Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Starting a debate.

I will not start about the crass way certain Hindi-news channels have covered Arushi talwar's case. One channel showed a decapitated head, another one showed a blurred video of a girl in her school uniform taking off her top. Now, as a very close friend of mine mentioned, while many of us can pretend that we know it is a dramatisation, many viewers of Hindi news channels (especially India TV, I'm afraid) will not. So, while you should take that idiotic IGP for maligning the girls reputation after she is dead (like me sying rajiv gandhi was corrupt, no wait...) the media frenzy which followed the murder, particularly after the botched police investigation is pretty bad. There is no doubt the police have been incompetent, but after watching some Hindi channels, I am beginning to think the idea of a regulator for news channels is not a bad idea. Crass is a serious understatement.
OK, recently I made a now redacted post on plagiarism, I should have read the email more carefully and I removed the post when i did. However, that email raised a few points and I have raised those in a previous post. recently, I was told of a photographer whom I have worked with who is changing jobs claiming that pictures clicked by other people are his. That is not just plagiarism, that is technically stealing. But so then is plagiarism. A writer from ET got upset about these accusations, and sent me a mail. The mail is there for you to read, would like to know your thoughts on this, and particularly in a world where you can check everything online. I would really like people to write in here, because there have rarely been meaningful discussions on the topic, remember an editor of HT lost his job because he lifted entire sentences from other columnists.
Thanks
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Will anyone define plagiarism? Those who claim to be waging a "war against plagiary" seem to be unaware of the basics of journalism. 'Any development is worth a follow-up' is one of the basic tenets of journalism. Even if it is minor, you are updating your reader, after all. Despite having spent over six years in the profession, I fail to understand the obsession behind "bylines". Earlier, it was about whenand how one should take a byline.
Now, the obsession has gripped thereaders (or rather warriors) too, who seem to be taking a keen interest in bylines. The "Why of a byline" is the warrior's dimensionto the byline business. It is surprising that in this fast-pacedworld, there are actually those who have the time to monitor who's taking a byline and who's not. To all those who seem to be keeping track of others' work (at the expense of your professional and personal life), I just have one thingto say: Grow up! Stop passing comments on who deserves a byline andwho doesnt because every publication has its own rules to measurewhich copy should go with the reporters' name and which should not.
Plus, newspapers are chasing news, which is developing everyminute, every second and to expect an update to come without thebackgrounder (coz using backgrounder will be plagiarism) is utterly foolish. Are all those writing for DNA and Mint plagiarists? Of course NOT! These newspapers have the policy of giving byline to all reporters whocontribute. A press release or a press conference copy also goes witha byline. Now who is the plagiarist? Will the warriors against plagiarism explain? Come to ET, a newspaper which breaks the maximum number of news, apaper which most of you can't do without and yet the paper which iscriticised the most.
Like all publications, ET may be having its shareof plus and minuses, but nobody has the right to question its policy of giving byline to its reporters. Those heading ET know better thanthe "warriors" that which story should go where and with or without abyline. Increasingly, the paper is encouraging bylines even in routinestories where there is substantial value addition in terms of analysis, comments from stakeholders, insight for the comman man etc. Plus interviews with senior officials always go with a byline even ifthey are talking about everything that's not earth shattering. These stories may appear to be repetitive, but they are not.
A byline story in ET will definitely give you more than other stories onthe same topic will give. And then to accuse the reporter of plagiary shows that the accuser has an agenda. What repeatedly surprises me is the amount of free time people have on hand to keep a check on whatsomeone is doing rather than setting their lives in order. I say setting their lives in order coz anyone with a healthy professional and personal life will not have the time to sit up and monitor eachand every story someone is doing. So Cheer up! Just look outside thewindow. There couble be a lot more you can do than pointing fingers at others. As for ET, join the paper if you have the guts and, of course, the ability. People out there will surely give you a patient hearing.
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Why does formatting go for a toss when you Ctrl-C Ctrl-V from Gmail. And this is not my writing by the way, before I get accused of plagiarism myself. Oh yeah, and people have stolen chunks of text from this blog as well in the recent past.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi. About ET - I read the paper alright, but its not as insightful as say Mint, that provides more analysis. The only plus point ET has is its marketing strategy (threfore its readership base). Of course, you know of the 'deals' ET is into and how it gets it news..I'm sure?
True that every paper has a plus and minus, but that still doesnt give ET reporters the freedom to copy news from other small time papers.(Being in the media industry I have faced this, not once, but some 5 times already!)..So I dont think it's all about the ability when you are working for ET...

