The Subtle Art of Breaking News
There was a man called Bob. He had a brother who was a bit of a moron.
Once, Bob was leaving for a long-awaited vacation for two weeks and asked his moron brother to take care of his cat, while he was gone. A week into the vacation, Bob calls his brother to check in. After the preliminary talk, he asks how the cat is doing.
His brother replies, "Oh yeah, about that. The cat died yesterday."
Bob was devastated. And also furious. He said to his brother, "How insensitive are you? Couldn't you have broken the news more gently, so I could be prepared?"
The moron brother is confused and asks for an example how the news should be broken.
So Bob explains, "On the first call, you should have said, your cat climbed up the roof, it's unable to come down. On the second call, you could say, the firemen are here, they are trying their best. On the third call, you say, we are all trying hard, but she's not coming and not eating either. On the final call, you say, I am sorry, but nothing worked, the cat died."
The brother nods his head and says, "Aah, I get it now. Then you should know, Mom is on the roof and she's not coming down."
Of course, needless to say, Bob would have been pulverized if he was currently in any Television news channel. Because, for them, every news is a breaking news, which deserves a bright red background, text that twirls every few seconds, a font size that would have embarrassed outdoor hoardings, and graphics that can give seizures to the more sensitive amongst us.
The moron brother on the other hand, would have been sufficiently well received, maybe even given a prime time slot, where he could stare at the screen and shout at the top of his lungs, "THE CAT IS DEAD. BREAKING NEWS. YOU HEARD THAT RIGHT, BOB. YOU HEARD IT FIRST HERE, EXCLUSIVELY, FROM ME. THE CAT IS AS DEAD AS IT COULD BE. AND THE FIREMEN FAILED IN THEIR DUTY. THE CAT IS DEAD. EXCLUSIVE."
It would not matter perhaps, that the news is not breaking anything, except Bob's heart. But, hey, calling it a breaking news makes it legitimate news.
Maybe, Bob would get an audience at the good old Doordarshan to explain his subtle art of breaking news. I remember, many years ago, in 1999, when there was no cable TV, we were waiting for the 9 pm news to start as usual, with its sombre music. It did not start at 09:00 pm. All our clocks were aligned to the DD News time. So, we could not be wrong. Or could we?
09:02 pm. Still no news.
09:04 pm. Still no news.
09:07 pm. The news graphics appear, but no music.
A sombre looking presenter announces in a slow voice, the ex-President, Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma, who served as President from 1992-1997, is no more. No colors on the screen, no live images. Just an old photo of his, with the dates below. For the next 10 days, Doordarshan was in mourning. Reminding us everyday about the sad news that broke our hearts.
Bob would have approved of this.
But with TRPs at stake, I am thinking, the moron brother will be rolling in notes. Breaking news and hearts everywhere.
Honestly, if I could meet Bob, I would tell him to take his cat on vacations with him. And avoid TV News like the plague. It's not for the faint-hearted ones like him and me.