Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Calcutta Is Not A Giant Slum (Says Writer)

MOTHER TERESA based her order in Calcutta and for seven decades, helped the impoverished of that city of 14 million people.

And as the media traveled to Calcutta to do stories about Mother Teresa, who passed away ten years ago today, the media helped perpetuate the notion of Calcutta (if not all of India) as being a dangerous place infested by poverty.

As Calcutta native Chitrita Banerji writes in the New York Times today, "The reports on the funeral portrayed a city filled with starving orphans, wretched slums and dying people abandoned on the streets, except for the fortunate ones rescued by Mother Teresa. They described a city I didn’t recognize."

A small percentage of the world will actually visit Calcutta. For the rest, they rely upon the media to inform them and educate them about the place.

Did the media make Calcutta seem more poor so that Mother Teresa's work seemed so much more powerful? Did they exaggerate the details to make a better story?

Is the legend of Mother Teresa a creation of the media?

Or is this writer only showing her own biases?

17 comments:

Joshua McAdams said...

Well i feel that the writer does have some credability due to the fact that he or she(?) used to live in Calcutta, but i also feel that he or she is just trying to defend his or her hometown. I know if someone put down my hometown that i would start to point out that "Wait, look at this! This is nice right?!" But yes the media does overdramatize most of it's stories to get the public to feel a drastic amount of sympathy.

Chris said...

My old boss lived right outside of Calcutta, I will ask her what she thinks.

In the meantime, this was in the last issue of Time and I believe the book came out yesterday:
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1655415,00.html

Samantha Krotzer said...

The quote makes it seem like the media fabricated the intensity of the poverty in India, however there are a few things to consider. The Calcutta native disagreed with the negative reports on his city, yet he could have lived in a better part of the city which did not have such harsh conditions. Just like Philadelphia, there are parts of the city that are gorgeous, then some parts that could use a little work. The media could very well have simply focused more on the less fortune parts of Calcutta, which are the areas that Mother Teresa aided.

Maria Zankey said...

Look at Philadelphia. There are business men and women clad in high heels or expensive suits carrying their Starbucks to a job... and there are the homeless hoping to bum a few dollars, a cigarette at the least.
Any great city is faced with extremes. I agree with the Calcutta-native writer in saying that sure, Mother Theresa was a god-send that helped shape the well-being of a city and in that, all of India... but so are the other organizations and missionaries and individuals still fighting today.
I don't think the media fabricated the legacy of Mother Theresa, but I think they may have undermined and overlooked the work of many others.

Donnie said...

Basically, you need to make a story worth reading. It becomes moire important to people to read about a single person because it gives them the figure-head that makes it easier to relate and therefore empathize. I don't want to make it sound like Mother Teresa didn't do anything worth mentioning. Long story short, she was a great woman, she did great things, she was one of many and happened to be the one the media picked up on.

danielle harvey said... said...

A city can be depicted in many different aspects depending on what the story calls for and what the writer deems appropriate. For instance, if I wanted to sell homes in Philadelphia, I would show pictures of Boathouse Row and Independence Hall. However, as we Temple students know too well, there are parts of Philadelphia that would scare away potential homebuyers faster than a siren outside of a frat house. The fact of the matter is that unless the story included images of places other than Calcutta, than these places really do exist in Calcutta and therefore can help tell the story. I am sure there are many happy people in Calcutta, but at the same time, Mother Teresa would have been a nobody had it not been for the issues in Calcutta that she dealt with. And whether you love or hate Mother Teresa, the truth is that she did a great deal of good. So until Calcutta becomes poverty-free, there will always be parts of the city that can be scrutinized and approved upon.

Kylee said...

This really just shows how uneducated we are about the rest of the world. I don't think we have anyone to blame but ourselves. The information is out there; if you (people in general) want to learn something, you need to do some research, and make sure your findings are credible.

elizabeth peck said...

I lived in Louisville, Kentucky before I moved to Lancaster County this summer with my family. Hearing the state Kentucky mentioned, you probably think of bluegrass (the plant and the music), fried chicken, horse racing, and ignorant rednecks who are permanently drunk on cheap beer running amuck. During the four years I lived there, I discovered that Louisville has its own version of South Street (Bardstown Road), has fantastic non-fried cuisine (I worked at a restaurant that served it), and is home to the biggest high school football rivalry in the country (or so they claim).

