Report the controversy, forget the facts

Time was when ridiculous articles by foreign correspondents would go unnoticed by the people written about. Not any more. It is a smaller world now.

Cricket, a boring 5-day game which more often than not ends in a draw, has been shortened into a three-hour frenzy. This was done by giving each side just 20 overs (an over is six pitches). A one-day version of the sport which limited sides to 50 overs each has been around for several years. This is how the Washington Post described the new game:

It condenses nearly a week of match play into three hours, with shorter "overs," which are similar to innings in baseball.

This totally wrong synopsis of the newest professional league in India has naturally prompted quite a few guffaws.

But I'm trying a make a larger point, so bear with me. If I were writing an article on the phenomenon, I would focus on the entrepreneurship involved -- after all, the Brits have had a dowdy professional league for decades but it took a swashbuckling Indian beer tycoon to create a professional league worth watching. Because this is a league -- and game -- built completely from scratch in a matter of months, every one's making things up as they go. One of the league teams even imported Washington Redskins cheerleaders to train up a cheer leading squad.

Give the American press a choice between making half-assed observations and writing a researched article about economics or sport and what would they choose? You got it. They decided to write about the "controversy" caused by the amount of skin exposed by the cheerleaders. That premise too has also been challenged ... but of course, to understand that India (like any country) is a complicated place would get in the way of an easy story.

We are badly served by our media. I'm reminded of this every time I read an article on something that I actually know something about.

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