The Importance of Numbers

The power of the media lies in its reach; it’s a power derived from the belief that if a large number of people know about an issue, someone’s conscience (or shame) will force its way through the rubble of accountability and lead to action. Repeated questioning and efforts by the media to keep an issue alive are important tools to this end. But while we know conscience and shame don’t always find a way through (politics is a convenient example), numbers are everything.

Of course, if you don’t have the numbers and are a small, little-known website, or if your GRP’s are declining, then you need to do something drastic that forces the other (often bigger) players to take notice and jump on to the bandwagon while you take the credit, albeit deservedly. But, but, but – numbers are everything.

My first reaction to this post by H.R. Venkatesh on the IBN Blogs was to feel sorry for Sepoy Shukla, not as much because of what was done to him, but of what Venkatesh did/didn’t do. The sepoy’s story:

Shukla, frustrated at not being alloted living quarters, had dared to question his superiors, who were allegedly sub-letting their own quarters to civilians to make that extra buck. For his troubles, Shukla was beaten up and charge-sheeted. He was also given temporary transfer orders to Jammu & Kashmir.

Shukla said he wasn’t even allowed to complain to his superiors’ superiors and had been ordered not to leave the company HQ.

The sepoy wanted the story to be aired on TV, but unfortunately CNN-IBN was not on air yet. It seems that he mistook Venkatesh’s suggestion to seek an Aaj Tak/NDTV reporter as being brushed off. Eventually, Ventakesh took the sepoy’s sound bite and with the sepoy’s best interests in mind, informed the army spokesperson. Venkatesh ends the post by saying:

Shukla may have received justice. But just as easily, he may have lost his job. If only we’d been on air then…

I’m going to be a cynic and say that I think the sepoy may have lost his job, since what his superiors were allegedly doing was illegal. The spokesperson might not have taken the news seriously because at that time, the story wasn’t backed up by numbers, which denied his conscience the necessary fillip; Sepoy Shukla probably suffered even more.


While on CNN-IBN – I love the idea of reporters blogging on the CNN-IBN site. For long, there has been a cold war between the MSM and the Indian Bloggers, and this is a step in the right direction. Truly – if you can’t beat them, join them. Better still, make them join you. It almost seems as if an MSM rule is being broken here by bridging this gap, but this is a positive and healthy move, and seems pathbreaking. Also, I sincerely hope the idea doesn’t die out, because the story behind the story often doesn’t get told, and blogs give issues a sense of permanence that 24×7 TV can’t provide. TV, however, has its advantages because (Indian) blogs still lack numbers.

Crossposted at CSF II


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