Think before you write

I have been simply amazed by the IIPM episode and the happenings in the Indiblogdom for the past few days. While it cannot be denied that bloggers are supposed to remain united at times of distress such as this, especially when the episode took a bad turn and one of the vociferous blogger has to quit his job, I find it amazing that so many blog posts sprouted steadily grudging against IIPM and Arundam Cahudhary. I cannot vouch for it, but most of the posts contain unsubstantiated allegations and sadly, the language is no different from that used in the said “fake blogs” or the comments at Rashmi's blog. I don't think if there is any way to verify whether these comments and blog-posts were indeed posted by the IIPM students only. Moreover, even if they were, do they represent the official IIPM view?

This is what I understood of the whole episode:

  • A magazine publisher Rashmi Bansal also happens to run a blog called “Youth Curry”. Her publication JAM, a youth magazine, runs an investigative story on IIPM. They had fathomed lot of unknown facts,
    but they choose not to publish the IIPM's version.
  • Another blogger Gaurav links to this story
  • Gaurav gets a legal notice over email which he does not take very seriously (I am unable to get this part though, shouldn't this notice have been slapped on the JAM magazine?)
  • This ignites the IIPM rage in the blogdom and every blogger worth his salt, has a post condemning IIPM in a bid to uphold the “freedom of speech”. A lot many so-called fake blogs also mushroom that bloat in favour of the institute.
  • In a strange turn of events, IBM is arm-twisted by IIPM, one of its clients, to take action against Gaurav. Gaurav listens to his inner voice and decides to resign without any instigation from IBM.

In all this, the bad part have been the “fake blogs” who actually made the matter worse and indeed the IIPM administrative staff that did not deem it fit to talk to the bloggers directly. Still I do not find any version of IIPM anywhere and that is probably the worst part of this whole episode. If there is an aspect of the Mediaah story, there is always another point of view, and both deserve a mention. When things take this proportion, and when people have been writing to Instapundit and Newspapers for support, it would have been better to write to Arindam and IIPM asking for their version. I think even Gaurav realized that the huge outrage against the institution might very well hurt the career prospects of the students there.

The point that has been unarguably been proven here is that a line needs to be drawn between blogging and journalism. Though the conviction has been strengthened by entry of the “journalism dropouts”, as someone pointed out recently, blogging IMHO is not journalism, it cannot be, because being run by individuals the facts are not seldom verified, nobody checks your copy, and as an author you're mostly forgiven for behaving irresponsibly, or shall I say unethically. When others link to you, they become part of the same vicious circle.

IMHO for an employed blogger, for whom blogging is not a profession, it is all the more necessary to think twice before writing anything and ascertain before clicking the publish button that the matter does not conflict with the interests or IPR of their employer. While it was very dignified for Gaurav to quit IBM but I think he should have been careful because he had to pay a heavy price and the entire episode may have tarnished IBM's image too. This is also high time that the employers decide on formulating a clear blogging policy for their employees, the lack of any such policy only adds to the confusion to the extent to which one could write on his blog.

I just wish the blogdom sheds this attitude of turning any such episode to “David vs Goliath” proportions, I could empathise with fellow bloggers, the kick they are getting on being “instapundited” and all, but I wait for the day when we could really claim to be non-partisan and ethical in what we all blog.

Update [17 Oct]: When I did not get many comments on this post I wasn't startled, for my post was marked at Desipundit as a “pro-post”. And I wondered if I am the only one who thought “against the current”. However, in the crowd of posts I did not notice that few others had expressed views simiar to mine. Savor these:

9 Replies to “Think before you write”

  1. Nitin,

    The silence maintained by IIPM is indeed intrigueing. But I am sure that the Legal notices sent were as fake as the pro-IIPM blogs that mushroomed at the time. IIPM, like most of our savvy people who know that public memory is very short, might have thought that keeping mum will not flare the issue and the dust of criticsm will settle down on its own.

    >>students and alumni of IIPM must ask the
    >>IIPM management to clarify the air in public.
    Can’t agree more.

  2. Debashish,

    I’m glad that you’ve written about the need for greater responsibility and circumspection on the part of bloggers, especially in matters of public interest. I think your criticism of bloggers trying to eke out hits, MSM citations etc are fair; the issue has grown so large within the blogosphere that the essence of it is getting lost.

    If you look at the core issue, it is a factual article published by JAM, and a related opinion piece published by Gaurav. Both these articles/posts were within the limits of civil discourse. If IIPM felt that it had been misrepresented or wrongly criticised, then what it should have done is to write to the JAM editor and to Gaurav and Rashmi to clarify the matter. I’m sure they would have published IIPM’s response, even if IIPM did not present facts in its defence.

