Not like you and me

Times of India’s website, timesofindia.com carries a report on how the late Andhra CM, YSR Reddy met a sudden death on his Bell chopper. The report also carries a picture of the body of the CM, that was found by the search party after more than 24 hours of the chopper’s disappearance.

The picture is probably the most horrifying picture I have ever seen of the deceased, put on a leading newspaper’s website — charred remains of the body of a man beyond visual recognition. A link below the picture takes the reader to another two photos, one of them of the diseased pilot. Its gory enough to make the average human feel sick.

As I write this, the story has about 37 comments posted by people like you and me. Out of these 37, at least 26 people have condemned or requested (or both) the TOI editors to remove the picture of the corpse as it defies sensitivities and sensibilities. The comments section is moderated by someone at TOI, surely not someone like you and me — for moderation means that the comments are read. And since the picture is still there after about 48 hours of the story, it probably means that someone at TOI does not give a damn.

But yes, the story features in the “Most commented” section of the website.

I think responsible media organizations draw their own lines in reporting and journalism. Ideally, I think every single word and picture that goes into the website should pass through the same filtering that is applied to its counterpart in the print media. I raise up this point because the same article in print, in yesterday’s TOI’s copy does not carry this gory picture. Clearly, the filtering mechanism, if it ever existed for Times Of India’s website, failed here. And since the forum below the article at the website is moderated, it would be a safe assumption that the comments of the readers were read but those guys at the TOI chose to discard them. It is dangerous — a newspaper is supposed to be the people. Is this newspaper run by insensitive incompetents?

But among all things, it baffles me what TOI has achieved by letting this picture be a part of their online article. Does a degree of real life horror and vulgarity help them getting more hits? And more comments? Even if the comments are nothing but a collective condemnation of the report?

PS: Some people say that this is what people want. This horror sells, just like sex. But I am not buying that. I do not think that this is permissible. I think what TOI did was an exploitation of lack of the laws which could have censored those pictures. That is exactly what I meant when I said that media has to draw its own lines. One cannot keep ignoring this because TOI has always done “things like this” before. Well, I don’t think so — I don’t this has ever happened before, I think this was a new low. Do you think there will be people who will suddenly switch to TOI, the newspaper, after they see this picture on their website? How will it help TOI, I wonder, apart from getting those few more clicks?

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A story that I think is needed to be told is at Dilip’s blog. I won’t give a summary of what lies there but let me ask you this — In a religious place and one of the country’s most beautiful monuments and a tourist attraction — a place that is frequented by millions, why is it considered OK to call the assassins of the Country’s Prime Minister, martyrs? Published in The Hindustan Times, the story, from Dilip’s blog here.

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