Letters to the Editor… through my BLOG.

Many to correct incorrect perceptions have used Blogs. Recently, Mumbai Mirror (another RAGMAG of TOI group in a tabloid format) carried out breaking news that Ash (Yes, our own Aishwarya) has stomach tuberculosis. Ofcourse, the men of the household were aghast at this baseless (what a relief) news inserted by the newspaper to boost circulation. Abhishek used TWITTER to reach to his fans and pull up the newspaper while Big B used his blogs. The BLOG led to the newspaper putting out a correction to the news but true to the TIMES spirit, it did not apologize. On the other hand, Blogs have also been a source to boost circulations for newspapers. Shiv Sena’s newspaper SAAMNA carried a picture supposedly of KATRINA KAIF taking a ride on an auto-rickshaw in Mumbai.  It may have helped Sena reach some younger hearts but it turned out that the newspaper had simply lifted the photo from the blogsite of an Aussie living in Mumbai and the girl in the picture was not Kat at all.
This is the power of the blogs.
For some months now, I have been writing back to the editors of the newspapers that put out incorrect stories on the OZ issue. Some of these emailed letters have been acknowledged while some of the editors have simply either moved the emails to deleted or junk items. They have anyway served a useful purpose.
IN AN ARTICLE ‘Residency Down Under’, dated Monday, August 24, 2009, the journalist Rosanne Barrett, detailed on how the Indian students were being duped in Australia. She confused Private Colleges as Private Universities and put it out as a subheading. I being an alumnus of Bond University, Australia’s first Private University knew the value and quality of a Private University first hand AND how the journalist had tripped on the details.  I wrote to the Editor of the newspaper’s edition in Kolkata on 29th August 2009. He forwarded my complaint to Ms Nipa Vaidya, Editor of Education Times in Mumbai as the article originated from their Mumbai bureau.
Ms Nipa Vaidya replied on 31st August and again on 1st September and while she did state that the journalist had done her research and that she stood by the report, she acknowledged the basic mistake that I had pointed out. Against my complaint, she provided her comments in Red as:
THERE IS NO RESEARCH FINDING or PUBLICATION of Mr Bob Birrell where he would or has accused any of the private UNIVERSITIES for duping Indian students. However, the writer of the article has put it as a subheading to the article giving clearly different message. Thank you for your explanation. We stand corrected.
She also ends her reply by stating…
I can understand your concern since you are such an integral part of the Indo-Australian educational fraternity. In our continuous effort to better ourselves and present facts to our readers, we would issue a corrigendum that clarifies the private colleges/ universities confusion. Needless to say, this is definitely not the last article we will be publishing about Australia. As and when we come across stories that would benefit our readers, they will be published in all editions of Education Times with relevant research and accurate information.
Ms Vaidya, though I did not see any corrigendum, I can confirm that thereafter have not seen any such incorrect report on this topic in Education Times. I also feel that several recent articles in Education Times have been of very good value and certainly balanced. Thanks for taking the complaint as a feedback and initiating accurateness. No corrigendum required anymore.
BBC’s report on the issue was also lacking in substance and carried many inaccuracies.  I had done an earlier blog identifying the issues (find link to blog EVEN BBC GETS IT WRONG). I forwarded the link to the BBC and they immediately acknowledged and now after a few weeks have replied:
—— Forwarded Message
From: BBC World News
Date: Thu, 25 Feb 2010 17:26:10 -0000
To: Ravi Lochan Singh
Subject: RE: Feedback from BBCWorldNews.com (India Business Report)
Dear Ravi
Thank you for emailing BBC World News and please accept our sincere apologies for the delay in responding.
Your comments have been noted and passed to our business editor who will take them up with the team that produce the India Business Report.
Kind regards,
BBC World News
I am sure that this feedback has been taken constructively and this is what makes BBC an admired news source.
OUTLOOK magazine carried a cover story titled WHY AUSSIES HATE US and this really ruffled many because of the inadequate research done by the journalist and the fact that it highlighted small voices within Australia such as PM Kevin Rudd’s nephew and totally ignored the main players. It also seemed to be totally contradictory in parts. I was angry too especially because the news magazine, like BBC, is known for its good stories and because I considered it as a balanced publication. Maybe the fact that the editor of the magazine is popular with some of my friends due to his role as the editor of India’s first MEN’s magazine at the time when we were all growing up, has something to do with it. My anger got vented through my scathing blog (see link to DISSECTING INCORRECT OUTLOOK) and I did forward a copy to the email ID of the newsmagazine. It did not get acknowledged but that’s inconsequential now that after a week, OUTLOOK devoted a record number of pages to the LETTERS TO THE EDITOR on that particular cover story. Not just that, the letters continued and found place in the latter issues too. I want to quote from one such letter in the current edition that clearly summarises the general opinion. A reader from Mumbai (Subhashish Chattopadhyay) wrote:
