Archive for August, 2009

This September: Anna Wintour’s India connection

28 August 2009

Meryl Streep essayed her role in the Oscar-nominated film The Devil Wears Prada.

In the documentary The September Issue, which releases in New York today, Anna Wintour plays Anna Wintour.

The legendary editor of the Baghwad Gita of the $300billion fashion industry, Vogue, takes off her trademark goggles and allows director R.J. Cutler to scrutinise the inner workings of the magazine for its September 2007 issue.

And revealing, in the process, an “Anna who is like Madonna“:

“…a woman who is opportunistically charming but who mostly seems to exist in splendid isolation, issuing sometimes-devastating pronouncements with a chilly insouciance that would make Marie Antoinette jealous.”

timeWintour, daughter of the British journalist Charles Wintour, has an India connection going back 36 years. Her unauthorised biographer Jerry Oppenheimer writes that while growing up in London, Anna had a major passion for men—attractive, older achievers.

“She had many boyfriends. She was once literally chased around the house by Indian statesman V.K. Krishna Menon (in picture, left),” her father Charles says of his Cambridge classmate.

But  Oppenheimer writes that papa Wintour “never stated whether he thought the fatal heart attack suffered at the age of 77 in 1974 (by the “red” Indian) was brought on by his supposed hot pursuit of his comely daughter”.

Also read: Inside Vogue‘s queendom

Read the New York Times review: The cameras zoom in on fashion’s empress

‘Editors and senior journos must declare assets’

27 August 2009

Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta attacked environmentalists in a recent column.

“Drive out… don’t fly,” he wrote, and you will find bounteous fields in Punjab and Haryana, and not the caked, cracked and dried mud-flats with withered saplings that characterise drought that afflicts half the districts in India today.

Reason: the foresight of regional leaders and some central governments, which invested heavily in irrigation in the 1950s and ’60s. This, said Gupta, had happened because:

“…most of this was done in decades when the most retrograde and jholawala movements in the history of mankind had not yet arrived on the scene.”

The labelling and stereotyping has provoked a ferocious reply from the political scientist, Aditya Nigam, a fellow at the Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), on the website Kafila, whose tagline screams “Run from Big Media”.

Nigam writes:

“…It is equally common knowledge that increasingly opinion makers in the media—editors and senior journalists in particular—are known to be making huge amounts of extra income (and other forms of assets like free shares, houses and so on) from sources other than those provided by their employment.

“This self important and self-righteous tribe of people in contemporary India who think they are above every body else and cannot open their mouths without a claiming a moral high ground, also needs to be made accountable.

“We are not suggesting that any particular person is in the pay of anybody else—even though the grapevine has innumerable stories to that effect—of the ultimate moral corruption of most mediapersons. But surely when opinions are expressed as ‘disinterested’ and ‘objective’, the public must have the right to know whether these opinions are actually disinterested. And what better way can there be when politicians have to disclose their incomes, and we are calling upon judges as well to follow suit, that we also demand the same of editors and mediapersons.”

Candidates in elections have to declare their assets and liabilities before the elections. Bureaucrats do too. And now judges have joined the ranks.

Should journalists follow suit?

Read the full article: ‘Editors and journalists must declare their assets’

German fellowship open to Indian journalists

27 August 2009

The International Journalists’ Programmes (IJP) is inviting applications from newspaper, TV and radio journalists in Asia and the Pacific,  for an eight-week exchange fellowship programme that will take them to Germany in May and June 2010.

Journalists between 28 and 38 years of age, working in India, China, Korea, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam are eligible to apply.

The deadline to apply is November 30.

If selected, delegates will work in German media, research stories and work as correspondents for their home newsrooms. German journalists will simultaneously work in Asian media.

All delegates of the programme will receive a bursary of EU3,600 (approximately Rs 250,000).

For more information, visit the IJP website

Visit the IJP blog

E-mail Martina Johns for further details: johns@ijp.org

Link via Nishant Ratnakar

‘Univerisity offers trainings from Indian origin’

26 August 2009

Private education—professional colleges, B-schools, deemed Universities, journalism schools, etc—is one of the most under-reported scams in the Indian media today.

