Mainstream media’s collective fictionalising

BY THE HOOT| IN Media Practice | 03/06/2016
How on earth did so many media outlets propagate a totally baseless story about a young woman killed in a seafront accident?
The HOOT desk, with eyewitness accounts

 

Earlier this week newspapers and  TV channels reported the story of, a 21-year-old law student from Jodhpur who had reportedly died while taking a "daredevil selfie" or  a "perfect selfie" on top of a 300 feet high lighthouse and from there she fell into the sea. 

Some accounts even said  that these youth were careless because they visited the beach despite there being numerous warnings against doing so. Not only are these claims uncorroborated, but they are far from the truth and present a version of events which did not take place.

Since most of the misleading news reports have either been removed or changed, it is difficult to locate the origin of this completely baseless “selfie” version.

What actually transpired was this.

She and her friends were at Kumta beach, Gokarna, Karnataka and were sitting on rocks some 10-15 feet above sea. A sudden wave at  high tide hit three of the young people, including the deceased, and they were flown away by a giant wave. Two of them were brought back to the shore by another wave, but the third, whose glasses had come off, continued to struggle as she held on to a rock for support. She bravely struggled and tried to swim for around 45 minutes. Unfortunately, she lost her grip, and was carried towards the deeper end of the sea by the waves.

Her body was later recovered from the sea by local fishermen. This is corroborated by the FIR report which was filed at the local police station at Gokarna. There was no incident of the girl or her friends climbing the lighthouse or attempting to take a selfie. Moreover, the post mortem report indicates that the cause of death was asphyxiation and there were no injuries on her body which would be characteristic of a fall from such a height. The Hoot has reviewed the FIR  and post mortem report sent by her friends.

"The deceased deserves justice and should not have to die a disgraceful death at the hands of sensationalism by the media."

 

This incident has just been labelled by the media as one more instance of the irresponsible selfie craze among the youth, which it was not. The girl in question was one of the brightest students of National Law University, Jodhpur, one of the premier law schools in the country and this false reporting regarding her death has caused much grief to her family and friends.  

 

Writes a classmate and friend,  “This episode has shaken the faith of people in the integrity of media reporting. The deceased deserves justice and should not have to die a disgraceful death at the hands of sensationalism by the media.”

The selfie report was carried by several media outlets, the Times of India, and the Hindustan Times are among those who have  since removed the story even as the urls in some cases remain giveaways. The  Indian Express  carried a video of the girl with her friends  on its  paper’s Facebook page.  The Hindu changed the story headline  but the url contains the original headline and is a giveaway of the gaffe that was.

This amazing  episode demonstrates  the copycat irresponsibility and dubious ethics displayed by the concerned news channels and media houses. Where did the fiction originate from, and how did so many swallow it unquestioningly?

 

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