Friday, November 25, 2005

In 'letter' and spirit

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 as a column. And that it was, on Monday, Nov 28.


  1. I agree that most media outlets have done a fair job. There is one glaring exception that stands out like a sore thumb. N.Ram's
    The Hindu.

    Apparently they have space for a 13 year old leg spinner yet to prove himself, But they have no space for Manju.

    I'm appalled at their arrogance and insensitivity. It is one thing to spout leftist cliches page after page, But to not highlight issues that are compelling and of immediate relevance is a bloody shame.

    I hope The Hindu find's the place where it truly belongs: down shit creek.

  2. Has Mani shankar Iyer opened his mouth yet on this issue-Even when the oil tanker caught fire a couple of months he was so stiff without any

  3. the issue was widely covered by The Telegraph... so MSM is working on it, alright. what surprised me most is the political response. also the police dosen't seem to care that much...

    maybe i am way of track but i think the booty of the oil scandals was shared amongst all...

  4. I dont think this is a new practice ....earlier these media houses had to type out the letters themselves and then print them to claim an "overwhelming" response.
    Technology has just made things easier for them.

  5. Hello,

    I have been reading your blog for sometime now. Really find it insightful.

    But I'm no techie. What does MSM stand for?

    I join hundreds of people who have expressed their grief, shock and utter dismay at the manner in which Manjunathan was murdered. As an Indian, I stand with my head bowed down in shame and guilt.

  6. i think, MSM = mainstream media

  7. Rashmi shouldn't expect to see the Express of old. RNG's paper and the IE we all loved and worked under Shekhar Gupta through the 1990s is effectively buried by the new media boom. The paper is now run like an NGO staffed by journos who missed the ride on the gravy train.

  8. It is surprising that content from a blog is being claimed as a letter. I guess the thinking was that everything on the net is in the public domain. Maybe the MSM needs lessons on net and blogging etiquette.

    I agree that the MSM was late on this story. I only caught the story on NDTV at night and only after a couple of days did I realise that the MSM was late on reporting the incident.

    What a sad story though.

  9. Anonymous10:31 PM

    Hi Rashmii,
    You sure are making it a habit of being mentioned in the "MSM", as mentioned by someone... for strange reasons, it seems.
    But yes, the news is really sad though. Wonder, if this will affect IOC's reputation a prize catch in the biggest B-Schools of the country.

  10. Thanks Charu.

    Rashmi, I just went to the rediff site where they've quoted your blog and put that under their guest column.

    I just dropped in to let you know. I hope that you are aware of this, and this isn't a replication of the whole Indian Express idea.

  11. Thanks - Shakhar. But in case of rediff I do a column for them regularly, so no - they didn't lift it.

  12. Hi rashmi,

    Iam a regular reader of your blog. I also read your article on rediff. I had one very strong reservation about that article. In it you wrote: Gaurav Sabnis, Manju's junior at IIM(L), wrote in his blog tribute: 'Manju was murdered for doing his job honestly. Considering the circumstances, this case is no different from that of Satyendra Dubey.'

    Now isn't this misuse of mainstream media, you are just publiczing his blog. As an journalist you should present your views or might quote some personality, and not just anyone. Further the hyperlink directs to his blog not to this particular post. I know you support Gaurav Sabnis (IIPM fiasco), but this type of thing looks good on blog but not in mainstream media.

    Do take this criticism in a constructive manner.


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