Archive for November, 2006

Bangalore and New York: the connection

30 November 2006

The word in Bangalore three days ago was that the City’s oldest English newspaper was up for sale and that the possible buyer was a listed newspaper company looking to come to Bangalore.

NDTV Profit quickly put the news on the air, and then faced with denials from the company, equally quickly pulled it off. But the damage had been done, and the word was out.

But such poor reporting is not an Indian speciality alone. CNBC in America reported yesterday that a billionaire investor named Maurice Greenberg was planning to buy the NewYork Times Company.

Immediately, the NYT’s stock price shot through the roof, closing 7.4 per cent up, its biggest jump in six years. But after the markets closed, Greenberg’s spokesman denied he was planning a buy.

As Le Monde said in its marvellously evocative 9/11 headline, “We are all Americans today.”

Journalists v Academics

30 November 2006

Should journalists be generalists—writing about all and sundry but giving readers a snapshot of the world without boring the pants out of them? Or should they be like academics, specialising in one or two subjects and writing with gravitas and authority even if the readers gets lost in the thickets of cliches and jargon and? Or should they be, as it was said of Timothy Garton Ash, have “a foot in both graves”? These are old questions, and Hassan Suroor provides some new insights in today’s Hindu. Check it out.

If you thought the paper had typos…

29 November 2006

After days of using a 16-page newspaper as their visiting card, the reporters now have reasonably smartly designed business cards. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the new cards beat the newspaper in the number of typographical errors per “square centimetre”.

Vicky Nanjappa‘s email ID vicky_nanjappa.com has been printed as vick_ynanjappa@vijaytimes.com. Jarda Master was thinking of changing his email ID till Chandrashekhar G found that his ID had been so printed—shekhar16@gamail.com—that he may have to change his email provider.

A question of answers

28 November 2006

Question: Why did Nirad Mudur not apply for a job in West Bengal?

Answer: For the same reason, Kwality did not launch Wall’s in Calcutta.

Writing is like sex. Yes, sex.

28 November 2006

A familiar question that comes up in a newspaper is, how can we get our reporters and correspondents to write well, and how can we get our sub-editors to chop and change poorly written stuff into something more readable, acceptable?

The answer is, “there is no one single way”.

Scientists and researchers may announce the most earthshaking discovery and invention day after day, but—thank god—there will never be a day when there will be an AP or Reuters story that says a magic pill or injection or machine has been discovered to write or sub better.

In other words, to write better, to edit better, we really ought to fall in love with words.You can do that only by reading more and soaking in more and absorbing more till the damn thing rubs off on you.

Reading at least one new (English) book a fortnight, reading one fine piece a day, going to the dictionary to find out meanings every now and then, solving crosswords, etc, are some ways the old fogeys will say you must follow.

The other way is to use the internet much better than we do. There are dozens of websites which offer online exercises, advice and more. Subscribe to free services like word-a-day which is provided by Anu Garg at wordsmith.org

Unless we develop a passion for words, we will never ever write better.

So, why is writing like sex? As the great Sol Stein—one of the top editors of all time said—good writing is writing that is pleasurable to both sides, the writer and the reader.

Otherwise, it is—you know what—masturbation and you might as well do it you know where..

Why you should go for a hair cut during office hours

27 November 2006

In news just coming in, Daniel Craig has said he refused to dye his blonde hair for the James Bond film Casino Royale.

“I was asked to dye my hair brown to play the role but it was out question. I suggested instead that I could cut my hair really short to create a more brutal appearance,” Bond 6.0 says.
An apt piece of news on a day when the top item in the morning meeting today was, yes, haircuts. All prompted by Sudhakar Nair’s cut -and-dye in Koramangala (Rs 80) and Nirad Mudur chop-chop in Malleshwaram (Rs 30).

As usual, the most interesting bit was Prabala Ranga Sai’s intervention on the owners of “Cultural Men’s Parlour” in Rajajinagar coming to work in a Maruti 800.

