Archive for July, 2008

GroundReport.com wants India correspondents

31 July 2008

MEDIA RELEASE: GroundReport.com, a global citizen journalism website committed to “democratising the media”, is looking for India correspondents. Original text news articles and photographs, especially firsthand accounts, are invited from international bloggers. 

All contributors will receive a share of the ad revenue, says Nathaniel Jones.

GroundReport says it is fast emerging as an important news source for the Indian community with its on-the-ground coverage.  It broke the story of the bombings in Bangalore before Reuters and The New York Times.

Contact info@groundreport.com for further details.

Frequently Asked Questions

CNN-IBN clarifies on role in cash for votes sting

30 July 2008

Caught in the cross-fire in the cash-for-votes scandal that rocked the trust motion in Parliament on July 22, Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN, has issued a statement on the channel’s purported role. Below is the full text:

“In the last week, there has been speculation over an alleged ‘sting’ operation conducted by CNN-IBN to expose allegations of bribery in the run-up to the trust vote in Parliament. Since the speculation is based on hearsay, conjecture and mere guess-work, we at CNN-IBN feel that it is necessary to set the record straight.

“As a journalist-driven organization, we value our credibility and independence above all else. We have always striven to raise the bar of journalism, to ensure that the highest standards and procedures are followed at all times. 

“The ‘sting’ operation conducted by our investigation team was part of  this commitment to ensure that the public interest is enhanced. Our team had begun the investigations at least a week before the trust vote [on July 22] and the ‘sting’ was to be part of a wide-ranging investigation across the political spectrum into allegations of  horse trading.

“Moreover, the ‘sting’ operation we conducted was unique in that neither were we participants, nor were we engaging in ‘entrapment’ by offering cash, nor were we under a false identity. We were, as is accepted in practices in the international press, ‘flies on the wall’, simply recording an alleged bribery operation, without interfering in it at any stage.  

“Why have we not telecast the story so far?

“Quite simply, we have chosen not to telecast the story yet because we did not feel that the story was complete. Credible journalism is based on accuracy not speed, facts not sensationalism, reportage not allegations and assumptions.

“Our rigorous editorial protocol demands that even a hidden camera shoot is absolutely water-tight. In this particular story, there were many loose ends that needed to be cross-checked, corroborated and investigated further before the story could be aired.

“As it transpired, even before we could complete the process of  investigation, three BJP MPs made allegations in Parliament of having been bribed and displayed cash in the House. In the politically surcharged circumstances, we felt that the more appropriate step would be to provide the recordings we had made till date to the Speaker of  the Lok Sabha as the appropriate constitutional authority.

“All the raw, unedited footage was placed before the Speaker within 24 hours of the parliament fracas. Not a single frame has been edited in any form. The Speaker has subsequently ordered an inquiry, which media reports suggest, is to be completed by the 11th of  August.

“We will fully co-operate with the parliamentary panel and provide them all information available with us. At the same time, as we have informed the Speaker’s office, we reserve the right to telecast the story as and when we believe we are in a position to do so. 

“As part of the process of due diligence, we also consulted several constitutional experts, including the country’s former solicitor-general and leading jurist Harish Salve. Mr Salve has strongly validated our editorial call in a written opinion.

“He writes, and I quote:

“‘I have reviewed the tapes as also a transcript created from the tapes. I would not like to describe in detail what I have seen, since the matter is pending investigation, but in my considered view the investigation was incomplete and therefore airing the tapes at this stage would necessarily involve arriving at some ‘inferences’. The investigation by the channel was not ready for telecast in the sense to be a cast iron story (which such stories should be), it did require some more enquiry into certain matters, which could have been done but was rendered impossible by the fact that on the afternoon of 22nd July itself, the three MPs raised this issue in parliament and then went on to make public the fact that this has been recorded by CNN-IBN. Obviously, after this fact became publicly known, all sources of information dried up’.

