Archive for December, 2008

It’s official: your newspaper is not waste paper

31 December 2008

Indian media houses which were splurging cash as if there were no tomorrow a few months ago are suddenly running around as if ants are in their pants which is on fire.

Suddenly all plans are off or on hold.

The current mantra is downsizing, right sizing, cost-cutting, rationalising, streamlining, even scrapping. Suddenly, “visionary” managers are looking no better than medical reps, Amway agents, or used-car salesmen.

Rahul Kansal, the chief marketing officer of Bennett, Coleman & Co, publishers of The Times of India, has offered this tell-tale rationale for an upward revision of cover prices in select “markets” where ToI is published, in an interview with agencyfaqs:

“This is not being done to raise money, but to prevent people from buying it for the sake of ‘raddi’ (waste paper)…. ‘Raddi’ prices have gone up by 30-40 per cent in the recent past and we want to insulate the newspaper from the ‘raddi’ business.”

The best of the year that was. Or so I think.

30 December 2008

Pradyuman Maheshwari, group chief editor of exchange4media, has compiled the best of the year gone by. It is a personal choice, not a jury verdict. And the winners are…

Best English newspaper: The Times of India

Best business newspaper: Mint

Best Sunday newspaper: The Hindustan Times

Best newsmagazine: India Today

Best business magazine: Mint

Best English news channel: Times Now

Best business channel: CNBC-TV18

Best news aggregator: Google News

Best news portal: IBNlive.com

Read the full article here: The 2008 news media awards

‘From Karachi, this is Chand Nawab, Indus News’

30 December 2008

The piece to camera, or P2C, is a vital item on the curriculum vitae of television journalists. It is a correspondent’s signature on a news story, and like with all signatures, they range from the sublime to the ridiculous.

K.R. BALASUBRAMANYAM forwards a Pakistani TV journalist’s hilarious bid to record a P2C before a train pulls out of the railway station, carrying Id revellers back home.

Happy birthday, Phillip George Knightley

29 December 2008

80th_invite

Phillip Knightley, the legendary investigative journalist, is celebrating his 80th birthday in Goa today.

Australia-born Knightley was a special correspondent for The Sunday Times for 20 years (1965-85) under Sir Harold Evans and a leading member of its Insight investigative team, which broke the Kim Philby and thalidomide scandals.

In his memoirs A Hack’s Progress, Knightley throws light on his stint with R.V. Pandit‘s magazine Imprint which he later discovers to his horror was a CIA operation set up to counter the KGB publications being published next door.

But the Bombay tenure started a lifelong love affair with India, fetching him in the end a bride from Bangalore, and a home in Goa.

Happy birthday, and many more.

Visit the website: www.phillipknightley.com

Pseudonymous author spells finis to Mint editor?

28 December 2008

avataraspxPRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Journalists at Mint, the business daily launched by the Hindustan Times group as “an unbiased and clear-minded chronicler of the Indian dream”, are in a state of shock after the dramatic weekend announcement of the resignation of its founding editor, Raju Narisetti (in picture), less than two years after its February 2007 launch.

For the record, the well-regarded Narisetti, 42, maintains there is nothing more to the move than what an internal HT memo stated last week: that it is part of a “leadership transition that is aimed at leading the next phase of Mint” (which has an ongoing editorial arrangement with The Wall Street Journal).

Rajiv Verma, the CEO of HT Media, which publishes Mint, and in whose name the HT internal memo went out, told the media website, exchange4media:

“Raju had come from the US and he has been here with us ever since the paper was announced in 2006. He now wants to move back. However, as Advisory Editorial Director, his association with HT Media would continue.”

Senior HT staffers too claim that Narisetti was on “exit mode” for a while now, and Ranganathan Sukumar had been named as his deputy some months ago with precisely this possibility in mind. (The buzz is Narisetti is headed back to The Wall Street Journal, where he worked in its pre-Rupert Murdoch days, serving as its editorial head in Europe.)

However, the suddenness of the announcement has set journalistic tongues wagging, and there are quite a few within and outside the organisation who believe the exit may have had something to do with the publication of an opinion page article 19 days ago, by a serving IAS officer writing under the pseudonym Athreya (an inference subsequently refuted by Raju Narisetti on 4 January 2009, and termed as “irresponsible…lies”.)

***

In the article “An open letter to the PM,” published on December 10, the pseudonymous IAS officer wrote, among other things:

# “Mr Prime Minister, you were selected, not elected by the people, for just one reason, that you posed no threat to anyone in the Congress party. You were not selected for your excellent PhD or for your integrity; not even for your competence as a civil servant. You were considered the least of all evils…”

# “[Y]our government has lost all credibility with the people, and the buck stops with you…. at least now, when India is under attack on its own soil, please act. And if you can’t act, please get out of the way and allow someone more effective to run the country.”

# “As PM, can you not sack or transfer your national security adviser, the Intelligence Bureau chief, the Coast Guard director general, the navy chief—can you or can you not get rid of your entire top brass and send a signal down the line?”

# “Are you telling us you don’t know that your telecom, environment and shipping ministries are the home of organized mafias looting the exchequer?”

