Archive for September, 2009

Does he who pays the piper call the tune?

30 September 2009

NDMA-Letter

The media is pilloried, and rightly so, for erasing the line between editorial and advertising. Space sellers are slammed, and rightly so, for allowing advertisers and agencies to run riot. And publishers and editors are pilloried, and rightly so, for not standing up and telling advertisers, agencies and space sellers where to get off.

But what when the advertiser is the government, as the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) is?

And what when the government as advertiser tries to set the editorial rules and guidelines in a tight advertising market, when it tells you how to write the article, how to do the layout, and what kind of newsprint to choose, all in the name of public awareness?

Also read: Pyramid Saimira, Tatva & Times Private Treaties

Times Private Treaties gets a very public airing

SUCHETA DALAL: Forget the news, you can’t believe the ads either

SALIL TRIPATHI: The first casualty of a cosy deal is credibility

PAUL BECKETT: Indian media holding Indian democracy ransom

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA: ‘Indian media in deeply murky ethical territory’

The scoreline: Different strokes for different folks

Allen J. Mendonca: Here’s looking at you, kid

29 September 2009

allensandhya

CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY writes from Bangalore: Allen Mendonca slunk away in sleep, gently tip-toeing into the darkness never to return.

This time, his flamboyance was missing.

The swagger was not there.

There were none of the histrionics either.

49 is no age to exit out. Yet, he chose to do it his way. He never did believe in giving tortuous explanations to people.

The inexplicable emotions of the heart ruled over his mind most of the time. The unmistakable lilt in his voice and freewheeling gait was proof.

Anyway, he probably had his reasons to leave early.

***

For me, Allen was a friend and a supporter. For a million others, perhaps a hundred million, Allen was a friend and a supporter. His friends, like the stories he sourced, were diverse.

They included a broad swath of shallow socialites, dodgy journalists and plain beer-swilling louts. He bear-hugged  them all unmindful of their forked-tongues and crooked agenda.

Allen chose not to differentiate, not to be judgemental of people and that was his true strength, and perhaps his failing too. He practiced his vocation with the same sense of   ‘openness’ – writing on every conceivable subject with a freshness in perspective and prose.

On a good day, Allen’s writing was a piece of poetry.

On an ‘exceptionally good day’  it was deliciously defamatory. Bureaucrats and businessmen got slammed on their pompous backsides.

While some called it whimsical writing others swore by it and religiously began their day with Allen’s byline.

Everybody read it. Everybody spoke about it. And Allen, like the true showman,  loved the adulation, the applause.

On one occasion, he wrote a controversial piece on Vijay Mallya, and was forced to tender a written apology. I remember calling him that morning, expressing my disgust and railing against the world at large. Confronted by my shrill journalistic fervor, misplaced perhaps (?),  early in the morning, he merely  guffawed.

In 2002, as the visiting faculty of a journalism school, I had invited Allen, then Times of India’s metro chief, to share his experiences with the students.  Despite a late night, he was there at the Times’ office at the crack of dawn to ride in my bumpy car to the school that was located on the outskirts.

Needless to say, he won the kids over with his disarming charm and simple home-truths.

No profundities, no lofty ideological bluster, the challenges a reporter confronts are real.

The fun-part was after the interaction, when I drove the affectionate father to meet his son Aditya at the BGS International School nearby.

Much earlier, when I began my career with the Frontline magazine, Allen’s Christmas party was a turning-point for me. M.D. Riti, who had just quit The Week magazine, suggested that I apply for the position and pursue the opportunity. Allen and his wife Sandhya prodded me on to embark on this new adventure.

There are innumerable memories associated with Allen and recounting them all would be impossible. More recently, during his recent stint as editor of a city-based magazine, I would often run into him at Koshy’s.

The friendly wink and handshake remained unchanged, thankfully.

***

The last time I met him was on September 16 at friend Jessie Paul’s  book-launch. Sandhya did the author’s introduction.

Even as Sujit John of the Times, Darlington Jose Hector of Financial Chronicle, Benedict Parmanand of Rishabh Media Network and I bantered around in a group, Allen accompanied by a lanky Aditya made a quick entry,  shook hands with us and vamoosed.

He seemed in an obvious hurry that evening and we couldn’t spend much time.

