The alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old girl by her seniors at a Dehradun-based residential school made headlines across national newspapers on Wednesday morning. According to reports, the principal of the school as well as the school coordinator tried to hush up the matter.
While most media outlets chose not to name the school, Times of India went with a somewhat confusing headline in its Kolkata edition.
It would perhaps take a discerning reader to note that the ‘s’ in school is in small caps and hence the school being referred to is not Doon School. The screenshot of the headline spread quickly on WhatsApp groups and resulted in worried parents questioning the Doon School administration. The headline in the Delhi edition, though, omits the word Doon.
Headmaster Matthew Raggett was quick to issue a statement to dispel fears. A statement was shared with Indian Public Schools Society, which governs the functioning of the school. The body also includes parents.
Some of you will have seen the headline in the Times of India today which said
Doon school covers up girl’s rape, tries to force abortion.
In the local edition of the TOI in Dehradun the news carried the headline that read ‘City school’. The incident has happened in a local co-ed school.
We have taken up the matter with the Bureau Chief and the Editor of the TOI, asking them to print a prominent retraction and to accept responsibility for possible reputational damage caused by their choice of words. If you have been fielding as many questions as I have, please can I ask you to assure people in your network that it is an awful story that may have taken place in a school in Dehradun, but it certainly was not, as the headline suggests, in The Doon School.
To the Editor of the Times of India, Sir,
The headline is reckless and puts The Doon School in harms way. As a nationally and globally recognised school, the name of the school is trademarked and protected. Yes, Doon means ‘valley’, which we cannot lay claim to, and yes the region is sometimes referred to as Doon but to put the words Doon and school together is treading on the school’s trademark and to do that in a headline about the rape of a student and the school administration’s cover-up of the case is something that is unacceptable to us. Reporting any school in the region as ‘Doon school’ is confusing and a newspaper of the TOI’s stature should not be making such sophomoric mistakes. Now, when I search Google for news articles on The Doon School, this is the first thing that comes up.
The journalist who has put his name to the story and the section editor not conforming to any reasonable standard of care and even their reporting of the case, never mind the headline, goes against what is expected and required of the media according to the POCSO Act.
The Doon School is now having to field questions from the community which takes time and energy away from doing what we do best, educating ‘exceptional boys from all backgrounds to serve a meritocratic India’.
You are requested to print a prominent retraction in tomorrow’s newspaper and clarifying piece in which you explain that the headline was misleading, but also apologise, with the same prominence, for the confusion caused by your carelessness. You should also have their own legal department investigate how you will, in future, report cases that fall under the POCSO Act and have a child safety element to them. At the moment, their own reporting is part of the problem.
I would also urge you in future to refrain from referring to any school in Dehradun as a Doon school.
In case we do not see your retraction and apology tomorrow we will take up the matter of the reputation damage that you have caused, and that we have been fielding today, with our lawyers.
President of Doon School Old Boys Society, Jaswinder Singh, said they were contemplating legal action against TOI.
However, by 1 PM today, the headline of the story in its online edition had been changed. It now reads: “Dehradun school covers up gang rape of minor by seniors, asks her to abort.” A statement was added before the copy began, stating: “The headline of this story has been changed. It mentioned ‘Doon school’ which is incorrect. This was an inadvertent error which has been corrected. Our apologies. The school mentioned in the story has no connection with the Doon School.”
A senior editor at TOI said: “As long as the ‘s’ is in small caps, how can it be The Doon School that is being referred to? If it was a school in Mumbai or Delhi, we would have said Mumbai school or Delhi school.”
Updated: TOI published a clarification in its Thursday edition, stating: “As is evident from the use of the lower-case ‘s’ in ‘school,’ the headline referred to a school in Dehradun, not to The Doon School.”