Archive for March, 2010

A very short lesson in manners for journalists

30 March 2010

From The Hindustan Times:

“During an interaction with women journalists, Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Bachchan turned the tables on a young journalist. The journalist asked, ‘Agar Sonia [Gandhi] aap ko bulayengi to kya aap Congress mein jaoge? (Will you join the Congress if Sonia calls you?)’

“Bachchan’s reply came pat: ‘You refer to her as if she were your relative. She is a very senior person, a respected leader of a national political party and definitely older than you. You must have some respect when you refer to such senior people,’ she said.”

Also read: What men can do, women journos can do better

Express declares ceasefire; brothers declare war

29 March 2010

The tussle between The Indian Express and The Hindu following the former’s reports (Part I and Part II) on the boardroom happenings in the latter has predictably and understandably gone cold after N. Ram‘s belligerent announcement of “criminal and civil defamation proceedings”.

Express bossman Shekhar Gupta is said to have instructed staff to go easy but the Hindu‘s editor-in-chief delivers a sucker punch by way of a tweet, on the Express‘s widely speculated motive/s for doing the stories.

However, the tussle within The Hindu boardroom—chiefly among three brothers—shows little signs of abating and two business papers, Mint owned by the Hindustan Times group and Business Standard, feast on it in today’s editions, even hinting that it could result in a corporate legal wrangle.

After telephone conversations with the two aggrieved brothers of N. Ram—managing director N. Murali who has been stripped of his powers and kicked upstairs as the senior managing director, and N. Ravi, who is smarting at not getting to be editor-in-chief had Ram retired in May 2010 as per a previously agreed plan—Mint lays out the three key issues facing the family-owned paper.

1) Retirement norms for family member-directors

2) Entry norms into the business for younger members of the family

3) Overall corporate governance issues

Ravi is quoted as saying that discussions on corporate governance norms had been going on for a couple of years now and that he, along with Murali, had prepared a document on it to be circulated among board members in the February 2010 meeting.

By far, though, the Business Standard story throws more light.

Murali is quoted as saying that he…

“…has been ‘singularly targeted, utterly humiliated and sought to be disempowered by being divested of all substantial powers and responsibilities’.”

BS also quotes Murali on record as saying that the proposal for retirement of directors on reaching the age of 65 was moved by him at a September 2009 meeting, as per which Ram as to have remited office this May, Murali next year, and Ravi in 2011.

However, Ram is quoted as saying there was no written record on retirement age.

In an accompanying story, the paper quotes an unnamed member of the board of Kasturi & Sons as saying that moving the company law board (CLB) over issues about running the group was an option.

It reveals that there was a concerted move within the board to confine Murali’s powers to circulation, till the opposition of other members resulted in his getting to share two other responsibilities (accounts and industrial relations) with newly appointed MD, K. Balaji, son of Ram’s mentor and former editor, G. Kasturi.

However, BS quotes Ram as saying that key decisions at the March 20 board meeting, which resulted in the news breaking into the open, were either taken by a majority of 9-3 or unanimously. (The third dissent vote is likely to have come from former executive editor Malini Parthasarathy who stands to lose the most.)

Ram also tells BS that Murali had been redesignated as senior managing director “with his consent at the board meeting” and that Balaji had been appointed MD “as part of succession planning, which has been actively advocated by Murali to his credit.”

However, the real juice is in the issue of the appointments of Generation Next: Nirmala Lakshman‘s son Narayan Lakshman as the new correspondent of The Hindu in Washington DC, and Ram’s daughter Vidya Ram as the European correspondent based in London for The Hindu Business Line.

According to this version of the BS story, available on rediff.com:

“Under central government rules, a decision to include a family member in the organisation with a remuneration of more than Rs 50,000 a month requires the clearance of the central government. There are charges that Lakshman and Vidya were sent to their locations before the clearances came.

“Lakshman was sanctioned $10,000 and Vidya 5,000 pounds as advances from the company. However the central government sent some queries to the company asking for details on the procedures followed or whether a selection committee was set up to appoint them.

“In order to reply to these questions a board resolution was initiated by Ram which was opposed by some members on the ground that he was an interested party.

