My ebook: Journeys with the caterpillar

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Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
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Thursday, August 17, 2006

The world of newscasters

In the US, the news industry is strongly personality driven. So much so that it is commonly heard that Journalists themselves make more interesting news. Stars like Katie Couric, Dan Rather, Robin Meade, Larry King, etc. are household names. There are genuine stars like Kevin Sites of Yahoo news and Tim Sebastian of BBC Hard Talk, however, for most others, the channels need to actively promote the hosts to pep up the shows: some say Katie Couric’s legs and smile made NBC’s “Today” a $250 million a year show. CNN had aired advertisements for American Morning which branded the hostess Paula Zahn as "sexy" with a sound effect of a zipper opening. When a female anchor takes over from a male anchor, the edges of the table facing the anchor are cut to allow showing of legs. CNN’s Anderson Cooper is named one of the sexiest by People magazine; for his autobiography, "Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters and Survival", HarperCollins reportedly provided $1 million. In 2001, Couric signed a five-year, $65 million contract to stay with NBC’s morning news show “Today,” she is now switching to CBS.

When it comes to newscasters in India, there are a few recognizable names: Pronnoy Roy, Aaj Tak’s late S.P. Singh; India TV’s Rajat Sharma, CNBC’s Raghav Behl, Barkha Dutt, Rajeev Sardesai, and some regional news veterans like Mir (Bengali), Aarti Kalita (Assamese). But most of them have high recall because they have been around for ages. A few talk show specialists like Karan Thapar, Vir Sanghvi, do rounds of channels. One might say Shekhar Suman and Navjot Sidhu are also India’s top news anchors. However, on the whole, there are still no big news personalities in India, Except for Suhaib Ilaisi; few journalists have themselves become news. Also much of the airtime in Indian news is taken up by the local correspondent who usually has very poor communication skills and is often overawed by the occasion. When CNN IBN started, they tried a lot to promote their news anchors CNN style. But on the whole, in India, channels have followed a policy of sensational news rather than sensational newscasters. However, in India, markets have different characteristics. While a two-three hour morning news format is very popular in US (especially among women); in India; people prefer the anchor-less rapid fire news. While people in the US look at newscasters as reassuring characters, in India, we don’t draw any inspiration or message out of the presenters.

But there was indeed a time, when newscasters had some aura around them: remember the days of Rini Simon, Salma Sultan, Usha Alburquerque; a time when news occupied one of the three hours of broadcast available on public TV.

1 comment:

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