Anonymous said...

The coverage of Aarushi Talwar's murder by TV channels has certainly put into focus the issue of bringing in a Regulator for Visual Media. As one of the Blogs (http://nonsensegalore.blogspot.com) suggested, someone like Kuldip Nayar (who suffered during emergency because of censorship) should head a panel which should work as a regulator. The owners of TV Channels or their reps should also be members of this self-regulatory body. But there is a crying need for something like this.

raising the stink said...

I was one of the 'enlightened' persons to have read the email(before it was removed) and I fail to understand how by simply copying a line from another story, making it your lead makes it updated.
Am really kicking myself for not copying the mail, as I could have rebutted this 'update' bullshit pointwise. Still, from whatever I could remember here's an example:

The ET writer's story on May 21 had a lead which said Tata Tele to launch its GSM services on CDMA infrastructure.
Now, this point was mentioned somewhere in the middle of a PTI story (May 13) on the launch of Tata Tele's services .

After, 8 days The ET reporter 'broke'(updated, ever second!) the story. Great work. huh.
I wonder what is ET's norms for giving bylines. It certainly doesn't give bylines for all the stories, unlike Mint.

The Brand Reporter said...

For anonymous... Noone will deny that Mint is a nice little sheaf to hold in your hands and be seen with, but when it comes to content, it just about qualifies as a business paper. And if your professional life was to depend on it, I really doubt anyone would depend solely on the paper. Their sheer volume of relevant business coverage is too small to make them really serious pretenders to ET and even BS etc.

Shefaly said...

K:

Am I the only one who sees the funny side of a business paper called BS? I sure hope not! :-)

That said, watching from a distance sadly tells me that what passes for journalism in India is just shameful. Analysis, what analysis? They cannot even wait for a story to develop fully. It looks like they take bloggers and their real-time output too seriously as 'competition'.

As for plagiarism, I think it is a cultural issue supported by the fact that we do not have an effective regulator or a framework that recognises and indeed punishes violations. The roots probably go back to educational institutions.

I am a new reader here so leaving a link may be out of order. But I leave it to your discretion to retain or remove it, latter if you feel this was not appropriate. This is a post I wrote on plagiarism some time ago. Some of the comments here from teachers, esp media studies teacher Harini Calamur, are saddening but contributory to explaining this plagiarism issue.

http://laviequotidienne.wordpress.com/2008/03/05/does-anything-explain-plagiarism-at-universities/

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Debate about bylines...
Let’s us get this clear first. Some companies follow the principle of allowing bylines , even if the value addition is another quote or it’s just Ctrl A - Ctrl C - Ctrl V.
The problem comes when the media house does not have a proper policy and left to discretion of the editor/desk. In such cases, it’s purely the rapport of the reporter... besides other things... that matters.
I was one of the few persons who visited the site when the post was put up. And now whoever is defending it has got it completely wrong. There are some interesting lines in the defence of the act. My views are in bold. And yes, I did take out time to do this and, at the cost of my professional and personal life. What the heck!