“Ram has a different version. ‘The two appointments of relatives of directors have been done meticulously in accordance with the requirements of law: Approval by the board, approval by the shareholders, and central government approval. There was no violation of any kind.’

“He says it is elementary that advances for travel expenses on editorial or business assignments are completely different from remuneration or salaries, which are contingent on employment. ‘I declared an interest in my daughter’s appointment and did not participate in any matter in which I should not have.’

Meanwhile, the fracas within The Hindu has become easy meat for those wanting to get their fork (and knife) into the paper.

The security analyst, B. Raman, former additional secretary, in his widely emailed “thoughts for the day”, poses these questions:

(a) Has the time not come for greater transparency in The Hindu group?

(b) Has the time not come for the Government to introduce, in consultation with the media houses, a right to information act relating to media houses?

(c) Is it not in public interest  for the rest of the media to have a debate through their columns on the issues raised by the controversy between The Hindu and The Indian Express?

(d) Are the media houses and journalists holy cows beyond criticism or spotlight?

Raman makes one good point though.

The inadequate information over ownership and editorial control, which the current controversy highlights, he writes, results in…

“the reading public patronising the “Hindu” not being aware of the fact that a small group of members of the same family decide what should be reported to the public and what views and opinions should be disseminated through the columns of the paper. The reading public has difficulty in knowing who is a relative and who is an independent member of the staff capable of providing an objective point of view uninfluenced by the interests of the family.”

A pro-LTTE website also sees in the tussle the premature comeuppance of an editor who dragged The Hindu into adopting an anti-Tamil Eelam line.

Writes TamilNet.com:

“Ram’s Hindu played a major role in translating the desertion of “Colonel” Karuna from the LTTE into a politico-military machination beneficial to Colombo and New Delhi.

“Even after the war ended in Vanni, Ram’s continued support to genocidal Colombo and opposition to Tamil independence signify larger agenda, commented academic circles in Chennai. Some academics have now stopped writing in The Hindu.

“Ram was also accused of playing China’s agent in India by Tibetan organizations.”

Also read: Indian Express vs The Hindu. N. Ram vs N. Ravi

Not just about the brothers, it’s the children too

Now, it’s Malini Parthasarathy vs The Stalinists

Gandhi for the goose ain’t Gandhi for the gander?

29 March 2010

Mail Today, the tabloid newspaper published by the India Today group, has launched a smart print and outdoor campaign in New Delhi.

With the tagline “The world has changed”, the campaign pits the past with the present. Kapil Dev, in his classic bowling action, but with cheer girls in the background. The new maharaja of the air, not the Air-India one but the king of good times, Vijay Mallya. And so on.

But it’s the ad featuring Mahatma Gandhi with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi that has set tongues wagging.

Reason: only last week, editor-at-large S. Prasannarajan had nibbled at the styluses of “professional panegyrists” and “sundry mythmakers from the media” who had canonised the new Mrs G (Sonia Gandhi) as better and brighter than the old Mrs G (Indira Gandhi), a barely disguised barb at competitor Outlook* which had a recent cover on Sonia titled “Smarter than Indira“.

So, juxtaposing Mr G with the real Mr G is OK, but juxtaposing Mrs G with Mrs G is not?

Image: courtesy Mail Today

* Disclosures apply!

What men can do, women journos can do better

28 March 2010


PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Has the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) in New Delhi completely overshadowed the Press Club of India as the den where the bold-faced names like to meet the capital’s hack-pack?

Auguste Rodin receives a barb on the IWPC website

While the PCI, open to men and women, has been unable to shake off its notoriety as the watering hole of fixers, flacks, brokers, operators and other wheeler-dealers, the 15-year-old IWPC, whose membership is open only to women (the only permanent ‘male’ in its premises is said to be a date palm from Canary Islands) and doesn’t serve alcohol, has built a reputation as the place to go to if you want to meet, mingle and get your message across.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh downwards, everybody—finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the first lady of Syria Asma Akhras al-Assad—everybody happily troops to the IWPC to meet the interrogators whose mission statement is to “celebrate the past and shape the future”, while their male counterparts up the hill stare into their bloody Marys.

