September 12, 2012

Talk about ethics

I've been trying to leave this post as a comment at this post: All Facts: No Conjecture, but it has not made it through moderation there. Please read it first.

Now ...

Let's see what we have here. Halarnkar writes an article. Babu thinks it is "plagiarized". He tells Mishra. Mishra then dissects Halarnkar's article and finds parts of it are not attributed in place to Lappé (Lappé's name and a quote from her do appear later in Halarnkar's article).

Fine so far. I have no problem with anyone dissecting anyone's article.

First "hmm" moment: Mishra goes public with this dissection, in a post on his own site titled Samar Halarnkar and Ethics?. There's no attempt made to ask Halarnkar what he has to say, what explanation he might have, so that might at least form part of the post. Any excuse that Mishra did not know how to ask for a response ("how do I ask for a response" are his own words in a tweet today) is so much hogwash, because in the post is this sentence: "[Halarnkar] tweets at handle @samar11".

Second "hmm" moment: Niti Central then publishes this post on their site. Again, there's no attempt made to ask Halarnkar for an explanation.

Third "hmm" moment: On the Niti Central site, the post has a different title. It is now "Left liberal journalists and ethics". Whether on Mishra's site or on Niti Central, the post is about ONE journalist, but Mishra and Niti Central have decided that this gives them leverage to question the ethics of ALL "left-liberal" journalists, whoever those are. (Mishra probably telegraphs that intent with this line in his post: "[Halarnkar] is part of an endangered species of 'Indian liberals'").

Mishra and Niti Central want to discuss ethics? Tell me another one.

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Postscript #1: Unlike Mishra's reluctance to ask Halarnkar for a response, I asked Mishra to correct this title. His response: "that is part of the story. It is not an error."

Postscript #2: As is also well-known by now, Niti Central also posted a piece about Aseem Trivedi that turned out to be taken from an earlier NDTV report. They have removed that now, leaving up only a note that speaks of a "regrettable error" by "an enthusiastic junior member of the editorial staff."

Funny: for Halarnkar, it's plagiarism. For this junior member, it's enthusiasm.

But funnier: I am yet to see anyone -- Mishra, Niti Central or anyone -- putting up a post dissecting that Aseem Trivedi article that copied from NDTV, and calling that post "Right-conservative journalists and ethics".

Yes, tell me about ethics.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hahaha. Poor D'Souza finally got a taste of his own medicine and has his voice muffled. Oh no D'souza, your comments are completely constructive, and nobody should ever moderate them. Your comments are moderated because you are also a known troll.

Anonymous said...

My "hmm" comment is, how'd this get to be about NitiCentral or Mr Mishra, neither of whom any of us hold a brief for?
I mean c'mon, everybody in the media (& beyond) knows the antecedents of NitiCentral. And Mr Mishra's own leanings too, are well known.
To my mind this ought to have been about dispassionately analysing whether a case for plagiarism could be made or not.
Instead it has become about whether one one is inclined towards the "left-liberal" ideology of Mr Halarnkar or the "right-conservative" one of NitiCentral.
I was particularly pained to hear the word 'witch-hunt' being applied to those who, like me, feel that a case for plagiarism does indeed exist in this instance.
I can totally get somebody not agreeing with my conclusion. But please, can we steer clear of the gratuitous labelling?
Finally, at the risk of being being patronizing, I think anyone but the most simple-minded of us will understand that even if a case of plagiarism is proved in this instance, it no more tarnishes the rest of Mr Halarnkar's sterling body of work, than the case of plagiarism against Fareed Zakaria besmirched his own earlier output.
I only wish Mr Halarnkar had been as accepting of his misconduct in this case as Mr Zakaria was. That, and not the instance of plagiarism per se, has diminished Mr Halarnkar in my eyes.
@Psnide

Dilip D'Souza said...

Psnide: No, as far as I'm not concerned this is not about which ideology you are inclined toward. I'm only picking up on that sole mention of ethics.

Frankly, and like you, I think Samar H could and should have simply said something like: "yes, the material was from her article, it was my mistake that I did not make that clear in the exact place I mentioned it, I'm sorry I did not and I'm making the change right now." This would have taken the wind out of the sails of the Mishras, leaving them with nothing to carry on.

His reply to the NL site, I think, only compounds his problems, giving the Mishras even more ammo to bash him with.

The case for plagiarism, Mishra has laid out. I'm uninterested in contesting that because it's essentially unresolvable. I don't see it as what I consider to be plagiarism, Mishra does; he will keep believing it is, I will keep believing it is not.

Therefore, and since Mishra mentions "ethics", and especially because he first engaged me by pointing me to the ethics of NitiCentral's "regrettable error" post, I chose to focus on ethics. Three questions arise then:

1) What are the ethics of making that post without any attempt to ask Samar H for an explanation?

2) What are the ethics of using your critique of ONE journalist to label a whole set of journalists?

3) What are the ethics of an entire news organization, NitiCentral in this case, being party to both the above issues?

To me, these are the issues. Not the plagiarism.

