Breaking the news in Mumbai – literally

December 5, 2008

The concept of a televised war was born in January 1991, when news networks reported live on the missiles slamming into Baghdad and millions watched from the comfort of their living rooms as tracer fire lit the sky above Iraq’s capital. A decade later,  the world watched in minute-by-minute horror as the twin towers came crashing down in New York. 

Now, with the ferocious militant attacks in Mumbai, we have arrived in “the age of celebrity terrorism“. Paul Cornish of Chatham House argues that apart from killing scores of people, what the Mumbai gunmen wanted was “an exaggerated and preferably extreme reaction on the part of governments, the media and public opinion”. 

It’s too early to tell if governments will respond with extreme reaction, but the saturation coverage of the drama in the world’s media would suggest that, at least on this level, the killers were successful.  


[The Taj Mahal hotel is reflected on the window of a car of a television channel in Mumbai December 2, 2008. REUTERS/Arko Datta (INDIA)]

“Almost within minutes, television screens showed harrowing scenes of pools of blood where people had died or been injured, hotels ablaze, Indian army snipers firing at distant targets, and CCTV images of the attackers,” Cornish writes.

The first reports of shooting in the streets of India’s financial capital did not actually come from the mainstream media.  A BBC news technology blog suggested that the social networking site Twitter  “came of age” during the attacks because it carried messages on the shootings some time before television networks and news agencies started reporting them. Indeed, according to a Reuters report, blogs fed an information frenzy on the 60-hour gun rampage and siege, underlining the emergence of citizen journalism in news coverage.  

However, the live coverage that followed on television networks, particularly Indian ones,  was shrill, sensationalist and bordering on the hysterical. As the Financial Times points out, this is not new in India’s competitive television market, where some channels flash the words “Breaking News” all day and “the only thing that matters is to be ‘first’, even if first is wrong”.  The blizzard of reporting inaccuracies over this incident was astonishing. In a despatch on why we should take reports from the scene of a massacre with a grain of salt, Jack Shafer catalogues the instances from Mumbai of what he calls “crap masquerading as authoritative news”.

How does high-octane reportage like this feed into the popular mood, and how far could that influence the hands of policy makers in New Delhi and Islamabad?

To find out, watch for Breaking News.


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Stop watching IBN, NDTV, Timesnow and stop reading Times of India, Indian express..what more can i say ? oh yeah i can say I totally agree to this post.

Posted by Om | Report as abusive

India has the best politicians money can buy.

Posted by Suresh Kamdar | Report as abusive

Dig a whole for Pakistan, But india fall…..
Psychiatrists in India’s financial hub are reporting increased cases of panic attacks and insomnia after last week’s attacks, telecast live into millions of homes. “There was no sense of balance or reasoning. The coverage was so jingoistic and nationalistic. This is a complex issue with various dimensions to it. Simply reducing it to ‘politicians are villains’ and ‘Pakistan is the enemy’ without discourse or debate is a deep failing of the media, but it does influence public opinion,” said Manjula.

Posted by Peace | Report as abusive

Indian media had disseminated the news of terrorists attack on Mumbai so largely and extensively- was needful from Indian perspective-as Indian leaders are passive and reactive in nature. The decision that comes from our leadership for implementation,is slow indeed and allows the turmoil and anarchism to continue persistently. Look throughout the year,how ‘terrorist activities’ have increasingly been encroaching as well as expanding their networks in Indian soil? It is believable today, that no other politicians in the world , like India’s can’t overlook own nation’s security and safety. Yes,today it is very clear,that the Indian politician as well as leadership can take such vital issue for the nation in childish manner. Poltical gaming has constructed an illeligible and mistrious character within the politicians of India. Indian leadership could resist such grimous attack with their best abilities of communication and throughout observation on this issue

Media today have hit the leaderships and politicians as well-by their relentless and tiresless efforts as to awake them-to motivate them- as to act what to be done.The leadership of India have got geared up!Audio-visual media have perfectly vibrated India.

Posted by PRANAB HAZRA | Report as abusive

Hi all,

Tired of the TRP game.Sign this petition.

Posted by nbz | Report as abusive

Pakistan, the nation of great religion, has been many times accused of being sponsoring and supporting the Kashmiri freedom fighter, Afghan defense against soviet invasion and on many failures of indian defence for protecting its people, but no viable evidencs has ever been given either to Pakistan, United Nation. Many people from Pakistan have been accused of links with many riots in india but why no evidence has been provided or Interpol being contacted?. Recently they establish that the detained terrorist belongs to Pakistan, however the truth is that, which being hidden by Indian media is that all such details provided by india pertains to a person who have died 15 years ago – just ask yourself why indian or supporters of indian media are not showing the relatives of detained suspect, why not showing the videos of villagers who said that they knew that detained person – We all know that Indian media – Indian govt. is lying and lies don’t live and speak for long.

Previously they were showing photos in which so-called terrorist was wearing the thread band on his right hand – now they are showing the same picture without that band – isn’t it their effort to hide the truth that those persons were infact Hindu and actually planted by indians themself. How can they simply said that there exist no evidnce of any indian support – nobody would believe that only idiots can and they have accepted that as truth.

