Karela Fry

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What does this say about reporters?

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Yesterday TOI reported:

Listening to music on his cellphone while crossing the tracks cost a teenager his life on Wednesday. So horrific was the scene of the accident that even railway policemen, who witnessed it, were numbed with shock.

Omkar Satam (16), a first-year junior college student, was headed for Sathaye College, Vile Parle (East), from his home in Gandhi Nagar, Jogeshwari. It was around 12.30 pm; he had plugged in his earphones and was listening to music.

“We were patrolling the stretch of tracks between Jogeshwari and Andheri stations. Suddenly, we heard the motorman of a Virar-bound fast local blowing the horn continuously. He was trying to catch the attention of a youngster who was crossing track number three near a level-crossing. But the boy was so engrossed in his music that he failed to see the approaching train,” said senior inspector Tukaram Shinde of the Government Railway Police (GRP), Andheri.

A clear case, it seemed; the usual problem with teenagers turning tragic. What was the need to dig deeper? A police inspector has to be believed.

Today the venerable TOI backtracked:

Kin of Omkar Satam, who was killed while crossing the railway tracks near Jogeshwari station, have refuted the police claim that Satam was listening to music on his phone and had earphones on. Satam (16), a first-year junior college student, was headed to his Vile Parle college at the time of the incident.

Railway police officials said they had witnessed Satam crossing the tracks with earphones on and failing to see the approaching train. Satam’s relatives however told TOI that he didn’t own a cellphone and none was recovered from the accident spot. “Omkar’s parents were unable to buy a handset for him and he didn’t own a music player. The police panchnama doesn’t mention any earphones or cellphone being recovered from the accident spot,” his cousin told TOI.

Again, this is hearsay being presented as news. In the first place the reporter should have checked whether the police inspector was present at the time of death, and looked at the police report. Now that a discrepancy has been claimed, wouldn’t it be a reporter’s job to follow up by looking at the police report?

This is not a politically big case; the tragedy will strike only the family and friends. However, this callous disregard for journalistic norms seems to be followed even in larger cases where first the police’s version is reported without cross check, and then opposite views are also presented without cross check. Even the number of bomb blasts in a terrorist attack, the number of coaches involved in a train accident, nothing is cross checked. TOI was just an example, but this problem is widespread. What we are being given is not journalism, it is gossip.

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

August 31, 2012 at 5:34 am

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