Archive for October, 2010

How to write an editorial when not “jet-lagged”

27 October 2010

If “jetlag” can prevent a mighty editor from noticing that a tiger has slept with a tornado and their baby has married an earthquake in the “Indian State of Tamil Nadu”, what must it be for lesser editors* in other Indian states?

Pradyuman Maheshwari, the group chief editor of the industry journal Impact (owned by the exchange4media group), describes a day in the life of an editor in Bombay on the day he has to, well, write an editorial:

“A typical Friday: an early-morning alarm to ensure that the daughter gets up on time. Boil the milk, get her dabba ready, drop her off to school, return, look up the notice board in the building to see if there are any important notices, read the papers, see if there have been any misses, check mail, make a few calls, go for a walk, some stretches and crunches, chat with editor over a painful exchange of messages with a media biggie, shower, 90 minutes in traffic, get to work, some people not in, a colleague down with malaria so a story can’t go this week, several calls, pesky PR executives, some friendly ones too, credit-card DSAs, more DSAs, car loan, property sale, meetings, brief colleague on a story, send off important mails, plan Diwali chhutti, make an important call, push a meeting by a day, check on content for a feature… the day goes on.

“And in the midst of all of this, write the edit.

“Wish I could have it ghostwriten… can I get the able assistant editor to do it for me this week? Can I just get something interesting written somewhere, copy-paste here and just add a comment or two? Can I pull out my book of quotes and pepper the edit with these? Or just look at my ten best quotes for the day?

“Life’s a bitch. Home-traffic-meetings-office-meetings-calls-traffic-office-meetings-lunch-coffee-meetings-traffic-dinner-traffic-home-homework-TV-sleep. Well, it’s quite a jetlagged existence to borrow from something I read in another edit recently.

“So how do I write the Impact editorial for this week? Do I pick up stuff about a subject that’s been written about from another source? Well, as the editor of this publication, the least I must do is spend a few minutes and connect with you via a few hundred-odd words. If I had wanted to, I could’ve asked for an edit not to be part of the magazine grid with an excuse of ‘who reads them anyway’ or whatever.

“But no way will my edit be ghostwritten, and if it is written by someone else, then it will bear his or her name….”

*Disclosures apply!

Also read: The editorial

The original

The scandal

The non-apologetic apology

The ‘Lone Hindu’ gets it from M.J. Akbar’s paper

27 October 2010

Dileep Padgaonkar, The Times of India’s former editor who once said he held the second-most important job in the country, has been named one of three interlocutors in Kashmir by the UPA government.

However, the usually softspoken Francophile has been hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons in his new job, even as he offers a quote to anybody who sticks out a mike before him.

And in M.J. Akbar‘s Sunday Guardian, diarist Nora Chopra sticks it in:

“Dileep Padgaonkar, a non-working journalist, is [J&K chief minister] Omar Abdullah‘s choice. He was a part of prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee‘s Kashmir committee, which was a non-starter. Omar was with the NDA at the time. After the UPA came to power, Padgaonkar became the lone Hindu member in the National Minority Commission (sic) with a  salary of around Rs 2 lakh per month.”

For the record, Padgaonkar is not a non-working journalist; he returned to the Times as editor of the edit page after the exit of another Times‘ loyalist, Gautam Adhikari. And at Akbar’s former abode, The Asian Age, Padgaonkar, an acknowledged foodie, most famously wrote a letter to the editor on the recipe for Egg Benedict.

Also read: How Padgaonkar christened a Pierre Cardin model

How the Sakaal Times dream became a nightmare

And thus spake the Editor-in-Chief of ‘Harijan’

25 October 2010

The veteran editor, columnist, author and activist, Kuldip Nayar, recounting a seminar held recently in Thiruvananthapuram by the Malayalam daily Mathrubhumi, in The Sunday Guardian:

Mahatma Gandhi‘s is an example which every journalist must emulate. He tells us journalists that the sole aim of journalism should be service.

