The Media landscape is fast emerging as a cesspool of lies, propaganda and misinformation. Or perhaps, it was always one and the enormity of the abyss is just about starting to show. Recently, the Business Standard ran a story where they attempted to show how according to Google Search Trends, Rahul Gandhi is ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. After an OpIndia fact-check, the story was pulled down.
OpIndia columnist Abhishek Banerjee had not too long ago written an article about Google Trends Data and demonstrated how Prime Minister Modi is ahead of Rahul Gandhi. Not too long after that, the Business Standard published a story where the findings were exactly the opposite. When Abhishek Banerjee looked further, he realised that the data points chosen by Business Standard were unreliable and tailor-made to get the desired result, which is, show Rahul Gandhi ahead of PM Modi. The detailed fact-check can be read here.
After Abhishek’s fact-check was published, the Business Standard reached out to OpIndia. Over email, OpIndia was informed that the story has been pulled down and they had no intention to misrepresent data. They even thanked OpIndia for demonstrating that there are various ways to analyse Google Trends Data.
Why a shabby story like the one Business Standard pulled down was published in the first place, is a matter of concern. Stories are generally vetted (at least they should be) by the Editor and that such glaring errors were not caught before publication is a concern in itself. However, what is commendable is that the Business Standard was willing to rectify its error when a fact-check was done. This is not the first time that Business Standard has faltered and perhaps, won’t be the last. The hope is, that when they do, they will continue to follow the same standard they did this time around.
While Business Standard took its story down this time, this is certainly not the standard of ethics that most media houses follow. Often, the fact-checks are summarily ignored while Editor’s stand like stoic holy cows. Often, the lies continue to be spread by the media, unabated, without so much as a retraction or apology. In fact, the times when the Media is forced to correct themselves, they often lie big (on the first page or as the lead story) and retract small (a small note from the editor hidden in some Godforsaken corner that nobody would read).
While Media neutrality is a farce and has always been a farce, the lies are often peddled brazenly from behind the veil of neutrality. Whether the lies come from established media houses like NDTV, or online propaganda portals like The Wire. The all-pervasive epidemic of lying big and retracting small, often, not retracting at all, is a problem that plagues the media space.
Business Standard should be commended for retracting the digital story. However, the lie has already travelled through the “journalists” like Swati Chaturvedi who further wrote articles based on this data. While the Business Standard has salvaged itself by the retraction, one wonders when other media houses would make this practice the norm.