Eight days later, the tone and tenor of the article clearly proved juicy enough for the BJP’s member of Parliament from Bangalore South, H.N. Ananth Kumar, to raise it in a Lok Sabha discussion on the economic slowdown to needle the government.

In response, the new Union home minister P. Chidambaram, went for the jugular:

“He (Kumar) cited an article allegedly written by an IAS officer. I have read the article. I do not know whether the name of that author given in that article is a true name or a pseudo name. I do not know whether he is an IAS officer.

“All I know is either he is a disloyal officer or a coward or both. If he had the courage, he should write the letter, sign in his own name and send it to the Prime Minister. But I hope they (BJP) do not encourage such officers; they did not encourage them when they were in power. So what is the point of citing a pseudonymous or anonymous author’s article taking shelter under it and running away when the reply is to be delivered?”

Mint, which has made its editorial integrity its USP, did not let matters rest there. The paper carried “An open clarification on an open letter” on December 22 with the declaration “Mint does not lie to its readers or knowingly mislead them. Period.”

And then Raju Narisetti himself joined issue the following day with an item on his Mint blog “A Romantic Realist”, with a piece entitled “On open letters and media ethics“.

The essence of the clarification and the blog post was identical. That while Mint‘s code of journalistic conduct doesn’t allow the use of “pseudonyms, composite characters or fictional names…” the said piece had been discussed internally and carried “because the author’s proposed article raised significant and valid questions to spur a national debate.”

Narisetti’s clarification and blog post didn’t stop at that. They reminded Chidambaram of the long tradition of anonymous articles, including a standout one, 71 years ago.

“In November 1937, the Modern Review, then India’s most well-regarded journal of opinion, published an article on Jawaharlal Nehru written by Chanakya, an obvious pseudonym. The author hit out at Nehru’s latent dictatorial tendencies and his “intolerance for others and a certain contempt for the weak and inefficient”. Its author warned: “Jawaharlal might fancy himself as a Caesar.” There were howls of protest from loyalists until it was revealed much later that Nehru himself was the author of this piece.”

Were all members of Parliament and bureaucrats who spoke anonymously to the media “disloyal” or “cowardly”, Narisetti asked.

As news of the resignation made the headlines over the weekend, reader Ganesh posted this comment to Narisetti’s blog post:

“It came as a shock to me that Mr Narisetti is leaving. But, we, Mint readers, need a proper explanation on why Mr Narisetti is leaving? Mint has done some good reporting on other media. Now it is a test for Mint to report on itself.”

Whether Mint will treat Narisetti’s resignation in the same professional way it has employed to report the rest of the media we will soon know.

The Hindustan Times, as a group, has had a number of editorial casualties at the top in the last few years. One editor (V.N. Narayanan) left after he plagiarised 1,240 words of his 1,400-word Sunday column from a Sunday Times, London, column. And one other editor is said to have had to leave because he took on a high government functionary, who has also been mentioned in the article by the pseudonymous IAS officer. The reasons behind the resignations have never been revealed to the reading public.

(An earlier version of this piece carried inferences which have been since excised following a belated clarification from Raju Narisetti.)

Photograph: courtesy LiveMint

Also read: Raju Narisetti: ‘5 reasons to be optimistic of Indian journalism’

M.J. Akbar: ‘Never let your head stoop as a journalist’

Who will book the offender on the wrong side?

24 December 2008

elephant-in-city-2

nageshpanathaleThis news photograph of an zoo elephant on the run on the streets of Mysore, shot by NAGESH PANATHALE of the Mysore bureau of the Kannada daily Vijaya Karnataka, has bagged the second prize in the journalism category at the national photography salon 2008 organised by the Photographic Society of Madras as part of its 150th anniversary celeberations. (Mohamed Khalid Khan of Dainik Jagran won the first prize.)

The jury comprised Benu Sen of Calcutta, H.S. Ganesh and T.N. Perumal from Bangalore, Iqbal Mohamed from Ooty, and Venkat Ram from Madras. The valedictory function of the photography was attended by India’s bestknown photographer Raghu Rai, who is also the Magnum member of world photography.

Photograph: courtesy Nagesh Panathale

How TV9 wrecked a superb medical program

23 December 2008

ASHWINI A. writes from Bangalore: The role of television channels during the live coverage of the Bombay terror attack  has been the subject of vociferous debate in the media with experts and news consumers accusing the channels of being voyeuristic, insensitive, irresponsible, etc.

However, what the 24-hour Kannada news channel TV9 did by the act of “breaking news” two days ago was not just irresponsible journalism but a criminal act to say the least. It has lent a new dimension to the growing public anger against electronic media.

Here’s what happened.

The nationwide  polio drops administration program began in Karnataka on Sunday. Even as the program was underway, TV9 telecast a breaking news story in the evening about the death of a kid due to polio drops.

TV9 relentlessly and repeatedly played this ‘death’ in the form of breaking news, which ignited anxiety among lakhs of parents who had got their children immunized. Several thousands of them—mostly the poor—across Bangalore, Mysore, Mangalore, Chikmagalur, etc, turned up at the government hospitals seeking relief and cure for their children.

