Archive for May, 2011

Right or left, some hometruths from the old pros

31 May 2011

Chandan Mitra, editor-in-chief of The Pioneer, speaking at the annual convocation of the Pioneer media school, in New Delhi on Monday:

“Despite the advent of new mediums of mass communication or news dissemination over the years, print journalism is still a vital force and journalism is defined by the print media…

“Students are free to opt for any form of journalism—television, Internet or radio—but to attain in-depth knowledge of the profession, newcomers should join newspapers or magazines at initial stages of their career.

“Internet has brought a big change in media and has made the job of a journalist easier, but it makes you laid back. Every time, one cannot rely on the Internet because it is not credible. It also overloads you with information. Therefore one should stick to a newspaper and TV news channels and read it thoroughly.”

N. Ram, editor-in-chief of The Hindu, while receiving the honorary degree of doctor of social sciences from the University of Wolverhampton, in Madras on Monday:

“In India, the long-term competition between the self-serving and the public service visions of journalism is on and it breeds tension, confusion and, at times, conflict….

“Ensuring commercial viability and addressing the vital need of being accurate, informative, insightful, educative and relevant is an extraordinarily difficult balance to strike. Many of us believe there is a middle path, a golden mean that can deliver good results.

“News media needs to work out a template of editorial values and principles and a concept of social responsibility they can live up to and also live with.”

Our media only bothers about elite, middle-class

28 May 2011


SHAH ALAM KHAN writes from New Delhi: In April this year the media went into a loud and vulgar rapture as Anna Hazare continued his four-day fast against corruption at Jantar Mantar in the capital.

Hyperventilating TV newscasters repeatedly declared that the issue of corruption has “touched a cord” with the middle class.

The circus at Jantar Mantar ended on a happy note with an amazing display of rhapsody for millions of urban, educated, elite Indians as they saw the government kneel to the demands of Anna in re-formulating the Lok Pal bill.  But this was more than a month back.

In Indian politics, one month is a long period. With a short public memory and an equally uncaring public attitude, it is easy to comprehend why another fast in another corner of the country has evoked minimal response.

Social activist and Gandhian, Medha Patkar has been on an indefinite fast for seven days at Mumbai in protest against the land grab at the Golibar slum, next to the Mumbai airport.

The contrast is striking.

No high profile players, no well known public figures, no lavish tents, no Bharatmata cut outs, no mineral water bottles for the attendees and,of course, minimal media glare. All the goodies of Anna Hazare’s protest are missing from Medha Patkar’s remonstration.

What is most conspicuous is the “wretched” clientele for whom Medha is fasting.  Medha’s indefinite fast is for the basic rights of 26,000 families, which dwell the Golibar slum.

Slum dwellers!

People who are a road block in the conversion of Mumbai to Shanghai.

Medha is protesting the blatant callousness of the Maharashtra government and its nefarious slum rehabilitation authority (SRA). SRA is the by-product of the political-land mafia nexus aimed at usurping those living in the slums of Mumbai. This futuristic Shanghai has more than 60 percent of its population living in slums with Golibar being the second largest slum of the city.

The SRA aims to authorize private builders to redevelop slum land. The result can be anyone’s guess. Private builders take up the slum land by force, forgery or on cheap rates. The resale value of these prime locations brings phenomenal wealth in the general property market. Even more despicable is the Clause 3K of the SRA, which gives a single builder right to redevelop a slum without inviting any tenders.

What is most deafening in this protest is the silence of the media (electronic, paper and alternative) which stood with Anna Hazare in his high profile fight against corruption. No Facebook pages, no Twitter messages, no hourly news updates.

Surely something is amiss “now” as compared to “then”.

Was it the personal charisma of Anna Hazare, who was largely unknown to elite Indians till April this year, which drew the masses and the media? Or was it a will of the media to suddenly awaken to the reality of corruption in this country?  It baffles me.

Surely, Anna Hazare’s well-orchestrated (and hence well funded) fight against corruption was more appealing to the urban middle class Indian then a fight for the slum dwellers of a small locality of Mumbai. Although to evaluate the efficacy of a protest on the basis of number of people benefited by it is not only dangerous but purely foolhardiness par excellence!

Protests represent the core values for which a society stands, not the number of people affected by its success. May be it is for this very reason that our very conscientious media fails to represent decisively the issues raised by Irom Sharmila, who has been on fast for the last ten years against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

Having said this, it may be noted that media has played a significant role in “individualistic protests” like those demanding justice for Jessica Lall or Priyadarshani Mattoo.

Although it is easy to find instances of media manufactured struggles in India if the victims are elite, educated or middle class but to say the same for this very media taking up the causes of the underprivileged, oppressed or rural masses is difficult. No wonder there is hardly any coverage of Vidharba farmer suicides or of atrocities on dalits across the length and breadth of the country.

In India the amalgam of forces that drive a protest are also an important determinant for its adoption by the media.

In Anna’s case high caste, elitist composition with a cosmetic supplementation by commoner Indians and fuelled by well-funded corporate driven NGOs, formed an ideal diet for high TRPs.  A ready meal for media digestion!

Unfortunately these ingredients of manufactured protest are lacking when it comes to core issues of human survival as in Medha Patkar’s demonstration in Mumbai.

The role of media in a democratic set-up cannot be over emphasized. But with more corporate control it is not difficult to discern what this integral pillar of democracy will support or rather avoid to support. With economic liberalization the media has become an important tool to formulate, channelize and direct popular protest; and there lies the danger for an unequal and unjust society like ours.

Highlighting the correct story is a morally responsible task that has to be done without fear or favour.