To me, the witch hunt is not the dissection of Samar H's article, or the allegation of plagiarism. As I said, anyone's article can (and should) be examined.

The witch hunt is embodied in questions 1 and 2 above.

I'm uninterested in labels. I only said "right-conservative" to show up the use of "left-liberal".

Tarun Pall said...

All you have to do is post, D'Souza, and I'm here to try to annoy you. Like I did on the NewsLundry site also, calling myself my usual "Azous D'Pilid". (No, don't ask once more, I cannot spell right backwards). Like I did a few weeks ago, on your Caravan coaching article, being clever enough to change the name slightly there.

Though natrually, I dont want to use my own name, Tarun Pall.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Oh get lost. Yeah, against my better judgement I'm reacting, but just get lost. Your posing is putrid, that's all. Goodbye.

R said...

For your kind information: Mishra's friend, Rakesh Babu, who first flagged this issue, contacted Samar on twitter and asked a simple a question

http://twitter.com/raksopenmind/status/244028301012779009

This was days before Mishra wrote the blog. What was the result ? Rakesh was blocked.

https://twitter.com/raksopenmind/status/244036717412249600

It is after that Mishra wrote his opinion, on his blog.

Enough about not asking for response.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Interesting. I wonder in this post why Mishra did not ask for Halarnkar's response.

By way of reply, I am told that Babu, Mishra's friend, asked for Halarnkar's response.

Not even Mishra offered this explanation. He said, "how do I ask for a response?", and offered up Halarnkar's twitter handle.

Never mind. This is truly an interesting idea. The next time my editor asks me why I haven't sent in my article, I'll make sure to reply: "For your kind information, my friend Ramdulari sent in his article. Enough about asking for articles."

Ankit said...

This is comic. Harlankar plagiarizes, Mishra and Babu point it out and what does D'souza do? He blasts Mishra blasts Mishra and Babu for the way Mishra writes his article!

When Babu asks for explanation from Harlankar on twitter, what happens? He gets blocked. This is same as a news org asking for explanation and getting no response ( in fact, the phone disconnected would be more like it).

The only explanation for D'souza being so mad is the following : Mishra is on the right, and Harlankar is a fellow traveler on the left. So, D'souza takes partisan line and attacks the bigoted right winger. Only thing is, in the real world being a right winger is no more a disqualifier than being a left winger.

Dear D'souza, plagiarism by Harlankar is no better, or worse, than plagiarism by Niticentral. Oh, and if Niticentral acknowledges an error it makes better than HT, even if by just a hair's breadth.

Dilip D'Souza said...

More interesting stuff.

Mishra writes up the case of this one journalist and then puts it on NitiCentral with the title "Left-liberal journalists and ethics".

That is, he and NC have explicitly taken this so-called "partisan line", attacking not just one journalist (Halarnkar), but ALL "left-liberal" journalists.

I call them on that, and one Ankit pops up to say I'm taking the partisan line. No, of course the said Ankit did not point that shaky finger at Mishra and NC.

For what it's worth, I couldn't care less who's on the left and who's on the right here. Like I said, I have no problem with anyone dissecting anyone's article. I don't consider this to be plagiarism, Mishra does; fine, Mishra is entitled to his opinion.

What I do care about is that going by how they have handled this episode, Mishra and NC have no sense of ethics. As detailed in those three "Hmm" moments.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Sorry, I forgot to react to this wisdom:

When Babu asks for explanation from Harlankar on twitter, what happens? He gets blocked. This is same as a news org asking for explanation and getting no response ( in fact, the phone disconnected would be more like it).

Maybe so, but what's the point? What's the relevance to this post, of Babu asking for things and getting blocked and phones getting disconnected and so on? (Are you next going to tell me about Babu's brother combing his hair?)

Mishra went public with his analysis without any attempt to ask Halarnkar for his response. This is no conjecture on my part, Mishra himself says so ("how do I ask for a response"). NitiCentral also made no attempt to ask Halarnkar for his response before airing Mishra's article.

What does somebody else's tweeting and getting blocked have to do with this?

Anonymous said...

Dear Dilip, When Rakesh Babu contacted Samar and asked a fair question, Samar did not respond (instead of responding, it appears that he blocked Rakesh). Do you agree that this was unethical ?

Dilip D'Souza said...

This post is about Mishra, NC and Halarnkar. It comes as no surprise to me that there are guys who come here seeking answers to all manner of other questions.

I have my opinions on Babu. But you're commenting on this post. So you address what's in it, meaning you give me an opinion on the ethical issues I've touched on in those "hmm" moments, and I'll be happy to give you my opinions on Babu.

Try it.

Ankit said...

Dear Anonymous, you have to understand why this post is not about Babu.

Babu read Halarnkar's article and found out that it was plagiarized. He then went ahead and tweeted to Halarnkar to get his response. Halarnkar, in his imperiousness, brushed it off and blocked Babu. This clearly shows that Halarnkar chose not to respond to a question that was put to him about allegations of plagiarism. All this puts Halarnkar in a bad light, and that is precisely the reason why this article is not about Babu.

Get it straight :)