What really has given IWPC the edge over PCI in recent times, though, is the ability of the 2009-10 team of Neerja Chowdhury, T.K. Rajalakshmi & Co to attract newsmakers.

As the Congress-led UPA government launched Operation Green Hunt to meet “India’s gravest internal security threat”, home minister P. Chidambaram appeared at Windsor Place.

When DRDO scientist K. Santhanam levelled questioned India’s claims on the efficacy of its 1998 nuclear tests, he chose the IWPC to clarify his position to the country at large.

And so it was on Saturday, when the actor Jaya Bachchan faced queries, but there was a message in the non-existent bottle for the gathered women who had hoped to corner her on her husband Amitabh Bachchan‘s controversial appearance on a stage with a Congress chief minister.

Jaya, daughter of the late (and legendary) “Special Representative” of The Statesman, Taroon Coomar Bhaduri, also used the opportunity to remind the women of the Indian press corps of their covenant.

Referring to the Bombay tabloid Mumbai Mirror‘s crass coverage of her daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai‘s health, Jaya had several bones to pick with the media:

“Her most recent grievance was that a tabloid refused to print a retraction after publishing false news about the Bachchans, even though the woman editor apologised privately.

“It is not just women MPs who needed to be sensitive on the gender issue, lady journalists should show greater fairness when reporting about other women,” she said.”

Time to consider 33 per cent reservation for men at the IWPC?!

***

Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa meets an IWPC team led by then Indian Express (Delhi) editor Coomi Kapoor in Colombo in July 2006 (courtesy TamilNet)

Cartoon: courtesy Indian Women’s Press Corps

Now, it’s Malini Parthasarathy vs ‘The Stalinists’

27 March 2010

In the great undivided Hindu family, the fiery former executive editor Malini Parthasarathy, is the odd woman out after the reassignment of familial duties.

And she lets it hang all out on her Twitter account.

The board of directors of Kasturi & Sons comprises the descendants of four cousins G. Narasimhan, S. Parthasarathy, S. Rangarajan, and G. Kasturi.

Narasimhan’s descendants are N. Ram, N. Murali and N. Ravi. Parthasarathy’s descendants are Malini Parthasarathy, Nirmala Lakshman and Nalini Krishnan. Rangarajan’s descendants are Ramesh Rangarajan, Vijaya Arun and Akila Iyengar. Kasturi’s descendants are K. Balaji, K. Venugopal, and Lakshmi Srinath.

Even a cursory glance at the resolutions of the March 20 board meeting shows that Malini’s sisters have been well taken care of. Nirmala’s son Narayan Lakshman has been posted to London Washington, DC. Nalini’s son Ananth Krishnan is in Beijing. What of Malini, whose removal along with N. Ravi, paved the way for N. Ram?

It’s official: Rajeev Chandrashekar-KP alliance

27 March 2010

After days of speculation, the official confirmation.

Former BPL scion and Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrasekhar‘s “strategic partnership alliance” with Express publications for control of Kannada Prabha is now out.

(The transaction, when completed, is said to be valued at Rs 250 crore.)

Below is the full text.

***

“Jupiter Media and Entertainment Ventures (Jupiter) and Express Publications (Madurai) Limited (EPML) today announced a strategic alliance that will jointly pursue media opportunities in various languages.

“Initially, this partnership will cover Jupiter taking equity investments in Kannada Prabha, a leading Kannada daily newspaper, subsequently exploring potential opportunities in  other languages.

“This alliance will enable a vast synergy between two of  Kannada’s most respected news brands, namely Kannada Prabha and Suvarna News 24×7, especially in the wide editorial network across Karnataka and product and space marketing. This partnership and strategic alliance will help propel these two brands and products into leadership positions, by giving the best in editorial, news reporting and features acceptable to millions of readers.

“This is the first time in India that two leaders and well-entrenched players of print and TV medium are coming together.  The resultant alliance is bound to unlock new opportunities in Karnataka and beyond, in turn benefiting various stakeholders such as readers/viewers, employees and advertisers.”

