Wire agencies are the backbone of newspapers, small and large. They supply news stories, features and opinion articles nowadays. Most newspapers, websites and magazines have deep desks but small newspapers and websites don’t they tend to take wire copy as the gospel truth. That is where Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) has let down its subscribers first, the readers next and Prime Minister Narendra Modi next.
On September 12, IANS put out a wire story on announcements after a Union Cabinet meeting held under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Modi. The copy was about the pro-farmer scheme announced. The IANS wire copy referred to PM Modi as “Prime Minister Narendra Bakhchod Modi”. Yes, you read that right. While it may be that the gag-team All India Bakchod had trolled the PM with posters aping the US film The Nun and the Nike ad featuring Colin Kaepernick, the mistake made by the agency out-trolls AIB and portrays the Indian PM in bad light, whatever be the political differences one has with him or his party and his government.
IANS is not a spring chicken, it has been in the business for over 25 years and has built up its credibility at pains in stiff competition with PTI and other wires. Consequently, several senior journalists of IANS have been sacked for the error.
Soon after the copy went out, Twitter was agog with the error and a screenshot of the error. This resulted in IANS killing the copy and superseding it with a corrected version. But the damage had been done.
A Newslaundry report said IANS killed their previous story and replaced it with a new one at 6:52 pm on September 12. Reports said the reporter who published the copy was fired immediately and a show-cause notice was issued to the concerned editor. The probe is still pending against the sacked employee.
Meanwhile, IANS issued a statement stating it remains committed to the “highest norms of journalistic ethics and excellence”. IANS Managing Editor Hardev Sanotra said such “mistakes sometimes do unfortunately take place”. Sanotra admitted that the error was “unacceptable” and “unconscionable”.
Wires have deep desks and at least 3 or 4 levels of checks are passed before a feed goes out. Granted, they may have freshers on subsistence wages but seniors do look at the copy. With ball-by-ball and minute-by-minute coverage on TV and the web, have wire services, a legacy media product, outlived their use.
IANS will not have the answers to all the ills surrounding the media, it will surely examine and audit the processes. But it was mighty cheap that the word crept into the Prime Minister’s name.