This advertisement for one such J-school, which spells “University” wrongly, is a proof reader’s delight. Click on the image for a larger frame.

Who are the journos ‘running & ruining’ the BJP?

25 August 2009

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Former Indian Express editor Arun Shourie‘s explosive interview with the paper’s current editor, Shekhar Gupta, while revealing the deep schisms within India’s principal oppostion party, the BJP, has also once again thrown light on the less-than-professional role political journalists have been playing.

For the second time in two months, Shourie targetted “The Gang of Six”—a pack of half-of-dozen journalists who, says the Magsaysay Award winning investigative journalist, have been used (abused? misused?) by various different sections of the BJP.

On Gupta’s Walk the Talk interview for NDTV on Monday, Shourie said his letter to the BJP president Rajnath Singh demanding accountability in running the party had been dubbed as an act of indiscipline even though that letter had remained confidential.

There were leaders, he says:

“…who had been planting stories against L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh and others through six journalists (and yet it’s not called indiscipline)”.

At the BJP’s national executive meeting in mid-June, shortly after the party suffered a “nasty jolt” in the general elections, Shourie had gone so far as to say that “the BJP was being run by six journalists” who were “damaging the party interest“.

On both occasions, Shourie hasn’t named “The Gang of Six”, but by repeatedly talking about them has set tongues wagging.

However, the questions remain: is the BJP so feeble a party to be felled by  mere pen-pushers? If BJP leaders are using them to “plant” stories against one another, are the journalists exceeding their brief by allowing themselves to be used?

Is ex-editor Shourie sanctimoniously crying wolf or is this par for the course in other parties too? Are editors and publishers of the publications where the “Gang of Six” work aware of their journalists being so used?

And if so, is it OK?

Photograph: courtesy IBN Live

Also read: Don’t laugh: do journalists make good politicians?

The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

Shekhar Gupta: No better time to enter journalism than now

How this baby made a lensman cry 19 years later

24 August 2009

prashna

For news photographers life is one endless “assignment”. The ticking timepiece, the pressure to capture The Moment better than the others on the beat, the boxing for space between “video” and “still” leaves little room for reflection, even less for poetry.

In staff-strapped Indian media houses, the sublime and the ridiculous—ministerial visits, seminars, crime scenes, “human interest”, celebrity photocalls, accidents, book releases, quarterly results, cricket matches—all jostle for equal attention.

Amateurs and shamateurs have discovered their ways of dealing with the pressures. The coscientious and professional keep their head above the water by organising themselves, by keeping personal emotions out, and by not getting overly sentimental.

In February 1989, K. Gopinathan (in picture, left), then as now, a world-class news photographer with his heart in the right place, received word that a baby abandoned the day after her birth, had been given shelter seven months later by a children’s home in Bangalore aptly named Ashraya.

“My first glimpse of the infant was a shock: a sweet-looking baby minus arms and legs. Suddenly I was battered by all sorts of feelings. I cried in my heart: “God, why did you punish this beautiful child?” I then pushed aside my emotions prepared for the shoot. That was when she looked at the camera directly, raising her torso as if to assert herself: “This is me! This is what I am!”

Gopi’s picture, frontpaged in the undivided Indian Express under T.J.S. George, attracted the attention of an American single-parent, Catherine Cox, who came forward to adopt her, named her Minda Cox, and took her to the United States.

***

19 years later, in January last year, Gopi, now the chief photographer of The Hindu in Bangalore, received word that mother and daughter were in Bangalore for the silver jubilee reunion of its adopted children.

In an article on The Hindu website to mark World Photography Day, Gopinathan describes the surreality of the experience:

“I looked around, foolishly, for a baby without limbs, not realising she was a young woman now…. Amidst much clapping and cheering, I was introduced as the first person to have taken her picture.

“She beckoned to me, grabbed my hand and held it under her chin. By now I was choking with emotion and parallely I was conscious of the fact that I had not shed a single tear when my father died.”

Then began a quest to hunt for Minda Cox’s biological parents, which Gopi documented magnificently with Divya Gandhi here, here and here.

The search took them to Kolekebailu, 30 km from Manipal on the west coast of India, to the village of Kalavathi and Shankar Shetty.

