I picked up the Indian Express this morning and scanned it for a follow-up on Manjunathan's death - a story which was front paged yesterday. Because I know Express usually does follow-ups.
What was I expecting? Maybe a statement from Mani Shankar Aiyar. What IOC is planning to do to fix the adulteration problem, while ensuring staff safety. Or maybe just what is expected to happen to those arrested for the murder.
And sure enough, there was a huge centrespread piece titled "Where do we see such courage". The intro copy reads: We have received an outpouring of letters from readers in India and overseas, many of them former classmates of the slain Manjunathan.
"Excellent!" I thought and started reading. The very first name? My own! Um, only problem is I never sent a letter to Indian Express. What they printed was the first few lines and last few lines from this post on my blog.
A few other 'letters' following mine were excerpts from comments on that post.
Strange! Amit Varma thought so too and wrote about it here before I could get around to it.
Wheel turns full circle
Express broke Satyendra Dubey story - and it generated a tremendous outpouring of response.
This time it was different. I learnt of the Manjunathan story through Gaurav, who was his junior at IIM-L. First through an email, and then through his blog.
Then the story circulated in IIM e groups, mailing lists and more people blogged about it. Almost every blogger said "why isn't it being covered by the mainstream media".
Many of them emailed friends or associates or simply the editors of newspapers/ TV channels saying "This is shocking - please cover it!"
And 2 days later, it was covered in The Telegraph (front page) and the TOI (inside page). That night the story ran prominently on NDTV. On Thursday Express frontpaged it as well.
The wheel turned full circle because when we all first heard of the incident, we wanted 'confirmation'. One blogger found a small story in Express Newsline's Lucknow edition confirming the murder.
But murders - in UP or elsewhere - are not uncommon. The issue may never have received so much national media coverage, had it not been discussed so fervently via email, and blogged about.
I say "may" - because I do not know. I think it would have gone mainstream, but taken far longer to do so.
Also, the blogs written by Manjunathan's friends and batchmates painted a vivid picture of a sincere and well-loved individual. The blogs made him more than a statistic, they made him a compelling human interest story.
But at the end of the day, unless a blog post is sent as a letter to the editor, it is incorrect to label it as such. And that is the issue here.
Phir kya hua
This afternoon I got a call from the Express admitting that publishing part of my blog post as a 'letter' was a mistake.
And no, you can't see the online page which carried the 'letters' because it was removed sometime this afernoon and replaced with alternate content.
I have asked for a written apology and hope to get it - soon.
The Manjunathan episode illustrates the importance of bloggers and MSM collaborating - not competing with each other. And this can happen only when we both treat each other respectfully.
Of course, I am part-blogger, part-MSM... but that, I shall ponder on some other day.
Thou shalt not forget...
This is a blog set up by Manjunathan's friends from SJCE, Mysore. You can write condolences here, as well as help keep his memory alive.
Update: On Saturday, 26th Nov Express published a clarification, Amit writes about it here.
The post was to be published on rediff.com as a column. And that it was, on Monday, Nov 28.