“Mr Salve adds:

‘The question to be considered is should the channel air the tapes as they are, without suggesting inferences, so that the unnecessary gossip as to its contents (as well as the innuendo as to the motives in not telecasting the tapes) is quelled, or should the channel await the completion of  the enquiry under way by the parliamentary panel set up the Hon’ble Speaker in response to a complaint received by him. In my view, the channel should await the results of the enquiry, atleast until a period of a fortnight or so is over… I believe that the Speaker has requested the panel to conclude its enquiry within a fortnight or so. If the report is received within the expected time, the matter would again be in the public domain and the channel can then review the situation and decide whether to telecast the tapes’.”

“We would like to reiterate that at CNN-IBN we remain committed to quality and independent journalism. Our commitment is to the truth. Truth that cannot be partial, inconclusive or sensational, but one that must adhere to exacting standards of fairness and accuracy.”

Also read: Was CNN-IBN right in not airing Amar Singh sting?

When the mighty pen starts helping the sword

26 July 2008

Writer and lyricist Jayant Kaikini in Deccan Herald on the media coverage of the serial blasts in Bangalore that claimed one life and injured a couple of dozen:

“I am angry at the way the electronic media is making use of the incident and hyping it with a view on TRPs. The TV anchors are so excited, and though there are not too many details, minor information is being blown up.

“My children returned home from college safely, and I went home without any trouble. But a TV channel was reporting as if Bangalore is burning. People from all over Karnataka as well as the country thought that the situation was very bad, and this is exactly what the terrorists want. Instead, if the media is more restrained and behaves more sensibly then we can defeat the terrorists.”

Read the full story: Bangaloreans react

Link via Anand V.

Was CNN-IBN right not to air Amar Singh sting?

23 July 2008

Tuesday’s disgraceful scenes in the Indian parliament—when lawmakers heaped currency notes of nearly $2 million to show that they were being bribed to abstain from a trust motion moved by the government—has a media angle to it.

The buying and selling of legislators, it turns out, was captured on film by CNN-IBN which however declined to air the “sting” and said it would hand them over to the presiding officer of the lower house.

The media website Hoot speculates that the channel did not air the story either because its contents did not pass muster with editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai or because Anil Ambani, a shareholder in Network 18 which owns the channel, leaned on bossman Raghav Bahl not to air the footage meant to discredit Amar Singh, a politician close to Ambani.

Media commentator S.R. Ramanujan asks a few questions on The Hoot:

1) Is it the job of a TV channel to provide proof to any Constitutional authority, in this case the Speaker, before it could telecast the news to its viewers?

2) Does this not give handle to critics to allege that the channel was silenced? In fact, in a panel discussion in another channel, this was hinted.

7) Is the reluctance to telecast due to the fact that the concerned MPs preempted the channel by disclosing the “Cash for Votes” operation on the floor of the House violating an understanding?

8) “Publish and be damned” is the idiom mediamen are taught right from the journalism schools. How far is this relevant today?

Read the full story here: To sting or not to sting?

Rajdeep Sardesai on why the sting wasn’t aired

Also read: Why the Indian media does not take on Ambanis

Is this man the new media mogul of India?

Why Rajdeep, Barkha must decline the Padma Sri

Cross-posted on churumuri

Past, present, future of civic/citizen journalism

22 July 2008

NEWS RELEASE: What should the modern press do to reengage with its communities? How do principles and practices from the public journalism movement address that need? How could representative journalism work? What are some newer media formats being used by hyperlocal journalists?

These are some of the questions that will be addressed at three 75-minute sessions being held by the Civic & Citizen Journalism Interest Group to mark 20 years of the civic/public journalism movement.

Titled “The Past, Present and Future of Civic/Citizen Journalism,” the sessions will be held on Tuesday, 5 August 2008 between 2 pm and 6 pm at the journalism convergence lab, at Columbia College, Chicago.

Panel #1 will deal with civic/public journalism 2.0; panel #2 will deal with hyperlocal, community and citizen journalism in Chicago, and panel #3 will deal with blogging for journalism change.

The panel sessions will bring together recent grantees of the National Science Foundation, Knight Foundation and Harnisch Family Foundation and big names from the scholarship of civic/citizen journalism, including Jay Rosen, Jeff Jarvis, Kim Pearson, Mindy McAdams, Leonard Witt and
Ed Lambeth.

