Times Now is fast acquiring the moniker Fake News Now. Reason: last week it ran a prime time “Super exclusive” which proved to be a super dud. The “exclusive” was all about the ISIS having set up its base in Kasargod, Kerala, where it was indulging in love jehad and converting “gullible” Hindu women to Islam. The story with the hashtag #Caliphate ConvertsHindus saw Times Now editor-in-chief, Rahul Shivshankar, raving and ranting about the conversion game going on in Kasargod, “India’s Gaza”. The trump card of the story was a “conversion rate card” that ISIS had allegedly released to its cadre which Times Now had accessed. This was flashed repeatedly on the screen—Hindu Brahmin girl Rs 5 lakh; Hindu Kshatriya girl Rs 4.5 lakh; Hindu OBC/SC/ST: Rs 2 lakh—even as Shivshankar spewed vitriol in imitation Arnab Goswami style.
The story was a shocker but for one cardinal flaw: the rate card was a fake! It traces its history to a blog in 2010. It was later quoted or displayed over the years by various papers/news channels. Many of them while quoting the “conversion rate” had questioned the authenticity of the rate card. But Times Now chose not to introduce any such caveat and ran it as an exclusive.
Healthy Print Baby
In January this year, Hindustan Times wound up some of its print editions, sacked staff and publicly announced that it was doing so to focus on its digital offerings. Six months later, it seems to have recovered its faith in print with the mega launch of its Pune edition on June 24.
The new product is a healthy baby all of 50 pages. HT seems to be going all out to attract readers. Its weekend edition will come with Brunch, Mint Lounge and HT Café.
Which begs the question: what about all those plans about going digital?
No Questions, Please
The Indian media may have gone to town on the Modi-Trump meeting but the US media was more circumspect and critical of certain aspects. The Washington Post, for instance, focused on the fact that no questions were taken during the joint press briefing by Modi and Trump in the Rose Garden even as both were lauding their democratic credentials.
“It might have worked out well for Trump and Modi, who each have more than 30 million followers on Twitter, but not so much for the several dozen reporters from the United States and India who were seated in rows of folding chairs under a warm late-afternoon sun. The journalists were told ahead of time that there would be no questions allowed—a break from the typical Rose Garden tradition of two questions from each press delegation,” the article said. The report mentioned that it was not clear on whose insistence questions from reporters were not taken. Both leaders have a prickly relationship with the media.
Battle of the Republic
The battle between Times Now and its former anchor Arnab Goswami is becoming like a television serial (Game of Thrones?). The latest episode sees the two exchanging more insults and innuendos, accusing each other of malpractices. Times Now had started it by saying that Goswami’s Republic TV had gained a lead in BARC viewership ratings by using multiple platforms. TRAI had stepped in and ended that episode. Now that the latest figures show Times Now ahead, Arnab has accused his former channel of using the “forced reach” method, which is a term used when a particular broadcaster pays cable networks to be the “landing page.” This means that it is the first channel a viewer sees when he/she switches on the TV. Arnab claims that Times Now is using its clout to manipulate viewership figures, something that Republic TV was accused of earlier by all other news channels. This is one serial that is not going to end soon, much to the vicarious delight of neutrals who are seeing a lot of dirty linen being washed in full public view.