Archive for December, 2007

The perfect New Year resolution for all of us

31 December 2007

To all the editors, producers, ideators, anchors, writers, reporters, correspondents, columnists, photographers, camerapersons, designers, artists, visualisers, infographists, and assorted backroom boys and girls across the world, Bart Simpson serves up a New year resolution that we can break at our own peril.

Happy New Year.

Illustration: courtesy The Simpsons

Al Jazeera: The 15 top media stories of 2007

31 December 2007

Al Jazeera English, the global news channel launched by the Qatar-based Arabic channel, continues to be unavailable in the land of the free, but in the age of Web 2.0 what is beyond anybody’s reach if you want it badly enough? The best of the channel’s critically acclaimed output is there for those who make the effort on YouTube—for free.

This edition of its media review programme, Listening Post, hosted by Richard Gizbert, looks at the 15 top media stories of 2007. The survey conducted with the help of a Canadian company called Influence Communication, does not include online news, tabloid press or gossip magazines. The survey took into account the placement of the news item, the circulation and viewing figures, and how often a story was repeated in the media.

A tale of two pictures: signs of the times

30 December 2007

Fifty-six Thirty-five years ago, an Associated Press photographer called Huyng Cong Ut, then 21, shot a picture of Phan Thi Kim Phuc (above), a nine-year-old Vietnamese girl running naked towards the camera shouting “Nong qua, nong qua (Too hot!, Too hot)!” during the Vietnam War.

The picture, originally rejected by AP editors because it showed frontal nudity, was eventually circulated, won Ut the Pultizer Prize, and played a role in hastening America’s withdrawal from the war.

In June this year Ut, now known as Nick Ut, photographed another girl in distress (above). The location this time was Los Angeles. Paris Hilton, the billionaire hotel heiress, had just been told that she would have to spend 23 days in jail for a traffic violation.

Ut says he was “very lucky” to get the picture, with 300-400 paparazzi roaming the streets of Beverly Hills, generating over 120,000 pictures a week for syndicating agencies.

A legendary photographer snapping celebrities?

“To be honest, I don’t really mind what I shoot,” he says. “I’m just grateful to have the work.”

Read the full article: Double negative

Photographs: courtesy Associated Press/The Daily Telegraph, London

‘Media became a prisoner of its own fabrications’

28 December 2007

Swapan Dasgupta in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“In Gujarat, the media were neither disinterested observers nor merely biased against Narendra Modi; they were an active participant. From disseminating ridiculous stories about lack of crowds in Modi’s meetings and overplaying the Patel revolt in Saurashtra to Yogendra Yadav’s self-confessed doctoring of the exit polls, the media took it upon themselves to ensure Modi’s defeat. The suggestion that the English-language media were the worst offender is not true; for purely collateral reasons the Gujarati print media led the charge.

“Media activism ensured that a large section of India switched on to their TV sets last Sunday morning fully expecting the downfall of the man who has been painted as a cross between Hitler and Attila the Hun. The results helped catapult Modi to the national stage as the man who could dare—and win. If it hadn’t been for the media becoming a prisoner of their own fabrications, the impact of Gujarat would have been strictly regional.”

Read the full article: Merchant of victory

Did this man stand a chance with a future PM?

27 December 2007

Death is a pretty grim business in Asian media. Unlike in Britain, where obituaries have been turned into a juicy art form, Asian tributes generally play it safe, spiking all the spice out of a false sense of deference. Last night, however, Karan Thapar, India’s premier television interviewer, who cut his teeth on Channel 4, was different.

Thapar was an old friend of Benazir Bhutto, the slain former prime minister of Pakistan. They had known each other since their days at Cambridge and Oxford, respectively, and Benazir had tried to get him remarried (unsuccessfully) for 18 years after his wife Nisha died of cancer.

Thapar says he spoke to her just four days and had asked her to “stay safe”.

Thapar says Bhutto also had a fine sense of humour. At one Oxbridge debate on “sex before marriage”, Thapar recalls that he rang the bell and asked her if she dared to practice what she preached. The hall went up in laughter. And after the last laugh had been heard, Benazir pulled out her spectacles, screwed her eyes, look at her future interlocutor, and said: “Certainly, but not with you.”

‘Don’t you have anything serious to write about?’

27 December 2007

Former Punjab chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh‘s “friendship” with the Pakistani journalist Aroosa Alam has quickly and smoothly moved from the gossip columns to the front pages, with the kind lady trying to explain how a Rawalpindi-based newspaper carried a report about her reported marriage with Captain Singh prompting a fatwa from the Imam of the Jama Masjid in Ludhiana calling for a social boycott.

Alam, who counts former German chancellor Gerard Schroeder among her pals, alleged that the Rawalpindi paper’s owner nursed a grudge against her, as she participated in dislodging his hegemony at the Rawalpindi Press Club, which is why he had hit back. “The owner of the newspaper in question wanted to grab a piece of land allotted to a housing society of journalists in Islamabad. I was among those who had opposed it.”

