Plagiarism a Big Problem to journalism, Distortion of Facts a Bigger One

January 09

“Anyone who simply collects facts and sets them down is not a reporter. Unless you also weigh the evidence, you’re not a journalist, you’re a stenographer,” writes Alan Sunderland. 

Surely plagiarism is a problem, the bigger problem though, journalism in contemporary world faces is ‘distortion of facts’ and embedded journalism. In the former case, a person steals one’s hard work, however in the case of ‘Distortions’ the encoder steals the right of the decoder to facts.

It might not at all be obvious in postmodern society, but it is good to discern how vital the claim of truthfulness and authenticity is to journalism. Since their advent around 1610, newspapers have been claiming to represent the truth about the world to masses. To differentiate themselves from gossip, social media rumours, pamphlets, newsletters and other modern news products,  newspapers promise to supply reliable facts instead of opinions, rumours and fiction. The first known guidebook on journalism, written in 1695 by the German Kaspar Stieler, stated that newspapers earned their reputation via the truthfulness of their reports, however nowadays commercialization and media house polity has taken a heavy toll on Journalism more than plagiarism ever can. 

This news item was published in a Kashmir daily on April 05, 2017 highlighting the shameful incident of 4 April, 1979 when hundreds of Jama’at e islami workers were attacked in South Kashmir. The report however mentions the involvement of a famous cleric,(encircled). He however had died a natural death at least 7 years before the incident occurred 

It is time to speak up for the endangered and extincting discipline of reporting. This notion of factual reporting is seen by many as ‘out of fashion’ and ‘outdated’. Good in theory, but in practice, it is either impossible to achieve or ‘too bloody dull’ to be told, adding to the fact, media houses have their own politics and their limitations, hence, news is constructed, coloured, filtered and distorted, there is not much reporters can do about it. The rules of this game bar them from copiously representing the social reality. 

 

Reporting nowadays is often parodied as a recitation of facts, though in reality, it is devoid of context and facts, leading to the ‘he said/she said’, stories that heighten the account of an unknown sources, on a certain topic to satisfy the politics of the media house. It often leaves the reader, listener or viewer in utter confusion, hence damaging a larger cause of ‘effecting the public opinion’ by moulding the same into satisfying a certain agenda. The reporter responsible for such stories is employing the ‘view from nowhere’, pretending they neither know nor care about the matters they are reciting. 

Slogans heard by none, witnessed by none at the funeral of Saliha Akhoon on December 22 in Tral. The report was again to visibly satisfy a particular agenda- Published in a daily Kashmir based newspaper on December 23

That certainly is a problem, and we see plenty of examples of it. But that’s not objective journalism, that’s just bad journalism. Anyone who simply collects facts and sets them down is not a reporter. That’s not journalism, it’s just stenography. 

Nick Davies, the famous investigative reporter from Great Britain argues that journalism has been internally eroded and reduced to ‘churnalism. Due to the reduced newspaper circulation (due to various reasons), the number of reporters has declined too, so much that, they cannot accurately gather and check news or facts. They have to depend on press agencies, ‘official sources’ and PR agencies to supply the raw material that is recycled virtually in newspaper columns which makes reporters vulnerable to propaganda. 

The limitations to reportage make journalism vulnerable to agendas, like people rarely question the official stats, which most of the times is a sheer distortion of actual figures. The Kashmiriyat in the recent past has been the worst victim of plagiarism, as most of our stories revolve in all spaces including social media, however, we at The Kashmiriyat are more concerned about the truth and facts that have become the ultimate causality in this game.

On August 04, Islamabad town in South Kashmir shut on the call of the parents of a slain Militant, Yawar Nisar and a local leader, however, a newspaper claimed that the father of Yawar had said, ‘no shutdown should be observed.’

So in an ontological sense, Ever since Plato, philosophers have battled with processes of representation and there might be some consensus now, at least in academia, about the impossibility of mirroring the social realities and purely objective fingerprint copies of it.

The general public, however has been quick to respond and accept the image of news as a distorted and biased interpretation of reality and the reporter as an unreliable messenger which has given rise to alternative forms of media, such as online and Social media.