“As we neared the village, we saw villagers lining both sides of the road…. The crowd was getting restive and I had a tough time convincing them they would get their turn to see Minda. One man repeatedly tried to sneak in and I asked him exasperatedly why he was in hurry.

“‘I am her father, Sir,’ came the reply.”

mindaRead the full article: No more a question mark

Photographs: courtesy K. Gopinathan/ The Hindu

Also read: Bunt bird who soared from Manipal to Missouri

The 2008 India Press Photo award-winning picture

How a world-class yoga photograph was shot

In a democracy, prince and pauper beg together

How not to ask right questions (an ongoing series)

22 August 2009

When he made Sicko, Michael Moore got into a flap with CNN on the mainstream media’s inability to ask tough, searching questions.

“Just apologize to the American people and to the families of the troops for not doing your job four years ago. We wouldn’t be in this war if you had done your job. Come on. Just admit it. Just apologize to the American people.”

Now, Moore returns with Capitalism: A Love Story.

Again, you wonder whether the slowdown and recession and the bailout would have happened had the media asked the right questions.

Also read: Michael Moore takes on CNN’s Sanjay Gupta

Why a music magazine has to take on Goldman Sachs

Interview of the year: Jon Stewart takes on Jim Cramer

How come media did not spot Satyam scam?

Newspaper websites get less than 1% page views

21 August 2009

Traditional media—newspapers, TV stations, magazines—live under the assumption that the current drift away from them towards new media is something that will get corrected as the consumer begins pining for “credibility”—stuff they can trust!—and once he does so, they can start charging for content which will bring their businesses back on track.

India is still some distance away from this reality, of course, but how realistic are these assumptions even for a country like the United States?

The Nieman Lab has released numbers that in the words of one Indian new media player are “fairly startling figures”.

# The total “Active Digital Media Universe” (Neilsen’s term for total US unique visitors online during the month, both at home and at work): 195,974,309.

# Of these, 70,340,277 or 35.89 per cent visited a newspaper web site. (On the other hand, 64 per crent got their news elsewhere.)

# The average member of the Active Digital Media Universe visited 2,569 web pages per month. That adds up to 503,457,999,821 page views.

# Of those 503 billion page views, 3,468,549,698 (3.5 billion) went to newspaper web sites. That’s less than 1 per cent of all page views or 0.69 per cent to be exact.

# Neilsen says the average page view (in that univere of 503 billion) lasted 57 seconds. That translates into 7,971,418,330 hours spent online or 40 hours, 40 miutes and 33 seconds per person.

# Of those 7.9 billion hours spent online, time spent at newspaper web sites was 45,022,485 hours. That’s less than 1 per cent of all time spent online, or 0.56 per cent.

It’s all official about the return of Sanjaya Baru

19 August 2009

For days and weeks, New Delhi was abuzz with rumours of the return of Sanjaya Baru (in picture). Would he go back to the Prime Minister’s Office, where he had served as media advisor? Would he be sent to the Planning Commission? Would he be in charge of programme implementation?

Well, it turns out he will be the new editor of the business daily Business Standard from January 2010 in place of T.N. Ninan, who is a minority share-holder in the paper along with his wife, the media critic Sevanti Ninan.

Baru will report to Ninan as editor of the paper and then as editorial director of the company.

Also read: Sauce for a paper ain’t sauce for a TV station?

Conflict of interest and interest in conflicts

External link: Sanjaya Baru on H.Y. Sharada Prasad

Sure, but would he like to receive them today?

19 August 2009

19082009729

Watching TV used to be simple in the age of terrestrial broadcasting. The advent of satellite, cable and dish have made viewing a more pleasurable experience, of course, but there are also some unintended consequences.

This afternoon, after news emerged that India’s principal opposition party, the BJP, had sacked its leading light Jaswant Singh against the backdrop of his controversial book on Mohammed Ali Jinnah, direct-to-home Tata Sky viewers watching his exceedingly gracious press conference had a red button with an option to “Send Flowers” popping up on their screens.

Also read: BJP defeat is a defeat of BJP brand of journalism

CHURUMURI POLL: Is the BJP in total disarray?

God’s Own Party kinda re-enters the 20th century

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