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Fury over a blog

In this information age the answer lies in adopting the new media and not attacking it, writes Puneet Mehrotra.

india Updated: Oct 26, 2005 18:46 IST

That blogs would one day become an alternative media was never doubtful. That blogs would one day truly liberate the media and become democratic in the right sense of the word was also never doubtful. What was doubtful was that so called "intellectuals" in traditional media react the way they did to new media. What was perhaps worse was that a leading educational institute sue two bloggers for airing their views on their blog.

The Skewed Right to Freedom of Speech

If traditional media publishes a story, it’s the unquestionable word. Anyone who opposes rarely finds space. A cocktail of sex and crime is used by our news channels to present breaking news day in and day out. The views and idiosyncrasies of the presenters are final. No appeals, no hearing, the news channel verdict is final. In a liberated world sex between lovers is frowned upon but titillation of the viewer is news. Crime is bad but depiction of its minutest detail is news and even more graphic news stripped to its minutest details when the crime is sex related. The freedom of speech, free media as one of the pillars of a democracy, blah blah. Sounds nice. But when it comes to airing your views on an innocuous little blog on which you too can air your opinion, an educational institute sues two individuals and not one news channel or traditional news barring a few consider it newsworthy. Whatever happened to one of the free pillars of the democracy? Is news presented by an idiotic, biased news presenter more news worthy than an individual who merely presented his views on the blog? Read if you wish. If its trash, skip it. If it prompts you to give your opinion feel free to air your views.


The Story of the Blog so Far

The matter involves the management guru Arindam Chaudhuri, his IIPM (Indian Institute of Planning and Management) and couple of bloggers Rashmi Bansal (of JAM Magazine, and she also has the blog youthcurry.blogspot.com) and Gaurav Sabnis, a former IBM employee, whose blog is gauravsabnis.blogspot.com.

It all started with Rashmi's JAM magazine running an 'expose' on the claims made by IIPM and its so-called affiliation to certain international institutions. IIPM demanded Rs 25 crore for the presumed loss of goodwill. Nasty messages were posted on Bansal's personal blog. Gaurav Sabnis, a 25-year-old IBM India employee and an active blogger, lost his job because he posted his reactions and a link to the JAM's piece on his web page. An outraged IIPM sent a Rs 125-crore legal notice to Sabnis.

The Blog Power

To counter this many bloggers quickly got into the fray and pursued the case. And what has emerged is truly mind-blogging, and also underlines the strength and efficacy of this emerging mode of journalism.

Several bloggers independently started digging into the claims of IIPM and Arindam and his father Malay Chaudhuri, who started IIPM. Blogs like thalassamikra.blogspot.com, which have been able to cross check what Arindam and Malay had claimed, have come up with some startling revelations that are verifiable by anyone.

According to Outlook, one of the few mainstream magazines to carry this story, a US-based blogger discovered a statement by Malayendra Kishor Chaudhuri, director, IIPM, to the Election Commission—he fought the '04 parliamentary elections from Balasore in Orissa—stating he had a masters in science from the Berlin School of Economics in '62 and a PhD from the institute in '63. Another blogger in Germany noticed the institute was founded only in '71, eight years after Chaudhuri claimed to have been there.

The Chain Reaction Follows

From the blogosphere the story entered the television today. CNBC TV18 today carried a story which had an interview with the UGC chief on the IIPM issue. So what started from a little blog, escalated to a Rs.150 crore suit obviously underestimating the power of the blogoshere is now back to traditional media. In a nutshell that’s the chain reaction of a little view on the blogosphere.

Enhancing IIPM’s dignity and credibility – a lesson in corporate communication

I do not for a second back Rashmi, nor am I on IIPM’s side. Rashmi, as I can see on the web, has also faced criticism. But I do defend her freedom of speech. She has a right to air her opinion. And I definitely do not subscribe to below the belt remarks like RaghuveerSrinivas saying "Rashmi, I'm open to any sex. If you are interested, let's hit it big" or IIPMStudent9 "So here's my advice - take your ridiculous allegations and shove it." That’s absolutely ridiculous.

As a matter of fact a non issue was escalated to such a high pitch by IIPM itself harming no one other than itself the most. If IIPM wants to defend itself with dignity and credibility, the answer is a blog for a blog, a word for a word not trying to suppress an opinion. If media could be suppressed then there would be no newspapers or magazines and a free media a non-existent entity. A blog for a blog means a credible blog to impart your views convincingly not the kind of juvenile opinions posted by entities like RaghuveerSrinivas and IIPMStudent9.

IIPM would do well to set up a blog of its own rebutting the facts in the JAM piece. Attacking a blogger with a law suit doesn’t help IIPM in anyway nor does it enhance its credibility or dignity. Rebutting facts and countering Rashmi’s charges gives the reader both sides of the story.

In this age of new media there is a lesson for other corporations to learn as the new media empowers an individual to air his opinion. To form an opinion about something you need both sides of the story but most often you get to know only one, the one that media wants you to know. The power of blogs is it permits you to know both sides of the story. In this information age the answer lies in adopting the new media and not attacking it.

Puneet Mehrotra is a web strategist atwww.Cyberzest.comand editswww.MidnightEdition.comyou can email him on puneet@cyberzest.com