Journalist death: Why did the OT sit on the story for 50 minutes
In the age of WhatsApp news and information travel fast but at times many are not well authenticated and the first detail is sketchy. And it is here that a journalist’s training comes into act.
When a WhatsApp message popped up on the OT at 11:17 pm on Monday from a reliable source, the portal didn’t rush to publish it instantly to break the news, rather it spoke with several sources to make sure that the news was authentic. The due process of cross-checking facts costs the portal 50 minutes.
The traditional news-gathering process which separates journalism from other forms of communication is extremely important at a time when social media users or self- proclaimed online journalists whose numbers have increased since the advent of smartphone and internet are always seen in a hurry to forward sketchy and unauthenticated information.
The first thing the portal asked the sender of Roushan Ali’s death message, please share numbers of people close to the family so that the information could be authenticated from the horse’s mouth. The primary source provider, Syed Wasi Imam, formerly Iran TV and Nation & the World, got a bit irritated and snapped: “Don’t doubt my judgment. Just run the story.” We insisted on numbers of people close to Roushan in Delhi if he knew anyone. Willy-nilly he forwarded a number of a Delhi-based journalist after ten minutes. As it was already late, he thought it better to not bother anybody.
With the portal deciding to file the story in a few minutes time after authenticating it, we called on the number and the person buttressed the claim made by Imam. “Yes, Roushan is no more,” said Andalib Akhtar who had more than 25 years of association with the journalist.
But still we were not very sure to run the story as at that very moment fake news was doing the rounds on the social media about the death of very popular TV journalist Vinod Dua which was dismissed by his daughter Mallika Dua. “Request everyone to not spread rumours about my father’s demise. He is in the ICU, fighting still. Whatever be the outcome. Let him have his dignity,” Mallika said in an Instagram story. Even before her statement came in the debate had sparked among netizens about the veracity of the story after a senior journalist posted and one online publisher even ran a video story. In the morning on Tuesday, it was not known whether both of them apologised or deleted their news.
Also, it reminded the OT that how once in Okhla rumours had spread about death of Patna-based senior journalist.
So to make sure that the story is further authenticated, we called Roushan’s close friend Syed Ali. He only returned our call after four missed attempts. When we shared the information about the journalist’s death, he expressed shock and said he will get back soon. He called after a few minutes saying he spoke with Roushan’s family members who were taking his body back to his hometown in Bihar. A senior journalist with Delhi-based English daily, Millennium Post, Roushan, had collapsed in a train on Monday and was rushed to a hospital where doctors couldn’t revive him.
It was then that after making a few more calls to collect details about his personal and professional career that we ran the story and made it live. The whole process to verify and authenticate the information took us 50 minutes.
This is not something exceptional that we did as all professionals are taught to authenticate information from several sources so that to kill fake news which nowadays has become new nuisance.
The purpose of telling this is story is that though we are small-operated portal or just covering local news with shoe-string budget we take special care to provide readers with authentic news. And all these consume time, energy and money!