Tuesday, September 13, 2016

An ounce of responsibility

We consider information and knowledge to be the most valuable assets that we, humans, accumulate. Information and knowledge once gained have been handed down through the ages to the subsequent generations. It is the blatant disregard for the integrity of information, from the very people who are supposed to be its guardians, that pains me.

Yet again, I'm cribbing about irresponsible journalism, and an article that I chanced across earlier today, in the front page of a prominent daily. The article runs thus:

These Paralympians Ran The 1500m Faster Than The Rio Olympics Gold Winner. Wait, What!


Our paralympians ran an absolutely fantastic race, no doubt. So, why am I complaining? 

Unfortunately, I find this to be a classic example of lousy reporting, if done out of ignorance or an example of unethical reporting, if it was shooting off people's sentiment for our wonderful paralympians.  Here's why.

1500 m races are not run as a sprint, where the goal is not to have the fastest time, but to be tactically faster and tougher than the current set of runners. It is a long distance race where the runners have to combine physical prowess with mental acumen to outpace the competition while considering the entire duration of the race. This is no simple task, as one has to evaluate the strength, stamina, and sprint abilities to decide on the pace and strategy on-the-fly during the race.

To give a concrete example from not too far long ago, this is what happened last month at the vary same stadium, in the able-bodied Olympics. In fact, this is same 1500m event, that is referred to in the article. 

This was the results in the finals:

And this is what happened in the semi-finals, 

And surprise, surprise ! This is what happened in the qualification rounds. 

While the gold medalist had a timing of 3:50 min in finals, about 24 people had run in less than 3:50 min in the semi finals, and about 35 runners have less than 3:50 min in the qualification rounds. 

To compare two 1500 m races is therefore logically flawed. In fact, the very same paralympians, may clock a very different time if they reran the race. However, to say this "But here's one story that may put able-bodied athletes to shame." in an non-satirical article is denigrating the efforts of all the wonderful athletes (both able-bodied and differently-abled). 

Not long ago, I had written about journalists needing a pinch of responsibility to do their research before penning down an article that thousands would read to acquire information and knowledge. But it looks like we now need not a pinch, but an ounce of responsibility!