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Scroll gets caught again while defending the ‘Tunday Kababi’ Fake News

A few days back, as the crackdown on illegal slaughter-houses in Uttar Pradesh was on, Scroll.in reported a story titled:

UP: Lucknow’s legendary Tunday Kababi downs its shutters as meat crackdown intensifies

Predictably, left liberal media ran this news and journalists like Barkha Dutt and Rahul Kanwal cried over the closure of Tunday Kababi. OpIndia.com though ran a counter to this story which showed, with evidence, that Tunday Kababi had closed their shop only for one day and was back in action after that, albeit not serving beef at one of their outlets, indicating that for all these years the beef was probably sourced from illegal slaughter-houses. OpIndia.com also noted that in the headline, Scroll.in deliberately chose to ignore that it was a crackdown on illegal slaughter-houses and NOT a “meat crackdown”.

Subsequent to this, Scroll changed the headline of that very story to this:

Lucknow’s legendary Tunday Kababi reopens, but serves chicken and mutton kebabs for the first time

With the same URL, but with a totally opposite headline and body, Scroll had changed the story barely 9 hours after it published the original report, and within a few hours of OpIndia.com busting their lies. Luckily, we had screenshots of the original story as well, and we demonstrated exactly how and where Scroll changed their original report.

On Sunday evening, in a “Reader’s editor” post, where someone from within Scroll responds to readers, Scroll put out their defence, trying to explain why the original report was right, and why the changes were not immoral. We reproduce the relevant part:

There are two Tunday Kababi outlets in Lucknow. One in the Akbari Gate area which dates back to 1905 and seems to be the better known; and the other in Aminabad.

On Wednesday March 22, Tunday Kababi in Akbari Gate was shut because, following the government’s state-wide drive against illegal slaughter houses, the eatery found it could not source buffalo meat.

Scroll.in was the first to report this story the next day, on Thursday, March 23, that the Akbari Gate outlet of Tunday Kababi had not opened on March 22 because it could not source buffalo meat, which was the only meat it served until then. The report also said the Aminabad outlet which serves chicken and mutton was open on March 22.

The headline said “UP: Lucknow’s legendary Tunday Kababi downs its shutters as meat crackdown intensifies”

The Scroll.in story also had an opening paragraph which said that the context was the drive against “illegal slaughter houses” in the state by the new government of Uttar Pradesh.

Later in the day, when Tunday Kabab re-opened but served only mutton and chicken (for the first time ever), the Scroll.in story was updated to report the re-opening and the new menu. That the story had been updated and the time of updating were both clearly mentioned. The headline in the updated story said “Lucknow’s Legendary Tunday Kababi reopens but serves chicken and mutton kababs for the first time.”

In short, Scroll’s version is this: one of the Tunday Kababi outlets shut down on Wednesday 22nd March because it could not source buffalo meat. On 23rd of March, Scroll ran the report saying that Tunday Kababi had “downed its shutters”. Later in the day, when Tunday Kababi re-opened, the story was updated to report the re-opening and the new menu.

This should sound reasonable, only if we are to ignore some key aspects.

Firstly, such an explanation from print media could be very valid. A shop is closed on 22nd. Printing starts sometime near midnight on 22nd itself. In the newspaper published on 23rd, the news runs that Tunday Kababi has shut shop. Later on 23rd, Tunday Kababi reopens, so the printed story is invalidated. BUT, Scroll is a digital only platform. So such explanations are just cop-outs.

As the following screenshot of the original report shows, Scroll published the original fake news report at 12pm on 23rd. So at least on 23rd, it had at least 3 hours from 9am to 12pm to call up the owners of Tunday Kababi, to confirm whether they had shut down for good, or would they be opening again.

For the sake of an argument, let us assume Modi had devilishly installed mobile jammers at Scroll’s office which disallowed them from making one phone call to get an accurate story. But can we blame Modi for the next major faux pas?

In their explanation, Scroll claimed that “Later in the day, when Tunday Kababi re-opened”, they updated the story, thus claiming that at the time of publishing the news, they had no idea that Tunday Kababi had reopened. This again sounds fair. BUT, they DID KNOW, that Tunday Kababi had reopened. Here is a screenshot from the original article which was published at 12pm:

The highlighted text, from the original fake news article clearly states that at 12pm, Scroll was well-aware that Tunday Kababi had reopened! So here we have the reader’s editor claiming that at 12pm, they had no information of it reopening, hence they had updated their article later, but their own article which was published at 12pm, clearly shows that they had full knowledge of the shop reopening!

In fact, on 23rd March itself, at 4 pm, i.e after the fake report, and before the update, I had stumbled upon this anomaly myself, and had tweeted about it. This was in fact how I realised that Scroll’s headline was highly misleading, if not plain lies:


In short, to cover up a lie, Scroll updated its article after making a complete u-turn, and then to defend that u-turn, Scroll’s Reader’s Editor gave a false explanation, which can be exposed by looking at their own article! A classic case of having to tell more lies to cover up one lie!

Some other arguments put forth by Scroll were that this was a developing story and hence it was standard practice to update such posts. But such a practice in reality is standard only for major live events, such as a speech which is being covered live, or a sporting event. Was the closing down (for one day) of a shop in Lucknow such a major story?

Scroll also addressed our point that their original headline did not mention “illegal” slaughterhouses and instead called it a “meat crackdown”. The excuse given here is that they would need a longer headline to cover “crackdown on illegal slaughter houses” and hence, “the error, if any, was trivial”. One wonders what exorbitant costs Scroll would have to face to add 3 more words to a headline to make it factually correct, instead of sticking to a headline which is basically fake news since there was no “meat crackdown”. But at least, they conceded that it could have been an “error”.

In closing, we recommend that the “Reader’s Editor” of Scroll, (who incidentally worked for 11 long years at The Hindu), reads Scroll’s own stories before attempting to defend the fake news that they propagate. And after he does that, he can read the comments of some real readers:

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