They stayed put through the night demanding doctors attend their kids. Private hospitals saw hundreds of parents waiting in the queue, upto as late as 2.30 am seeking medical assistance.

The government medical staff on duty—outwitted and hopelessly outnumbered—sought the help of the police as irate public assaulted doctors and damaged hospital property.

As it turned out later, no child had died because of polio drops anywhere in the State, but a kid had died due to hydrocephalus and that death was completely unconnected with the polio drops program. In fact, of the 60 lakh children who took the drops, there was not even a single case of any kid taking ill leave alone a death.

***

Through its conduct , choice of stories, and style of breaking news for the past two years, TV9 has taken television journalism to disgraceful new lows and on Sunday it hit a new depth by its own standard. This latest disgrace of TV9—without ascertaining the veracity—deserves to condemned as nothing short of criminal.

It resulted not just in general mayhem but caused untold misery to lakhs of parents across the State who were worried about the safety of their children.

Another tragic victim of this irresponsible story is the polio drops program. This initiative has suffered a huge setback and it will take some time for it to regain the trust of the public. There were reports that on Monday, the second day of the polio drops campaign, that dozens of volunteers were turned away by the wary parents across the State and as a result 54,000 kids could not be administered the polio drops in Bangalore alone.

How should we react to the TV9 story?

Is it enough to condemn it and call for self-regulation?

What do you do when a false and mischievous story administers a deadly blow to a well-intentioned medical initiative that reaches out to large, mostly poor and illiterate, sections of society?

Should the government revoke the license of the channel for a few days?

The Bangalore Police have booked nine cases against TV9 for “causing panic through mischievous statements”. But, is this enough? Will anything come out Police case against TV9 ? Will TV 9 learn its lessons or will it be back to business soon and unleash further horrors on an unsuspecting public?

Is it a good idea for the people to come together and march to the offices of TV9 office to register their outrage?

Lastly, should the reporter, who was responsible for filing the story without checking for facts, and the editor, who cleared it without bothering to verify the claim, be hauled up and criminal charges framed against them?

Also read: An old flame ignites media’s insensitivity

Happy birthday to a very young photojournalist

18 December 2008

imageasp2The acclaimed photojournalist T.S. Satyan, turns 85 years young today, 18 December 2008.

sans serif joins the world in wishing him a very happy birthday, and many more.

***

Tasveer, the art gallery, is marking the occasion with an exhibition entitled “A Long Exposure”, which feature a collection of Satyan’s photographs, from December 19 to 31 at Sua House, No. 26/1, Kasturba Road, Bangalore. It will be open to the public from 11am to 6 pm.

***

T.S. Satyan on sans serif:

‘Sadly, lensmen are just a cog, never a wheel’

‘What a picture can teach us on ends and means’

The elements of photography

‘TV coverage heightened public outrage’

17 December 2008

The sociologist, Dipankar Gupta, in Mail Today:

“Though there are many who would find fault with the way the electronic media covered the bloodshed in Bombay, it is also a fact that they heightened citizen anger against politicians of all hues. When the ordinary viewer saw the vulnerability of the unprotected citizen against the Z-level security of politicians, there was good reason for boiling anger.

“None of this could have been captured but for the TV cameras.

“There were many false steps and much hyperventilation. But notwithstanding some crass showmanship, the unintended consequence of the bumbling, over-eager camera crew and their anchors generated a strong sense of citizenship outside religion and rank. This, indeed, is commendable.

“TV channels may not have had this laudable end as their overt intention. They may have been solely driven by rating considerations. But the unintended consequence of camera, uncertain lights and grim action turned out to be good for democracy and for secularism. If only bureaucrats and the security top brass got as much flak as the politicians did, then the job of the media would have been complete.”

Photographers’ Collective to push child rights

16 December 2008

PRESS RELEASE: The non-governmental organisation CRY (Child Relief and You) has formed a Photographers’ Collective to bring to light the issues of child rights and invites photojournalists to join in the endeavour.

A panel of eminent photographers will select 25 applicants from Bombay, Poona and Goa to kickstart the proceedings.

The objectives of the Photographers’ Collective are:

# To create a pool of photography enthusiasts who will use photography to highlight child rights;

# To document child rights’ issues in any one area or on any one issue;

# To create photo essays and photo documentaries to mobilize people for child rights.

Participants will participate in a workshop on child rights and photography conducted by a resource person sourced by CRY; work with a collective of like-minded photography enthusiasts;  document any one child rights issue along with the group;  participate in online sharing of photographs and feedback;  innovate ways to broadbase the initiative and work with each other to ensure that this becomes a sustainable programme.

Participants can expect to be anchored and mentored by resource persons who are professional photographers and attend at least one workshop on how one can use photography for child rights. An online forum will also be established to share photos, critiques, comments, issue updates and shooting experiences.

Selected photographs will be used in CRY communication material. If photo essays/ features emerge, plans for dissemination will be evolved by CRY to maximize impact.

If you want to be part of this initiative, email an application form to havovi.wadia@crymail.org

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