Express Publications (Madurai) Limited was founded by Ramnath Goenka, along with other companies in the Indian Express Group. The company now forms part of  the New Indian Express group owned and managed by Manoj Kumar Sonthalia, the grandson of Goenka.

The New Indian Express group brings out newspapers and periodicals from 22 centres. The company’s publications include the New Indian Express in English, Dinamani in Tamil and Kannada Prabha in Kannada, and the magazines Cinema Express in Tamil (a fortnightly), Tamilan Express in Tamil (a weekly) and Samakalika Malayalam Vaarika in Malayalam (a weekly).

Jupiter media and entertainment ventures owns, operates or has invested in a number of media assets in South India covering television news, entertainment television and radio. These include Suvarna News 24×7, a Kannada news channel, Asianet News, the Malayalam news channel, Asianet and Asianet Plus (Malayalam), Suvarna (Kannada), Vijay (Tamil) and Sitara (Telugu).  It also has radio brands Best FM and Radio Indigo, and a movie production.

Cartoon: courtesy The Telegraph, Calcutta

External reading: Poovayya & Co, advisors to the deal

Also read: Tomorrow’s news today: spot the difference

Rajeev Chandrasekhar eyeing Kannada Prabha?

Rajeev Chandrasekhar eyeing Deccan Herald?

Not just about the brothers, it’s the children too

26 March 2010

Far from being cowed down by N. Ram‘s threat to sue for the “demonstrable falsehoods and defamatory assertions” in its report on “Ram’s role and actions in developments within the newspaper group and the company“, the Indian Express continues its coverage of the goings-on in the board room of the “Mount Road Mahavishnu” for the second day in a row.

For starters, Ram’s “decision” to sue to commence “civil and criminal defamatory proceedings” is a five-column story on the front page of  all 13 editions of The Hindu. Just what was precisely false or defamatory in the Express story is not something Ram’s statement points out, but it makes transparent the decisions, reassigning duties within the undivided Hindu family, taken by the board on March 20.

To the extent of conveying who is still in charge of The Hindu, and of sending a signal to employees and other interested parties, the statement leaves no room for doubt.

However, the phraseology of the statement indicates that it, if the case goes ahead (and Ram says on his Twitter feed that it will), it is likely that it will be personal battle of Ram and not of Kasturi & Sons, the holding company of the paper.

For its part, The Indian Express too carries Ram’s sue threat on page one, with as much prominence as it gave to the original report, but adds its own response:

“The report, ‘Battle for control breaks out in The Hindu very divided family’, (The Indian Express, The Financial Express, March 25, 2010) is based on information received from multiple and high-level credible sources.

“All facts were verified and cross-checked to the highest standards of accuracy and fairness that the Express Group holds itself to. We believe our report was neither malicious nor defamatory.

“We have great regard for The Hindu as an institution and for its editor-in-chief N. Ram as a journalist and editor for their commitment to principled journalism. We stand by our report and the reporter.”

In the process of defending itself, Express also makes public the purported transcript of the e-mail correspondence between reporter Archna Shukla and N. Ram before the story appeared.

However, The Indian Express doesn’t let matters rest at that.

On day two of its coverage, it quotes from an email sent by Ram’s aggrieved younger brother N. Murali (who has been kicked upstairs as “senior managing director”) to “colleagues”.

“At the Board meeting on 20th March, some directors subjected me to utter humiliation and attempted disempowerment. I will resist all attempts to deny me my rights, responsibilities and duties as the managing director,” Murali writes.

Murali has been stripped of his powers over the key departments of advertisements and purchase, and has now to share many of his duties (accounts, industrial relations) with newly appointed managing director K. Balaji, the well regarded son of former Hindu editor and Ram mentor, G. Kasturi.

More importantly, it is the letter written by Murali’s children Kanta and Krishna, along with youngest brother N. Ravi‘s daughter Aparna, quoted by Express on day two, that gives the clearest indication that this current round of the battle for control of 128-year-old Hindu is not just between M/s Ram, Murali and Ravi, but also about the generation that will inherit the paper from them.