If I had just been to Louisville for a weekend, I would've never discovered all of the things I grew to love about it. I can definitely relate to Banerji in defending a place that's often misrepresented, but I highly doubt that all of the journalists who have reported on Mother Teresa's work conspired together to make her seem more saintly than she was. No matter if it was Calcutta, Philadelphia, or Louisville, Mother Teresa helped people who needed help--isn't that what should matter? Banerji needs to look past defending her home and into changing what she loves for the better. Hey, even Louisville could use some improvement! :]

Janna Manjelievskaia said...

Although the media sometimes exaggerates to make the situation look worse than it actually might be, I think the author is right in the fact that few people will actually go to Calcutta and find out for themselves what it is like. So we have to rely on the author's description of it because of that. What Mother Teresa did was try to help a city greatly in need of her work and charity, and just because she is so well known does not necessarily mean she was a creation of the media. And although the author may have her own bias since she is a native of the place, any city that got the attention of Mother Teresa was obviously desperately in need.

Doanh said...

I wouldn't go as far as to say her work was a creation of the media. The areas she focused on were probably accurately portrayed, because it's pointless to help the thriving parts of the country and it also makes for mediocre news to even mention them. On the Mother Theresa website, the caption states: "Mother Teresa and her work for the poorest." The poorest.

This happens often in media. There was controversy over an episode of The Simpsons when it portrayed Brazil as a trashy, dirt-poor nation when it really wasn't. I don't think journalists are obligated to make up for people's ignorance. I would assume that most people already know that this is an accurate portrayal of very specific, small of parts India, but obviously not all. Journalists should indeed inform people about the positives, but that is a different story unrelated to Mother Theresa and her work.

Geo said...

Isn't it the responsibility of the media to be comprehensive in their coverage? Aren't they obligated to show all aspects of life, or at least point out that not everyone in India is a famished street urchin?

- George (the teacher and devil's advocate)

Morris Khamsaen said...

Like it was discussed in class, you need to make a story entertaining. People won't read a story about Mother Teresa if she was doing work in a wealthy town. Peole want to read about her slumming it and helping orphans. Everybody loves that sentimental stuff that pulls on your heartstrings. I mean, that's the reason why 7th Heaven was on for so long, right?

Amanda Carden said...

Of course one woman cannot change an entire nation economically. Maybe the media made her seem a little more powerful and made India look a little more poor. But the writer does obviously have serious credibility.

Rayan said...

foremost, it is a journalists job to be objective, as you had mentioned in class, but no matter how objective one is, personal bias is inevitable. We all have beliefs that are integrated within us. And these beliefs shape our writing. Our innate charactaristics will more often than not sway us. Objectivity, therefore, should not be unattainable, but a goal we strive to achieve. The legend of Mother Terasa was probably a creation of media to some extent. Because they view her as this phenomenal character who bettered the world, that is exactly what they are going to portray her as.

Doanh said...

In response to George; not really. The issue is only important because someone chose to write about it and made it important. The topic was not India’s living situations. It was about Mother Theresa. What would happen if everyone wrote a different article about other stereotypes seemingly portrayed by the media? They would have to defend every one, to be politically correct. Some people would consider it an insult to their intelligence. And also, I don’t see their living situations as a totally negative aspect; I just see it as an aspect. People need to understand that people in different parts of the world get by differently. Of course they would probably want to not be in poverty, but I guess it brought attention to India’s need for outside help?

Geo said...

I think the author of the article is saying that not everyone in Calcuta suffers from poverty.

If the stories about Mother Teresa only show the starving of Calcutta - and those are the only stories being done about the place - isn't the message created one that says that Calcutta is full of poor, starving people?

Aren't journalists misrepresenting the city? Aren't we doing more harm than good there?

- George (the teacher and devil's advocate)

Esther H said...

the stories about calcutta here are ones intended to highlight the good deeds of mother teresa, not to inform us about the actual living conditions of the city. since this is the main focus, it seems to me that we shouldn't be so caught up in the other details - at least not in these stories concerning the life of mother teresa.