Saturday, August 9, 2008

My view on the article (as expressed in my letter to the editor...which has so far been getting bounced back to me due to a full e-mail inbox)

Regarding the article on the front page of DNA for Sunday, August 3rd, 2008, entitled "Expats are lying low in Vashi."

As we walked back to the office, the interview having just concluded, Nicholas commented that Sameera must not have found much of our interview worthy of quotation, as she had taken only one note - a quick one when I had mentioned someone at my office recommending that I get my NOC from my real estate broker. I concurred with him. We figured the reason for that was that our story was boring - we had told her that we had noticed no change, nor had we made any changes, in our daily lives since Kenneth Haywood's e-mail account was allegedly hacked to send pre-bomb warnings to the media. We figured this would give Sameera little interesting material to put in her article.

Little did we know that, rather than an exercise in quotation-gathering, or even fact-gathering, the goal of the interview had been to acquire words. She (or her editor, or someone with access to the article pre-printing) would later mold them to manufacture falsehoods presented as facts, with the accompanying fabricated quotations to match. At first, after being happy to see my picture in the paper, I noticed that my name was misspelled. Although we had made certain that she wrote our names down correctly, going so far as to watch her do so, I still thought it vain to complain about that. I have worked as a journalist myself, and I made mistakes, too. Then I saw the title of the article, "Expats are lying low in Vashi," and thought that the other foreigners she interviewed must be adjusting their lives based on the recent incident, because we certainly had not told her that we were. As I read the article, I was surprised to see that Nicholas's "immediate concern...was to change the password of (his) Internet connection," as, when Sameera asked us if we were making any changes in response to the incident, we both stated that we really weren't, and only then did Nicholas add that he might change his e-mail password. The concern was clearly not immediate (as he mentioned it as a possibility and as an afterthought, and had obviously not even yet acted on it) and it was for e-mail, not for an Internet connection. Then I saw that the organization where he worked had asked him to get an NOC from local police officials, when in fact he hadn't mentioned anything about an NOC, and, as I have written, it was I who told her I had obtained mine from my real estate broker. However, how was she supposed to remember who said what, or what was said, when she took no notes and used no tape recorder? Maybe, if one is a very forgiving newspaper reader, and doesn't care too much about the specific facts as long as the gist of the interview is conveyed, then those errors can be written off as sloppy-but-not-intentionally-misleading journalism. But the final sentence about Nicholas was just a blatant, manipulative fabrication meant to support the article's more-interesting-than-fact premise. The article states "On the social front, Kasparek is lying low at his Vashi residence." At no point did he or I say anything of the sort. Not only that, but we stated several times that we in fact had not noticed any change in how we were treated by locals. Nicholas went so far as to state that his general feeling about Indians on this topic was that they were pretty good at keeping in mind that the actions of one individual did not represent the actions of all others who fall into the same group. I stated that I had been looking for any changes in how I was treated but had noticed none. Only in a final thought on the subject did Nicholas mention that he might changes his e-mail password, but that was his only planned concession to recent events. Nothing about lying low. Absolutely nothing.

Strangely enough, the sentence preceding the paragraph on Nicholas states that expatriates have retreated into a shell since the e-mail incident, and the sentence that immediately follows the paragraph on Nicholas states that there are, however, some who are taking things in stride. As I've said, only if considering changing one's e-mail password constitutes not only not "taking things in stride," but also "retreat(ing) into a shell" do the sentences framing the paragraph on Nicholas ring of truth.

Sameera seemed very nice at the interview, as did the photographer, and initially, I was very happy to see my picture in the paper, even with my name misspelled, but seeing first-hand what passes for journalism in this paper was relatively disturbing. Are all the facts manipulated to form more interesting stories?

I don't want Sameera to be fired, or even punished. I'd just like measures to be taken so that this kind of thing doesn't occur anymore. I mean, come on. Don't make interview subjects liars. That's unfair to them and to your readers.

- Matthew McHugh

Jaundiced Journalism

In the paper, under the item at the following link, they claimed I was Matthew McChugh, but we know better...\03082008\MATTHEW44-large.jpg&eddate=8/3/2008&pageno=1&edition=20&prntid=71495&bxid=912&pgno=1

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