Journalists or donkeys? When media thought potholes and donkeys are same thing

Uttar Pradesh is famous and infamous for many things, but donkeys are hardly one of those, at least in literal sense. Except for the former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s election speech about “Gujarat Ke Gadhe” where he referred to a tourism ad about Wild Asses of Gujarat by Amitabh Bachchan, you can hardly think of something that links Uttar Pradesh and donkeys in recent past.

But if the Indian mainstream media is to be believed, donkeys roaming on roads are one the of the biggest challenges in the biggest state of India. Sample these headlines from the mainstream media outlets that found their way into Google News today:

fake news about Yogi Adityanath
Indian mainstream media reporting fake news

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As per these media reports, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath has promised to make Uttar Pradesh roads donkey-free. Times of India was one of the earliest to report the same. They claimed that Yogi Adityanath said the following:

“UP came to be known as the place where donkeys crowd the streets and where it was completely dark after nightfall. We have now decided to ensure that by 15 June, UP’s streets are donkey-free.”

The report quoted news agency ANI as the source. But did ANI really report so?

Since the average reader these days is more aware, alert, and knowledgeable than an average journalist, very soon people found what ANI had actually reported:

So Yogi Adityanath meant potholes! This is what he actually said:

“UP came to known as the place from where potholes in roads start and where it was completely dark after nightfall.”

And then he went ahead to announce that by 15th June, potholes will be removed and electricity will be provided for 24 hours in district headquarters.

But for our journalists, he was apparently talking about donkeys (gadha) not potholes (gaddha). A person with basic knowledge of Hindi or a basic level of context could have understood what was being talked about, but not the media that confidently went out to report that Uttar Pradesh roads were to be made donkey-free!

Here was a Chief Minister who was promising something with a deadline, but the media thought he was cracking some joke. The original culprit it seems was the Times of India, after which other media organisations blindly copied their report adding their own take. People on Twitter slammed Times of India for this shoddy journalism:

Times of India deleted their report after this embarrassing incident, though other reports are still live (at the time of writing this report).

This incident also shows the perils of ‘chain news’ reporting by our media, where just one mainstream media outlet has to err (or lie deliberately) and that fake news will be repeated by other media organisations to an extent that people start believing the fake news as real incident. Just that this time it was too bray-zen.

While this incident is funny and we can discard it with a few laughs, do note that it demonstrates how dangerous media incompetence is. Thanks to this blind chain reporting by the mainstream media, a deliberate lie can also be circulated and people made to believe in something that never happened, as we had earlier seen in the case of EVM controversy in Bhind in Madhya Pradesh.

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