Why Fareed Zakaria Might Want To Move Back To India
Fareed Zakaria’s suspension from CNN and Time magazine for plagiarism recalls a similar trespass that took place in the Indian media two years ago. Zakaria admitted that he plagiarised parts of a story by Jill Lepore that was published in an April 2012 issue of The New Yorker, for his column on gun control in a recent issue of Time magazine. In the India Today issue dated October 18, 2010, Editor-in-Chief Aroon Purie began his editor’s note with a couple of paragraphs that had been lifted from an article on Rajinikanth by Slate’s Grady Hendrix. The difference in the reactions of the plagiarists and the punitive action taken shows how lightly journalistic ethics is taken in our country.
Zakaria apologised for making a “terrible mistake”. His column in Time has been suspended for a month, “pending further review”, the magazine has said. Purie, on the other hand, conveniently blamed jet lag and faulty “inputs” from India Today’s Delhi bureau. In November 2011, an Indian music magazine, Sound Box, plagiarised this TV show review from Mumbai Boss (see page 52 of that month’s issue). While the editor of the magazine did apologise for what she called a “mistake”, she said she would rather not fire the journalist, a promising rookie reporter. An inconspicuous clarification published in the following issue ludicrously said that the use of the review was an “inadvertant” error (see page 52 of the December 2011 issue).
In foreign publications, such transgressions cost journalists their jobs. Zakaria’s suspension follows the resignation of Jonah Lehrer, a staff writer for The New Yorker. Lehrer quit after it was revealed that he had cooked up quotes attributed to Bob Dylan in his book, Imagine: How Creativity Works. His publisher took his offence seriously enough to recall copies of the book from stores. Previously, Lehrer had publicly apologised for recycling his earlier work for Wired magazine and the Wall Street Journal, in blog posts for The New Yorker. However one rarely hears of Indian journalists being punished—or apologising—for plagiarism. (One can hardly expect Purie, who is the founder and CEO of the India Today Group, to fire himself.)
Zakaria’s downfall made it to the front page of major Indian dailies. After all, as a celebrated editor and public intellectual, he is one of the most high-profile Indian-Americans in the US. However none of the mainstream papers reported Purie’s case. There is a tacit rule among newspapers and magazines here to deliberately refrain from criticising (or even referring to) each other in print. American journalists, on the other hand, lit into Zakaria with the enthusiasm of watching an annoyingly successful enemy being knocked off his pedestal, using his mistake as a launch pad to attack his neo-liberal beliefs. It has been suggested that Zakaria, who is perennially busy juggling writing assignments and speaking at financial companies, was aided by research assistants. It’s possible, American commentators reckon, that Zakaria might have okayed an article drafted by his assistant. Even if this might be the case, Zakaria could hardly admit it as his readers were led to believe that they were imbibing the expert opinions of one of America’s star journalists. If this had happened in India, he could have simply blamed jet lag.Tags: Aroon Purie, Fareed Zakaria, India Today, Media, plagiarism, Time