Op-Press

50 Comments

In the summer of 2005,  the world was informed by Times of India of Aishwarya Rai’s plans to wrestle with a 380 pound woman and date a former male stripper on a reality show. The article even named its source: a website called spoof.com

At that time, a neophyte blogger speculated  whether the word “spoof” in spoof.com had set off any warning bells in the minds of those responsible for this most amazing article. He also wondered whether the newspaper concerned had any editorial control over what was published under its name.

[The original article was pulled down by TOI, it’s cache too has vanished into the ether. Thankfully the text of the article is still here]

Of course this was hardly the only example of stellar journalism over the years. Fake boy genius wins fake prize at NASA. Bhojpuri star is feted by the press for being the first living Indian to have a stamp released after him only for the media men to have a “pipe main hoi jaayi soo” moment once it is brought to light that anyone can go to a certain website, pay a certain number of Euros, upload his digital picture and have his mug on an official  Dutch stamp. Yes anyone. Including the ones who ran this story without bothering to do some elementary fact checking.

I should mention at this point however that I am no journalist. Which makes it difficult for me to judge what is fair use in Indian journalistic practice and what is ctrl-c ctrl-v.

From the Times News Network (no byline):

What do dating a married man and devouring a hot fudge sundae loaded with almonds, whipped cream and lots of sauce have in common? Both taste devilishly good, and both are sinfully bad for you. Sure, it’s human nature to want what you shouldn’t have.But while the ice cream concoction might expand your hips, loving someone else’s man can twist your heart in ways that are infinitely more disturbing than a little weight gain and much harder to bounce back from. [More]

From IVillage, Lure of the Married Man written by Sherry Amanstein

What do dating a married man and devouring a hot fudge sundae loaded with almonds, whipped cream and lots of sauce have in common? Both taste devilishly good, and both are sinfully bad for you. Sure, it’s human nature to want what you shouldn’t have.But while the ice cream concoction might expand your hips, loving someone else’s man can contort your heart in ways that are infinitely more disturbing than a little weight gain — and much harder to bounce back from. [More]

Ahem.

Recently, several newspapers carried the strange case of a 88 year old Nazi war criminal named Bach, who had killed many Jews in a concentration camp called “Marsha Tikash Whanaab”, being nabbed by “the intelligence wing of the German Chancellor’s core” in Goa while trying to sell a rare piano. The only problem, as all of us no doubt already know, was that the whole thing was a hoax that originated from some journalists from Goa , the people behind the blog “Pen Pricks” who had circulated a bogus press release. [Read details here] in order to expose what passes for mainstream media reporting.

At the bottom of the above linked post, look at the long list of eminent newspapers that fell for the gag hook line and sinker. Yep. Noone bothered to do a Google search on the name of the war criminal or on the concentration camp.  Noone paused even a second about the address of the “German chancellor core”‘s domain-name: berlin.com or bothered to actually type berlin.com in the address bar. And while most of the newspapers (The Indian Express, Times of India..) merely paraphrased the bogus press-release, the Telegraph went further and added more than a bit of cheese –perhaps trying for the Pulitzer and the Booker at the same time.

Here is the link of the Telegraph article in Google cache –the original having been removed from the online edition.

Note the beautiful map that highlights the path of the noted war criminal with only Yemen being listed as “unconfirmed” no doubt hinting, not so subtly, that the rest of the locations are indeed “confirmed”.  Note also the information obtained from “IB sources”. Also admire the additional layerings of truth, over and above the press release, that would not be out of place in “Odessa File: The Goa Chronicles”—- how “Bach smelt a rat” and how “he realized he was being followed and slipped into the woods”—-of course forgetting to add that the surprisingly sprightly 88 year old Nazi metamorphosed into a vampire and would have flown away had not IB’s special investigator, a man named Van Helsing, put a stake through his heart.

Of course very soon the venerable Telegraph did a volte face, claiming to have detected a “whiff of a hoax” [link] ( just like one detects the whiff of a human presence in the adjacent cubicle of a public latrine) when they reportedly “tried to follow up” the incident.

