15 July 2005

"Now that we don't have a story, let's print it!"

The Times of India has an Ahmedabad-datelined story about a student claiming to be working for Bill Gates. It meticulously examines his claim, and carries denials from Microsoft and backs it up by saying that an email ID said to be of Gates as claimed by the boy ended up bouncing back a mail. The reporter has done a good job in cross-checking a claim by someone who is obviously a fraud/crank.
But what was the story doing there in the first place?
There is double-column display, complete with a photo of Mr. Gates.
If the claim was true, the story was a frontpager. If it was not, it did not deserve to be printed.
Of course, there could be a nice social psychology story on a number of youngters in India claiming some kind of a genius status. Recently, a youth from Ballia in eastern U.P. claimed he had cleared some NASA exam (the same one, he said, which President Abdul Kalam had cleared in 1960 or thereabouts. It was not true of course, and the president, one recalls, had nothing to do with it either).
Poor, hapless small town reporters fall for such tricks (the ones from the big cities aren't a lot better, but that is another story!)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

i agree.

ever since they have increased the number of city pages, and then nation pages, the readers are having to suffer a lot of stories which otherwise should't merit a place in a "national" daily at all.

but then toi has its own dynamics -- its journalists are mere appendages to their marketing honchos. so, to expect professionalism / journalistic propreity from them wd be a little too much.

however, among their deskies, there r a handful of rhyme-kings/queens, who think a gud hdng must necessarily have bollywood-ishtyle limericks!

AB

Indian Media Notes said...

thanks. interesting comments. I think there is nothing wrong in a well-executed business strategy with marketing focus to target readers...but I don't think printing non-stories falls in that category! Surely in a nation of one billion people and a booming economy, there must be other stories worth printing!