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ನೂರೆಂಟು ಸುಳ್ಳು (nUreMTu suLLu)

You may not be a "Dhrutharashtra", but we want to be the Sanjaya for you!

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Flight from Boredom: The Quest for Facts

There comes a time when one has to explain the why behind what he or she is doing. This may be that time for me.

I am not a journalist. I have no training in that area. I am not a writer either. Barring a couple of articles in an online publication and the posts in my blogs, I have not written much else.

But, I am a news junkie; have been one since my early childhood. I love newspapers. Even the ones that are published in languages that I can’t read; many times I have bought French, German, Portuguese, Spanish newspapers just to look at them.

Living in US for a long time, I did not have regular access to the Indian newspapers. Once the Internet arrived and the Indian newspapers started publishing over the ‘Net, things got changed. Eventually Kannada papers also started appearing online. Mean while, having lived in the New York area, I started reading the New York Times every day and other newspapers whenever I could.

It was not too long before I realized the difference in quality of the Indian newspapers and the New York Times; not just in the depth or the breadth of the news coverage, but in the efforts to ensure that readers are presented only facts. Of course that did not mean that NYT did not get things wrong. It did. Wen Ho Lee, Jason Blair, Judith Miller/WMD episodes being the more infamous ones.

But, I still haven’t lost trust in NYT. Why?! Because, each time it got things wrong, it has admitted the mistake and has taken corrective actions. Not just major blunders but even minor factual errors; factual errors that had no impact on the rest of the article. For an example, read this correction from September 19th:

A front-page article on Sept. 8 about the background of Ralph J. Phillips, the escaped inmate known as Bucky who was the target of a manhunt in western New York for five months, misspelled the surname of his lawyer. He is John Keavey, not Keaney.

Do most readers of NYT care whether the surname of the lawyer of an escaped convict is “Keavey” not “Keaney”? Probably not. Yet, for the NYT it is quite important to make sure that its readers get that fact right.

The Origins

I am not sure when I started reading Thats Kannada. Probably as soon as it made its appearance over the Net. One column that I regularly read there was Mr.Bhat’s “Noorentu Maatu”. When I started reading it I did not know who he was. When I realized that he was the editor of the number one Kannada daily, I was appalled. I found many factual errors in his articles. Some of them were “Keaney/Keavey” kind but others had an impact on the story being told. It appeared as though these other errors were introduced either to make the story more melodramatic or steer the readers into a particular viewpoint. (I write “it appeared” because, I cannot say that was the intention or not.)

Credibility is an important value, especially so for the newspapers. I believe even minor factual errors – if they keep repeating and are left uncorrected – could raise doubts in the readers’ minds; at least it does in my mind. When I read in a news report that Mr.Bhat talked about “Credibility”, I could not help but note the irony. I wrote an article about “Media and Credibility”. In hindsight, I cannot say it’s any good, but, it got published in That’s Kannada. (Thank you Sham!)

My article received many responses. Many of them were quite positive. I became friends with some of the readers. While exchanging emails with these friends and some of my family members, I came up with the idea of starting a blog to make a note of the minor/major factual errors, falsehoods and any other things that I cared to note. To make it a bit interesting to read, I decided to be sarcastic in my writing style. Since Mr.Bhat’s “Noorentu Maatu” , in a way was the inspiration, I decided to name it “Noorentu Sullu”.

Mr.Bhat and Me

I have nothing personally against Mr.Bhat. I have met him twice. Once in a public function where he was one of the chief guests. Another time in his Vijaya Karnataka office. Both the times I was struck by his humility and decency. He is the editor of a major newspaper in India and I write a blog mostly read by a few of my friends and family members. Yet, he treated me with respect and even friendliness. Considering the sarcasm I have frequently employed in my writing style, it’s even more striking.

I also must mention that, even before we met, Mr.Bhat wrote about me in Vijaya Karnataka in one of his editorial columns. That was quite a pleasant surprise.

Newspapers and Me

I love newspapers. I respect journalists a lot. In spite of my frequent complaints, I believe that most newspapers and journalists try to provide only the facts to their readers; may not be all the time but most of the time. I think Vijaya Karnataka, Prajavani and Kannada Prabha are all very good newspapers. They have served and are still serving their readers quite well.

But, I expect them to be even better. I do not believe striving to get even minor facts right should be dismissed as “editing Panchanga”. I also do not subscribe to the thought that today’s suddi is tomorrow’s raddi. While the newspaper copy itself may end up inside the tummy of an ass, the contents in that are matters of public record and should be treated as such.

Why Not In Kannada?

For more than 18 years I have lived away from Karnataka, 16 of them away from India. Even though Kannada is my mother-tongue, due to lack of practice I find it much easier to write in English.

Is This Serious Media Watch?

Most definitely not. I neither have the talent nor the temperament for being a serious media watch dog. In spite of all the serious stuff about media, journalism, credibility, etc, my quest for facts are just a way to flee from boredom. My blog entries are just the rants of an individual who derives some joy by pointing a finger or two at the mighty and famous.

Why This Explanation?

As I mentioned earlier, when I started this blog the few readers who read were all kind of aware of the back-story. It remained like that till a few months back. At least that’s what I was thinking. I certainly had no inkling that my blog would be noticed by Ravi Belagere, let alone that he would write about it.

