Reactions To The Mumbai Blasts…

Like a lot of people, I was a helpless observer of the events unfolding in Mumbai last night.  There was a drive to contribute accompanied by a distinct inability to do so.  In the end, I became part of the masses watching this unfold on media and trying to ensure that friends and family were OK.

Friends and family…  Would first like to pass on my condolences to all who were directly impacted by this.  Loss of life or health is not replaceable with any post-facto actions.

I would also like to pass on some of my observations.  What surprised me was that these observations have large support from the sources that I was able to observe – comments on TV, digital media or print media – the general public comments.

Panic

A lot of panic was generated yesterday.  Panic was related to a general feeling of deja vu, and the experiences of the city and country from the pre-decessors.  The panic was exacerbated by the actions of the media.  What did impress me though was the calm and methodical approach taken by the people in charge.  Regular, clear, concise communication with no pre-analysis announcements – the biggest difference that I was able to note.

Police

Seemed to do a better job than I remember ever before.  They were much better at communication, but in the scenes that I could see, the hawaldar on the ground was still confused.  Preparedness, organization and ability to respond quickly seems to still need work. Inability to clear and secure the sites quickly also bothered me.

Media

The behaviour of the media did not surprise me.  That to me was strange given that what I saw I categorized as deplorable. There has been a lot of criticism of this in previous incidents; likewise in this one, but not sure what would motivate our dear TV news channels to change.

  • The TV news channels were running in a loop – showing the same things with an amazing frequency.
  • They kept people extremely up to date on any official announcements regarding casualty numbers and the ilk
  • They were relentless in pursuing eyewitnesses; 1 channel even interviewed a person who had run away from the scene without seeing anything
  • The images were graphic, in a lot of cases not even blurred. People were being encouraged to send more images in
  • In getting this information, neither the TV crews or the other people at the sites worried about trampling all over the evidence
  • There was no information on the state of traffic, trains, buses, etc so that people could find their way home
  • There was no information on blood donation that I noticed – either encouraging or directing donors
  • There was no direction on what people were supposed to do

There seemed to be a focus on satisfying the voyeuristic desires of people sitting at home (like me); not to pass on helpful information to people caught-up in the mess and needing help

 Digital Media

 I have not been a user of twitter until recently. What I have heard about it’s past contributions is one of the reasons I am there now.  The tweeps were what really made the day here. What I saw:

  • People publishing phone numbers in public advertising assistance [food/shelter/medical help/etc]
  • People publishing routes that they are taking so that stranded people could get assistance
  • People responding to cries for help appropriately and providing solutions
  • People willing to give blood and other people directing them where to go
  • Somebody got the bright idea of consolidating the information so that it would be easily trackable and usable
  • Latest information on traffic, trains, buses, taxis and what not – actually useful to people
  • Other kinds of information was available – who to attack, how other countries would respond, etc.  However, there were an equal number of people asking them to hold-off until the emergency had been dealt with.

The brilliant behaviour of the people and the usefulness of the adopted platform to the cause is something that should be remembered in this hour of pain.  To whatever degree, these actions did alleviate some of the pain that would have been present otherwise.

 What I observed was interviewees on the TV, people on twitter and people I have had conversations with having similar sentiments. I am sure with a little bit of change we can do better next time.  For there to be no next time is the best, but that would require a lot of change.

What I learnt and what the 9-to-whatevers can take away is that resources available are not the only thing that drive results.  TV channels and the like have many more resources and better organization than any loosely built collection of individuals.  Yet, this collection provided a significantly higher benefit last night using the meagre resources.  Differences in motivation? drive? desire? leadership? ? ? You tell me…

Update:

A link detailing some of the activities that helped.

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6 thoughts on “Reactions To The Mumbai Blasts…

  1. I think you answered the question yourself, media focuses (or should I say only focuses) on viewers already in their comfort zones (home/office) and does little or nothing for those who are affected.

    So its not a question of how effectively are they managing their resources, its more about the orientation/goal. This is where the entire OB theories of Vision, Mission and what not goes for a toss! Industry forces (competition) isn’t helping the cause either, because of the fear of loosing TRPs and in turn Ad- Revenues.

  2. Long long ago when the concepts of media and journalism were introduced, they were built with the objective of providing a platform where the common man would be able to get some help (in whatever way). Money making was also an important point but it ensured that the correct balance got maintained. Journalism and media means different today and since it has evolved into whatever it is now, journalists, who used to be one of the most respected personalities in the society, arent respected any more (expect a few like J Dey, R.I.P). I think it is very well understood now (as Anirudhha says) as to what sections of the society the media targets itself and all of our protests (!!!) are not going to change their business mantras. Why should they, when they are earning so well with their new found definition of journalism!! Their definition do not describe journalism as a social welfare initiative.

    Regards difference from the earlier attacks, I am made to understand that the BMC emergency control room swung into action much faster than ever and did their task well. Mumbai Police will anyways face the wrath, and they didnt do much to improve their image in the public view. It seems the hospitals were better prepared to handle the emergency. I have never had any words regards the spirit of the people of Mumbai and I never will have, but am just proud to say that I was part of that city and its people for 3.5 yrs. It has always been the Mumbaikars who have alleviated the sufferings of their fellow citizens and this time has been no different. After all, they have learnt to live life the hard way, They know that depending on the administration or third parties (media for instance) for help during these times will only make matters worse for them.

  3. Well, interesting read and a good summary of something I so wanted to know about and had no source to go to.
    Nice to know people learnt and performed better, responded in more matured way but I am sure this is not the area where we want to get better with every new experience 🙂

    “Shaayad unka akhiri ho yeh sitam, har sitam yeh sochkar hum sah gaye”

  4. To answer your question, i believe leadership could be key here, more specifically moral leadership. As Aniruddha pointed out, all tv channels are in a rat race for TRP’s and revenues. But i believe that if any one channel does decide to step up and work on some of the points you’ve mentioned, it could easily build a huge viewer base. However none have been brave enough to venture down that path so far.
    Coming back to your post, I liked your point on how ‘the loosely built collection of individuals provided a significantly higher benefit using the meagre resources. Among the few tweets that i went through , one that touched me, was the one asking if anyone was around the blast area, and wanting to help, to contact a certain gentleman who was helping with the rescue operations. This is the Mumbai spirit that i admire!!

  5. Ben,

    Your idea of somebody should take the un-orthodox path of journalism (vs a Media person, as Satya elaborated) is already taken. The problem is not with no-one risking that, its with eventually everybody converging to the so-called industry standard (if I can call it) of TRP/Ad Revenue race.

    In fact, “being a true journalist” and similar tag lines are nothing more than a marketing gimmick these days or a go-to-market strategy of capturing the TRPs initially without the cash-flows (similar to user-base for a dot com) and then bombard the users with Media(ism).

  6. Interesting thoughts! Taking the risk of telling a whole profession how to run itself, I offer these arguments.

    Need to distinguish between the reporter and the organization. Journalists can offer reporting [a honest account of facts and other peoples opinions/quotes] and/or opinion [a personal evaluation of the facts and conjectures]. Very often, the two tend to blur – which is an issue in itself.

    Secondly, journalists should not let their integrity be swayed by the motivations of the larger organization – since these do not always reconcile. Easier said than done. But to be leaders, obtain a Cronkitesqe aura, and to bring about real change, this courage is necessary.

    A regular paycheck [represented by TRPs in this case] vs. courage and integrity is a fight that is not limited to journalists. Why should they be let off while the rest of us are willing to fight the good fight?

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