Link via Nikhil Moro, vice head, civic and citizen journalism interest group

M.G. Moinuddin: A self-taught genius is dead

21 July 2008

sans serif records with regret the passing away of M.G. Moinuddin, the compositor who rose to become one of India’s top newspaper designers, in Bombay on Monday, 21 July 2008.

The Hyderabad-born Moinuddin was a self-taught man who counted a chance encounter with Aurobind Patel, the chief design consultant of India Today who went on to design The Economist, as the turning point in his career.

It pulled him away from advertising into journalism.

Moinuddin then went on to design such publications as Debonair, The Sunday Observer, The Independent, and and The Pioneer for Vinod Mehta; and the The Sunday Times of India, The Illustrated Weekly of India and The New Indian Express, among other publications.

Moinuddin was deaf in both ears and editors had to pass written instructions. But he didn’t let that small handicap cloud his vision. When not at the drawing board, Moinuddin would be devouring Albert Camus and other literary heavies on the side. 

Also read: The man of typography

Vinod Mehta on M.G. Moinuddin

Arun Katiyar on M.G. Moinuddin

‘There is hardly any good film criticism in India’

20 July 2008

Adoor Gopalakrishnan, India’s most acclaimed film maker abroad after Satyajit Ray, took questions from the staff of The Indian Express as part of their Idea Exchange programme.

Shubhra Gupta: How do you deal with professional criticism?

Adoor Gopalakrishnan: There is hardly any good criticism. What happens is that the people who write reviews, who think they do critiques, they are hardly equipped to do so. Go and equip yourselves. It’s very important because if you have seen a lot of cinema, it is fine. But what kind of cinema you saw is very important. You have to be very open.

When I make a film, I am very particular that I don’t repeat myself, whereas the person who goes there, who is going to write a review of it, has never seen anything new happening on the screen. A critic should be as equipped, as informed as the creator.

I hardly read a very good review in any Indian language. We don’t have good films so we don’t have a good evaluation of films, so we don’t have good films — so goes the cycle. I think there are opportunities here. There are so many universities that teach visual arts. There’s a lot of awareness, it can also go the wrong way.

When multiplexes opened, we thought it was a great opportunity to show the best of cinema, in those small cinemas. It did not happen. Instead, they were showing the worst kind of films — there is no choice. This is our misfortune: when things look like clearing, it gets enshrouded.

Read the full transcript: ‘I just make films…’

‘At least tabloids connect with our little lives’

17 July 2008

Dipankar Gupta, professor in sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University, in Mail Today:

“I would rather go for low-brow tabloids any day. At least they address matters that concern us and connect with our little lives….

“The popular press and the media, in general, are blamed for wallowing in sensationalism and pandering to gross readership and viewership standards. That may well be true, but news around Aarushi’s murder, the brutal massacre of the old couple next door, the fashion fantasies, the tales of bribery and corruption, are the kinds of things that really matter to us. At least, they are closer to our lives….

“True, tabloids are generally not very professional, but how clued in are the rest to purvey and relish the other kind of news? Given this lack of dogged professionalism at all levels, we might as well openly acknowledge the virtues of tabloid journalism. At least they come up with the real news!”

Cross-posted on churumuri

It ain’t so cute when hunters are hunted, is it?

17 July 2008

“This is Sunidhi reporting! It’s Dr Prannoy Roy. He just got down from his Merc close to Khan Market. I can’t believe my luck. The aging ‘Father of Indian television’ is still so handsome! He has started walking towards Khan Market. Prannoy’s car is driving past the market. Wait! What do I see? A sweet little thing wearing a scarf and goggles has just got down around 100 metres past the market, crossed over to the other side, and is now walking  back. My God! Wait till you hear this! The curvaceious beauty waved to Prannoy who is already there waiting for her. They have gone inside. This is exciting stuff. A story is breaking right here! Over to you.”

Studio anchor: “It definitely is! Who is this mystery girl? Can you describe her to our viewers?”

