November 28, 2005


What is this fuss all about?

When Indian Express(IE) reported about Manjunathan's murder, it received responses from readers. Bloggers also commented about it. The next day Indian Express carried some of the letters along with some excerpts from a few blogs.

Bloggers Amit Varma and Rashmi Bansal voiced their protest saying they did not send the comments to IE, and charged IE with 'stealing' their content. Indian Express carried a clarification the next day to the effect "some comments were taken from blogs." For the bloggers, that is not enough. They won't be happy with a phone call from the paper admitting their mistake. Their stand is, anything less than written apology from the paper won't do.

Multiple questions need to be answered here.

Did the bloggers accuse Indian Express of plagiarism?
No, since the comments were attributed to the rightful owner. Rashmi's comments were published with Rashmi's name in bold face.

Did Indian Express lie about receiving outpouring of letters from readers?
While Amit clearly thinks IE lied on this count, I feel, this is a grey area.

For a moment, let's assume, IE lied about "receiving letters" part. Does that by any account dilute the importance of the matter? Didn't they clearly attribute the comments to the owners instead of some lazy reporter writing an article with tidbits from these blogs and claiming to be his/her own?

They might have received quite a few letters. But, if most of them sing only one tune, "See, this is how the honest people are rewarded in this bloody country", it hardly makes sense to publish all of them. Instead, they chose to publish clearly articulated views, which otherwise won't make it to print media with big readership (few thousand blog readers vs few lakhs print readers). In the past, IE did carry the comments from online petition on Satyendra Dube murder case.

Next, Rashmi says unlike the Satyendra Dube story, this one was reported first on blog and then print media followed it up. Wrong! Rashmi learnt it from Gaurav Sabnis, whose blog has a link to IE story. So, in a way, Rashmi did react to the story published in IE and commented on it. In spirit, bloggers, including Amit and Rashmi, responded to the story published in IE.

More on the ethics. For multiple posts, Rashmi has picked the pictures from various sources without attributing the original source. Her posts, though, have links to the sites/articles where those images were hosted. Here is a list.

Rashmi may consult Amit to verify if such copying of images, hosting on a different server tantamount some violation of copyright laws.

Rashmi claims, this story has received attention in the Main Stream Media(MSM) due to bloggers.
"The Manjunathan episode illustrates the importance of bloggers and MSM collaborating - not competing with each other. And this can happen only when we both treat each other respectfully."
What collaboration she is talking about? What is the actual contribution of bloggers to the whole incident, except spreading the news by linking to various stories from IE and Gaurav's brilliant post? This is not the b-schools story which could throw up interesting facts with "google journalism". This story needs leaving the ivory towers and visiting the war zone, which is done mostly by the MSM - with IE as the front runner. I hope, they will come up with more ugly secrets as they follow the story.

Amit gets it wrong when he compares this case with that of DNA. That was a clear case of plagiarism. This is not! Amit's interpretation of Manjunath's job description - to check for the adulteration of petrol in petrol pumps - which sounds more like quality inspector than Sales Officer, which he actually was, is also incorrect.

To sum, the flag bearers of truth and ethics, knowingly or unknowingly violate the copyright laws, quote unrelated incidents, question the ethical standards of a paper whose intentions are crystal clear, and refuse to forgive minor errors by the paper even while the paper admits it. I find this implacable behaviour utterly obnoxious.

I subscribe to IE, but I am not a fanboy of IE. I think, IE deserves better treatment than this.

When such a grave incident has happened, focusing on non-issues like a questionable case of copyright violation, is sad. This is the noise that may affect the seriousness of the actual issue.

I do agree with some of your arguments.

My understanding of what Rashmi was trying to say -
Although it was reported in the Express Newsline Lucknow and Gaurav linked to it, it might have taken time to grab front page headlines in newspapers as it might have been regarded as yet another murder in UP.

However the noise raised by the Blogosphere might have resulted in instant indepth coverage by IE and others. Since it is not quantifiable, we can't really say whether Blogs put pressure on MSM to delve deep into this.
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