A few days later, on the night of September  27, I called Madras-based journalist and friend Daniel P. George on his cell phone for a general catch-up session. Danny yelled over the din of a rambunctious party and told me that he was at the Leela Palace in Bangalore with Allen and his family.

I said, “have fun” and disconnected.

That night Allen, the friend, the supporter, went to sleep.

Photograph: courtesy Chandana Vasistha Aiyar via Facebook

Also read: Allen J. Mendonca, rest in peace

Allen J. Mendonca, rest in peace

28 September 2009

allen

sans serif records with a heavy heart the passing away of Allen J. Mendonca, the former Indian Express and Times of India journalist, in Bangalore on Monday. He is survived by his wife Sandhya Mendonca and their son, Aditya.

Allen, the son of a Reserve Bank of India employee, was an old-school journalist for whom no beat, no story was taboo. Starting out at Bangalore’s legendary tabloid City Tab (launched and run by the Tharakan couple), he went on to cover crime, politics, information technology; composed jingles for television; acted in plays; wrote movie reviews; composed and sang music; and played the guitar.

He even starred in the  national award film, Stumble, directed by former Indian Express colleague Prakash Belavadi.

At a 2002 lecture at the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media in Bangalore, Allen said:

“Journalism of courage has given way to a journalism of consensus…. Although there are some world-class writers in our country, there are very few world-class journalists.”

In 2003, Allen co-founded Raintree Media, a communications and media business process outsourcing outfit with offices in Kuala Lumpur, Port St Louis, and Bangalore.

Last night, he went home after a party and did not wake up this moning.

Photograph: courtesy Facebook

Visit the Raintree Media blog


William Safire’s 18 steps to better writing

28 September 2009

It’s not known if William Safire, who wrote the “On Language” column in the New York Times Magazine for 30 years till earlier this month, was conversant with the ways of social media, but it is safe to presume that he would have been horrified at how his demise last night was coveyed to readers subscribing to Jim Romenesko‘s media notes via Google Reader.

“NYT ‘On Language’ columnist Safire dies at 79″

1 person liked this

Of course, Safire, the author of “the nattering nabobs of negativism” and “hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history”, would get the joke, but you get the picture?

Neatorama has a compilation of Safire’s rules for writing:

*  Remember to never split an infinitive
* The passive voice should never be used
* Do not put statements in the negative form
* Verbs have to agree with their subjects
* Proofread carefully to see if you words out
* If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be by rereading and editing.
* A writer must not shift your point of view
* And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)
* Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!
* Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents
* Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided
* If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is
* Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors
* Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky
* Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing
* Always pick on the correct idiom
* The adverb always follows the verb
* Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; seek viable alternatives

Read The New York TimesWilliam Safire obituary

Also read: George Orwell‘s six rules for better writing

Sir V.S. Naipaul‘s seven rules for writers

‘Newspaper men meet such interesting people’

28 September 2009

American folk music singer, the legendary Pete Seeger, sings an ode to newspapermen.

Link via Vadiraj Hombal

His Master’s Voice varies from his Man Friday’s

26 September 2009

Minister of state for external affairs, Shashi Tharoor, is a) the son of a journalist of The Statesman, Calcutta, b) a longtime columnist with The Illustrated Weekly of India, The Hindu and The Times of India, and c) a career diplomat who spent a good part of his life at the United Nations writing books and press notes.

But in his first 100 days in office, Tharoor’s core competency is what has deserted him as he puts both his feet in his mouth with increasing regularity.

First came the cattle-class comment on his Twitter feed, and now this. A comment on Mail Today, the tabloid newspaper owned by the India Today group, at sharp variance with his own officer on special duty Jacob Joseph‘s surmise of the paper a few days earlier.

Old wine in very old bottle is still old wine

26 September 2009

toi

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: The Times of India has unveiled its ‘Crest Edition‘ in Bombay and Delhi with a 40-page offering at an “introductory price” of Rs 6 per copy. (The ‘Crest Edition‘ branding is embedded below the masthead in italics.)