Will anyone define plagiarism? Those who claim to be waging a "war against plagiary" seem to be unaware of the basics of journalism. 'Any development is worth a follow-up' is one of the basic tenets of journalism (Yes, but only if you have a new angle to it, otherwise just carry it without a byline. Just getting a quote from a vague analyst, who is as much in dark as you are, does not add any value). Even if it is minor, you are updating your reader, after all. Despite having spent over six years in the profession, I fail to understand the obsession behind "bylines".(Ask any senior reporter and you will know that bylines meant that the reporter has something exclusive or something rather interesting to say about a particular development and, not because he just reported it. And you make six years sound like thirty years. That, perhaps, is the crux of the issue. ) Earlier, it was about when and how one should take a byline.
Now, the obsession has gripped the readers (or rather warriors) too, who seem to be taking a keen interest in bylines. The "Why of a byline" is the warrior's dimensionto the byline business. It is surprising that in this fast-paced world, there are actually those who have the time to monitor who's taking a byline and who's not. (Whoever did this hatchet job on you is wrong because there are a large number of reporters who fall in this category. Maybe the industry is changing for the worse. Just a simple question, did you tell the news editor that this story came eight days back in PTI or you just picked it up by goggling and rehashed it? – A question you need to answer to yourself and not the blog or any one else)To all those who seem to be keeping track of others' work (at the expense of your professional and personal life), I just have one thing to say: Grow up! Stop passing comments on who deserves a byline and who doesn’t because every publication has its own rules to measure, which copy should go with the reporters' name and which should not. (And being a part of the media we have the right to question the policies being followed or discrepancies, if any)
Plus, newspapers are chasing news, which are developing every minute, every second and to expect an update to come without the backgrounder (coz using backgrounder will be plagiarism) is utterly foolish. (I would have thought television is doing it. Newspapers are busy copying from it. The only thing remaining to be said is “There are television reports that...”)
Are all those writing for DNA and Mint plagiarists? Of course NOT! These newspapers have the policy of giving byline to all reporters who contribute. A press release or a press conference copy also goes with a byline. Now who is the plagiarist? Will the warriors against plagiarism explain? (There is company policy there, ET does not have one. Therefore, it can be questioned.) Come to ET, a newspaper which breaks the maximum number of news, a paper which most of you can't do without and yet the paper which is criticised the most. (I like the self-belief, but there are enough stories in ET also which are rehashed from all over the place)
Like all publications, ET may be having its share of plus and minuses, but nobody has the right to question its policy of giving byline to its reporters. Those heading ET know better than the "warriors" that which story should go where and with or without a byline. (Very pompous. And surely they know better when they put semi-nude pictures of women to describe the budget... give us a break)
Increasingly, the paper is encouraging bylines even in routine stories where there is substantial value addition in terms of analysis, comments from stakeholders, insight for the common man etc. (Yeah, now you are coming to the point and justifying the ‘ bylies’) Plus interviews with senior officials always go with a byline even if they are talking about everything that's not earth shattering. These stories may appear to be repetitive, but they are not. (According to whom??? If there is no value addition then there is no story. You are yet to meet good news editors)
A byline story in ET will definitely give you more than other stories on the same topic will give. (Pompous again...) And then to accuse the reporter of plagiary shows that the accuser has an agenda. (Yes, I agree) What repeatedly surprises me is the amount of free time people have on hand to keep a check on what someone is doing rather than setting their lives in order. I say setting their lives in order coz anyone with a healthy professional and personal life will not have the time to sit up and monitor each and every story someone is doing. (Someone from your own organisation has done this to spite you. Don’t worry, ET will not sack you or revise your increment. Too many news papers are there to compete with)
So Cheer up! Just look outside the window. There could be a lot more you can do than pointing fingers at others. As for ET, join the paper if you have the guts and, of course, the ability. People out there will surely give you a patient hearing. (Been there, done that)
Endnote: K, should not have started this debate. Too many skeletons in the every cupboard. The last few posts have been very much unlike you...

Anonymous said...

In the Arushi murder case coverage i find NDTV supporting the Talwars? why is that they are supporting the killers?? Can anyone from the media/ndtv tell me?

An Only Mouse said...

K: You do know that there is a way to switch off 'Anonymous' commentary here. If people have such strong views, why are they so afraid to identify themselves with those views?

This last Anonymous feels he is rather angry with you... ;-)

Anonymous said...

Can we have the original post on Plagiarism hosted for sometime or accessed through a password. It would make the discussion more meaningful.