Mr.Belagere’s article, links from other blogs and websites – including those written by eminent writers like U.B.Pavanaja and M.S.Sriram who mentioned my blog in Sudha –- have brought in many readers.

I hope this explanation provides some context to the readers of my blog.

13 Comments:

Anonymous Srivathsa Joshi said...

Good factsheet or FAQs answered.

But how come your editorial "we" became "I" in this post?

:-)

Sep 25, 2006, 4:53:00 PM  
Blogger Sanjaya said...

Joshiyavarige namaskaara.

I decided "I" would be better here because it's quite personal in nature. And I also wanted to reassure myself that I really do not have multipler personality disorder ;-)

Regards.

Sep 26, 2006, 12:24:00 AM  
Blogger Dr U B Pavanaja said...

First I was surprised to see that you have mentioned me as eminent writer. I was wondering when did I get this status. Then I realised that it is under "noorentusullu" :)

-Pavanaja

Sep 28, 2006, 12:22:00 AM  
Blogger Sanjaya said...

Pavanaja,

I am sorry for that epithet!

Sep 28, 2006, 5:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Sanjaya,
Never expected this from you. You declined to publish my comments on Dr.Pavanaja. I waited for almost 12 days. But you avoided my comments on him. This is not fair. If so, what can I expect from you? You have a nasty mind.
- Srinivasmurthy,Bangalore

Oct 8, 2006, 2:29:00 PM  
Blogger Sanjaya said...

Dear Srinivasamurthy,

I am sorry. I accidentally rejected your earlier comments. I believe you wrote that Dr.Pavanaja is neither eminent nor a writer.

I beg to differ from you. Eminence is a relative term. Your idea of eminence could very well be different from mine.

There was also something else that you wrote. About me, I guess. But, I didn't understand it.

While I plan to publish almost all the comments -- including the ones that attack me -- I still retain the right to not publish any comments that I might find offensive.

Regards

Oct 9, 2006, 1:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Sanjaya,

How can you reject accidentally? It is intentional. Anyway you have every 'right' to reject it.

Now I am convinced that you have every right to manufacture, frameand design the feedback according to your whims and fancies.

You are doing this at the cost of fairness. That's the tragedy of your blog.

You do not have any right to comment on others follies since you are commiting the same brazenly. We lost otherwise one of the fine blogs.

_ Srinivasmurthy, Bangalore

Oct 9, 2006, 2:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Sanjaya,

One more thing. I know that eminence is a relative term but you cannot use it for Tom, Dick and Harry.

According to you anybody can use this term for anybody and yet defend it because as you said it is relative.

What is this logic? Hope it gets published. Any way you have every right to reject it, isn't it?

- Srinivasmurthy, Bangalore

Oct 9, 2006, 2:31:00 PM  
Blogger Sanjaya said...

Dear Srinivasamurthy,

I -- a novice -- consider any writer who has published many articles in newspapers, magazines, has written a regular column for a newspaper is an "eminent" writer. Of course, it helps when I like his writings and he also expresses a few kind words about my blog.

You think I am using the word "eminent" in a loose manner. Obviously your standards are higher.

Could we end this debate here?

As far as accidentally rejecting your comments. Here is how it happened:

I do get a handful of abusive comments on a regular basis. (The kind which abuses my family members, "Will urinate on your face", etc.) I have no desire to publish such comments. In fact, I started comment moderation only after I saw such comments.

While rejecting these comments, I accidentally selected yours too for rejection.

If you still think I rejected your comments intentionally, I really can't help it.

Thanks for reading my blog and calling it "one of the fine blogs".

If you wish, you may want to comment on it further, but I think I have said all that I can say.

Regards.

Oct 10, 2006, 1:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Sanjaya,

I do not want to comment on it. But the crux of the debate is how can you use the epithet - eminent - to a writer like Dr.Pavanaja.

You can say he is a writer but not eminent writer. Just because he reads your blog or your friend, it is not proper on your part to say eminent writer.

Tomorrow you may use the same term to me!

If you write on the term -recent- you should have aware while using the term eminent.

Take back the epithet given to "eminent writer"

- Srinivasmurthy, Bangalore

Oct 10, 2006, 6:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am an avid reader of Dr Pavanaja's articles. His column in Vijaya Karnataka called iLe was the best that I have ever read about Kannada and computers. I don't know what was the reason for stopping that column. His article "maahithi thaMrjnaanadha ELu beeLugaLu" was orignally appeared in the magazine Hosathu published by Nakarnataka Publications. They compiled best of their 5 years and this article was also present among the best. The same article is now included in the Kannada text book of Mangalore University for first year degree. Is this enough to call him eminent?

I really hate people use the term eminent writer only for those who write only literary articles. According to me BGL Swamy, Nagesh Hegde, CR Chandrashekhar, etc., who write Kannada scince artlces are all eminent writers. In fact, their writings have more use to the people than those written by the so called budhijeevis.

- Sunil P. Rao, Udupi

Nov 9, 2006, 8:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Sunil Rao,
Thank you for your analysis for the word - eminent. Really you are an eminent (letter) writer!!

-Smitha, Chikkamagalur

Nov 11, 2006, 8:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yaake bareyththilla? Moorkha maga maththu avana dushta appa idee raajyana hege aaposhana thegedukolluthiddaare ithyaadigala bagge nimma annisike thilisi.

Dec 27, 2006, 8:30:00 AM  

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