‘Bakhchod’ boo-boo: What went wrong at IANS?

An internal probe has been ordered, meanwhile IANS has apologised for the error.

WrittenBy:Cherry Agarwal
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On September 12, the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) put out a story about the Union Cabinet approving a new pro-farmer scheme. The scheme that allowed private players to procure crop produce at remunerative prices was approved at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister, IANS reported.

However, while referring to the Prime Minister, the story stated that the meeting was chaired by “Prime Minister Narendra Bakhchod Modi”. 

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In less than an hour, an advisory was issued, stating that the story was being withdrawn and a substitute story would be issued. Editors were asked to guard against the publication of the story.

The updated story, released at 6.52 pm last night, now carries a disclaimer along with its headline, which states: “(Lead, Supersedes earlier version)”. The updated version of the story is on IANSwebsite.

The oversight has kicked up quite a storm inside the IANS newsroom. An internal probe has been ordered. So far, the agency has suspended the reporter who filed the story with immediate effect pending an investigation, while a show-cause notice has been issued to the editor concerned.

Newslaundry reached out to IANS Managing Editor Hardev Sanotra for a comment regarding the withdrawal of the story and confirmation about the reporter’s suspension. His statement has been produced below in full:

IANS deeply regrets the wholly inadvertent incursion of an unparliamentary reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in one of its reports yesterday.

The error is unacceptable and unconscionable. As soon as it was discovered, the report was pulled off from the wires and a corrected story issued.

Meanwhile, the reporter concerned has been suspended with immediate effect pending an urgent ongoing investigation. A show-cause notice has also been issued to the concerned editor.

IANS has always strived to uphold the values of accuracy, objectivity and rigour in its reportage and remains committed to the highest norms of journalistic ethics and excellence.

But anyone who is seriously associated with the media knows only too well that inadvertent mistakes, however egregious, can and sometimes do unfortunately take place. This being one such instance, perhaps the first in over 25 year history of our organization.

We apologise profoundly to our subscribers, readers and the Hon’ble Prime Minister for the error and assure them of our continued endeavour to produce the objective, accurate and high quality reportage.

At the agency, there are at least three to four editorial gates through which a copy passes: The story once filed by the reporter goes to a sub-editor, and then to an associate editor. If the sub-editor/senior sub-editor deems it important, then the story is also forwarded to a senior editor (this varies from story to story).

It is unclear how something like this could have occurred at IANS despite the editorial layers through which a copy usually goes before being finally put on the wire for other media outlets to pick up.

Newslaundry contacted several reporters and editors at IANS to understand how this error could have slipped through but none of them wanted to speak on the issue fearing job losses. Off the record, one employee suggested that it could have been owing to autocorrect. It is unlikely, though, that Damodardas would autocorrect to ‘bakhchod’. What is certain, though, are the resignations and possible firings that may follow.


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