<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On November 16, the day the Press Council of India (PCI) started functioning as a moral watchdog whose object was preserving ‘freedom of the press and of maintaining and improving the standards of press’.And yet on National Press Day, several media organisations fell for a fake story about Mysore Pak, a tale so obviously bogus it wouldn’t pass muster in the average Indian uncle’s Whatsapp group.It all started in 2015 when Twitter thread aficionado Anand Ranganathan tweeted a document allegedly quoting Lord Macaulay in British Parliament telling his fellow legislators how the Mysore Pak was indeed Tamilian. The story goes, he claimed was that the famed sweetmeat’s recipe was stolen by a courtier of Mysore Palace who ran all the way to Mysore from Madras with it, dying upon reaching the destination, like a south Indian Pheidippides . Inspired by the Bengali-Odia showdown over the rasgulla, Ranganathan started a poll asking who invented the Mysore Pak – Kannadigas or Tamilians? While the tweets led the usual good-natured online jousting which has kept Twitter alive, a host of mainstream media organisations including The Times of India, India Today, Marathi newspaper LokSatta, Kannada News Channel Public TV news, Vijay Karnataka, Swatantra Varta and others, started reporting the story as fact! Interestingly, the template Ranganathan used to spread the fake story of Mysore Pak is based on another older anecdote about something Macaulay allegedly said in the British parliament in 1835, about breaking India’s ancient education system, which would be replaced by an English system which would help destroy the ‘self-esteem’ of the natives.The quote is historically inaccurate, more so since Macaulay was in India in 1835 and even his Minute on Education (which would be followed by an act to replace Sanskrit and Persian education with English) delivered in Calcutta has none of the quotes mentioned.Despite the outlandish claims made by Ranganathan’s Macaulay, several mainstream media fell for it hook, line and sinker.While from a consequence perspective, the news doesn’t have far-reaching ramifications and lies in the UNESCO declared ‘Indian national anthem best in the world’, it does raise the question – why are we so gullible?How can we ask our audience to trust us when we don’t exhibit even the minimal amount of fact-checking or logical thinking before putting up a story and calling it news? The age-old practice of checking something from two unconnected sources was lost a long time ago, and we all have month-end traffic targets, but that doesn’t mean we believe that the British parliamentarians were so jobless that they would discuss the origin of a sweetmeat in a faraway land! Former Press Council of India chairman, ex-Supreme Court judge and blogging enthusiast Markandey Katju had famously said that ‘90% of Indians’ are idiots and based on the way mainstream organisations fell for a bogus quote, it’s hard to argue that our fraternity doesn’t fall in that 90%.As Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, perhaps the most vilified man on social media and victim of a thousand fake news stories, put it all those years ago: “If there is no responsibility and no obligation attached to it, freedom gradually whithers away. This is true of a nation’s freedom and it applies as much to the Press as to any other group, organisation or individual.”

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When media fell for a fake Mysore Pak story on National Press Day