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Terror fatigue

Is HT dwelling far too much on the November 26 attacks, as a few readers claim it is?

india Updated: Jan 04, 2009 02:32 IST

“Please reduce the coverage given to the terror attacks,” wrote one reader last week. “A month has now gone by and we ought to look forward rather than continue to look back at the dastardly event and its reverberations.” Asked another reader: “What is this ghoulish interest in writing about the dead?”

It is perfectly possible for newspapers to go overboard with their coverage of an event like this. After all, from a journalist’s viewpoint, this is the biggest story in 15 years — since the 1992-1993 riots that followed the demolition of Babri Masjid set the city on fire.

A huge, dramatic story like this offers journalists a chance to display the full range of their skills, whether it lies in finding the human stories no one else has discovered, being the first to ferret out details about the ongoing investigation, asking tough questions of politicians or writing the stories in engaging prose. They can get carried away.

But has that really happened? Perhaps there were some excesses in the initial days, when the siege was on, particularly television channels. But one month later, I don’t think Hindustan Times at least is giving unwarranted play to stories related to the attacks.

To begin with, no story is static; it evolves and matures, the action moves from one place to another. For the first few days, the focus had to be the attack and the siege. But as the siege ended, the focus shifted to the human tragedies and the investigation. It then further shifted to international politics and to Pakistan.

In the city itself, the attack has changed a lot of things. The very fact that the first reader speaks of “reverberations” shows that he thinks the attack has had ripple effects. How can something on this scale not have?

As our reporter Purva Mehra wrote for our ‘26/11 — Life After’ package that appeared on December 26, exactly a month after the attacks, apart from anger, “fear and vulnerability dominate public discourse.” As a newspaper, we need to capture this.

The city’s middle class, notorious for its political apathy, has been roused. Since this is something new, surely we need to chronicle it and track the progress of the many citizens’ groups that have emerged.

Our role as a watchdog also means that we ought to monitor the compensation process and see if victims have been rehabilitated. These are just a few examples.

We cannot pretend that the attacks never happened. The city has changed, people have changed, we have changed.

So far from being “ghoulishly” — to use the second reader’s language — fixated on the tragedy itself, we have moved on to showing how people, institutions and the state are responding to it.

Moreover, as readers might have already noticed, HT is looking ahead, and doing so with optimism.

On New Year’s Day, we launched our year-long project, ‘India Can, India Will’ through which we will showcase opportunities and ideas that will help us move forward at a time when the economy is slowing down, our relations with Pakistan have hit a new low, and the forthcoming general election is likely to deliver a fractured verdict.

“The point about bad times is not just that they pass,” wrote Rajesh Mahapatra and Arnab Mitra, the two HT editors overseeing the project, in their opening piece. “We must make them pass.”

First Published: Jan 04, 2009 02:31 IST