Friday, April 17, 2009

The world's media get it wrong on farmer suicides

OK, I've been going hard at TOI, Mumbai Mirror, NDTV and other Indian news outlets for a while, and feel it's time to illustrate how their foreign brethren don't necessarily do a better job. Two days ago, the Belfast Telegraph headlined a story, "Farmers in India commit mass suicide as crops fail". The first line read, "Over 1500 farmers in an Indian state committed suicide after being driven to debt by crop failure, it was reported today." I haven't been able to find where 'it was reported'. If you can, please let me know. The state in question is Chattisgarh.
So, the Belfast Telegraph, which presumably has no correspondents in India, picks up a news item from who knows where, and tacks on a misleading headline. The phrase 'mass suicide' gives the impression of a co-ordinated, cult-like act. Strangely, London's Independent, which does have reporters based in this country, picks up the Belfast Telegraph piece. Then, Huffington Post links on its home page to the Independent's coverage, and carries a blog post by Mallika Chopra, wellness-guru Deepak Chopra's daughter, based on the unverified story. Discussing the 1500 suicides, she writes, "To give a more tangible visualization of that number, that's about four full jumbo jet planes' worth of passengers suddenly committing suicide." Which would be dreadful, except it never happened. 1500 Chattisgarh farmers did not 'suddenly' take their own lives.
I don't want to diminish the real and continuing tragedy of farmer suicides, but irresponsible journalism is hardly the best way to focus international attention on it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah -- and if you wanna see how bad the TV news is in US .. just see the daily show - its a sad state of affairs where the best news show in the US is by a comedian