Take Note, TOI

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This is in response to an article titled “2 in 5 IIT-B students suggest ‘cure’ for homosexuality: Campus Study” which appeared in the Times of India on the 4th of October. The piece had statistics from the article “Gay OK Please?” that was published in the latest print issue of Insight.

As a newspaper of some credibility and readership, it is your responsibility to report in an unbiased manner. Clickbait headlines and biased coverage do not seem suited to the leading newspaper of our country. Yet you persist in weaving a narrative different – and sometimes, completely opposite – to what we try to bring out with Insight.

Yes, Insight conducted an online survey to delve into the various misconceptions that exist in our campus. And yes, we asked our respondents if they would advise a remedy to “cure” the disease of LGBT. And yes, 38% replied in the affirmative.

But this was not the only question we asked.

Rather, this was just one of a total 19. Nineteen.
Having such a statistic as the heading of your article, in our opinion, makes the reader jump to conclusions, while stereotyping the majority of students as regressive. TOI, please try not to forget this – you are responsible, not only for what you print, but also for what people perceive.

What we also found out in our survey, was that 79% of us were comfortable with an open LGBTQ culture. 93% of us do not mind what the LGBTQ do in the privacy of their bedroom. We could go on mentioning these statistics, but the point is that the spectrum of responses is not compatible with the headline you chose – while 2 in 5 students suggest a cure for homosexuality, 9 in 10 are also of the opinion that the LGBTQ need support to fight against the injustices meted out to them, and 10 in 10 continue, and will continue, to coexist- happily and harmoniously- with the members of this community, day in and day out. It is clear, at least to us, that having “the most brilliant minds of the country” does not preclude the need for a social conscience.

Ours was the first IIT to have an LGBTQ Resource Group – Saathi – which advocates for the rights of gender and sexual minorities for a more inclusive campus. You probably know about Saathi – you interviewed one of their members. Perhaps you could have paid more attention to what he said – “Their preconceptions are not because they are prejudiced against the LGBTQ community, but due to their lack of awareness.” Ask yourself now, TOI – did you make your readers aware of a complex problem at IIT-B, or did you simply prejudice them against the students of the institute with your ill thought out headline?

This is not to say that everything is hunky-dory. Our survey indicated that we are not as progressive or liberal as we think we are. We have a long way to go before we can call IIT-B an inclusive campus in the truest sense of the word. But the article is testament to the fact that we’re trying every bit as hard as we can. It is in the truly liberal spirit of discovery that we ask these questions, gather public opinion and identify the problems that most others choose to ignore. Having a heading and a byline highlighting just one aspect of the survey, while relegating the others to later paragraphs or to infographics is, in our opinion, not in the spirit of good journalism, or even journalism at that.

This is not the first time you have selectively brought forth facts to arrive at a story you were keen to tell. This is not the first time our articles have been subjected to distortion and blatant manipulation. You did this with the Freshmen Survey we shared earlier this year. You did this with an article we wrote about students finding lectures uninteresting. You did this with our survey on graduating seniors. So please realise that this is not a knee jerk reaction- but a response to systemic and periodic misrepresentation that has finally irked us too much.

You also seem to be unaware of the power you have as a newspaper. What you print, other media outlets perceive as factual information and share your content. In this manner, you are perpetuating a culture of misinterpretation, misrepresentation and misinformation.

Far be it from us to tell you how to do your job, but your callous nature is now really starting to bug us.

From one media body to hopefully another,
Insight