Accused of being an ISI spy by the Akali Dal, Alam, who is the president of the Pakistan chapter of the South Asian Free Media Association and vice-president of the Rawalpindi Press Club, said she had come to India to visit Captain Amarinder Singh’s ailing mother. Her two sons too were with her, and were staying at the Moti Bagh palace in Patiala.

Preneet (Capt. Amarinder Singh’s wife) has been a good host,” Alam said at a press conference in Chandigarh yesterday.

These are the other gems the 55-year-old journalist dropped:

# “Pyaar nahin, dosti hain (It’s not love, it’s friendship). We’re good friends, not lovers, and will remain so for ever.”

# “I deny any marriage, engagement or affair“.

# “I only said I would marry him in a lighter vein.”

# “Neither he will leave his citizenship nor will I Islam (to marry).”

# “I may have a pretty face but unfortunately it has become a point of entertainment.”

# “Amarinder is a wise man, a man with a vision, a charming person. He has a good stature and is well known in Pakistan as opposed to the current Chief Minister of Punjab.”

# “While I am happy to be with my (media) colleagues (in India), I don’t understand why you have to enter my personal life. Don’t you have any serious matter to write about? Newspapers in Pakistan don’t write on personal lives of people… It is strange in india the media hits below the belt.”

# “I have travelled with Presidents and Prime Ministers on official state visits. Does that make me an ISI agent? If any of you travels abroad with your Prime Minister, does that make you an agent of the RAW? I am definitely not an ISI agent.”

Also read: No private affairs when politicians fall in love

KISS, as in Keep It Simple, Stupid

26 December 2007

The obese feline reclined on the linoleum = The fat cat sat on the mat.

According to Dave Barry, “Methodological observation of the sociometrical behavior tendencies of prematurated isolates indicates that a causal relationship exists between groundward tropism and lachrimatory, or ‘crying,’ behaviour forms” =  It is noticed that kids cry when they fall down.

Link via India Uncut

It happened this Sunday night in Chicago

25 December 2007

ABC News’ Ravi Baichwal was reading the news shortly after 10pm in Chicago on Sunday when

‘The English media is being pigeon-holed’

24 December 2007

The branding of the “English media” in India as “elitist, pseudo-secular, left-wing, liberal, disconnected, rootless, pro-Muslim, anti-Hindu, pro-Congress, anti-BJP”—as if the English media is one animal; as if all of us receive our assignments and paycheques from Prakash Karat if not the Pope himself—would have gone down as one of the most successful campaigns undertaken under the right-wing captaincy of L.K. Advani, if only it weren’t so subversive in its intent.

Essentially, the premise has been as kindergarten-ish as George W. Bush: either you are with “us” or against “us”.

If you can tom-tom Hindutva as the greatest liberating force on earth, you are with “us”; if not you are anti-Hindu. If you can wear your blinders (supplied) and only see Gujarat’s stratospheric rise under Narendra Modi, you are with “us”; if not you are anti-Gujarat. If you can suspend your disbelief and applaud slaughter as statecraft you are with “us”, if not you are pro-Muslim. If you can call Sonia Gandhi names, you are with “us”, if not you are pro-Congress. Etcetera.

Certainly, the “English media” is not without fault. We get many things wrong; probably, we get everything wrong. We must be questioned, criticised, scrutinised, corrected.

But the result of this Goebbelsian campaign is an extraordinary (and growing) cynicism of the “English media” that plays right into the hands of those who sowed it and pays them rich dividends. Picking holes and splitting hairs has become a fine art, and a national pastime especially among adherents to the “cause” who cannot distinguish between journalism and propaganda, news and opinion, journalists and pamphleteers.

That hallucinatory state of mind got amply reflected in a chat that RAJDEEP SARDESAI , the editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN, had with viewers on the channel’s website this evening. In the wake of the victory of Narendra Modi in the Gujarat elections, and the channel’s perceived bias against him, Sardesai ended up batting the usual bouncers.

***

Vijay: The English media is biased against Modi and BJP. “Many” are pro-Congress. An easy way to increase the TRPs is rake up the post-Godhra issue. Why don’t you talk about Godhra or Nandigram?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I think there is an attempt to pigeonhole people, especially the English media, in pro- and anti-camps, especially in the context of Gujarat. Why can’t we discuss issues honestly and dispassionately without attaching labels? At CNN-IBN, we speak on a range of issues from Godhra to post-Godhra to Nandigram.

Raju: Mr. Rajdeep, can you accept it (the victory of Modi) is a defeat of media, particularly CNN-IBN also? Because the media is showing maligning and insulting pictures of Gujarat everytime in the name of Modi!

RS: A victory for Modi is not a defeat for the media, it is the defeat of the Congress party. Far from showing an insulting side of Gujarat, we have attempted to show all sides of the Gujarat story, the good, the bad and the ugly. I might add here that in every poll we did on Gujarat, we said Modi was winning.

