The News Media Circus Mourning the Daughter(s) on National Television

It is commonplace to hear of reporting crimes committed against women. This pattern does not focus on the structural reasons behind why these crimes are more likely. Instead, it highlights the crimes while highlighting specific details of each case to remind middle-class families of the threat that comes with Westernised modernity. The horrific shooting of Shraddha Walker has revealed the usual ways of reporting on the violence that women face. The message behind such reports has implications for how risks, choices, or urban environments in India view women. This article addresses the problem of media reports on violent crimes committed against women and focuses on the broader implications of the media’s portrayal of women and society.
The author would like to thank Sachleen Kaur, a 4th year BTech CSD student, whose timely speech has led to the reflection about grieving dad(s). She also wishes to acknowledge reviewers whose invaluable inputs have contributed to the refining of the article.
In a recent interaction in the classroom on media and gender, I played a few footage from a well-known news channel’s coverage of the Hyderabad Gang rape and the murder of a girl. The reporter (a young woman) began her coverage by showing her viewers the red two-wheeler. She demonstrates that it was this type of two-wheeler in red that this victim rode on that fateful night. The reporter recorded the victim’s footsteps twice (once in the day and again at night), following her movements along a highway in Hyderabad along with time stamps. I asked my students what they thought of the script for this news channel. A little hesitantly, they could tell that the news was too detailed and tried to make its viewers sympathize with the victim. I challenged them further, and they noticed the focus of the red Scooty was noticeable. The fascination with time stamps appeared to induce a sense of apprehension.
The issue that students could recognize with just a hint of a push was the issues in the news media coverage of female-related crimes. We discussed how crimes committed that target women are usually reported as isolated incidents rather than framed within an overall pattern of gender-specific crimes. The stand-alone event is the socially accepted news media’s framework for covering incidents involving women. This naturally results in the “incidents” being unpacked in detail (like chats and time stamps, or phone calls from the victims) as well as the brutality of the harm done to victims (detailed description of the violence or violation that lasted for how long and how she was killed and, in most cases, disposed of often crude re-enactments of crime scenes) as well as more refined obsessing over the victim is which instead of blaming victims, they make a reconstruction of her life by retracing her actions as poor decisions. In the case of the victim’s actions being recreated unintentionally, the highlighted symbols included the city’s road, the dark night, and the scooty and mobile phone. At this moment, I asked, “who would you say is the intended viewers for this type of media coverage? !” One student confidently stated, “Our dad(s)!”

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