Monday, December 31, 2007
Covering Bhutto's death in Nepal's news room
Dec 28, 2007
It was 6.30 pm. As usual, I was working at International Bureau. We were rushing for the day's Prime News Bulletin at 7 pm. This is an hourly bulletin and the international bureau has to prepare at least four stories. I had already done stories on likely release of Columbia's former vice Presidential candidate Clara Roja, Japanese Prime Minister arriving China and six French nationals convicted in Chad. We were rushing for updates on Nigeria fire and Kenya election.
During our job, we generally rely on scripts from Reuters as my station has subscribed to it. (We don't have reporter in any country abroad.) However, we verify facts through other websites including bbcnews.com and ptinews.com.
Suddenly, I happened to see at BBC that there was blast on Bhutto's election campaign. I went through that. Looking some other Indian news portals, I became sure about the blast. I shared the news with other desk people. I was trying to push for breaking news, though; my station carries very less breaking news from international front.
Friends suggested that prime news is running just after an hour. It is better to run that time. It was OK. Some of my friends began monitoring Indian Televisions. (Our cable operator doesn't provide us Pakistan's Dawn TV. I don't think much use of watching government owned PTV World. ) No sooner, somebody said that Bhutto was dead. It was India's NDTV to tell us about her death.
I strongly stopped the news from going breaking. I said I have to verify the news. But now, I think I stopped because I had strong sympathy for Bhutto. She is the daughter of Julfikar Ali Bhutto, whose execution brought historical change in Nepal. In 1989, Nepalese students protested against his killing in Kathmandu. Police suppressed the demonstrations that prompted into further protests. Eventually, the movement forced the then party less government of Nepal to declare referendum to choose between party less system or multiparty democracy.
However, other Indian channels also confirmed her death. I was so sorry, but the story was right. To catch the audience, we decided to run special episode on her death. All program schedules were cancelled. And we rushed for it.
Reuters doesn't feed any more scripts. Other online news portals are also not giving the information we needed.
Interview was the best way. We began calling prominent journalists who were expert in Pakistan affairs. That released us from feeding scripts and new information all the while. By the time, we went on gathering her biography and reactions across the world as well as development in Pakistan. To fill the news holes, we called the leaders of prominent party leaders in Nepal to react over the incident.
Thus we made live broadcast of more than three hours on Bhutto's death. It was as late as midnight when I reached home, very much disturbed.
As I review the performance the next day, I wonder how we were able to do three hours episode without anybody to give us primary information about the event, none of the reporters on the site or even in the country. All the visuals based on Reuters feed. Reuters was also not feeding the desired visuals. It was many times relaying visuals from Pakistan's Dawn News TV. Still we did and it was not bad.