Jag Venugopal's Blog

October 27, 2010

India’s most respected magazine indulging in repeated plagiarism?

Filed under: India — Jag @ 12:05 am
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One of India’s largest media barons, Aroon Purie (editor-in-chief, and proprietor of India Today, and a host of joint ventures, including those with Penguin and Harper Collins) stands accused of plagiarism. His “letter from the editor” in the October 18th issue of India Today lifted quotes regarding a southern film actor, Rajinikanth, straight from Slate.

Mr. Poorie’s excuse was that he did not write his own column, but asked “Delhi” to write up the stuff about Rajinikanth. In the process, “Unfortunately, a couple of sentences lifted from another article were sent to me.” He then tenders a non-apology to his readers: “So, without any reservations, mea culpa. Apologies.” In addition, Mr. Purie actually had the gall to blame jetlag for his journalistic kleptomania.  His non-admission of his own act of omission or commission, and his total disregard for both his readers and journalistic ethics is reflected in his one word apology. No “I am terribly sorry that this has happened, and it is not the culture of India Today to plagiarize”. No “we will investigate and lay the facts before our readers”. No “I will write my own columns henceforth”. Just “Apologies”, was what came down from King Purie to his subjects, those of his countrymen who still pay to read India Today (your correspondent being one such unfortunate soul).

Mr Purie’s arrogance carries over to his non-apology to the original author. Here is his letter to Grady Hendrix in its entirety (formatted by me to work with WordPress). I particularly like the “inadvertent error” part. Wonder what was inadvertent about it? Did the plagiarist (Mr Purie or one of his minions) have a seizure that caused his hand to move the mouse for an exact cut-and-paste? Was Mr. Purie under the influence — perhaps he just meant to steal the idea and not lift the text verbatim?

Dear Mr. Hendrix,

As you are surely aware we have apologized to our readers for the inadvertent error in which part of your article on Rajinikant got published in my letter from the editor.

I would like to apologize to you as well.

I have also written to the Editor of Slate magazine.

Sincerely,
Aroon Purie
Editor-in-Chief
India Today

Now, one could be forgiven for thinking that this was a momentary lapse on the part of India’s analog of Rupert Murdoch, and that some low-level staffer is to blame. However it appears that there is a pattern to such thievery. In 2008, the deputy editor of India Today copied an article about Mills and Boon romances from a blog posting by Niranjana Iyer. Ms Iyer pointed the purloining out to India Today in April, 2009. No apology has been forthcoming in the last year and a half.

It is shameful that one of India’s major publications should be a serial plagiarist, and they have gotten away with it so far. Certainly, the only apoplexy about the latest episode is in the blogosphere. There is nary a mention of it in the Indian press. I guess, there’s honor among thieves — they don’t betray each other.

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