Ahem. Once again.

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50 thoughts on “Op-Press

  1. They got the whiff of the human presence when the man in the adjacent cubicle shat on their feet.

    Seriously though, its not just Indian sites, there were so many spoof items in the news. Japanese women pet sheep thinking they are poodles. Uncontactable tribes “found” for the first time in Brazil. etc etc.

  2. yooo….Kishor you are the first to comment
    once again proving that South Indians are always first in everything ..ha ha

  3. I have been following Herr Bach’s story on Telegraph with a lot of interest from the day it broke. The Pulitzer-winning sentence to me was their insistence in mentioning how this bad man shared a last name with one of the world’s greatest classical music composers.

    Do you remember the data on NRI’s that the HRD minster presented in parliament earlier this year? ToI carried that proudly & then next day accused the miniter of falling for a spam email. Not a word about how they never fact checked it either. Just a lot of chest-thumping on the ‘amazing’ statistics. I was glad to see a few commentators on the online version of the article calling them out for it.

  4. after reading your blog (and a few others) and comparing it to the quality of ‘news’ in indian newspapers, i knew that indian journalism stank… didn’t know that it stank to high heaven though. the quality of the writing, investigation, insight etc is bad enough, but im still a little shocked at the extent to which this outrageous story was allowed to be carried…

    and i wanted to be a journalist in india… sigh…

    btw, great post as usual.

  5. Hi,

    Could’nt help but comment that some months back Aaj Tak ran a story about this meteor or comet or poop or God Knows What is going to strike Earth on some Doomsday(somewhere in the late 2010s)and we are all going to be doomed….. And also when people tried to refute their claims then they merely smiled diabolically and said that only time will tell…Well I think only time will tell… BTW Aaj Tak merely published the story and got away with it….. Should have been given a notice… in fact a “notarized email” for creating unecessary panic by publishing news… Also they should be sued for not saying that we already have the solution of this problem…. Our own Prabhuji…. he can kick the hell out of the Meteor….

  6. And this despite the risk of knowing that it will be arhived! GB, I am glad that you are not tortured by the Hindi and English news channels from ’round here…

    It’s the works! They even have sections where they ‘re-enact’ crimes that would put the Oscars and the Lions to shame! And the way they loop a 5-second footage over hours leaves you in a psychedelic trance-like state. The less said about Hindi commentary, the better…

    I’m glad (for you) that you’re not in India… You’d have to throw away your job and do this full-time and still cover only 10% of what our media has to offer.

  7. @ Kishor
    U hav 2 b da 1st one dude, as South Indians always are………
    he he ha ha ha
    he he ha ha ha
    he he ha ha ha
    he he ha ha ha
    he he ha ha ha
    he he ha ha ha

    dat was a tribute to ravan, or should I say ravanaa, who was also a south indian……….

    lets do it one more tym………

    he he ha ha ha

  8. Indian media coverage is Shiiite!! only they know how to create Breakin News out of nothing!!

    I think as compared to English or Hindi speaking news channels, the news coverage in other South-Indian languages like Tamil or Kannada is way superior to the way it is covered in Hindi/English channels. Hence we should pick up one of the South Indian languages if we need to follow accurate news!! I am sure someone here would agree with me.!!!

  9. The walker is right, recently I was watching IBN news in hindi on 1st july 2008, they were showing a clip repeatedly about how a leopard had injured a man who poked at the animal during its release in a national park in Africa. what was surprising was I had been forwarded the same video by a friend of mine on 4th july 2006 (I went back & checked it . I was so so surprised about the telecast)
    Thats Live journalism in India, items like these are also termed as BREAKING NEWS.

  10. Yes GB! Thank your overseas stars you are not residing here!Some of those channels are nauseating, revolting…bah! forget it, the english language would fail me! I sometimes feel this desperate urge to stick my hand inside the TV, land tow tight slaps and strangle the life out of that Arnab thing from Timesnow!

    Btw, what do you think of sports journalists on TV like Sonali from NDTV and Boria Mazumdar from Times – if ever you get to watch them?

