.
But the checks and balances are becoming a thing in the past with decisions in newsrooms turning unilateral and the absence of discussions between editors simply because in the online or TV scenario, you don't have the luxury of time.
As a result, a lot of old trash is getting passed as a new news story on a slow news day.
I think the same thing happened with the Kangana-Hrithik Roshan story. What Kangana said on Aap Ki Adalat was nothing new, she had said it before. However, the news was carried across TV channels because of two reasons: It trended on Twitter and it was slow news day.
But what happened a few days earlier, was even more ludicrous.
An old complaint, filed more one year back, was run on a channel as an 'exclusive'. The contents were known to all. The rebuttal was known to all too. The newspapers too carried it as exclusives.
Given my earlier experience, I could imagine what could have led the editor select such an old news as a "breaking prime time story". Yes, again it was a slow news day as Mumbai emerged afresh from the horrible stampede at Elphinstone Road and there were no further development on that end.
Blame it on the quality of strike reporters or city editors, the newspapers and channels are gleefully packing an old drinks in a new bottle and serving it to us.
The problem is: Out refusal is not reaching their ears.
The collective scream on social media from their readers is somehow not reaching the editors.
So we will be stuck with Kangana and Hrithik for a while now.
(This story first appeared on www.bollywoodjournalist.com. Reproduced with permission)