Derek Louis| The News Minute| July 15, 2014
History is oft noted to repeat itself, and that’s what seems to have happened at DNA for the second time in a spate of just three months. What happened at DNA a few days ago, is as much a case of censorship as it is a case of poor editorial responsibility by those, whose job it is to vet and clear editorial content for a news website.
Almost every news organization carries an agenda, an agenda either set by the management or the editor, some pull it off with a great bit of panache, others flounder and end up losing their credibility. In the case where the agenda is set by the owners, the editors tend to be hired based on similar leanings and toe the line gratuitously so as to keep their masters happy and food on the table.
In the case of DNA though, editors are often told they have the editorial freedom to carry almost any content they see fit and that there is absolutely no boundaries on what can be written about, which is obviously not true. But with this false confidence in mind, many an editor at the newspaper has been left with cake on their face or even worse, without a job.
As Associate web-editor it is I assume, Kunal Majumder’s responsibility to commission pieces, though in a response to NewsLaundry, he claimed that he was “not the one who decided what went up and what was taken down.” DNA hasn’t stated who commissioned or agreed to carry the piece and what motivated them to publish such content? If it is indeed true that Kunal did not clear the piece? I am left flabbergasted that the top boss of a certain desk claims its not his responsibility to commission pieces.
Even if for argument’s sake the article wasn’t so much as commissioned by him, but someone else in the organization, wouldn’t it be his responsibility along with whoever edited the article on the desk, to check for factual inaccuracies or other errors that could be problematic for the news organization? A news organization might choose to state that it doesn’t hold responsibility for the views of an author, but checks and balances still tend to be in place before content is published. Clearly they wouldn’t pay Ms Rana if the content did not get them traffic and earn them big bucks.
In her blog, Harini Calamur, the head for Digital Content at Zee (of which dna is a wholly owned subsidiary) stated that she caught onto something in the piece, vis-a-vis the role of the judiciary, and she caught onto this much after the story had already been published and shared across various digital mediums. While she hinted that it was Rana’s mention of the judiciary, Sadanand Dhume put it more succinctly when he tweeted saying, “DNA pulled down @RanaAyyub article for a really good reason. We just won't tell you what it was.”
Also considering the content of the article was questionable, why then did the web-editor, Kunal Majumder and other DNA web desk employees later choose to tweet/ re-tweet a link to the same story after it was published on a separate blog by the author?
Does that then point to the fact that the web editor and his team continue to stand by the story? Does he disagree with the decision supposedly made by his boss? Why did Calamur choose to make a statement on her personal blog rather than on the DNA website itself? A valid question raised by Shivam Vij over at Scroll.
To me, this entire episode smells rather fishy and clearly there is a lot more than what meets the eye. My guess is, someone way above the pay grades of the employees decided the content needed censoring and that’s what happened. But that is simply my guess and there is no way we will ever know what really happened. Till then, I will stay away from a newspaper that chooses to publish unverified content, pulls down content as it chooses, and more importantly keeps the reader uninformed about the truth.
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