Political Corruption – Difference Between New York Times & NYT-IndiaInk

The New York Times is a great newspaper, probably the best newspaper in the world. It publishes superb, well researched articles about major issues. That doesn’t mean it is perfect. For example, we have compared the NYT with France. Like France, we wrote, the NYT has made significant contributions to intellectual thought and it practices excellence with style. We also wrote that the anti-Hindu prejudice within NYT seems as deep-seated as the centuries-old deep-seated French prejudice against Jews.

Our opinion of the IndiaInk, the India-specific site of NYT, is different. We like reading IndiaInk but find it superficial. Recently, we termed the IndiaInk ethos as ideologically metrosexual. Specifically:

  • … the essence of
    metrosexuality is hiding reality. And that is what I see in
    NYT-IndiaInk. Their India is so fashionable, so admiring of Salman
    Rushdie, so utterly western cosmopolitan that I can barely recognize it.

This difference between the excellence of the NYT and the superficiality of NYT-IndiaInk became self-evident this week.

On Thursday, David Barboza of the New York Times published a painstakingly detailed article about the Billions in Hidden Riches for Family of Chinese Leader.  The leader was no middle level bureaucrat or an official in a remote province. No, the leader exposed by the NYT is Wen Jiabao, the Prime Minister of China. This is a case of brave and amazing investigative reporting by the New York Times. What did the NYT find?

  • Many relatives of Wen Jiabao, including his son, daughter, younger brother and brother-in-law, have become extraordinarily wealthy during his leadership, an investigation by The New York Times shows. A review of corporate and regulatory records indicates that the prime minister’s relatives, some of whom have a knack for aggressive deal-making, including his wife, have controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion.



              (Mr. Wen, second from right, with his wife and children in the 1980s – src NYT)

The level of detail in the long article by NYT’s David Barboza is outstanding. It is one of the finest examples of investigative reporting we have seen for some time. Kudos to Mr. Barboza and the NYT.

This brings up the obvious question. Why don’t we ever see a serious article in the New York Times about corruption in the Indian Government? Corruption in Government and the Congress Party has been the biggest issue in India for the past couple of years. It began with the neo-Gandhian movement by Anna Hazare, a movement partially credited with the defeat of the ruling Congress Party in North India.

Today, India is rocking with allegations similar to those about Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in the article by David Barboza. These allegations were made against Robert Varda, the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi, by Arvind Kejriwal, a prior associate of Anna Hazare. The Congress Party denies the allegations and calls them politically inspired.

This is high political drama to say the least. Sonia Gandhi is far more powerful in India than Wen Jiabao is in China. He is the Prime Minister and a colleague of President Hu Jintao. In contrast, Sonia Gandhi, the President of the ruling Congress Party, is sort of the Viceroy of India. She is the one who appoints the Indian Prime Minister to that position. And public allegations against the Indian cabinet amount to multiples of the paltry $2.7 billion attributed to Wen Jiabao family by NYT.

So we wonder, why hasn’t NYT-IndiaInk conducted an investigation into the issue of corruption in Indian Government? India is a vibrant, free country and it must be much easier to find information about hidden assets in India than in China. In this case, the Indian media is full of details about an Officer who was transferred for trying to probe the deals of Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law.  Yet, no coverage of this issue by NYT’s IndiaInk.

Our focus here is not with corruption either in China or in India. Our issue is not with the veracity of allegations against the families of either Wen Jiabao or Sonia Gandhi. Our singular focus is the difference in journalistic treatment of allegations of corruption in China and in India by two different bureaus of the New York Times. The NYT China bureau delivered a superlative investigative report while the NYT India bureau maintains a deliberate silence. 

Actually, IndiaInk has done more than just maintain its silence. One of the early articles of NYT-IndiaInk was Welcome Madamji, by NYT’s Jim Yardley. For those who may
not know, the word “Madamji” is a sycophantic double honorific that is
used by those who wish to curry favor with Sonia Gandhi.  Look at the photo in the “Madamji” article:


                                                          (src – NYT)

The above photo is from 2004. Why would Yardley choose this seven-year old old photo for his “Madamji” article in September 2011? If the photo doesn’t tell you about IndiaInk’s sycophancy, just read the beginning and ending sentences of Yardley’s “Madamji” article:

  • 1st sentence – She’s back. At least, we think she is.

  • last sentence – Welcome back, Mrs. Gandhi. Your party needs you.

The difference we see between the excellence of NYT and the superficiality of NYT-IndiaInk is the difference you will see between the “Madamji” article by Yardley and the article about the Wen Jiabao family by David Barboza. 

The question is whether the Editorial Board and the Management of the New York Times see it?  And if they see it, what will they do about it?

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