When Did Indian TV Anchors Turn Into WhatsApp Uncles and Aunties?

Social Commentary

When Did Indian TV Anchors Turn Into WhatsApp Uncles and Aunties?

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

Over the last few years, the notorious “WhatsApp forward” has become a primary source of information for a section of the country that has come to be known as the “WhatsApp uncle”. But now, it seems as though a national TV channel has also subscribed to this news service — leaving social media confused about what to believe anymore.

On Wednesday night, two Times Now anchors addressed the rising speculation over the events at the LAC that led to the deaths of 20 Indian Army men, by reading out an unverified WhatsApp forward live on air.

In a clip that’s doing the rounds of social media, the two senior journalists, Rahul Shivshankar and Navika Kumar, read out a list of 30 names of Chinese soldiers who apparently died in the stand-off in Ladakh on Monday — from their phones.

The information was later concluded to be fake, and there have still been no official reports of casualties on the Chinese side following the stand-off.

The segment was met with great derision on social media, with a number of users questioning the credibility of the two anchors.

One wondered what Times Now would talk about if WhatsApp was to stop for a day.

While a parody WhatsApp University account was quick to claim credit for breaking the story.

The source of the information was attributed to the “Global Times”, a Chinese newspaper, whose editor later took to Twitter to confirm that they had released no such names.

But the anchors went on, blissfully unaware. Towards the end of the segment, Shivshankar is even heard saying that he doesn’t “really trust BBC news”, minutes after reading out a WhatsApp forward on air for his viewers.

The channel later deleted two tweets that carried the same “story” without offering an explanation or an apology.

To the anchors’ credit — if they deserve any — the unverified information was shared widely over the previous day, by a number of social media accounts. But given the nature of their jobs, and their old promise to provide all the information that the “nation wants to know”, the least viewers could have asked for was a basic fact-check.