Editor’s note on Mint’s visa fraud story

Editor’s note on Mint’s visa fraud story

What do you do when every system you’ve put in place fails and the paper you edit runs an incorrect story that is extremely damaging about a company like Wipro. That’s the position I found myself in, Monday morning, when it turned out that a story that appeared in Mint on Saturday about Wipro being one of the companies that was temporarily suspended from a US Consulate programme to expedite business visas was incorrect.

Worse, after a meeting with the reporter and editor concerned, I was convinced that due journalistic process had not been followed in reporting the story. Or editing it.

On the face of it, the story had the two independent sources Mint requires for all stories where people do not want to be named. Only, it turns out that one of the two had no way of knowing whether Wipro had or had not been suspended from the programme. The other was in a position to know but worked for the competition. This weakens the sourcing of the story, and ideally, the questions I asked on Monday should have been asked by an editor on Friday.

Then, there’s the fact that Wipro was given less than 24 hours to respond to the story. And, finally, the reporter did not send queries to the company by e-mail, preferring to talk over the phone instead.

How did we deal with it?

On Monday, we sort of put the online version of the story in digital limbo while I conducted my review. We then decided to rewrite it leaving out Wipro’s name with a clear disclosure that the story had been revised (it turns out that the sourcing for the rest of the story is immaculate).

I then wrote to the company’s chief marketing officer, explaining what we had done and offering an apology.

And, in keeping with our policy, we decided to carry a correction and apology. I did flirt with the idea of doing so on Page 1 given the sensitivity of the issue, but then decided to stick to Page 2 where we always carry corrections and clarifications, no matter how serious the error. Carrying the correction on Page 1 would have set a bad precedent.

- R. Sukumar