Reporter:”It is already dark here and you know how the streetlights near Khan Market are!! She is wearing a pair of Levi‘s Jeans and a Versace blue top. She looks like the Delhi socialite who was seen with the Roys last New Year Party. I am not sure. It’s possible she could be the Bengali Bollywood heroine. Only she has the guts to wave from a distance in public.”

Studio anchor: “Keep a watch and get back if you see anything interesting.”

After a few hours…

“Sunidhi again from the Sheraton parking lot. They have just entered the coffee shop. Still I can’t make out who she is. She is wearing a cashmere shawl now. She also looks like Maharani Gayatri Devi’s grand daughter- I am not sure though.”

Studio anchor: “Get the dope on all the three girls and check them out. Must beat other channels and splash it at 9 pm headlines.”

Reporter:”Okay. Meanwhile you can go ahead and splash it along. You can interpose some of Dr. PR ‘s earlier shots with coffee shop pictures and run it.”

Studio anchor:”We are already on air with Breaking News. Get us juicy stuff and some close-up shots.”

***

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: How will this “juicy story” be if it is run, say on CNN-IBN and Times Now all day with headlines screaming ‘Father of Indian TV sowing wild oats’, interspersed with shots of his residence and family?

How will it sound if Vinod Mehta, Suhel Seth and Ramachandra Guha sit around in their Sunday best discussing it threadbare with Rajdeep Sardesai in ’Face the Nation’?

Will Roy & Co at least now understand how Rajesh Talwar and family felt when supposedly juicy details of the Aarushi-Hemraj murder were tapped by every half hour, for days and nights on end, with a scurrilous mixture of news, innuendo and insinuation?

Prannoy Roy’s name here is only for effect, and no offence is meant. Change it to Rajdeep Sardesai and run it on NDTV and Headlines Today. Or change it to Arnab Goswami walk and splash it on NDTV and Zee TV. The basic thrust of this fictitious story remains the same.

How will Radhika Roy or Sagarika Ghose feel if their husbands are tailed and ‘Breaking News’ stories made up and splashed in a hurry? Real and mostly imaginary tidbits discussed by a ‘panel of studio experts’?

Get the picture, gentlemen?

That is what is happening every hour by the hour for days and weeks at a stretch on Indian TV channels. You wear your TRPs on your sleeve and to get the magic numbers a combination of sex, sleaze, innuendo, trespassing, concoction is being whipped up.

When you are caught in the act of hurting innocent citizens, there’s not even an apology. There is just more discussion when the buck is passed on to the police bungling the case.

Is this journalism?

Why are the most prominent TV journalists in the country involved mostly in scoops and sensation-mongering? Have our TV whiz kids not heard of Darfur and Zimbabwe? Why are we always talking cinema, cricket and crime?

Can’t they come out with a couple of solutions for the Kashmir problem or the Maoist problem to solve it once and for all? Can’t they take up weightier issues of inflation and price rise that is affecting the common man? Etcetera.

Indian television are mostly busy with froth-in–mouth journalism chasing stars while the ordinary people are facing destiny’s cruel fate. Hunting has become a vicarious national game transgressing all borders of decency.

How would it be if the channel heads were the Hunted instead of being the Hunter? If their family members were hounded everywhere and life made impossible for them to live?

***

The real story behind the juicy story:

When the rookie correspondent finally got the juicy stuff, it wasn’t even overnight sadaa hua dal. Prannoy Roy was going to Khan Market to buy some household stuff. The new slipper of his cousin, , who was with him, was rubbing against her toe-nail causing discomfort and she drove past to see if it could be mended temporarily. Unfortunately the mochi who sits near Khan Market had packed off for the day and she walked back to Khan Market to meet Prannoy! They went to coffee shop for a bite. End of story.

Also read: Should the media apologise?

Thousands of words frozen in a few memories

17 July 2008

The best of reportage work from Bangalore, done in the year gone by, will exhibited in a 3-day photo exhibition “Frozen Memories ’08” conducted by the Photojournalists’ Association of Bangalore from today. The venue is the Chitrakala Parishat on Kumara Kripa Road.

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