TOI: Times of Irony

December 2013 Tarun Tejpal, editor in chief of Tehelka magazine was arrested under the new stringent rape law. It was the first time the nation saw media misusing their power. A person who was known for his progressive values hurt the Indian’s. Cut to September 2014, TOI has done a similar kind of thing. By using cheap journalism, leaving the moral values behind they have disrespected the dignity of a celebrity and used it to create a buzz for itself. Shouting on others when they pass derogatory comments, TOI has this time done something ironical.

What a platform journalism is, and how big the power this media world enjoys. But I guess they forgot to watch Spiderman. And so obviously, they don’t know the fact that “With Great Power, comes Great Responsibility.”  In the history of media, never have I seen such a misuse of power; I may call it a publicity stunt on the part of the media house or desperation to reach the top or a bad PR idea. But whatever it is every single person in this country, India, is lashing against TOI for its action.

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So the whole story starts one year back. Yes, a one year old video of Deepika Padukone while promoting Chennai Express is suddenly tweeted by online entertainment section of TOI,  with the headline- “OMG: Deepika Padukone Exposes Cleavage!”. And it all started. Such a sensational headline did not go well with Deepika Padukone. She tweeted back against the national daily. And a series of tweets and reply tweets followed, along with various Bollywood celebrities and her fans in support of her. After all this fuss,  the TOI entertainment online,  did remove the original post of video and the first response, but what they published as their first page news on 22nd September was lack of ethics, shocking, unexpected and every other adjective of such sort you can think of.

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Deepika on 19th September asked everyone to end this debate then and there by an online post on Facebook. It was a strongly worded post stating- “A character may demand that I be clothed from head to toe or be completely naked, and it will be my choice as an actor whether or not I take either. Understand that this is a ROLE and not REAL, and it is my job to portray whatever character I choose to play convincingly.” Further she went on to disagree with the way TOI had headlined the article to attract the reader’s attention.  And saying many other things she ended the note asking everyone to love and respect each other’s dignity. “It is not about breasts, penises, or any other body part being reported. It is a matter of context and how out-of-context the reportage is just to sell a headline and more so during a time in dire need of an attitude shift towards women.” These words by Deepika in her post aptly describe that what wrong did Times of India by using its power of influence and coming up with such cheap journalism.

Here comes the irony. Have you ever seen a small child who is forcefully asked to apologise and cheers, he does so also but with a sarcastic tone. The child keeps on questioning; how am I wrong, what’s my fault and under pressure tries to show regret.  So, TOI behaved in a similar manner. Using Bombay Times for saying sorry it also decided to defend its action while blaming Dippy at the same time. It resorted to playing the blame game. The words of the article are highly derogatory. They claim DP as a hypocrite, ‘calendar girl for Kingfisher’ and a person who can show cleavage in reel life but not real. The TOI editors even shelter their headline by saying that social media is such, where in, to have their article read “such” headlines are needed.   By the end of the published ‘point of view of TOI’, they go to the extent of demanding for a censor board for pictures of stars taken and calling it a publicity stunt by Deepika. Giving their point of view instead of straight away apologising for their behaviour they chose to refute every possible angle to the controversy.

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Times of India have made its own set of journalism ethics. They have shown heights of desperation. Openly they state that such headlines are a must in social life and as per them it is what everyone does to be visible amongst the loads of information on web. This is the same TOI claiming of “Teach India” and parallel they are tweeting cleavage exposal headlines. It is acting as one of those dreaded paparazzi, hampering the privacy of celebrities. The same national daily becomes the baton when women harassment cases crop up in nation. And god forbid if a politician goes on to say something against the women only in such cases then, this media only gets after their life. Will they now get after their own lives, because they have become those same politicians in the present scenario?  Those heavy named campaigns, corporate social responsibility claims have lost their charm after such behaviour.

Is this the kind of independent journalism India looks forward to? Will this be another by the way incident of media wars in this 21st century or will this lead to a change? In all this online debate something good which has come out is the way people have defended and supported DP. Indians are ready to stand for such behaviours. Also every other national daily has not taken this action by TOI as a good one. The Hindu has written an open letter to TOI arguing their point of view. They believe in editorial values and ethics which need to be followed by every media house for every medium they approach. There is a limit to what can be published and how should it be. The Hindu respects the privacy of celebrities and urges TOI to understand the reason behind Deepika getting furious. It being a student of a good school believes in apologising for a mistake if it has hurt someone, even if you have your own reasons to be correct.

To me all this was not a joke as has been made by TOI. It was rather a serious issue. TOI has surely inked his image which was created after successful efforts. I still hope of a better handling of the issue by TOI since a lot can be saved by it even now. The rest I leave it to you to choose!

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