The letters to the cover story WHY THE AUSSIES HATE US were much better than the original story itself (Feb 22). They reflected a wide range of views encompassing the Australians themselves, Indians in Australia and Indians, something your cover story sorely lacked. Unlike the ‘Marathi Manoos’ campaign of Mumbai, the Australian hate-attacks are not backed by any political outfit for the same of votebanks. The attacks are not really a specifically targeted outburst against Indians but more sporadic and a bad case of media hype and biased reporting.
While I congratulate Outlook for allowing feedback and criticism to flow back, I remain astounded by TIMES NOW which not just edits/deletes my feedbacks on their show from web-responses, My emails to its Editor, “The Great Mr Arnab Goswami” and my SMS to his mobile never got acknowledged.
The channel, though in recent days, has become milder and has attempted at getting some panelists on NEWSHOUR debates such as Mr Sanjiv Srivastava (who stumped Suhel Seth by asking for the dictionary meaning of RACISM), Mr Naveen Chopra and Ms Padma Rao in addition to former Indian High Commissioner to Australia, Mr Parthasarthy, to balance out the untrained Suhel Seth and “gone old” Natwar Singh, it still gives factually weak explanations for the inaccurate and biased coverage.
When it was apparent that Jasbir had burnt himself for insurance(see link), the channel focused more on Australians trying to change the story by stating that Jasbir had self-inflicted the injury. (Mr Goswami just forgot that this was not the first time that Indians had done this in Australia. See link to another such story.)
When the investigations into the Ranjodh murder revealed that the killers were Indians, Times Now, unable to digest this twist in the story labeled the killers as “AUS” couple instead.  THIS WAS HEIGHT OF BIAS that run with the channel. When the Editorial Director of TIMES NOW was asked on why this aspect of the story was not covered, the reply was (see link);
Times Now editorial director Hector Kenneth told The Weekend Australian there had been coverage of Singh’s murder, but the footage had been “purged” as part of regular updating.
Mr Kenneth said reports on Garg’s death were a “priority” item on the site following talks between Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and his Indian counterpart, S.M. Krishna. “Both the incidents reflected equally strongly in our coverage, and there is no bias in any way,” he said.
What kind of blatant lie is this!!! See this link from TIMES NOW which clearly shows that the news-item is not purged and it displays the bias with the killers being headlined as AUS COUPLE.
There are instances when I have pointed out formally or informally to various journalists on any inaccuracies in their reports and there are some who have also corrected their reports. I enjoy a good relationship with many because they understand that my intention is not to stop them from discharging their job but simply to assist in performing an “inaccuracy check” on the articles. Some have run past their draft of the stories and I thank them for this honour.
NDTV and CNNIBN stand out as examples of TV journalism where an attempt has been made in the direction of balancing opinions. Barkha Dutt, Sagarika Ghose and Karan Thapar have all done wonderful debates/interviews that have not had the stink of bias on them. INDIAN EXPRESS, HINDU and TELEGRAPH stand out amongst the newspapers for the reports that have appeared.
Now, we enter a phase when the Indian Media has matured overall and leaving aside sensationalists, there are many worth engaging with.
Let me end this blog in “hope” even with the TOI group.
Times of India today reports Australian Foreign Minister’s visit. The reporting is factual and positive. (See link). However, I remain surprised that though this gets prominence in TOI editions around the country and even though the visit was to a college in Delhi barely a few kilometers away from the TOI office,  the reporting is by PRESS TRUST OF INDIA, India’s trusted wire service. (Was it my friend “ONE LAST QUESTION” doing the report, I wonder.) TOI didnot send its own correspondent????
At the same time, Economic Times (also of the TOI group) puts out a report on the same event and by their political bureau. The article (see link) adds the Indian government’s perspective and ends the report with this:
India has largely expressed satisfaction with the steps taken by Australia. Mr Krishna told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply said that over 100 Indians were attacked in Australia since May 2009. He added that some of the incidents could have racial overtones.
“While we continue to receive reports of sporadic attacks on Indians in Australia, there does not appear to be any evidence to indicate a persistent rise,” Mr Krishna said. The minister also said that the government had not dissuaded Indian students from going to Australia, but advised certain basic precautions.
So, do keep penning your COMMENTS to the blogs as they too reach the EDITORS along with my LETTERS.
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  1. Ravi, I and my friends who live and work in Australia and have done do for years, are disgusted with the coverage on Australia by a segment of Indian media. We have found it irrational, hysterical, unprofessional and biased. I do not believe Suhel Seth and Arnab Goswami of TimesNow have any idea what they are talking about. Shame on their coverage of Australia. Australia is a great country and no body can change that.

