Get the Name Right!

Is it Tamil or Tamizh? How would you pronounce the name Nymacheringa? Is he or she the President or Secretary or Head? How would you truncate a big name or Designation to fit into the a single line on screen? Issues that television news channel deal with everyday.

To answer these queries, channels have developed what is called as a style-book.  Many times such style-book is not available in a printed format to the journalists. A particular style to cover may be conveyed to the subordinates by the seniors as and when necessitated by a particular news item.  Even then mistakes do creep in for a channel which broadcasts news 24 hours a day.  The news editor continues to be alert to what is going on air, every single minute. Quite a few times, he has to take a call on what is right or wrong at that particular moment.

Yet getting a name or designation wrong not only reduces the News Channel’s credibility but also angers the individual whose name was misspelled or pronounced wrongly. So how does one handle this scenario? How to get the name and designation right?

The process of getting the name right begins with the Reporter or the person at the ground level. The person should ensure that he gets the right name from the interviewee or individual he is talking to. Further he should also ensure that he gets the correct designation. Sometimes the official designation may not work for the particular news story. If a person is a GM of a big organisation, but has been used as an eyewitness in a particular story, the designation should just say Eyewitness. After the Reporter the news desk and the output department should ensure that they carry the name and designation exactly as it was conveyed to them by the Reporter.

All the general rules of the channel have to be kept in mind by the people at the News Desk, yet when they have a doubt it should be cross-checked before the news item is put on air.

An example will highlight, how difficult it is to get the name and designation right at the spur of the moment.  A few years back a foreigners was attacked in Jama Masjid, New Delhi. One of the channels got the Imam’s brother Syed Yahya Bukhari to the studio. He had reached the spot 15 minutes after the incident and was also important as he is the President of Jama Masjid United Front. So the channel was confused about how to designate him. They called him an eyewitness… but he had reached the spot 15 minutes after the incident, is it right to call him an Eyewitness. Calling him Imam of Jama Masjid’s brother… did not make sense here. And calling him the president of Jama Masjid United Front was also not apt. Hence, the confusion was obvious. With the authority with which he was speaking about the police arrangement etc, it was clear that he was not just another eyewitness. But the designation said so, I am sure not many viewers would have gone in depth into this aspect. But, they would have been a bit confused. This confusion many times forces a viewer to change the channel, the most dreaded thing as for as channels are concerned.