“It is essential that the Board considers issues of corporate governance and the appointment of family members seriously,” write the three.

“To point out the obvious, the business cannot accommodate every member of the family, particularly when there are no institutional mechanisms in place to prevent the receipt of unjustifiably large entitlements over a long period of time.

“Each of us, whether in the previous, current or next generation, has received and continues to receive tremendous benefits from Kasturi and Sons, which far outweigh those received by non-family employees. It is high time that we recognize that our privileges are derived primarily from the contributions and loyalty of over 3500 non-family employees. Each one of us has, in some way or the other, abused their loyalty, trust and contribution.

“The inequitable and arbitrary system that currently exists is not only unfair to non-family employees but to shareholders as a class as well. If there is ever any intention of instituting sound and modern corporate governance practices and discontinuing the feudal system that exists, then issues such as the ones we have raised need to be addressed squarely, honestly and without fear or favour.”

Quite clearly, the recent appointment of children of various directors as foreign correspondents continues to rankle.

Ram’s daughter Vidya Ram (middle) was recently named as European correspondent of The Hindu‘s business paper Business LineNalini Krishnan‘s son Ananth Krishnan (right) replaced Pallavi Aiyar as The Hindu‘s Beijing correspondent; Nirmala Lakshman‘s son Narayan Lakshman (left) was hurriedly sent off as The Hindu‘s Washington correspondent filling a vacancy of nearly five years.

Speculation at The Hindu is that a couple of more “children” are also eyeing the exit sign at airports.

To be sure, both Ram and Ravi have done their stints as foreign correspondents, and sources say that one of the other directors (not N. Ram) was the prime mover behind the move to send Narayan Lakshman to Washington. So just what precisely the opposition to the recent appointments is, is unclear.

Express reporter Archna Shukla’s emailed questions to Ram mentions the “high very salaries” at which generation next had been hired which had apparently led to “unpleasantness among [board] members”. But in his reply Ram dismisses the complaint.

“To describe the relevant salaries as “very high” would be laughable; in fact, if the precise numbers were revealed, the salaries or renumerations would be characterised as “rather low”,” writes Ram.

While N. Ravi and Malini Parthasarathy have clamped up after their tweets yesterday, N. Ram continues to keep his 6,584 followers on Twitter posted with his version of the case.

He says he will do “exactly what I say”, which is sue The Indian Express for the “demonstrable falsehoods and defamatory assertions” in its report, and even leans back on the Bard to back himself:

# “Is it not a reasonable proposition that in any democratic organisation, an isolated few must necessarily respect the will of the majority?”

# “Shakespeare (Othello, iii,3) is often cited on defamation: ‘Who steals my purse steals trash. But he that filches from me my good name….'”

# “There can be no defence, in law or intelligent discourse, for these demonstrable falsehoods that defame recklessly.”

While most other family owned English papers—The Times of India, Deccan Herald, The Telegraph, et al—have understandably remained silent on the goings-on in South India’s largest English daily newspaper, only Mint, the business paper published by the listed HT Media, carries any mention of the Express-Hindu standoff.

New Indian Express editor Aditya Sinha‘s tweet on day one that Deccan Chronicle was rumoured to be working on a story turns out to be just that: a rumour. There is no story in the Hyderabad paper, which has an edition in Madras, at least not today.

Nevertheless, Sinha tweets:

There are various theories doing the rounds on why the Indian Express has taken on The Hindu so openly and so aggressively on what is clearly an internal matter of a family-owned newspaper.

# Is this a legitimate news story without a “backstory”, an honest journalistic attempt to throw light on the opaque goings-on in “public institutions”?

# Is this a proxy battle between the left and the right in Indian politics?

# Is this an attempt to pave the way for a more investor-friendly management which might be amenable to foreign investment?

For a couple of years now, there have been rumours that The Hindu was seeking infusion of funds to expand its footprint in the face of competition. Kalanidhi (and Dayanidhi) Maran‘s Sun TV group was mentioned initially. Later, the Fairfax group of Australia came into the picture.

But those in the know point out that the Express story is a post-facto account of the March 20 board meeting.

