Can I turn the switch off in me? In a few months I might learn to. But do I want to? That is a decisive no.
Here’s the story behind turning the switch off.
I edit stories as a writer. Small copies, large copies, good copies, bad copies, not-so-good copies. There are also happy copies, sad copies, heart-wrenching copies, celebratory copies and a couple of amusing copies.
While readers complain of being bombarded with nothing but rape and molestation incidents in the paper – eternally making journalists the scapegoats for ruining their morning and creating and unhealthy level of panic – these stories are the bread and butter for the press.
Covering crime is a significant part of the paper. Whether that is a good thing or not is a debate we will leave for historians of the future. But covering crime increases your tolerance to them and ensures you accept them as natural with time.
What is worse is, if it is your bread and butter, it becomes hard when too many crime stories aren’t filed. It makes you wonder how the world became a better place for a day?
But I am a toddler in the field. Crime is not my fascination. Staying human is. So I flinch when I see crime copies. Trust me, it is not the same feeling when you read an Agatha Christie novel or even a Nancy Drew book. That is fiction and it is best if it remains so – just to give you temporary goosebumps rather than make your eyes pop by making it all too real. Non-fiction giving you a shock is unarguably the most unpleasant thing ever.
Boy attacks girl with knife for refusing proposal. Mother immolates self leaving behind 2-year-old after quarrel with husband. Teacher canes student for coming late. Man murders colleague over petty quarrel.*
These stories have become commonplace to readers. It is like brushing your teeth or taking a bath. “Someone killed someone. What is the big deal? The world is an evil place.” – That’s the reaction I got when I expressed shock over this (un)natural acceptance.
I am not able to turn the human switch off so easily. I am not convinced about how it is just another case or just another crime story. It is quite unsettling to see others in my field hope – not intentionally, of course – for a mishap to occur just to fill in the white space. They may not have started out like this but I don’t want to end up like them.
I’m of the opinion that while reporting crime is essential, the number of crimes need to come down. It seems like people are just holding knives and bricks waiting to kill someone. While the situation is not this horrific, it is not far from it.
Will it stop with just another report? I don’t know. But the awareness of not-so-pleasant consequences might. So I believe my profession can initiate change. But the message could be stronger, more one-pointed and targeted in addressing the issue.
As a reader, what do you think? Have you turned your switch off or do you just see these incidents as something carried out by people with irreparably messed up minds? Or do you see it as an avenue that you can change?
I am still finding my feet in the water trying to understand how it can be changed while wondering if it is best to accept that it cannot be changed.
As my reader, I leave you hanging in the dark while you rummage to find the switch that you may have turned off a while ago. Perhaps it is time to switch it on?
*These are not real headlines from any paper. They have just been mentioned to explain the article.