  11. @Varun suri:

    “Indian media coverage is Shiiite!!”

    And here we were all thinking it was Sunni. 😀

    In either case though Khujur would agree, it is really BAD…

  12. But undoubtedly, Taran Adarsh is the greatest movie journalist in India now. For example, read the excerpts from his movie of one of the greatest films produced by Yash Raj Movies ‘THODA PYAAR THODA MAGIC:

    A film like THODA PYAAR THODA MAGIC makes you nostalgic. It takes you back to the light-hearted, feel-good cinema made by directors of calibre like Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee. The focus was on narrating a simple story. A movie that put a smile on your face even if you walked in with a frown.

    THODA PYAAR THODA MAGIC does exactly that!

    ***** ***** ******

    It’s the second hour that takes the film to a different level. How Saif bonds with each of them and the turning point, an incident that makes the kids see Saif differently, is simply excellent. Ditto for the finale, which may seem Bollywoodish, but you don’t mind it.

    ***** ***** ******

    On the whole, THODA PYAAR THODA MAGIC is a simple story told very effectively and efficiently.

    ***** ***** ******

    Go watch it, it’s a treat for your entire family!

    Don’t you agree with me ?

  13. @ Shan
    Yes my friend, both Shia and Sunni are bound by religious duty to eliminate or convert, us Kafir Hindus.

    Historically, both have done it with equal gusto.

    So I agree both sects preach equal hate.

  14. @ Sasori of the Red Sand,

    When was there any hope for “The Hindu” at all, in first place?

    I’ve never seen another “national” newspaper serve as a CPI(M) mouthpiece so brazenly.

  15. Of course very soon the venerable Telegraph did a volte face, claiming to have detected a “whiff of a hoax” [link] ( just like one detects the whiff of a human presence in the adjacent cubicle of a public latrine) when they reportedly “tried to follow up” the incident.

    Yet another gem !!! 😀

  16. GB,
    While the long extinct standards of the Indian media circus esp. the online media is no news, I must applaud, your alacrity in digging out the newsworthy iVillagian philosophy of the high-carb nutrient rich properties of the married man. One cannot deny the deep rooted truth behind the observation(esp. distressing is how that loser that you ran a mile from in college suddenly transforms into a stud post-marriage) . Though one also has to observe that most of the Indian species after one year of marriage look that they’ve consumed a lot of what they typify – Hot chocolate fudge with extra whipped cream. 🙂

  17. Dear GB
    Still no thoughts on the ongoing protest in Kashmir over allotment of a piece of land to Amarnath Shrine Board for erecting only TEMPORARY structures for a LIMITED period during the annual yatra, considered one of the holiest for Hindus.
    On the other hand no protest or notice taken for Haj Houses. The one in Lucknow sprang up almost overnite opposite the Airport i.e in prime area. Is anything connected with Hindus is “non-secular”. Is decdent congress and allies bent upon harakiri ?

  18. @ shan

    rishi is always on the right forum…unlike others like u who seem to live in a different planet…heard of Amarnath… bhai jaan

    BTW the only newspaper worth its salt in India is Indianexpress…the rest have descended into a farce specially TOI & telegraph….

    the website rishi mentioneed is also recomended…

    http://www.bengalgenocide.com

  19. Arnab,

    Thought I would refrain from commenting, but something along the lines of your article has been bothering me for more than a year. The abject abdication of journalism by Ananda Bazar Patrika and its pseudo journalistic English counterpart, Telegraph. In my opinion, both newspapers either do not print anything critical of the West Bengal establishment, delay printing it, or water down its contents. Conversely, their reporting on all opposition parties (as deemed by the Masters of Writers [MoW]) is super critical.

    Outside of Bartaman in West Bengal, sadly a newspaper that is an intellectual lightweight of sorts, no other print outlet delivers objective information. This has somewhat changed with the all India newspapers’ local editions, but their circulation remains limited to the English language sector. The less said about TV journalism in Calcutta, the better.