Sareeta:Why do you think the media failed miserably to predict such overwhelming majority of BJP despite all odds? The English media was optimistic till the last minute that there would be a Congress swing and anti-establishment buzz throughout the state, but it didn’t happen. Modi dislikes English media strongly for this biased and parochial attitude for the media’s so-called pseudosecular tilt. He has not yet given any interview to any news channel, last time it was bad blood in the Karan Thapar show. How do you foresee the English media’s relationship with Modi will go from now? Will it be anti- or pro-Modi now when the Gujratis have given their verdict in huge numbers?

RS: I think the media and pollsters got Saurashtra horribly wrong. We cannot escape responsibility for that. But let me be honest: at no stage, did I feel that the Congress had any chance in Gujarat. In fact, I’ve just won a single malt bet for predicting more than a 110 seats for the BJP!! I think we need to look at Narendra Modi and Moditva without the ideological blinkers. I think the media tends to look at the Modi phenomenon in black and white terms. We either demonise him or lionise him. We should analyse and report on him in a more complex manner.

Rao: Rajdeep. Don’t you feel that “Moditva” is a creation of the media, now a much used word in elitist English media, to try and draw a line between Modi and BJP?

RS: I think there is a new strand of Hindutva politics that Modi is injecting. It combines an aggressive, muscular commitment to religious identity, but also a strong commitment to governance and developmental issues. The politics of Moditva revolves around the personality of an individual, hence the use of the term.

Whizkid_NO1: Why is Rajdeep Sardesai being seen as someone who has become biased?

RS: Because, as I said earlier, we are dividing people into “them” versus “us” based on our own ideological blinkers. I dream of an India that allows greater space for debate and dissent without accusing people of bias simply if we dont agree with everything they say. As a journalist, my aim is to report what I see.

Suyash: Modi’s positive aspects and what he did for Gujarat were not illustrated by the media. Don’t you think so Rajdeepji? Because it’s quite obivious without this he must have not won the hearts of Gujarat.

RS: Modi has definitely won the minds of a large section of people living in Gujarat. I agree his positive aspects need to be looked at more honestly. The media can’t see Gujarat as an ideological battleground only; it must be also seen as a state on the move.

Aamit: You say, “I think there is an attempt to pigeonhole people, especially the English media, in pro and anti camps.” Then how would describe the concerted and chartered media propaganda against Modi, which we have been seeing on channels like CNN-IBN?

RS: Only last week, a Hindustan Times media critic accused us of being unabashedly pro-Modi! I guess we must be doing something right at CNN-IBN to attract such diverse opinions. We have never run any campaign against Modi. We have, as I said, attempted to present every shade of opinion in and outside the state.

(The transcript has been corrected for spellings, punctuation and grammar)

Read the full text here: The live chat

Photograph: IBN live

Crossposted on churumuri.com

Is the BJP still just a ‘Hindu nationalist party’?

24 December 2007

The phrase “Hindu nationalist” has almost always prefaced western media reports of the BJP, and it is no different despite Narendra Modi‘s sensational, conversation-stopping hat-trick. But it is not just fair-skinned whites who feel dutybound to slap the appellation.

# “Hindu Radical re-elected in India,” screams The New York Times. “On Sunday, voters re-elected the politician, Narendra Modi, arguably India’s most incendiary officeholder, as the chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, reports Somini Sengupta.

# “Hindu nationalists win key vote,” says The Washington Post. “Hindu nationalists won a solid victory Sunday in a closely watched election in Gujarat, one of India’s wealthiest and most restive states, further weakening the ruling Congress party ahead of national elections,” reports Emily Wax.

“Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist and chief minister of the western state of Gujarat has now staked his claim to leadership of his party—and perhaps his country,” reports Jeremy Page, in The Times, London.

#”The Hindu nationalist BJP has won a key election in the western Indian state of Gujarat, final results show,” says the BBC.

# “Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, admired by corporate India as a model politician and feared by Muslim and Christian minorities as a messianic Hindu icon not averse to violence, scored an emphatic victory on Sunday,” reports Jawed Naqvi in The Dawn, Karachi.

# “Controversial Hindu nationalist party leader Narendra Modi swept back to power in… in the Hindu nationalist bastion… in what was called a national victory over the rival Congress Party,” reports Ajay Jha in Gulf News, Dubai.

# “Controversial Hindu nationalist party leader Narendra Modi swept back to power by a wide margin in India’s religiously divided state of Gujarat yesterday,” reports Agence-France Press in The South China Morning Post, Hong Kong.

***

Should the BJP take offence at being straitjacketed as “Hindu nationalists” like “Islamic fundamentalists”? Should it just not care since this is just the outpouring of what it calls “a pseudo-secular, English media”? Should it be justly proud of the epithet?

Cross-posted on churumuri.com

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