ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

The News Media Circus

Mourning the Daughter(s) on National Television

There is a familiar pattern of reporting crimes against women. The pattern does not highlight the structural ways in which these crimes become more probable. Instead, it sensationalises the crimes, highlighting the individual case details in a manner of resounding middle-class families of the threats of Westernised modernity. The gruesome murder of Shraddha Walker has yet again laid bare the familiar patterns of news reporting violence against women. The underlying message of such reporting has implications of how women experience risk, choices and urban spaces in India. This article engages with the issue of news media reporting of violent crimes against women and discusses the larger implications of media framing for women and the society.

The author thanks Sachleen Kaur, 4th Year BTech CSD student whose timely interjection has inspired the refl ection on mourning dad(s). She would also like to thank the reviewers whose valuable inputs have helped fi ne-tune the article.

In a recent classroom interaction, for a course on gender and media, I showed some clips of a popular news channel’s coverage of the Hyd­erabad gang rape and the murder of a young woman. The news reporter (a young woman herself) began the coverage by pointing out to her viewers a red two-wheeler. She shows that it was this kind of a red two-wheeler that the victim was riding on that fateful evening. The rep­orter then went on to cover the victim’s footsteps twice (once during the daytime and then in the evening), retracing her movement on a major road in Hyde­rabad, complete with time stamps. I asked my class how they read this news media script. With a little hesitation, they could identify that the reporting was going into too much detail, and it was trying to make their viewership emp­athise with the victim. I pushed them a little more, and they identified that the emphasis on the red scooty stood out. The obsession with time stamps seemed to create a sense of unease.

What the class was able to identify with a little bit of a nudge was problems with the news media coverage of crimes against women. We discussed how crimes against women are always shown as stand-alone individual incidents ins­tead of being situated against a pattern of gendered crimes. The stand-alone inci­dent is the culturally agreed upon news media framework of covering crimes against women, which naturally leads to the “incidents” being unpacked in excruciating details (like chats, time stamps, phone calls of the victims), the sheer brutality of violence inflicted upon the victim (step-by-step description of violation/violence, for how long, how was she murdered and often disposed of, sometimes crude crime scene re-enactments), a more sophisticated obsessing about the victim in that instead of blaming the victim, we reconstruct her life as a series of naïve bad choices. When the victim’s movements were being re-enacted in the most insensitive way, the symbols that were emphasised were the city road, the darkness of the night time, the scooty and her mobile phone. At this point, I asked, “who do you think is the target audience for this kind of coverage?!” One student confidently ­declared, “Our dad(s)!”

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here


To gain instant access to this article (download).

Pay INR 50.00

(Readers in India)

Pay $ 6.00

(Readers outside India)

Updated On : 30th Jan, 2023
Back to Top