Thursday, December 04, 2008

According To The Mainstream Media, A Railway Station Is A Railway Station Is A Railway Station

Fig. 1: Is this 'just' a railway station?

With standardized methods in dumbing down audiences, the mainstream media (MSM) have energetically employed practices that deliberately omit specificity in locations when reporting news stories. In other words, generic terms are usually used instead of specific names when referring to locations of newsmaking events. Apparently, this is an effort to not encumber the audience with too many details. To do so would disorient and dizzy up the average audience member, driving them elsewhere, to other sources, resulting in ratings loss, corporate sponsorship, and ultimately, the possible expiration or reorganization of the news providing organization itself. So the stakes have been made high, but by the MSM itself.

A perfect example of this trend is the recent attacks in Bombay (or Mumbai, for you Shiv Sena fans). In the vast majority of the reports from news organizations, Bombay's gigantic main railway station, the scene of one of the horrendous attacks, is referred to as - simply that: a 'railway station'. Now officially titled Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus or CST (also a Shiv Sena accomplishment), though consistently referred to by its original name, Victoria Terminus, or VT, Bombay's premier railway station is one of the busiest in the world, plus it is housed in one of the grandest structures imaginable, and is most beloved by the populace. Yes, it is a creation from colonial times, but it has been wholly Indianized in its character and utility.

Perhaps the varied nomenclature of the station is a bit complicated, but is it too much for news people to figure out? I doubt that Grand Central Station would ever be referred to in the news merely as 'New York's railroad station'. Besides, the Bombay example is only one instance of how the MSM has reduced points on a map or places where events happen as - well, just that: points on a map . . . but without individual identification. This, in an age when pinpoint specificity via digital presentation is not only possible, it is the norm. Nevertheless, the MSM has chosen to neutralize identities, unless it is absolutely necessary to open them up, or unless it's an example in their own back yards.

Not referring to extremely important sites like VT/CST by their names, whatever the variations, seems an intentional strategy by news organizations to limit specific information for the reasons stated above. It's all in the ratings. If they wanted to, they could really help out in reducing geographic illiteracy. Instead, they choose a lower common denominator. Such a practice only decreases general geographic knowledge, as well as recognition skills and the importance of landmarks in everyday life. Plus, particularly for western audiences, it reduces places like Bombay, one of the world's great cities, into an anonymous urbanity without character or soul. There is even a racist aspect. The two luxury hotels, the Taj Mahal Palace and the Oberoi Trident (not 'Trident Oberoi' that many western sources insisted on saying) were referred to with perfect specificity repeatedly, probably because there were international - read: western - persons involved. Whereas the railway station, the presumed domain of the Indian masses, was not given the privilege of proper identity, even though it is vastly more important than the hotels.

This practice is not going away. Indeed, it is intensifying. I am not the only one who will continue to seek my news from other sources than the corporate entity that is the mainstream media.

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