Lets give it an honest thought. Imagine a situation where gunmen/terrorists had taken a chawl in Bombay hostage instead of the Taj. What do you think would have been the nature of media coverage ?
If he is talking of the Indian media, then yes, they would have covered it almost as breathlessly as they covered the Taj and Oberoi standoffs.
Look, I am not claiming that the media covers everything evenhandedly. Yes, it focuses more on people like us than on people like them. Mumbai receives greater coverage, if for no other reason than that it has more reporters per square inch. As soon as it starts raining, reporters crowd around Milan subway, stand in ankle deep water, and pontificate about how heavily it is raining. Why Milan subway and why not Ratnagiri? Why, because for one, Milan subway is closer to the news channels’ offices and it is less of a journey in the rain. Also because more people who watch English news channels are interested in the state of the traffic under Milan subway than are interested in the people dying in Ratnagiri.
Obviously, the Taj and Oberoi got more attention because of their iconic status. Would a hostage situation in VT station, which has greater iconic status, but more likely to contain poor people, have gotten the same media coverage? Absolutely. It would have got more coverage.
What about a chawl in Mumbai? Dude, in Mumbai, even chawls have iconic status. A hostage situation in a chawl would have cameras positioned there as intently as they were trained on the Taj.
Also, we criticise the media quite a bit, but let’s be fair to them, okay? There is this boy-in-the-borewell phenomenon that has been happening quite a bit in the past couple of years. The children who fall into the borewell tubes are usually from poor families. There aren’t that many borewells in Mumbai; usually these things happen in distant villages. And yet, they have been focusing their non-stop attention on these children, rivetting the attention of the entire nation and organizing prayers and havans all over the place. More importantly, in these cases, media coverage must have saved some lives by forcing the authorities to act faster than they otherwise would have.
Once again, this is not to say that the media is fair and balanced in every case. Yes, it is swayed by things that ought not to be relevant. The boy-in-borewell phenomenon gets more attention because children are involved. Hostage situations will get more attention than mere bomb blasts will – what with bomb blasts occurring too frequently these days. A terrorist standoff has greater chance of grabbing a nation’s attention than a mere gang war would have. Given all this unevenness, is the greater coverage that the Taj got because it is frequented by rich people significant? I don’t think so.