“Why another newspaper or magazine, you may well ask. Don’t we already have enough? To begin with, Crest isn’t really a new paper or magazine. It is The Times of India unbound, with narrative pieces that sparkle with rich reporting, great perspective and Aha! moments. We will leverage TOI’s unequalled network of correspondents, analysts, writers and editors to anticipate the changes bubbling below the surface of society as well as enhance our understanding of the world around us. Crest is for the curious mind; it hopes to be every intelligent reader’s guide to politics and policy, art and culture, environment and education, and more,” writes The Times of India‘s editorial director Jaideep Bose in an introductory edit.

The new paper’s menu, self-explanatory, is as under:

menu

The colour theme is: aquamarine with promise of ‘seas unsailed and shores unhailed’.

“Aquamarine is the colour of adventure, surprise and delight. It stimulates, it excites, and it’s cool. It invokes sky, ocean and earth.”

***

All things considered, Crest, coming from the house of the world’s largest English newspaper, breaks no fresh ground and is in fact reminiscent of the Sunday edition of The Indian Express in its design and stories.

Nothing about the new paper—the price (double the regular Times‘ Saturday cover price of Rs 3), the quality of the newsprint (standard), the choice or display of stories—suggests “premium”, “lofty” or “high road”, terms used by Times in promoting its newest baby.

In fact, the tiny masthead of the new Crest edition suggests that Times, which burnt its hands with its earlier premium offerings in Bombay—The Independent and The Metropolis in Bombay—is playing it extra-safe in an uncertain advertising scenario and in markets where the perception is growing that ToI is feeling the heat from a variety of sources, including the competition, for keeping reader interest subservient to the advertiser’s.

The registration number and issue date of the Crest edition is that of the regular paper and the editors are the same as that of the regular Saturday paper (Derrick B D’Sa in Bombay market and Vikas Singh in Delhi market), suggesting that Crest far from being a new paper is just a new, souped-up edition of the old one, issued in the hope that the daily reader will graduate to the new edition over the weekend and help The Times bottomline floundering in the face of the paper’s private treaties and other misadventures.

In earlier days, newspapers had the dak (postal) edition, which was printed earlier than the City edition and mailed to faraway centres or transported over long distances by road and rail.

The Crest edition is a similar venture but legal experts in the print industry might like to look at a juicy question:

Can a newspaper with the same title, same registration number, same volume number, same issue number, and same editor be sold at different cover prices in the same City on the same day?

The RNI number for the main edition of The Times of India in Bombay on Saturday is 1547/57.

The RNI number for the Crest edition launched on Saturday is 1547/57. The volume number (CLXXII) is the same for the main edition and the Crest edition, and the issue number (227) is the same too.

So, has the Times taken a legally questionable step in publishing and selling a different edition of the paper at a different cover price?

Also read: A lofty title takes the high road at premium price

Readers take rest. Premium readers take Crest

Could the media end up killing Barack Obama?

25 September 2009

Al Jazeera’s media show The Listening Post on how 24×7 media is dangerously inflaming passions against US President Barack Obama with lies, untruths, rhetoric—a little like the way a newspaper advertisement greeted John F. Kennedy the day he arrived in Dallas in 1963.

Also read: How global media covered Barack Obama inauguration

The media’s obsession with Obama is worrisome

A lofty title takes the high road at premium price

25 September 2009

The Times of India has officially announced the name of its new, “premium”, weekend paper launching on Saturday, September 26. It is called “The Crest Edition” and will have 40 pages.

An announcement on the front page of the paper today says that like its “lofty title”, the Crest Edition will take the high road on everything from politics and business to literature, sport, culture and science.

“Crest’s got the heft but suits the hammock too.”

Half-page ads of the new paper appear on page 2 of the paper in Bombay and Delhi. (Click on the frame to get a larger, more reader-friendly view.)

Also read: Readers take rest. Premium readers take Crest

Readers take rest. Premium readers take Crest.

24 September 2009

toicrest

After weeks and months of “will they, won’t they”, The Times of India has bucked the advertising downturn and announced the launch of its “premium” weekend paper just ahead of the festival season.

This announcement appears on the front page of the paper in Bombay and Delhi, suggesting that it is initially going to be published from these two metros alone.

The announcement gives no indication of the cover price (said to be higher than the main paper) and no announcement of the title (rumoured to be Crest).

Also read: The name is Gajwani. Satyan Suresh Gajwani.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,523 other followers

%d bloggers like this: