DNA ran a headline today: BJP brays for Kapil Sibal’s blood.
Brays? Isn’t that what a donkey does? It has been used to describe harsh, futile sounds, but to describe a political party as braying? That too when it sounds like it is making a demand of some significance to the country? Braying is also a nuisance and meaningless sound. That’s way beyond reporting.
In defense of Donkeys world wide, I have yet to see a donkey that brayed for blood. Donkeys are herbivores.
But I see this trend on the rise. Reports use fancier and fancier language and unorthodox meanings of words which give rise to intended or unintended implications about the content. Technically, there is nothing wrong with using that word from a pure language perspective. Unusual, inelegant, but not wrong. Factually, it may be another matter.
At some point during the investigations of Joy Dey’s murder, there had been something about a “scribe” – used to describe some editor. Now here’s the thing. A scribe is essentially one who records, not creates. With the role of journalism in documenting happenings, sure, it makes sense that the word scribe has been used to describe journalists too, but to use it to describe an editor? Again, technically, a journalist becomes an editor, etc. but what is the editor really doing? Does “scribe” fit it? People were quick to throw the dictionary at me. Scribes are also journalists. Thus proved.
Instances like this abound. For some reason, a journalist or reporter picks up a word, takes it by its defined meaning and uses it indiscriminately, which often results in an inaccurate portrayal of what is happening. I think this is compounding our already lazy journalism with further inconsistency.
Why does this happen?
No clue. For example, in the previous example of BJP braying for Kapil Sibal’s blood, chances are very likely that the journalist twisted “baying for blood” which basically means calls for punishment. It is an ancient reference to hunting dogs chasing escaped criminals (or prey). It is a well used phrase, and still makes sense if the atmosphere demands it and gets conveyed accurately by the idiom. Brayed for blood, this creation conveys nothing other than insult, because there is no visual. Donkeys don’t bray for blood. If donkeys bray for blood, no one knows what that means, so it tells you nothing about the situation, except that donkeys do bray, which is mostly seen as a nuisance and of no consequence. Is this what this “scribe” is saying about political proceedings?
I see this as a product of our education system’s desouling process of all knowledge. Where an art is turned into a skill, and meanings of words are learned from dictionaries, instead of immersing in literature. Where synonyms are interchangeable to add some dazzle regardless on nuance, context or indeed, implications.
Take for example the story of this baby Falak brought to hospital by a teenager battered, unconscious. The teenager is suspected of assaulting her and being assaulted herself. Search is on for family members and a man with whom she had been staying and who had got the baby home. Some people are arrested, some are still being searched for. Baby’s condition varies and she is still unconscious. Now see the number of results. While it is understandable that many are touched by her story, you can search by individual newspapers and find at least one daily story repeating the whole incident and a line of her current status. Such repetition obviously will need spicing up. Why not drop it instead? Or, why not look at things not yet said?
I also see it as an insult of reporting itself, if factual information needs to be spiced up to become attractive. Where truth needs prettified in novel ways to keep selling. Maybe it is time to see why the news itself is boring enough to need such things. Is it that it isn’t “new”s at all and needs some jolt to get people to read it? I would say that is likely, seeing as how we seem to get separate articles about every sneeze. One incident results in at least three articles simply reporting facts, reporting the entire story over and over each time, then more speaking of other related things.
Even in the article, the article begins with a summary of the information, repeats the information and concludes with a summary of the information. There simply aren’t enough facts!
I have seen articles that are little more than the headline. The headline is repeated two or three times, wish some minor information added to make the whole article 4-5 lines. It is quite obvious that the “detailed information word” could have gone in the headline itself, but the practice of content proliferation requires that readers reach an article page, see ads and waste time reading.
In other words, journalism has strayed far from the intent of reporting information. It now packages information. And that is more clutter that needs more shiny things to get people t0 read… like today’s headline. Who would read an article about BJP wanting Sibal punished? What’s news about that? but they are braying like donkeys for his bood… whoa! Something must have happened. Let’s see. Intellectual prostitution. That’s what’s happening.
What if one of the grandstanders in the Parliament gave this hack a tip off, or say the Mosanto sponsored Indian Express Awards for Journalists gave one to this pencil pusher too? Would it be the same meaning as him being a reporter or journalist?
The journalist brayed his headlines onto the frontpage, his contempt invading minds, influencing thought, creating images of an alternate world, his last refuge, an edifice of words, shielding him.
At least spare the donkeys.