Old news is not sexy news

The recent verdict in the Bhopal gas tragedy case — tons of stories here — has set off widespread condemnation by everyone in the media. Questions are being asked about the role of India’s corporates who have remained relatively silent in the aftermath of the verdict. The outrage seems to be everywhere.

This wasn’t the case before the verdict. I don’t remember reading much about the tragedy in the last few years. Maybe a mention during the anniversary, a story here and there but nothing like the deluge of news we’re seeing now. This is not limited to just this story but to other news stories as well. The Nithari killings are another that come to mind.

News stories typically seem start with lots of coverage to the point where there’s an information deluge and then everything just fizzles out. It’s like we’re outraged for a while, things cool down, and then we move on to the next story where we can rage about the injustices.

One problem is that India’s justice system is slow, so things take their own sweet time. In today’s fast-paced age, our attention is easily diverted by the next new thing. Plus, our brains are wired to seek out relative differences and so we get bogged down when we keep seeing something over and over.

This is where the media’s role in balancing coverage and then sticking to a story, long term, would help a great deal. Maybe once the initial frenzy over a story has fizzled out, media outlets could periodically throw stones into the metaphorical pond and create some ripples. If you refuse to let a story die, people will take notice — they don’t have a choice. It’s tricky to achieve a balance but anything else would be better than a start-stop-wait-wait-wait…to infinity-start-again kind of strategy.

The analogy that comes to mind is that of a dog who has got hold of something and refuses to let go no matter what. We need our media to be that kind of watchdog.


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