“In his autobiography, he says: ‘The newspaper is a great power, but just as an unchained torrent of water submerges the countryside and devastates crops, even so an uncontrolled pen serves but to destroy. If control is from without, it proves more poisonous than want of control. It can be profitable only when exercised from within.’

If this line of reasoning is correct—and there is no reason to challenge it—how many papers in the country would stand the test? But who would stop the useless? And should be the judge? I think that the useful and the useless must, like good and evil, go on together. The reader must make the choice. Any interference by the government would make a mockery of the freedom of the press.

“Today when editorial space is sold and where ‘paid news’ conceals falsehood and propagand, Gandhi’s advice that a newspaper is not meant to make money but is an insturment to serve the public, cannot be to the liking of those who have an eye on the balancesheet. They are not bothered with the indignation of people over the projection of celebrities and models as icons of society.

“Writing on the role of newspapers, Gandhiji said: ‘In my humble opinion, it is wrong to use a newspaper as a means of earning a living. There are certain spheres of work which are of consequence and have such bearing on public weflare that to undertake them for earning one’s livelihood would defeat the primary aim behind them.’

“When a newspaper is treated as a means of making profit, the result is likely tobe serious malpractice. It is not necessary to prove to those who have some experience in journalism that such malpractices prevail on a large scale.”

How much more interactive can it get?

20 October 2010

The lineup of questions for readers to answer in the Open Space column of The Times of India.

Editors, designers, illustrators, graphic artists

17 October 2010

A blank editorial, a black editorial & a footnote

12 October 2010

When Indira Gandhi introduced media censorship as part of the Emergency in 1975, Indian newspapers ran blank editorials as a form of protest.

The Kannada newspaper Vijaya Karnataka, belonging to The Times of India group, runs a blank (and black) editorial today, in protest against what happened in the State legislative assembly on Monday, during the trust vote moved by the chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa.

And in white type set on 60% black, editor Vishweshwar Bhat writes this small footnote at the bottom:

“The unseemly occurrences in the assembly on Monday should make every citizen bow his head in shame. The manner in which our elected representatives behaved is unpardonable. They have dealt a deadly blow to democracy. While criticising this, we symbolically represent the silent outrage of the people in this form.”

Also read: B.G. Verghese on the introduction of Emergency

Kuldeep Nayar: Hindu, HT were the worst offenders in 1975

H.Y. Sharada Prasad: Middle-class won’t understand Indira

People, not the press, are the real fourth estate in India

Survival of tallest when politics hits a new low

11 October 2010

Initially barred from entering the Karnataka legislative assembly to cover proceedings on the day the trust motion moved by the BJP government of B.S. Yediyurappa was coming up, television cameramen compete with each other to capture the chaotic (and shameful) scenes in Bangalore on Monday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

‘If we don’t get it first, why should we want it?’

11 October 2010

Network 18 bossman, Raghav Bahl, receives some loaded questions from Sunil Jain of the Financial Express, in an interaction with journalists of the The Indian Express group:

Sunil Jain: The SEBI chief [M. Damodaran] once spoke of  “anchor-investors”. Also, how do you justify your getting into private treaties?

Raghav Bahl: On “anchor-investors”, I never quite understood what Damodaran was saying. It is easy to accuse. I went to the SEBI chairman and said, “If there an iota of evidence, please give it to me in confidence. I assure you action will be taken.” But there was nothing. No evidence.

On paid news, a business journalist is under suspicion ab initio. This is what I have learnt in 20 years. Because when you say something is good, the first inference is that this guy is on the take. It is a cross that a business journalist carries. But I don’t think that is true.

At the end of the day, in my experience of 20 years, I don’t think anybody has ever produced anything tangible against any of our journalists. Errors, yes, they certainly happen. Do you get setup by somebody? Yes, you do. You can make a mistake but you correct it quickly.

Coming to private treaties, we did treaties of the value of Rs 30 to 40 crore. That’s all we did. We believe commercially, it is a loss-making model. Because 45 per cent of your non-cash revenues are out of your pocket on Day 1–in service tax and income tax. So we believe it is a loss-making model. We stopped it.

