India Today editor plagiarizes from Slate; what’s new?

Forget journalistic ethics; in an act of monumental stupidity, the editor-in-chief of India Today, a “premier” Indian magazine, copied some memorable lines from the Slate article on Rajnikanth that’d been forwarded to Everybody’s inbox. Aroon Purie plagiarized the easily-googleable  line “If a tiger had sex with a tornado and then their tiger-nado baby got married to an earthquake, their offspring would be Rajinikanth.”

(Image from http://www.countermedia.in/?p=225. )

He should have emulated his Deputy Editor, and stuck to plagiarizing from obscure bloggers like me instead.

India Today’s deputy editor, Ms. Damayanti Datta, copied an entire blog post of mine. The paragraphs have been paraphrased in a weak attempt to delay the moment of  discovery, but the order of the sentences and ideas is IDENTICAL. The copied article appeared in Nov. 2008 on India Today’s website. I discovered the plagiarism (thanks, Aishwarya!) and immediately wrote to the magazine in April 2009, and I haven’t heard a word back from them to date. Ms. Datta never apologized, the article was never retracted (though India Today was quick to disable comments on the piece), and as far as I know, she was never called to account–she’s still a Deputy Editor at the magazine and continues with her regular column. Moreover, it’d earlier been documented that Ms. Datta had copied a paragraph or two from an article in The Guardian as well; no punitive action was taken then either.

The point of my experience is that plagiarism has long been condoned (and even tacitly encouraged) by the top brass at India Today. Are you really shocked that Aroon Purie passed someone else’s creative effort as his own, when he didn’t call his deputy to account for the same infraction? No, the story here is his idiocy in copying from an easily-identifiable source which possess the means and muscle to sue his ass. (Incidentally, I did speak to a lawyer in India, but he was either unwilling or unable to take on the India Today group, and his promises to action petered out.)

Will Slate take action? I devoutly hope so. India Today’s management has long needed a good bitchslap, and I’ll be cheering from the first row if and when it happens.

***

Visit countermedia.in for more details about this incident, including another line about Jackie Chan that Mr. Purie saw fit to appropriate.

34 responses to “India Today editor plagiarizes from Slate; what’s new?

  1. I will join you in cheering if they get slapped with a lawsuit. I am so depressed thinking of the lack of ethics of people who are supposed to be the voice of democracy.

  2. I guess India Today grew up on Bappi Lahiri- they don’t even look at it as plagiarism. Will cheer with you if they got caught- for you, and for honesty.

    • Bappi Lahiri, who’s idea of composing was almost exclusively plagiarised music, actually managed to WIN a law-suit in US when someone used just a bit sample of his obscure work on a hit album! That’s how it is🙂

  3. Bitchslap is precisely the term for what they need. Wouldn’t a direct phone call or letter from a lawyer served to them help your cause?

  4. @ Nupur, Rayna: Yes, I suspect a large number of us are waiting for that moment! To think there was a time when IT was considered an admirable example of fearless journalism.

    @ Gargi: Yes, a regular punch just would not do🙂

  5. I’ll be right there cheering with you in the front row – if and when anything does happen. I wonder how (if) India Today will react. I’ve passed your post along to a bunch of people – the more noise that’s made, the more likely that there will be some justice served.

  6. I guess with more people able to bring their writing to light, the big lords have their chairs shaking. So a bit of rope from the common man’s bundle would help tie and secure them.

  7. Pingback: Aroon Purie Likes Slate A Little Too Much « Mumbai Boss

  8. There was an unfortunate incident with the Letter from the Editor in the southern edition of India Today’s last issue.
    This was a mistake. We are printing an apology for it in the southern edition.
    Here is a preview for your information.

    “Jet lag is clearly injurious to the health of journalism. I was in America, and still a bit bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived when we took an unusual decision: to split the cover. This is jargon for changing the cover for some editions; so while the content of the magazine remained the same worldwide, the cover that went to our readers in south India had displayed the phenomenal Rajinikanth, while our other readers saw Omar Abdullah on the cover. This meant writing two versions of ‘Letter from the Editor’. Not being an acknowledged expert on the delightful southern superstar, I asked Delhi for some inputs. Unfortunately, a couple of sentences lifted from another article were sent to me. An excuse is not an explanation. So, without any reservations, mea culpa. Apologies.”

  9. Rahul Siddharthan

    That was quick. Clearly, Niranjana, you are not as important as Slate / Grady Hendrix.

  10. Jet lag? What a cheap, weak excuse!

  11. That apology/rejoinder from the India Today Corp Communications Group is laughable. If he’s not an expert on all things concerning Rajinikanth, did he *have to* write about it? Doesn’t the issue already do a cover story on him? Alternatively, why is it called “From the editor-in-chief” when he asks subordinates for inputs on a topic that is easily researchable?
    And of course, there’s the irony of leaving an apology on a blog from which they’ve ripped stuff off in the past & not bothered to make amends.

    I’m especially bitter on this because I gifted my dad a 1-year subscription to India Today last week😐

  12. @ Kamini: thanks. And yes, weak, but at least they responded…

    @ Vinod: yes, I hope their arrogance is a tad diminished now.

    @ Shivani: YES! their gall amazes me.
    Can you un-gift a subscription?

    • THAT would really send them a message… if people actually started calling them up to CANCEL subscriptions. Sadly, I doubt we Indians treat plagiarism a serious enough crime to forego Rs.1000!

  13. Wow, it sure seems like they have a culture of plagiarism. If the deputy editor can get away with it… Sorry to hear about your struggles with them.

  14. yeah, they’re a bunch of idiots, very unprofessional..

  15. I don’t understand why, if he liked the line, he could not have quoted it. No one would have argued that it wasn’t within fair use standards to quote something that is a small part of an entire artcle, and (IMPORTANT) CITE THE SOURCE.

    Taking your entire blog post, Niranjana, is quite another matter. It’s disgraceful.

  16. The editor has obviously set the standard , which the minions follow. Shame. I hope you get justice, Niranjana.

  17. Thank God. Sensing it’s mediocrity, I discontinued the India Today subscription a year ago!

  18. Absolutely Incredible! What gall, what a pathetic apology. What absolute rubbish.

  19. Flimsy standards (or complete lack thereof) and ethically questionable behaviour seem to be omnipresent throughout the Living Media India group, be it India Today or Aaj Tak.

    Grady Hendrix has indeed given a very fitting reply in Slate.

  20. What really depresses me is the tacit seal of approval it provides to the act of plagiarism , when the perpetrators are among the senior most denizens of the media firmament.. Indian students are notorious at universities abroad for plagiarising on their class papers and theses. Stealing from sources on the internet with no attempt at attribution, passing off someone else’s words and thoughts as your own has been seen as normal and acceptable in India and its an uphill struggle to explain to students why this demonstrates a complete lack of integrity and dishonesty. JOurnalism educators and teachers in our colleges are going to find it even harder to enforce ethical behaviour with ‘role models’ like arun poorie and damyanti dutta around.

    • Well said, and I absolutely agree. In the west, plagiarism is seen as stealing; that it’s ideas rather than a tangible asset makes no difference to the crime.
      I’ll also add that the lack of coverage or commentary from other Indian media outlets about these incidents further trivialise the seriousness of this act.

  21. Pingback: India’s most respected magazine indulging in repeated plagiarism? « Jag Venugopal's Blog

  22. Pingback: tambdimati — another low for aroon purie

  23. Pingback: Why Aroon Purie ‘elevated’ Prabhu Chawla « sans serif

  24. well

    frankly you should have sued them.

    As the material was on the internet you could have sued them practically anywhere.

    saurabh

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