The Media

If P Sainath’s article in today’s [10 May] Hindu is true, then The Times of India is absolutely false.   In the article titled, Reaping gold through cotton, and newsprint, Sainath shows how The Times of India deceived people on behalf of the corporate bigwig, Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech.  TOI deceived both its readers and the cotton farmers of Maharashtra.

TOI’s report, published originally on Oct 31, 2008 and reprinted on Aug 28, 2011, claimed that “The switchover from the conventional cotton to Bollgard or Bt Cotton … has led to a social and economic transformation in the villages…”  Sainath shows that the farmers in the villages concerned were far from happy about the switchover and that TOI had manipulated the truth and statistics in order to produce a report that is favourable to Monsanto.  In plainer words, TOI must have accepted bribes from the company.

TOI has accepted time and again that it sells its news-space to potential buyers.  It may publish news reports highlighting the achievements of a politician or a political party provided it is paid to do so.  Similarly, actors or other public figures can buy the news-space in the paper.  The gullible readers will believe the published news to be the truth, since it is news and not advertisement.

The problem with this is not just that the paper earns profits at the cost of truth.  The more serious problem is the deception perpetrated in the process.

A newspaper is a social watchdog.  It has many duties toward the people.  It has the duty to bring the truth to the people as far as possible.  It has the duty to uphold social justice and other values that can bring about the welfare of the people.   A newspaper manipulating the truth for financial benefits is not unlike a policeman who swindles people.   The whole foundation of a society can crumble if a newspaper indulges in such malpractices.

Perhaps, it is not surprising that The Times of India is the only English newspaper in the list of the 13 papers approved by Mamata Banerjee in the 2500-odd State libraries in West Bengal.  Ms Banerjee wants the people of West Bengal to read only doctored truths, doctored to suit her views.

At the end of Sainath’s article, The Hindu has made a “Disclosure: The Hindu and The Times of India are competitors in several regions of India.”  I hope it will be a competition of the truth trying to win over falsehood.  I hope the former will win.

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About matheikal

My more regular blog can be accessed at www.matheikal.blogspot.com
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9 Responses to The Media

  1. gardenerat60 says:

    TOI was getting negative publicity for sometime now. And this only proves, the paper is a tabloid and public can take it as such.

    • matheikal says:

      TOi has admitted many times that it publishes propaganda as news, though it claimed to do so only in the supplements, At any rate, the paper has lost credibility.

  2. Raghuram Ekambaram says:

    I was waiting for this post Matheikal. But, I am not sure I agree, at least on one point. Newspapers are NOT “Social watchdogs”. Their primary, indeed the only responsibility is to their shareholders – profit, no matter what has to be sacrificed to get eyeballs, be it even truth.

    Call me a cynic, but I am not a knee-jerk cynic. If The Hindu seems to have taken a moral high road here, I will only wait for it to descend to levels suiting the corporate climes of the day. If they don’t they are bound to vanish, if not literally, at least from the consciousness of the public. Then, how can they be a “Social watchdog”? If a tree falls in a forest with no one the wiser, did it fall at all?

    The other point is about the capability of the public to “discern” the truth by filtering out news from various sources. ToI does not stop one from reading other papers. It does not ask you to believe what it says. If you want the truth, you have to invest time and money. Nelson Mandela did that. He read many papers so that he can make judgments on what could be the truth, half-truth or unadulterated lie. I have argued that the public should follow what Mandela did (in a post in the other space from which I am divorced now). But, there are no takers, except myself.

    That is, if anyone can criticize ToI, it is I and I do not need to because I understand its compulsions.

    RE

    • matheikal says:

      You may be right about the Hindu too may descend from the moral high road… I simply hope it won’t. I read quite a few different newspapers as long as the school library is open. I still prefer the Hindu to all others…

      By the way, I have a friend who is a senior journalist with the Hindu. He does not share my regard for the Hindu!

  3. mak says:

    Sir, i see many people, even techies, reading TOI but i never understand why they read it. I guess because they cant read an adult magazine in public?

    Recently in one of my posts i did mention about the importance of newspapers in society and the hindu and toi differ. I completely agree when you say they are watchdogs.

    It is tyrranical in west bengal.

    • matheikal says:

      Mak, I think the success of TOI owes to the tastes of today’s young generation. They prefer light reading, superficial reading. TOI also combines a lot of other business with it, e.g. online shopping, promotional offers, etc.

  4. d.Nambiar says:

    That last line is hard-hitting 🙂

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