On Sunday, the redoubtable Markandey Katju wrote a blog: (http://justicekatju.blogspot.in/2014/07/how-corrupt-judge-continued-in-madras.html?m=1.)
The next day, Monday, one of the country's largest newspaper front-paged the judge's piece with a byline.
Those who don't follow Justice Katju's blog felt he wrote exclusively for the newspaper.
Since I do, I felt that the newspaper should have either credited the blog or else revealed the content-sharing arrangement. Just a line would have sufficed.
The rush for portraying ordinarily available information as 'exclusive' isn't about morality alone. It has its professional pitfalls. What if even one other newspaper in the country had been alert enough about Justice Katju's blog all of Sunday?
The same newspaper recently front-paged a piece on Reliance being hauled up for 'insider trading.'
Further, the piece stated that SAT, a high appellate body, had fined the company Rs 11 crore.
Both statements were incorrect - there was no insider trading charge (the show cause related to FUTP) and no fine either. But when contacted over phone, the paper lobbed the ball to Reuters. Why was Reuters not cited in the first instance? A commonplace occurrence if you speak to any news agency journalist - every day their exclusive stories are hijacked and credit denied. In the 'insider trading' goof up, of course, the hijack proved to be embarrassing. But how Reuters and the said newspaper reacted is instructive - Reuters acknowledged their mistake with their subscribers twice within the next three hours; the paper tucked the corrigendum in an inside page, that too as a contention of Reliance not a clear acknowledgement of wrong reporting.
This isn't to blame one paper or demonstrate higher standards of acknowledgement. It is to point out the perils and pitfalls of hijacking.
Honest acknowledgement of sourcing is a missing piece among TV folks too. In the Justice Katju revelations for example, almost every news channel decided not to cite the original blog posting. Either the newspaper was cited, albeit fleetingly, or the judge's interview (and he seemed to have granted a record number!) was splashed as an 'exclusive!'
(The columnist works at the intersect of media, regulation and strategy at RIL. The views are personal. Twitter @therohitbansal)