All indications are that wicket-keeper Narasimhan Ram, who played one first-class cricket match for Madras in the 1965-66 season, is on a strong wicket. For the moment.

The tone and display of his statement in the paper make that quite clear. Also, in the middle of the melee, word is that Ram found the time to fly to Delhi and sup with Bill Gates‘ wife, Melinda Gates, on Thursday night.

Moreover, although a board meeting is said to be around the corner, a couple of key board members (both women) are said to be conveniently away from Madras, strengthening Ram’s hands, if push comes to shove.

Newspaper image: courtesy The Indian Express

Photographs: courtesy Twitter

Also read: Under N. Ram, The Hindu becomes a ‘sorry’ paper

The Hindu responds to churumuri.com. We do too.

A surprising first at employee-friendly Hindu

The great grandmother of all newspaper battles

When a newspaper is no longer a newspaper

HAROLD EVANS: ‘Families are the best custodians of newspapers’

Tomorrow’s news today: spot the difference

26 March 2010

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: The first clear indications of the shape of things to come at Kannada Prabha, the struggling Kannada daily of Manoj Kumar Sonthalia‘s New Indian Express group, have appeared on its imprintline today.

What, till yesterday, used to be an “Express Publications (Madurai) Ltd” publication (left) has overnight become a “Kannada Prabha Publications Limited” publication.

In recent weeks, media circles in Bangalore have been aflame with rumours that the former BPL Mobile scion and Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who now owns the recently revamped 24×7 Kannada news channel Suvarna News, was eyeing Kannada Prabha.

Hiving off Kannada Prabha into a separate company with its own financials was an imperative, if not Sonthalia’s strategy to sell the paper in whole or part, or to attract strategic investments, without the baggage of the New Indian Express, which is also published by the same holding company.

Only yesterday, Kannada Prabha front-paged an opinion poll on the upcoming civic body elections in Bangalore, conducted in collaboration with Suvarna News.

Also read: Rajeev Chandrasekhar eyeing Kannada Prabha?

Indian Express vs The Hindu, N. Ram vs N. Ravi

25 March 2010

***

The Indian Express, Delhi, has a front-page “exclusive” on the fracas in the family controlling The Hindu, Madras.

The main points the Express story (also simultaneouly carried in its sister-business daily Financial Express) by media correspondent Archna Shukla makes are:

a) disagreements over the “proposed retirement” of publisher and editor-in-chief N. Ram;

b) the stripping of powers of his brother N. Murali as managing director of the company; and

c) Ram’s recent appointment of family members to the paper allegedly without the board’s consent: his daughter Vidya Ram as the new European correspondent of The Hindu Business Line and Narayan Lakshman as the Hindu’s new Washington correspondent.

N. Ram hit back within hours of the Express story, stating that he would launch “civil and criminal” defamation proceedings against the Express reporter, editor-in-chief, editor and publisher.

“These reports are riddled with demonstrable falsehoods and defamatory assertions, some of them attributed to unnamed sources, made with reckless and malicious disregard for the facts and the truth. And this despite the professional courtesy I extended to the journalist and the newspapers by responding precisely and factually to five specific questions emailed to me on March 24 by Ms Shukla.”

Ram also put out the news of his seeking legal recourse to his 6,562 followers on the micro-blogging site, Twitter.

If rumours of the family rift are true, this is the second round in the battle for control of The Hindu.

N. Ram was at the centre of the first one, too. In the early 1990s, then editor G. Kasturi had made way for Ram’s youngest brother N. Ravi and their cousin Malini Parthasarathy at The Hindu, while Ram was shafted off to edit Frontline and Sportstar.

Ten years later, Ram later teamed up with Kasturi to stage a return.

It now looks like payback time with Kasturi’s son K. Balaji being made managing director of the company at the February 20 board meeting, sharing wideranging responsibilities and supervisory powers over several departments: accounts, production, industrial relations, EDP, purchase of newsprint and other raw materials.

The Express story says Ravi and Malini Parathasarathy have now objected to the manner in which…

“Kasturi’s resources, financial as well as editorial, were used to further the interests of some board members”.