Sunil Jain: What about the ethics of it?

Raghav Bahl: Ethics can be compromised even without a treaties deal. Why will you do a treaty to compromise ethics? If you need to compromise ethics, why will you take your money in cheque, backed by 10 pages of an agreement? So I do not buy the ethics point at all. It’s a revenue earning mechanism, but is an extremely inefficient mechanism. I think it is a legitimate use of your editorial position.

Sunil Jain: How do you justify CNBC walking out of interviews if another channel gets them first?

Raghav Bahl: I think it’s a legitimate use of your editorial position. Don’t you do it? If the prime minister is giving you an appointment, won’t you want it first? It is a legitimate effort by a journalist to get it first.

Also read: What Raghav Bahl could learn from Samir Jain

Business journalism or business of journalism?

Is ethical journalism is a bad word at CNBC-TV18?

MTV isn’t the only channel making a bakra out of you

The media and the stock market collapse

Ramnath Goenka excellence in journalism awards

6 October 2010

The Ramnath Goenka Memorial Foundation is inviting entries for the 2009 Excellence in Journalism awards.

The awards are open for both print and broadcast journalists in 18 categories with cash prizes and scholarships on offer. The last date for entries is 15 November 2010.

Visit www.expressindia.com/rngf for further details.

Email: rngf@expressindia.com

Image: courtesy The Indian Express

B.G. VERGHESE: The declaration of Emergency

5 October 2010

The former Indian Express and Hindustan Times editor B.G. Verghese has just released his memoirs, First Draft (Tranquebar). This excerpt, carried by HT last week, captures the declaration of Emergency and the introduction of press censorship by Indira Gandhi‘s regime in 1975.

***

By B.G. VERGHESE

A little before 2 am on June 26 [1975], the phone rang in my bedroom. It was Abhay Chajjlani, editor of Nai Dunia from Indore. Was anything happening in Delhi, he asked anxiously? I asked why he thought so. He said his premises, like those of other newspapers in Indore, had been raided, the presses stopped and all newspaper bundles seized. Political leaders had been arrested.

I said I would find out and call back if I could.

Another call followed immediately thereafter from Romesh Chandra of The Hind Samachar, Jullundur, sounding a similar alarm. I rang Romesh Thapar, who exclaimed, “My God, so it’s happened!”

I called the HT. The city edition was still in the midst of its first run. I asked the news editor to summon the bureau chief, chief reporter, photographers and all possible hands to scour the city and to alert our state correspondents and be prepared to run a new late edition or a special supplement. I would be coming over immediately.

…I got to the HT by 2.30 am by when one or two others had trickled in. We added a ‘stop press’ insertion to the late city edition under printing. We also prepared to bring out an early-morning supplement, to hit the streets as soon as possible with whatever news we could gather, and with whatever staff was available, as many sub-editors, compositors and press workers had gone off the night shift.

A reporter rang to say the Cabinet had been summoned for an urgent meeting at 6 am at the prime minister’s residence…. The promulgation of the internal Emergency was conveyed to a subdued Cabinet on the 26th morning with only Swaran Singh raising a mildly questioning voice.

Meanwhile, the first posters went up in the HT press noticeboards stating that the editor and a clique of anti-people journalists could not put the livelihood of the press workers and staff in jeopardy. By now the management was astir and had summoned the watch and ward to bar us from entry to the press, and shut it off.

With great difficulty we managed to get, maybe, a couple of hundred copies of our June 26 Emergency Supplement printed before the rotary ground to a halt. We collected those precious copies and carried them out for selective private distribution by journalist staff.

I retained a copy. It is probably now a collector’s item.

Photograph: Femina editor Vimla Patil interviews Indira Gandhi, with H.Y. Sharada Prasad, then the prime minister’s press secretary, in the background, in 1974 (courtesy Vimla Patil)

Also read: A deep mind with a straight spine who stands tall

Kuldeep Nayar: Hindu, HT were the worst offenders in 1975

H.Y. Sharada Prasad: Middle-class won’t understand Indira

People, not the press, are the real fourth estate in India

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