Archive for June 3rd, 2007

‘Why ACJ kept out ex-journalists and PhDs’

3 June 2007

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: Why did the Asian School of Journalism have to move out of Bangalore and be relocated in Madras? Unbelievable as it may seem, because adequate and suitable accommodation could not be found for it in Silicon City.

In an interaction with mediamen on Sunday, ACJ founder T.J.S. George said that after a point, the New Indian Express offices in Bangalore, where the ACJ was originally located, began to get a little too small. And all efforts to find a suitable place for its expansion went in vain.

“Myself and the late YNK (Y.N. Krishnamurthy, editor of Kannada Prabha) ran from pillar to post meeting all and sundry for getting a suitable place. We even met H.D. Deve Gowda, then Chief Minister of Karnataka. It was of no avail,” George said.

Some space in the present Jnanabharati complex of the Bangalore University was suggested. When the matter was broached with the concerned, a hint of a bribe of Rs 5 lakh was given. “It was at this stage that I said ‘Go to hell’ and gave up the idea of developing the ACJ in Bangalore.”

An offer came from a group of mediamen in Madras, including Sashi Kumar and N. Ram of The Hindu, and it was agreed to relocate ACJ in that City, where it is growing. It was not a commercial transaction but a mere relocation, George said.

The ACJ, the founder recalled, was planned to be different from the training available in the University streams: “In the universities, the journalism is clubbed with public relations. But we believed that journalism and public relations could not go hand in hand. Journalism is basically anti-public relations and we concentrated only on journalism.”

Two improvisations made in the training programme helped the ACJ to make its mark.

“One was that we deliberately kept out the retired journalists as faculty members. And secondly we shunned the PhDs, who are only good in theory. A practising journalist was picked up, sent for training at the Thomson Foundation, and the person turned out to be a good teacher.”

On the prospects of the experiment being replicated in the interest of providing professional training to Kannada journalists, George said: “We have shown the way. It is for others to pick up thread.  I have done my duty. Yes, the shifting of the ACJ was indeed a loss for Karnataka.”

The eyes and ears of the public as “guests”

3 June 2007

RAMYA KRISHNAMURTHY writes from Bangalore: The on-again, off-again Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC), linking Karnataka’s two most prominent cities, has been mired in controversy and litigation for over a decade now, and polarised political, bureaucratic and public opinion, often on caste lines.

On the one hand, there are those like former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda who believe the project should in its current shape should not go through as it allegedly tramples over farm lands. And on the other hand, there are those who contend that the objections are afterthoughts of vested interests seeking to extract a bit more from the project’s promoter, Ashok Kheny.

The Bangalore media has been a bit-player in the drama, some sides covertly supporting the project and some overtly opposing it. But yesterday when Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise (NICE), the company promoting the project, held the inaugration of a “Freedom Park” at the Peripheral Road at Somapura in Bangalore, the company’s PR machinery went into overdrive.

The invitation cards that were sent out to all media organisations in Bangalore sported the names of 23 journalists from 17 media organisations who had been invited as “guests”. Journalists of The Hindu, Deccan Herald and Praja Vani which have not hesitated to ask questions of the BMIC project and have put out the “other side” of the story, were prominently missing.

Some key questions emerge here:

1. What was NICE’s motive behind inviting “select” journalists from leading newspapers and TV channels and using them as mascots? Is it to suggest that they approve of the project?

2. Did the “select” journalists give their consent to their names being used this way by NICE on the invitation card or was this done without their knowledge? If so, has any of them objected?

3. Can the reading and viewing public expect fair reporting from media organisations, whose journalists were guests of NICE and enjoyed its hospitality?

4. Should journalists who are expected to be the eyes and ears of the public, be “guests” of an organisation undertaking a controversial project, notwithstanding its own legitimate case?

5. Does it mark a new low in ethical journalism? Or does it mark a new high in commercialisation of journalism, where public opinion is the privilege of the highest bidder?

Cross-posted on churumuri

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