Posted by Peace | Report as abusive

Atlast somebody called the bluff of indian media. the reporting inconsistencies are still continuing not just among networks but within the networks. they tried to sound emotional especially the guy from times now tv who was all nerves and did not have the composure or the voice to present such a marathon session. the coverage in cnn ibn was better but except for reporters like barkha dutt with a stress of every word when they describe anything during the day. but onething was common was all networks carried many different versions of the story. none of them clearly connected the dots and chronology of events. they did not have any resident terror experts to voice opinions like they do in the west. all they had was thick north indian accent and bunch of inconsistences. in the papers midday was master of disjoint.

Posted by VIVEK | Report as abusive

The Indian News channel have become trash cans. They pick up rumors(or maybe create their own) and broadcast it as “breaking news”. That is just half the story . Many channels have now taken to “researching” paranormal phenomena The shows usualy consist of a shrill voice hyping up some silly paranormal event or hoax for 50 minutes and then saying that it isnt true.

Posted by Deepak | Report as abusive

There is lot of criticism and cynicism for India Media but its the media that has brought out the the truth and ineptness of Indian Intelligence Agencies and overall the callous and insensitive attitude of the politicians.
Who is interested in news of who is going to be Chief Minister, they are all alike, THE PARASITES.

Had Indian Media not shown this type of coverage would the Indian Politicians have allowed the correct picture ? Its much easier to criticize and compare with super developed economies. They should remember what was their state of media after 50 years of independence. Stop bashing media.

Posted by Devesh Misra | Report as abusive

Indian media can be compared to Pakistan in certain occasions like the live coverage of Mumbai attacks( but otherwise Indian media is far superior)
1. the most dormant
2. irresponsible
3. escapist
4. not accepting its mistakes
5. never learning from past
6. Fool to ignore the ground situations – just like Pakistan denies its role in spite of a third party like US agreeing to the fact that the terrorist were from Pakistan(Condelezza Rice has already stated clearly that Pak involvement is there in Mumbai attacks), similary Indian Media never realizes that by Live coverage of the report they were actually helping the terrorists based in Karachi (Phone calls have been tapped and proof given to pakistan) helps the terrorists inside the TAJ and OBEROI.

Posted by Indian | Report as abusive

Its the media which has enforced accontability amongst the leaders and beurocrats who would have either shrugged it off or opted to stay silent for the thing to pass.
Even I could see the coverage was to an extent hysterical. However, we need to understand that to bring about a change, to make everyone realise that this incident should not be forgotten like all other that happened before, someone needs to take the first step.

Our security agencies and judicial system needs an overhaul. Pakistan hopes to survive on the 7.5b$ loan from IMF but I am sure that is going to evaporate soon when their military goes for more arms purchase. It is a failed state with fledgling economy. The focus in India should be more towards making a foolproof security-intelligence infrastructure than asking for cooperation from a country which is desperately heading towards a collapse.

Posted by Prashant | Report as abusive

On the contrary I think because of the non-stop coverage of the incident by media..india got the over whelming support from countries accros the globe.

Posted by Om | Report as abusive

The tragedy is that Media has gone a way ahead of creating terror among the by dramatising the narration un necessarily or over acting most of the times in particular Barka Dutt of NDTV.

Posted by venkat | Report as abusive

shameless!!!! when everythings has happened peoples has started making it a political issue.why not we talk how to comeout from this kind of situation so that it never happened it again

Posted by provin | Report as abusive

It was really funny to see reporters asking counter terrorism strategists from across the world for their views and advice on the live situation in Mumbai. These kind of discussions should be held after the situation is under control. Were they expecting that these experts would share some quick fix solutions with the Indian Media ??

Posted by Ranjit | Report as abusive

There was sm much criticism

Posted by Sandy | Report as abusive

Rebuttal for statements made by Mr. Peace:

You lost your credibility in the opening statement of your post when you called terrorists in Kashmir as “Freedom fighters”. So, in that sense of the word, the Taliban who have recently issued a statement that they will annex the whole of Pakistan should be freedom fighters, right? I can argue that they are fighting to free the NWFP from the tyranny of Pakistani Army and the Government. See where this is going? A terrorist is a terrorist. Dude, better come to terms with the truth.

Next, you claim that those who wrecked carnage in Mumbai are Hindus. If you need proof that these guys are not Pakistani, what proof do you have to validate this mad claim of yours? Give us proof. As for conflicting pictures of the once on-once off red band on Kasab’s hand. Ever heard of a computer software called “Adobe Photoshop”? Isn’t it possible that the Pakistani media is doctoring these images to mislead idiots like you into this stupid belief?

Finally, Pakistan, in your words “the nation of great religion” gave birth to the idea of state sponsored terrorism as an instrument of war thanks to the Americans who wanted the Russians out of Afghanistan. I know that you can’t write very well in Enlish, but can you read? Try reading “Ghost Wars” by Steve Coll. Heck, read any book on the Afghan war and you will see what they have to say about your great nation and its ISI.

I can’t believe how idiotic these morons are in Pakistan.

Posted by Indian_2 | Report as abusive

Its the people in our country who want such dramatized version of everything. Bollywood and Indian Soaps are the live example. The %age of people looking for quality stuff are kind of less which is not enough for any kind of media to target. I know this because my brother works in media and he says that nobody reads the good reports about things that really matter. Every body is interested in the Masala stuff. What can they do they have a business to run? Its easy to blame the media but do give a thought why they are like what they are?

Posted by Rahul | Report as abusive