Aug 1, 2010

The software has nothing to do with it

It's an old ploy - newspapers put out headlines or take angles in a story just to grab our attention, but without considering the facts. And who does it better than The Times of India? Today's newspaper reports the unfortunate murder of Darshana Tongare, a recent COEP grad and IBM trainee, who was stabbed by an unknown figure. Apparently she wasn't robbed, so the motives aren't entirely clear yet.

The Times of India takes the view that "The safety of women techies in Pune has come into sharp focus once again". So far, nothing suggests that the profession of the victim had anything to do with the incident. The safety of every woman in the city, professional or not, traveling at night could be called into question. In fact, the general safety of the populace at large. What's more shocking was the lack of response from the police control rooms, when passer-bys tried to report the incident. The ToI buries that deep into the report.

Many newspaper articles, particularly in headlines, report incidents of crime with the profession of the victim embedded. In most cases, this is incidental. "Techie" is now a cliched and obnoxious word - and not everyone working in a software company is a technologist. Cases of suicide caused by overwork may qualify. But to papers, just 'man robbed' isn't sufficiently eye-catching, I suppose.

In fact, the same ToI report lists 7 other cases from the last 2.5 years where Pune women associated with the world of IT-BPO have been assaulted. In four of these cases, the suspects/assailants were known to the victims, and were crimes involving personal disputes. Nothing to do with being in the software profession. But yes, at least two of the remaining three could be said to be directly related to the nature of the industry, involving late working hours and being situated in poorly connected/lit/policed areas of Pune.

Such a lack of perspective affects the city and the industry as a whole, and dilutes the focus away from such issues such as better policing and systems that could both prevent and solve such issues. Incidentally, the ToI's sister publication (to my mind, the more reliable and less hypocritical of the two) Pune Mirror takes the angle of the emergency number "100" being unmanned. The Indian Express report is expectedly sober. From a non-Pune-paper view, The Hindu largely report the facts, editorialising only in the end (which is their prerogative), quoting the appropriate earlier cases.

One hopes the case is swiftly solved and that the right lessons are learnt by the police. Might we dare to hope for the same for India's most selling newspaper?


Rohit said...

I wonder why the Times of India still survives. It is a really poor newspaper. Their website too is a disgrace. I don't want to see pictures of "Hottest WAGs" or anything when I open the site. Just show me the news and not rubbish and annoying pop-up ads

The Hindu is the only paper I find reliable and its just too bad they don't have a Mumbai edition.

Unknown said...

Rohit: agreed. But I guess the mistake we make is assuming their primary business is news. It's main business is just business, which means ads/eyeballs/rubbish takes high priority.