Some journalists are pinheads. But all journalists come loaded with questions in their heads. Suspicious to a fault, journalists have a questioning mind. Some even questionable minds. Hacks at heart, they hack into lives without a ‘May I?’ These days of Social Media they are prone to lay out in public domain questionable stories. Like the one by journalist Sanya Dhingra@DhingraSanya of The Print who tweeted: “Seen in Delhi metro: Mother and child take seats while the child’s nanny sits on the floor on a fairly empty train. Caste/class discrimination really is space-agnostic.
That was on January 20. It didn’t take long for the tweet to go viral. Twitterati are like mice, waiting for such tidbits. The responses ranged from the caustic to angry, judgemental to sympathetic to outright condemnation. Soon enough Journalist #2 of Times.com spotted the tweet and started a story with questions “How many of you enjoy sitting on the floor in Delhi Metro? How many of you have deliberately forsaken a seat to enjoy sitting cross-legged on the floor peppered with dirty footsteps? Not many, we assume… Yesterday, a photograph went viral on social media that showed a mother and her child sitting in the seats while their nanny/caretaker sat on the floor. In this case, the unavailability of the seat was not a problem, at all…Now, as we will see, the people debating over it have seen an apparent class distinction in the photo. As a society where such differences are glaringly prevalent, it seemed like a normal discussion.”
So J#2 furthered J#1’s thread of thought and the “tweeple” got excited, hooked. The interesting part was J#2 was not aware that J#1 Dhingra was a journalist. But there was a J#3, too – the editor of The Print, Shekhar Gupta, who knew that fact and who used his powerful pen to collar the woman-with-the-child and condemn her to the lowest berth in human behaviour. Once a check-before-you-write conscientious journalist, Gupta has of late become ‘Off the Cuff’. “This brilliant, eye-opening picture tells us more than a thousand words on our class differences and the way we treat our domestic workers,” he wrote in an editorial.
None of the three journalists got all the facts of the story. Dhingra birthed the story by answering questions in her mind. J#2 picked up the tweet and went the whole hog without getting hold of the spare parts. And then ‘Off the Cuff much-seasoned journalist’ Shekhar Gupta, without even trying to know if the pickle served by his “brilliant” reporter had all the ingredients, indicted the woman with the toddler with a “malik-naukar” discrimination charge.
But stories don’t end without all questions answered. This one was no exception. The answer to “whole” the story with holes came only on January 23 when Kshitij Dhamija, the brother of the woman with the toddler on the Delhi Metro, tweeted to Gupta and Dhingra a blog post of his sister titled Discrimination in Metro: The Whole Story”.
The sister, a doctor of AIIMS, wrote in the blog that she along with her child and his nanny boarded the Metro with loads of luggage and because the Metro compartment was crowded, they sat on the floor. But the hyperactive toddler wouldn’t sit at one place, so she walked the child in the compartment.
By then Dhingra had already entered the coach and had spotted the story. Soon, the compartment had some vacant seats and Dhingra-the-journalist with questions in her head, asked the nanny, why was she sitting on the floor? The nanny said she was comfortable on the floor and ‘Dr. AIIMS’ chipped in with “We are about to get down.”
It is only after Gupta wrote his editorial on January 22 that the doctor got to know she was the subject of viral ‘class/caste discrimination’. “I was dumbstruck and furious at the same time,” she wrote in her blog, and claimed that Dhingra “saw everything”, of her walking her child in the compartment.
So, she made a call to “confront” Dhingra. But Dhingra, Gupta’s colleague and “brilliant” journalist, chose to claim entitlement than apologise. “I refused to apologise or take the picture down when contacted by the doctor because the picture was shot as a commentary on our blinding privileged morality as it tells an important, fully factual story entirely in public interest. I and my editors fully stand by it.” She said she caught on to the truth from the eagerness of the woman with the toddler to answer for the nanny.
The outcome was “people talking” on social Media. “What do you think could have prompted the caretaker to sit on the floor? Maybe the photographer was too quick to judge and could have solved the problem by offering the lady the vacant seat next to her. Or maybe, it really is a caste-based conditioning that allows people of the lower strata to behave in a certain way. Whatever it was, it certainly led to people talking and that alone suggests that only change can subvert the divisions between the privileged and the not-so-privileged,” one twitter tweeted.
Times.com chose to give the doctor’s side of the story on January 24. But The Print refused to print the “whole” story. ‘Dr in AIIMS’ has called The Print journalism “sick journalism” and has accused Dhingra of being an “irresponsible journalist” who took “advantage” of the situation. “Now what do I do?” the doctor asked. Nothing by the looks of it because journalists on entitlement don’t apologise for the entitlement. They are on an assumption island all their own. They shoot off questions in their head and then hide behind the thick hide of ‘don’t shoot the messenger’.
The post On Delhi Metro, an ‘eye-opening picture’ of ‘sick journalism’ appeared first on Newspack by India Press Agency.