Mr Mudur provided the intellectual take to the rather mundane debate, saying most barbers after a period of time becoming counsellors to the men they attend to, knowing all their pains, problems and, indeed, pleasure-points.

Oh, by the way, why should you go for a hair cut during office hours? Because it grows during office hours.

Should we print only letters that praise us?

26 November 2006

Should newspapers publish letters critical of what they do, letters critical of stands they take, letters telling reporters and subs and correspondents and the editor to go take a bloody hike?

The answer is obvious: of course, we should. That’s the whole point of good journalism: to give the view, the opposite view and the other view (which incidentally is the slogan of ‘Al Jazeera’), not just to stick your neck in the sand and pretend you are right all the time.

But take one look at newspapers around you and you will find that rare is the publication that lets the reader do the talking. Indeed, if you look at one Bangalore paper we cannot name here, the only letters to the editor published are those which start off saying, “Kudos to the editor for another riveting column…” Clearly, the readers are smart. At least they know what kind of letter to write to get published.

But are we as smart in publishing only such letters? Is that why we are around? To publish sugary-sweet praise? Saccharine platitudes? To pretend we are the ultimate arbiters of the world, and all that we do is right and unquestionable?

Four days ago, we made a front-page “flyer”—that’s the story that runs on top of the page—of the report alleging that Rahul Mahajan had been accused of beating his wife, Shweta.

The logic behind putting it on page one was twofold: one, it’s an interesting glamourous story that shows the Achilles’ heel of the well-heeled; and two, because here was the son of the man who could have been prime minister, and the man whose sister was only recently inducted into the BJP.First, he gets caught with cocaine and champagne at home. And then this.

But readers–or at least some of them—didn’t join the dots. And three of them wrote to us criticising the page one display. It would have been convenient and comfortable to pretend we didn’t receive them, but who are we kidding? Ourselves? So, we boxed the three critical letters on our letters page yesterday much to some people’s chagrin.

Chagrin, because most other Bangalore papers too put the Mahajan story on page one, but not one of them has published similar letters. Yet. Either their readers are far less sensitive than ours or far more permissive; or they have not found the time or space to accommodate them. Yet.

At least one reader Dr Mallesh Rao from Mysore seems to have caught the drift of what we are doing. He has written a letter praising us for printing letters of the editorial policy. Guess where that letter is going?

Good enough is not

25 November 2006

Not too many in journalism—not too many in Indian journalism anyway—like to turn the binoculars at themselves and look at what is happening in their profession in a different way. Tim Porter at First Draft does just that with aplomb, often surprising you with how much of what he says makes sense, in spite of the American context.

In particular, his recipe to rebuild the system is interesting as indeed is his take on what newspapers ought to do if they are to rise again. But what is must-reading is how the values of modern newspapers ought to change: from competition to context, from individualism to collaboration, from speed to discipline, from answers to questions, from authority to interaction, and from more to less.
Go take a look.

How well do you know your alphabets?

25 November 2006

Namrata Joshi sends us the new revised alphabets, and journalists—or at least some of us who are socially conscious—should really be ashamed if we do not know them by heart.

For reasons of journalistic fairness, and to not make any one feel left out, this item is not being dedicated to any one in particular, but all of you—and you know who you are—can take it as a personal tribute.

***

A for Aristocrat

B for Bagpiper

 

C for Contessa

D for Director’s Special

E for 8 pm

F for Four Roses

G for Godfather

 

H for Haywards

 

I for Imperial Blue

J for Johnny Walker

K for Kingfisher

 

 

L for Lincoln Lager

M for Master Brew

 

N for Narrangansett

 

O for Old Monk

 

P for Pioneer

 

Q for Quat

 

R for Red Label

 

S for Scotch

 

T for Trommers

 

U for Utica

 

V for Vat 69

 

W for Watkins

 

X for XXX

Y for Yotoc

 

Z for Zingaro

 

 

 

Who said this about newspapers?

24 November 2006

“A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.”

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