From the Readers' Editor| Readers' Editor

Neither vainglorious nor venturesome

A reader referred to my column, “Means and ends matter” (Sept. 22, 2014), and cited a tweet by the political commentator Abhijit Iyer-Mitra to question this paper’s investigation into the Rafale deal. My column was not only about what journalists report, but also about how they gather information. Mr. Iyer-Mitra’s provocative tweet was: “I have to register my STRONG PROTEST with @the_hindu. It’s one thing having an editorial line but cropping out photos to avoid inconvenient facts like here where @manoharparrikar clearly instructs the DS MoD to coordinate with PMO (courtesy @ANI) is BLATANTLY UNETHICAL.”

As a staunch defender of the regime, Mr. Iyer-Mitra is free to arrive at his own conclusions from the given documents, but he cannot level charges against others without going through the documents in the public domain carefully. Jeff Jarvis, professor at Craig Newmark Journalism School, New York, wrote about journalists: “It is the sacred duty of journalists to listen to the public they serve. It is then their duty to bring journalistic value — reporting facts, explanation, context, education, connections, understanding, empathy, action, options — to the public conversation. Journalism is that conversation. Democracy is that conversation.” I believe that this column has become a forum for readers and journalists to have a meaningful conversation that tries to break the polarising narrative that is corroding our public discourse.

Before explaining the shortcomings in Mr. Iyer-Mitra’s allegations, let me explain the core editorial values that guide this newspaper’s handling of images. Any unethical cropping or digital altering is seen as an act of dereliction. For instance, on April 1, 2009, a senior staff photographer doctored an image of two mynas in sync. This was carried on page 2. But some sharp eyes noticed the discrepancy, and the internal investigation by the then Readers’ Editor (RE), K. Narayanan, which included a study of the picture enlarged 200 times, firmly established that the image was manipulated. The editor-in-chief apologised and the RE wrote a scathing column, “Venturesome, vainglorious” (April 13, 2009), about the permanent scar created by this act of duplicity.

In his desire to justify his earlier stand of defending the Rafale deal, Mr. Iyer-Mitra is oblivious to some of the crucial forensic details that distinguish the Defence Ministry’s internal note dated November 24, 2015, in a facsimile carried by The Hindu on February 8, 2019 (in image 1), and the image showing the file noting by then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in response to the Ministry’s note on the negotiations, which The Hindu carried on February 9, 2019 (in image 2).

A close look at the note published by N. Ram, as part of his investigation, reveals that the document was from an earlier date. In that, officials of the Defence Ministry draw the attention of the Defence Minister to the fact that there was a parallel negotiation being led by the Prime Minister’s Office. The page has only the observation of the officials. There is no numbering or sequencing of opinions. In the note released by the government through ANI, every opinion is numbered, and Mr. Parrikar’s opinion is clearly marked 13, which means it was a subsequent document. The numberings, which are quite conspicuous in the ANI document, prove that The Hindu published both documents without any doctoring.

readerseditor@thehindu.co.in


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Printable version | Jan 15, 2022 4:11:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/Readers-Editor/neither-vainglorious-nor-venturesome/article26297998.ece

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