As if to underline the substance of the Express story, N. Ravi revived his Twitter acount after four months to say what he thought of N. Ram’s tweet on (and threat of) the defamation case against Express.

And as if to leave the world in no doubt about who stands where in the undivided Hindu family, Malini Parthasarathy retweeted N. Ravi’s tweet, with her own tweet on Twitter.

Internecine family battles are par for the course in the Indian media. The Deccan Herald group went through it in the mid-1990s, as has the Indian Express reporting The Hindu strife, though both have found ways and means of dividing labour within the family without further bloodshed.

More recently, the Amar Ujala group was also in the middle of a messy family battle, which hit the headlines after some worthies including India Today editor Prabhu Chawla‘s son were caught passing a bribe.

What lends The Hindu vs The Indian Express legal battle an added edge is the abrasive nature of the two people at the helm: Hindu editor-in-chief Ram and Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta. (Ram came in at No. 70 in the Express powerlist published in January this year.)

Secondly, The Indian Express and The Hindu are at opposite ends of the political and ideological spectrum. While the former is a gung-ho supporter of all things America (nuclear deal, GM foods, etc), the latter, under the CPM card-carrying Ram, is decidedly less so.

If the defamation case goes ahead, it will be interesting for more reasons than one.

The resident editor of Express in Delhi (responsible for news selection under the law) is Seema Chishti, wife of CPM leader Sitaram Yechury.

N. Ram and CPM general secretary Prakash Karat have been bosom buddies since their days at Madras Christian Loyola College, where they were together with home minister P. Chidambaram, now ironically seen to be close to Shekhar Gupta.

Meanwhile, as rumours of a fresh board meeting gain ground, clearly the sudden turn of events is causing much mirth in rival publishing houses, too, even if they share the same name as the paper that broke the story.

Aditya Sinha, editor-in-chief of The New Indian Express—the new name given to the southern editions after the Indian Express split following the death of Ramnath Goenka—does his bit to fan the rumour mills through his Twitter account.

The decentralisation of paid-for news begins

24 March 2010

The election commission of India likes to pretend that it came to know of the phenomenon of “paid news”—advertisements being slipped in under the garb of news to circumvent expenditure norms— only after recent reports of its widespread use during the 2009 recent general elections.

Well, here’s more news for the EC.

A journalist with Citizen Matters, a civic awareness magazine published from Bangalore, writes that she was offered money to write about candidates from three mainstream political parties contesting elections to the civic body in India’s IT capital.

Vaishnavi Vittal writes that an aide of a first-time candidate in ward no. 177 (J.P. Nagar)  tried to slip her a bunch of 100-rupee notes neatly folded in his palm. “Nimma expenditurege (for your expenditure), madam”, he said sheepishly. Less than an hour later, in the same ward, another candidate pulled out wads of 500-rupee notes from his pocket and asked me, “Hana yenadaru kodabeka? (Should we pay you any money?)”

“A similar incident occurred with a party candidate contesting from Sarakki (Ward 178). After the interview, the candidate’s spouse and campaign coordinator repeatedly asked me if they need to pay me for the interview. They went on to add, laughing all the while, that they are ready to pay money even if we don’t ask for it.

“The two of them gave me a copy of a local Kannada publication in which there were several reports, profiling some of the candidates. They told me that they had paid for a report on their party candidate on the front page.”

Read the full article: Cash for coverage comes to BBMP elections too

Link via Kanchar Kaur-Hariharan

Complete coverage: Editors’ Guild on paid news, private treaties

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

Does he who pays the piper call the tune?

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

Selling the soul? Or sustaining the business?

PAUL BECKETT: Indian media holding Indian democracy ransom

Does he who pays the piper call the tune?

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

The scoreline: Different strokes for different folks

A package deal that’s well worth a second look

ADITYA NIGAM: ‘Editors, senior journalists must declare assets’

The brave last words of Prabhash Joshi

‘Only the weather section isn’t sold these days’

It takes 3 Idiots to call the bluff of Pauper Tigers

If you trust polls, trust in Indian media dips

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