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The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones

For You To Get It Right—It Is Time

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August 12, 2009

This is the fourth day in succession when I have picked the front page of Hindustan Times to check the swine flu story that the national newspaper has been messing up everyday. This original post was colourful, spicy and irreverant but that part has been modified as it just served the purpose of digressing from the mistakes of the front page by turning the focus to the ‘frustrations’ of the author of the posts.

The prime motive of the posts was and is to convey the message that if some people do not care for their jobs that is their lookout but they have no right to judge the work of others by the same yardstick.
I am putting the reworked posts again as ‘some people’ in Hindustan Times may still not be aware that official communication has a logical end; you can but you should not close it just because you are exposed as incompetent because that is still tolerable and your closing the communication makes you both incompetent as well as unethical. Another reason to edit them is that despite having enough reason to be peeved I had no right to name people unnecessarily in my posts. That stands corrected.

I’ll start on the business front now. The swine flu story first. “Eight of the 11 people who have died of swine flu so far in India have done so from complications caused by other diseases they had, or because diagnosis and treatment were left too late.”

I am sure it sounds fine to people who subbed this front page story but it gives me a sinking feeling that why did they do so. In my view, “Eight of the 11 people who have died of swine flu so far in India succumbed from complications caused by other diseases they had….please don’t blame them they haven’t done so deliberately.

Now for the rest of the quote …or because diagnosis and treatment were left too late.” Where were they left too late? Were they coming in a taxi from Kasturba Hospital or probably they got left at Sassoon Hospital in Pune. You could have just said that …or because diagnosis and treatment were left for too late. Or better still …that the diagnosis and the subsequent treatment started only when it had become too late for them.

Now I come back to the same first paragraph again.
“Eight of the 11 people who have died of swine flu so far in India have done so from complications caused by other diseases they had, or because diagnosis and treatment were left too late.”

Now this paragraph leaves me wondering what happened to the other three that make up the number of 11. I am left wondering because HT gives me no further answers. You don’t need to tell me how the other three died but you better recheck that they did not die of any of the things the other eight died of.

It has taken HT time but they have corrected the age of Mumbai’s first victim as 33 and that is good news. I come to your headline now ‘4 more dead, but swine flu not real killer’… and also your two line kicker below it TOLL 11 Other medical complications and late treatment are the real culprits.

Now I do love human beings and I have respect for every human life, competent or incompetent; or I should rather say that even for the lives of the morons of HT House if I were to borrow from Sunday’s ‘Red Herring’ column. So without any disrespect and just to give you an example, imagine that if someone comes to HT House or any other building and empties two full rounds of an automatic assault gun killing 15 people in the process.

Now are you going to write that bullets fired were not the real killers but blood loss, organ damage, and other complications led to the death of these morons? If not, then what do you mean by saying ‘4 more dead, but swine flu not real killer’. They might be having ten thousand more complications which made it worse for them, but wasn’t it made worse because of swine flu. And if not, then why are you reporting it in the swine flu story?

And now all this has happened in just one paragraph of the story that you’ve been trying to get right for the fourth day in succession now. I am ashamed by now but I don’t know about the people who manage the front page of Hindustan Times. I am hard pressed for time so I’ll just quickly check the main elements of your page to look for some other pearls of wisdom.

I don’t know whether HT uses British or American English as its style. If you use British English then after the end of the swine flu story the text in the brackets should say: With inputs from bureaux, as that is the British plural; but if you use American English as your style then the word bureaus that you have written is fine. The only problem this justification creates is that your whole paper goes for a toss and you have also taken the style issue to, as Mr Spock may have said, where no man takes it. The third paragraph of your edit today says …follow the World Health Organisation’s eminently. If you check the fourth paragraph of your lead story yesterday it says the World Health Organization, which is right; as whatever your style, if you have one, you don’t need to impose it on proper nouns.

All of this is from the new-look Hindustan Times that has gone beyond “aesthetic transformation” and has much more to offer to the reader than just the design. These are what you call sharper stories done with unique understanding and depth.

A commodities story with a joint byline on the front page right side corner says in a paragraph, “In Mumbai, prices of pulses such as arhar and tur have increased 77 per cent from a year ago and 11 per cent from a month ago respectively.”

Prices of pulses such as arhar and tur have increased by the same percentage because they are two names for the same thing and that fact can be confirmed on the net or by asking a ‘common man’. In north India, especially in UP, it is called arhar and different spellings are used in the south of India and this is the dal used to make sambhar. Tur, toor, tuvar and toovar are all ways to write the name of this yellow coloured dal that is called split yellow pigeon peas in English.

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Written by Deepan Joshi

December 2, 2009 at 3:36 pm

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