The leading national daily keeps the Indian public in the dark about Gore’s historic energy challenge by refusing to make any mention of it.
Despite Al Gore’s Rock Star status, certain media organisations seem to have a thing or two against him. In the U.S. they have Fox News and in India it looks like Hindustan Times is keen to take on that role.
When Gore spoke in Washington on Thursday on the challenge to abandon fossil fuels, New York Times reported that the plan goes beyond even the most audacious ones. Bill McKibbon, journalist and climate activist went a step further when he said Gore deserved “the prize you get once you’ve won the Nobel.” Nasa’s leading climate scientist James Hansen called it “the turning point that is needed.”
So how did Fox News report the challenge? Fox’s reporting focused not on Gore’s call but his personal emissions. Its reporter stood outside the Gore event and counted the number of minutes Gore’s driver left the car on idle with the AC on to keep it cool when Gore and wife Tipper returned (it ran on idle for an earth destroying 20 minutes! The horror!).
Editors at Hindustan Times went a step further by pretending that Gore never spoke.
What Does HT Have Against Informed Public Opinion On Climate Change in India?
This isn’t the first time Hindustan Times has negatively influenced the Indian public on climate change front. I consider deliberate omission of an important global event from its reporting as a negative influence. There are many many examples of omission on this front in the past. But there are also examples of deliberate negative influence. In early April, HT ran two ridiculous stories challenging man made global warming and discrediting the IPCC.
I exposed those stories on my blog and am currently suing the paper in the Press Council of India for publishing them. Its editor and correspondent have been served notices and I can’t wait for the proceedings to begin. Have collected a wealth of evidence to share.
But let’s give them some benefit of doubt and see if this omission was really intentional or caused by some other reason. Maybe it was too late for Friday’s paper. Maybe they didn’t have enough space. Maybe it wasn’t relevant for Indian readers. Let’s look at each of these reasoning.
“It was too late for Friday’s paper”
Gore’s speech began at 9.30 pm Indian time on Thursday and ended just before 10.00 pm. Okay that could have been a little close to their cut off time. But earlier in the day, around 5.30 pm Associated Press (AP) had released an interview with Gore previewing the speech. So there was plenty of time for the paper to run a story on Friday.
I was lucky enough to get hands on the AP story just as it was out and wrote about it around 6.00 pm. I found my hands on the actual transcript of the speech around 10, before Gore had finished delivering it in Washington. But by 9.00 pm itself, there were lots of media reports on Google News referencing the AP release. In fact, rival Times of India even published the AP story on Friday and mentioned it on the front page header too. So why did the Hindustan Times ignore it altogether?
Even if one accepts it was too late for Friday’s paper, there can’t be a reasonable explanation of its omission on Saturday as well, apart from it being intentional. TOI ran an editorial on it on Saturday. A full day after the speech was out when papers around the world were writing about it (1000+ mentions on Google News by now), India’s leading newspaper pretends it didn’t happen.
“They didn’t have enough space”
A story as important as this deserves to create its own space pushing aside other less important ones. But perhaps there were other reports even more important that needed to be mentioned. Alright, lets see what else HT ran in the World section that day.
- World section, page 19 | Hindustan Times, New Delhi, Saturday, July 19, 2008Main page
Happy Birthday, Mandela
India, China drive up Christie’s sales
Osama’s driver to be tried for war crimes
European terrorists trying to enter US
Ahead of Games, sex shops shut down
Pak terror groups getting bolder: US
Progress on Saarc varsity to be reviewed
Young’s self-published ‘The Shack’ a hit
Nature’s fury: typhoon kills 7 in Taiwan
Obama raises $52m in a month for campaign
Iran expects positive US presence at N-talks
Sex trade up in Oz during Pope’s visit
Female suicide bomber held in Afganistan
Libyan sent to jail for lying about Afgan visit
Python spins out of washing machine
World section, page 20
Desperate Housewives to end in three years
Want free gas? Name baby after radio station
I can’t see any of these stories being more important than Gore’s challenge which, if pursued, could fix the US economy, end their national security threat and most importantly lead the world into addressing the climate crisis
“It wasn’t relevant for Indian readers”
Looking at above stories, it’s clear that wasn’t the case. Climate change is a problem that will hit India severely. U.S and India share similar challenges in terms of moving from fossil fuels to clean energy sources.
The same is true for China and other Asian countries as well. So I looked up Chinese and Pakistani news publications to see whether they covered this issue. Turns out they did.
- South China Morning Post, China:
Gore’s is a cry the whole world should heed
Xinhua News Agency, China:
Gore proposes carbon-free electricity production by 2018
The News, Pakistan:
Al-Gore urges US to generate power with clean fuel
Clearly, there are some vested interests at work to ensure that public opinion in India remains uninformed or misinformed about climate change. The effort seems to be working. For example, most people in urban India, even those who consider themselves “environment friendly” do not grasp climate change mitigation potential of their actions or how far their actions go to address climate change, in other words.
Today’s (Sunday’s) paper, for example, contains a full-page feature titled “Green brigade: Even five-year-olds are doing their bit to counter the dangers of global warming.” The stories in this feature are commendable and probably inspiring to some but are largely uninformed about what causes global warming and what kind of actions can address this issue.
Only one of the several examples mentioned in the three stories have something directly to do with lowering energy consumption. Others are about minimising waste generation, saving water, tree plantation, ozone depletion, air pollution, unemployment, recycling and cultural education.
All of these are most welcome and do lower CO2 emissions but only indirectly. They certainly cannot be clubbed together under the title of “examples that counter the dangers of global warming.” Even if every kid in India did all of that (and they should!), we’d still be nowhere close to addressing global warming as long as we kept burning fossil fuels. Apparently, even seasoned reporters can’t differentiate between good environmental practices and those that mitigate climate change.
I’d rather see real climate change news in the papers. Al Gore’s energy challenge is likely to be a historic event in the fight against this issue as I wrote previously. I’d like some answers as to why Hindustan Times kept its readers in dark about it.
- Vir Sanghvi, Editorial Director Hindustan Times
HT correspondents: Kinjal Dagli, Shalini Singh and Chetan Chauhan
Barkha Dutt, Group Editor, English News, NDTV
Dr. Rajendra K Pachauri, Director-General TERI
Sunita Narain, Director, Centre for Science and Environment
Bittu Sehgal, Editor, Sanctuary Magazine
Malini Mehra, Founder & Chief Executive, Centre for Social Markets
To check for updates, head over to Orange Hues blog.