Journo lived a false Harvard dream after ‘phishing attack’

Picture retreived from Twitter
Picture retreived from Twitter

The whole story turned out to be fake news.

By Joydeep Sengupta

Published: Fri 15 Jan 2021, 10:53 PM

Last updated: Sat 16 Jan 2021, 6:28 AM

Famed Indian journalist Nidhi Razdan said on Friday the Harvard job offer that she got some months ago was fake and she was a victim in an elaborate phishing attack.

On June 13, 2020, Nidhi Razdan, 43, one of Indian broadcast media’s well-known anchors, announced that she would be quitting NDTV, perhaps the most-respected Indian TV channel, after a 21-year stint, as she was “changing direction” to join Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences as an associate professor. The celebrated Indian media story of last year amid the Covid-inflicted doom and gloom in the profession, where thousands of jobs were lost, came full circle on Friday.

The whole story turned out to be fake news. A shocked Razdan issued a statement on Twitter, claiming she had been the victim of a sophisticated phishing attack in which she was given an offer to teach at Harvard University. Razdan said she has filed a police complaint to “get to the bottom of this attack”.

According to her statement, she was supposed to join the university in September 2020 but was told her classes would only commence in January 2021 due to the pandemic.

“Along with these delays, I began noticing a number of
 administrative anomalies in the process being described to me,” Razdan wrote.

“At first, I had dismissed these anomalies as being reflective of the new normal being dictated by the pandemic, but recently the representations being made to me were of an even more disquieting nature.”

Razdan said she reached out to “senior authorities” at Harvard and shared correspondence she thought she’d received from the university.

“After hearing from the university, I have now learned that I have been the victim of a sophisticated and coordinated phishing attack,” she wrote.

“I did not, in fact, receive an offer by Harvard University to join their faculty. The perpetrators of this attack used clever forgeries and misrepresentation to obtain access to my personal data and communications and may have also gained access to my devices and my email/social media accounts.”

The former anchor of the popular NDTV primetime show, Left, Right and Centre, however, has a lot of explaining to do.

Was she naive, or pulling a fast one on the unsuspecting public? The jury is still out on this, as her candid admissions further polarised the Indian media, torn between right-wing supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the bleeding heart Left Liberals.

Razdan has been getting it from all sides as she maintains radio silence.

But for the record, Joshua Benton, founder and director of the Nieman Journalism Lab of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University, joined the issue on Razdan ‘phishing attack’.

He has clarified that Harvard University does not have a school of journalism or department of journalism and has no full-time faculty either.

The Nieman Foundation, which Benton has referred to in his tweet, only offers fellowships related to journalism.

According to its website, the fellowship is for “individuals with a specific project to enhance journalism who would like to spend up to 12 weeks at Harvard advancing their idea”.

“Following their work on campus, our fellows have gone on to assume senior leadership positions in newsrooms, produce ground-breaking journalism in every medium, launch entrepreneurial projects, and win the industry’s top honors,” it adds

Is a bachelor’s degree from Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College for Women and a diploma from the Indian capital’s Indian Institute of Mass Communication good enough to make the grade at Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences as an associate professor?

Shashi Tharoor, Indian parliamentarian, former undersecretary-general of the United Nations, had congratulated Razdan on Twitter on June 13, 2020, while taking a potshot at commando comic Indian TV channels.

He had tweeted: “Will miss you, @Nidhi. At a time when the credibility of Indian TV has never been lower, will miss your responsible voice, penetrating questions & sharp reporting. A loss for all Indians who truly ‘want to know’. Good luck & may you train better journalists than those you’re escaping!”

Was Tharoor, an author of 22 books and former Indian minister of state during the Congress regime, had no clue about Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences?

Or, is it what American author Mark Twain had said: “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

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