    I was wondering if you can really do an article on Telegraph (if not the real ABP) and its lackey like behavior. I do not speak as a partisan. I ask as a democrat.

    Vasabjit

  20. @Shouri
    Even though I am not a journalist, I have heard from jorno friends, that there exists a almost mafia-like control of certain ideological streams over mainstream media.

    Chandan Mitra’s and Swapan Dasgupta’s careers are two interesting case studies worth looking at.

  21. Tipu,

    Ahem…while you wonder whether Rishi is on the right forum, you might also want to reconsider your (user)name.

    Now, why would anyone name themselves after one of the worst mass-murdering religious bigots in Indian history?

    In case you have any doubts, I’d recommend the online book ” TIPU SULTAN – Villain Or Hero “: http://www.voiceofdharma.com/books/tipu/

    Read it….. and tell me if you still like your (user)name. Then we can worry about sending Rishi to the right forum.

  22. Sorry Pranab, didn’t finish the above thought. Wanted to let you know that your father is a big hero to us cricket fans. He was a particular inspiration to us Bengalis growing up without a cricketing hero in the pre-Saurav days. You must be proud of him.

  23. I dont read ABP at all and Telegraph very irregularly. Incidentally, as long as I was in Kolkata ABP was seen to be very anti-Left with the great Mr. Basu once famously saying (reportedly) that I do not understand why the ABP people are so against me and my policies—its not that I have not given them land from the CM quota.

  24. OFF TOPIC:

    Arnab da,

    Take it as my request or anything, i’ve always been interested in knowing what goes inside NABC( north american bengali conference) From outside it looks damn probashi.. is it very “posh” from inside… what is the inside story, if u’ve been there.. a small article on this would be a just, plz…..

  25. Arnab,

    You are, rather were right, on the ABP thing. I used to think that they were the only anti-establishment platform during the dark eighties and even through the nineties. I first heard about a turn around via someone in Calcutta; when I returned home in 2000 or 2002. Later, I started to read the articles in more detail and watch out for spin, factual inaccuracies, etc.. The enlightening discussion had irked me because the reasons for the ABP’s change of stance was not ideological at all. It was supposedly based on business related calculations, such as changing stake (not share) holders in the business, failed expansion schemes for some TV station(in terms of revenue), and other allied projects that needed government approval. Now, I may be noticing patterns only because I entered into the project looking for it (what is it? Type I error, right?). However, your opinion and role as a public intellectual (okay, I used the ‘antel’ word) would’ve engaged a number of us. Especially, those exiled by the Scotch guzzling Commies.

    Vasabjit

  26. @Vasabjit
    Speaking of Scotch guzzling communists, this time comrade Biman Bose did not show up at the NABC Bengali Sammelan in Toronto.

    Did anyone from here attend?

  27. Apart from the grotesque crime of plagiarism, Indian media, in my observation never ever reports what India needs. India needs to grow optimism and self-confidence in its people, the objective of the media seems just to be the opposite. India needs to see the truth, always rumors abound the press. Indian government launches an ambitious project in earnest and we have have doubts voiced on its future, even before it is completed. The tone could be (and should be) critical if necessary, but do we need the self-denigration and derisiveness. We don’t need patronizing from our homegrown journalists, we can afford to let the foreigners do it. Please cut these out, we don’t need any, we already have too many fellow countrymen, doing it. Patriotic content is more likely to be found in the blogs and comments section than mainstream “national newspapers”. Also careless and indifferent reporting has become a forte of the mainstream press. I would advise the press to stick to impartial and objective reporting not sensationalize and hype every piece of news that they set out to report.

  28. vijayant,

    The lesson from Kashmir is that the “Arab Imperialistic Cult” isn’t so much about co-existence after all.

    Tarun Vijay’s article “Denying Hindus space” says it all:

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/msid-3208306,flstry-1.cms

    The same Rainas, Bhatts, Kauls, the same blood and ancestors, same language and cultural lineage, same skin and race, and yet, just a little change in the way of worship makes one to hold rifles and the other to pray for mercy.

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