Saturday, October 22, 2005

Half Bad Job at Covering the IIPM Story

I am not a pessimist. I like to say that the glass is half full, but in this case it simply was not meant to be. So lets look at the "half full" part first. The coverage of the story in the mainstream media [MSM] so far has been really bad. Today Outlook-India covered the IIPM story today in an article by T. R. Vivek.

This is the most detailed portrayal of the IIPM affair in the MSM so far. The bloggers who uncovered key facts about IIPM founder, M.K. Chaudhuri's background and about IIPM's sister concerns [1, 2] are also mentioned, including a screenshot of Gawker's blog.

Then, halfway through, the article takes a curious turn and focuses on the bloggers. Mr. Vivek offers a lot of insight into the mindset of the Indian bloggers. He says:
The Indian blogging community (or blogosphere, as it likes to call itself) is essentially a bitchy, self-indulgent and an almost incestuous network comprising journalists, wannabe-writers and a massive army of geeks who give vent to their creative ambitions on the internet. Given that the average blogger-age is 25 years, it's clear bloggers love to indulge in hearty name-calling and taking college-style potshots at others. This is probably why some of them get into trouble.
To me this sounds like an utterly baseless generalization, made without taking a serious look at the "Indian blogosphere". Mr. Vivek is however entitled to his own opinions. He should also check the facts though, especially when he uses them to support his claim. He uses two examples, the first one is that of the Swiftboat veterans for truth thing. The other is the CBS - Dan Rather - incident, about which Mr. Vivek says:
In another instance, bloggers questioned CBS News' credibility over the memos purportedly alleging preferential treatment towards President Bush during the Vietnam war launching a flurry of discussions across the country.Dan Rather, the blogger, had to soon apologise for the story.
I guess he forgot to check if Dan Rather was "the blogger" or CBS news anchor. Actually, didn't the bloggers expose that the memos were fake? "Google skills" crash course Mr. Vivek?

Here are some observations:
  1. None of the journalists in the MSM have actually tried to investigate IIPMs claims in the advertisements so far.
  2. All the reporting covering IIPM story has raised questions about the role of blogs, whether they come under the IT act, etc.
Though concerns about role of bloggers are legitimate, it seems that the media is trying the make bloggers the focus of the story for a reason. That way, while taking the credit for covering a sensational story, it doesn't have to go after IIPM and verify the claims made in the advertisements. The media want to have it both ways and that is simply tragic.

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6 comments:

gawker said...

I've linked to your post.

Siel said...

Great analysis of a complex and troubling issue. One of the things I wonder as a blogger is -- as you know -- There are so many damn good bloggers out there, routing out hard-to-find information, performing serious analyses, and bringing attention to ignored, yet important issues. Still, the MSM gets MANY more eyes reading their crap than do the intelligent bloggers in the 'sphere.

What is it that's keeping the intelligent thinkers and writers, committed to timely examination of important social and political issues, from entering the MSM themselves? Is the MSM beyond rescue -- and if so, why? Will the MSM as we know it disappear, losing its credibility as the independent muckrackers of the blogosphere take over the role of intelligent, timely reporting on the issues of our times?

I'm not saying you should have the answers to these :) Just some thoughts I've been having that your post brought into focus for me --

Kaps said...

Business World has done a good job and checking the claims made by IIPM in its full page ads.

Jagan Mohan said...

Linked, commented @ http://jagan.biz

Abi said...

Hi, I came here from Gawker's post.

I liked your analysis of the Outlook story. But, as Kaps has already pointed out, the Business World story does a pretty good job of demolishing IIPM with its fact-check story. They don't spend too much time on the bloggers. IMO, the BW and Outlook stories are complementary.

Transmogrifier said...

Hi all! thanks for the comments

I was not aware of the Business World article. I will check it out. But it sure sounds like good news.

Siel: You raise some interesting questions. I feel bloggers can do so much because they are spread out but still networked. So when individual bloggers focusing on individual issues do some great investigative work, the word can be spread rapidly. The information dissemination is very effective.

MSM on the other hand has a lot more reach but it cannot work collaboratively because each channel/newspaper is competing with other for ratings/viewers/readers.

Collaboration helps bloggers because it attracts more traffic to their sites, which in turn helps spread the word.