Archive for December 16th, 2006

Trying to be better is half the battle won

16 December 2006

There is advice—and then there is advice—on what newspapers should be. Much of this is predicated on doomsday theories that do not hold much relevance in the Indian context. Nevertheless, Alan Jacobson‘s thumbrule for transformation is apt and precise:

“Products need not be perfect. They just need to be good enough and slightly better than alternatives.”

It’s a piece of advice we could usefully employ for the next story we do, the next picture we shoot, the next package we commission. Because, a newspaper is just a work in progress. We are not—cannot, should not be—trying to get in the last word on the subject.

Just a slightly better word will do most times.

Do we need quotas in the media?

16 December 2006

G.N. Mohan forwards a survey of the social profile of key decision makers in the “national” media conducted by the Centre for Study of Developing Studies. Its key findings are that the India’s “national” media lacks social diversity and does not reflect the country’s social profile.

Hindu upper caste men dominate the media. They are about 8 per cent of India’s population but among the key decision makers of the national media their share is as high as 71%. Only 17 % of the key decision makers are women. Their representation is better in the English electronic media (32%).

The media’s caste profile is equally unrepresentative. ‘Twice born’ Hindus are about 16% of India’s population, but they are about 86% among the key media decision-makers. Brahmins alone constitute 49% of the key media personnel. Dalits and adivasis are conspicuous by their absence among the decision makers. Not even one of the 315 key decision makers belonged to the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes.

The OBCs comprise only 4 % compared to their population of around 40% in the country. Muslims are only 3% among the key decision makers, compared to 13.4% in the country’s population. Christians are proportionately represented in the media (mainly in the English media): their share is about 4% compared to their population share of 2.3%.

These findings are based on a survey of the social background of 315 key decision makers from 37 “national” media organizations (up to 10 key decision makers from each organisation) based in Delhi. The survey was carried out by volunteers of Media Study Group between 30 May and 3 June 2006.

Questions: Is it time for reservations in the media to restore the balance of coverage? Or should the media voluntarily seek to introduce diversity in the newsroom? Would better diversity have resulted in better coverage of, say, the reservation issue? Or are these issues only limited to the North of the country?

If you’re so damn smart, did you know that…

16 December 2006

Ours is not to ask why

16 December 2006

Last Saturday, a friend—a businessman 34 years of age, Indian, resident in India—called out of the blue and among, other things, said, “Oh, I forgot to tell you, I am buying a plane.”

Yes, you read that right, a plane, an aeroplane. It’s going to cost Rs 34 crore.

Ours is not to ask why; ours is just to wonder what’s the EMI.

Which is a nice way of introducing you to the “Guns to Caviar Index”. The Economist newspaper of London has the Hamburger Index, by which it measures global prosperity by comparing the price of a MacDonald’s hamburger across the world.

The Guns to Caviar Index, the brainchild of Richard Aboulafia, an analyst at the Teal group, does something very similar. It measures the state of the world using by comparing how much money the world spends on fighter jets (guns) versus how much money the world spends on private business jets (caviar).

Which should explain why a 34-year-old Indian businessman is buying a plane.

Read more here.

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