    Dr Yadu Singh


    1. Are you suggesting a full blackout on advert support to the Times Group??? Money is all that matters to them.

      Anyway the silver lining is this… Yesterday there was an Indian toddler who went missing from his home and his body was found later. There were adults at home and so it is a mystery as to what happened. Anyway, the Indian media has been very restrained on this.

      See this report


      Times of India has carried the news today but in a box inside another news of a missing Indian youngster in UK… Times Now has not reported it. Wonder as to what is happening. Have they realised their folly???


      1. Ravi,
        Thats a bargaining tool that we have, and one that we should use to ask for a balanced coverage.

        I know its difficult to quantify but, the amount of business we might lose by not advertising with the TOI group is minimal compared to what we are losing as an industry by this biased reporting.

        I think its ridiculous that the sales departments calls us for advts while we have to endure their agenda driven reporting.

        I think its time for a co-ordinated response, if well calibrated and well planned it bring “honest journalism”will come back to the fore very qucikly…


  2. Ravi,
    You are doing a FANTASTIC job of providing feedback to Indian media.Your research skills should get you an Honorary Doctorate.
    As a regular reader of Times of India I am not surprised at their bias. Their Response department has taken over the paper through ADVERTORIALS. Everyday I feel like giving up reading this paper..The paper’s focus is on getting ads.It often sacrifices pages given to editorial/articles/comments for FULL PAGE ADS. It does not appear their priority to be news of the fact kind.
    Continue your good work!


  3. Rumours and Mis-information have always been an integral part of Businesses and Politics all over the World. Individuals, Companies and Nations have been benefitted and destroyed by it at the same time. Mass media had been vehicle of this world around.
    Indian Education Industry has grown in size and might over the last decade and exponential growth in number of Indian students going to Australia has definitely hit the powerful interests in India.
    Policy to allow Foreign Campuses in India which was hanging for few years also got a blessing in disguise in Australia Issue.
    So future of India Australia education link depends upon Australia’s genuine interest in attracting Indian students and measures taken by the Australan establishment.
    If serious and genuine efforts are made by Australia to attract Indian students then manouvering ability of Indian media can be diminished to considerable extent though it will not fade out completely because Indian Education Industry is there to snatch its share.


  4. Western media promptly covers Pratapgarh stampede which let 65 killed. In post WWII leaders in developing countries were comfortable with projecting themselves as poor and not unoften to the extent of beggars, as this “helped in getting” much needed Aid. But Globalization has changed the rules of the games. Now men and material move frequently accross the borders and then comes into play the effect of ‘Country Image’. If India has really to improve its Global image which impacts on economy then events like Pratapgarh Stampede to grab few utensils or news of death from hunger has to be curbed otherwise whatever may be Good Talks but developed nations are not likely to show respect towards Indians Goods and People.


  5. Ravi,

    I am able to visualize that soon big powerful media houses will express their interest to advertise their products / business on your blog.

    Keep it up !!!


    1. I will have the power to refuse. Especially if TIMES NOW approaches. Even yesterday over the toddler death, which is really unfortunate, the reporting focussed more on ‘NERVOUS” Aussie response rather than the tragedy.

      The Information and Broadcasting minister has pushed for a stop to “Paid news” and CPM proposes a boycott of political adverts in newspapers known for PAID NEWS. Should we not ask for a boycott of all TIMES GROUP channels for OZ related adverts. Look at Kaushik’s suggestion below. Makes a lot of sense.


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