    But IIPM’s strong-arm tactics, threats of lawsuits and agitations (to Gaurav’s employer) do not fall within the norms of civil behaviour. Sending misleading legal notices and forcing Gaurav out of his job was an aggressive response. If they got aggression in response, then bloggers cannot be blamed for it. In fact, most of the well-known bloggers have been civil, rational and responsible in their coverage of the IIPM issue.

    IIPM should publicly clarify its position on all the factual inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have now been dug out by various bloggers. Why doesn’t it do so? In fact, students and alumni of IIPM must ask the IIPM management to clarify the air in public. They have paid good money based on certain claims made, and it is their right to hold IIPM to the promises it made.

  3. no one is threatening to burn IBM laptops if they did issue a press statement

    Sig-11, Was “burning the laptops” an official response of IIPM? Again it’s just hearsay or at the most the retalitatory statement from their students. And that’s the real issue here. All the while we have been treating the student’s reaction as IIMP’s official reaction.

  4. >>Is “freedom of speech” not relevent for IIPM?

    First, let me make my position clear, I am not approaching this as a case of steamy rotten story scam that JAM and the bloggers are trying to expose. Somehow, I do not see myself associating with that.

    Give that, I find the quoted statement of yours interesting in another way. Is anyone denying or trying to deny IIPM the chance to speak for themselves? Maybe JAM may have not given them a chance to respond (I don’t know if this is true or otherwise), but no one is threatening to burn IBM laptops if they did issue a press statement to clarify their position. IIPM was acting within their right to sue JAM, but they should have stopped at that.

  5. That was the main point Harini, that IIPM was not quoted anywhere. Moreover, all the bloggers treated the posts at fake blogs of IIP students and their comments on various blogs as the official view of IIPM. How can they assume that IIPM instigated its students to do this mud slinging?

    The whole attitude of blogdom has been to take revenge and get ?footage? out of it. Moreover, if this really was a ?fight for justice? why this excitement on being talked about in Newspapers or the hits and referrers. I am sure many of the bloggers who wrote on this, giving it fervor of ?freedom of speech?, had no right to write, not because of another reason but due to the fact that they were ignorant of any facts. Various newspaper and magazine reposts that were referenced during this dance existed much before but nobody noticed. People just linked and spewed venom without applying any mind.

    Blogging is meant for a healthy conversation but unfortunately, many of us have started perching on punditry. While it is good to have views, agree or disagree with others, but in this case, it has been an outright libel against IIPM. Where is the conversation part here? I think IIPM had every right to sue them for this libel. The only thing foolish on IIPM?s part has been that they kept mum and abstained from giving an official account of all this, and probably this is what added fuel to fire too.

    Lastly, how many of us can take criticism positively, and here the criticism was grossly unfounded. This could have been the reason for the outrage amongst IIPM students and we all know that their act was borne out of ?mob mentality?, a phenomenon not uncommon in the student community. Nevertheless, the same mentality was seen amongst us also, people made derogatory posts, several fake ?ponytail? blogs surfaced overnight; we even went to the extent of soiling the Wikipedia rejoicing the swelling ?hit counters?.

    We the bloggers have been wondering on why IIPM could not take the criticism well, I can only say that most of us get irrigated at any inflammatory comment we get at our own blogs. Infact one of the prominent bloggers in Indiblogdom, who has been part of this criticism cartel, has comments disabled on his blog. Criticism should be a two-way process; you have to debate it out. Why should people who do not believe in a ?dialog? themselves be treated seriously when they are better only at criticizing others with their ears shut?
    I know it is difficult being non-partisan, but we could have tried, as I tried at the ?Nirantar? blogzine on the Mediaah, all the views deserve proper ?footage?.

    As you said Harini, the debate should have been not on IIPM, but on such educations institutions who hide facts or exaggerate their potential or are defying norms.

  6. i guess there are two issues here:
    a) is the quality of the insitute – which rashmi JAM covered, Rashmi blogged about and Gaurav linked to. In this of course IIPM could have been quoted. But, if they did not respond to calls or mail or offers to respond, then the journalistic piece still holds true with a disclaimer that says x,y,z was contacted but declined to comment on the story.
    b) is the nature of response to the story. slurs, intimidation on behalf of the institute is a bad idea. It could have been someone else, in which case IIPM comes out clearly and says we condemn this kind of stuff done on our name

    As far as the quality of the institute is concerned, anything not recognised by AICTE will be suspect. Having said that there are a lot of institutes that are recognised by AICTE and UGC and are also suspect:)

    But, i buy your point on patisanship and blogging. But, would like to point out that there is no media that has no agenda. It is impossible to have a non partisan perspective. It is all jaundiced by one’s own point of view 🙂

  7. Probably because bloggers here thought they were behaving like journalists, yet propagated only their version instead of following the jornalistic approach of a “balanced view”.

    Is “freedom of speech” not relevent for IIPM?

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