Medha Patkar and Irom Sharmila need an equal share of bytes & columns as Anna Hazare or Jessica Lall’s sister. Injustices cannot be compared, weighed and then sold to the general public wrapped in a piquant newspaper or an exciting television show.

Discriminations cannot have different colors.

Biases cannot be silent or loud.

Inequality can never be less or more.

(Dr Shah Alam Khan is an orthopaedic surgeon at the nation’s premier medical college and hospital, the all India institute of medical sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi. Visit his blog: India and Bharat)

Also read: Why Ram Pyari couldn’t take her daughter home

IPL’s thugs are no better than Maoists and Naxals

‘Newspaper In Education’ has a new meaning

28 May 2011

For decades The Times of India Relief Fund used to be the paper’s most prominent “CSR activity”. Malayala Manorama took the lead the in building houses in earthquake-hit Latur in the mid-1990s. Plenty of newspapers and magazines chipped in for the tsunami-affected in Tamil Nadu. India Today even launched a project called Care Today.

Now, Shekhar Gupta‘s Indian Express takes the lead to build a block in a government school in the home-State of the paper’s founder, Ramnath Goenka. The two-storey, 12-room was constructed at a cost of Rs 87 lakh raised through the paper’s citizen’s relief fund, with the veteran journalist Swadesh Talwar in charge of the project.

Image: courtesy The Indian Express

Jawaharlal Nehru: 24 ads, 11 pages in 12 papers

27 May 2011

A week is a long time in politics, especially if you are a dead Congressman.

On May 21, the 20th death anniversary of the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, various ministries, departments and State governments unleashed an advertising blitzkrieg in the media.

Result: 69 ads totalling 41 pages in 12 newspapers.

Today, on the 47th anniversary of the death of his grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, the sycophancy deficit is palpable: Just 24 ads amounting to 10¾ published pages in the the same 12 newspapers surveyed last week.

Meaning: India’s first and longest-serving prime minister gets 45 fewer ads (amounting to 30¼ pages) than his grandson who was in office for five years against Nehru’s 17.

Hindustan Times: 22-page issue; 4 JN ads amounting to 1¾ broadsheet pages

The Times of India: 30-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1¼ broadsheet pages

Indian Express: 20-page issue; 5 ads amounting to 2 broadsheet pages

Mail Today (compact): 42-page issue; 4 ads amounting to 2 compact pages

The Hindu: 20-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1¾ broadsheet pages

The Pioneer: 16-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1 broadsheet page

The Statesman: 16-page isuse; 1 ad amounting to half a broadsheet page

The Telegraph: 16-page issue; 1 ad amounting to half a broadsheet page

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The Economic Times: 32-page issue; 0 ads

Business Standard: 20-page issue; 1 ad amouning to half a broadsheet page

Financial Express: 24-page issue; 0 ads

Mint (Berliner): 32-page issue; 0 ads

Also, unlike dozen or so ministries and departments that were falling over each other to remind the nation of Rajiv Gandhi last week, just four ministries—information and broadcasting, women and child welfare, steel and power—and one State government (Delhi) seem to have taken up Nehru’s cause.

Also read: Rajiv Gandhi: 69 ads over 41 pages in 12 newspapers

On AI 001, all the newspapers fit to read

26 May 2011

On board Air India One, the official aircraft of the President and prime minister of India, a pile of newspapers awaits the attention of the gentlemen (and women) of the media scrum accompanying him in the briefing section of the aircraft.

Thirty-three media personnel are accompanying the PM on his five-day trip to Ethiopia and Tanzania.

Photographs: By special arrangement

Why iPad will never replace newspapers in India

26 May 2011

Heather Timmons in the New York Times:

“New Delhi: When Bob Haygooni paid a midflight visit to a cockpit at his new employer, Air India, he was shocked. The pilots, he said, had completely covered the windows with newspaper to keep out the sun.

“‘All you had in the cockpit was this yellowish glow, as the light permeated the newspaper,’ Haygooni recalled, saying it was a visibility hazard he had never seen before in 30 years of flying.

“But ‘this was a normal thing at Air India,’ said Haygooni, a former United Airlines pilot who flew for the Indian airline for 16 months.”

Read the full article: Criticism of Air India grows

Rema Nagarajan of TOI bags Nieman Fellowship

25 May 2011

Rema Nagarajan an assistant editor at The Times of India, is among 24 journalists who have been chosen for the 2011-12 class of Nieman Fellows at Harvard University.

According to a Harvard announcement, Rema will “study patterns and trends in mortality, fertility and population growth and their relationship with population health, the impact of poverty, class, gender and geography on access to health care and medical ethics.”

Rema is part of the Times Insight Group (TIG) “which has a mandate to look at stories beyond and behind the headlines. She writes mostly on development issues like health and factors that affect the quality of life. This includes life-affirming stories of extraordinary individuals and organizations who have made a difference.”

Read Rema Nagarajan’s blog: News-Sick

Also read: Monika Halan among Yale fellows

Chameli Devi prize for Tehelka scribe, K.K. Shahina

Pallava Bagla bags ‘Oscar’ of science journalism

Saikat Datta bags prize for using RTI for story

India-China friendship award for Pallavi Aiyar

Knight fellowship for Frontline’s Dionne Bunsha

Malayalee reporters of Delhi, don’t be so selfish!

25 May 2011

An item appearing in Raisina Tattle, the gossip column of the Delhi-based newspaper Mail Today, that proves once again that politicians know that the shortest route to a reporter’s heart is through the stomach.

Two points stand out in this decidedly parochial carrot-and-drumstick policy: 1) Minister Thomas‘s doubtless belief (pun intended) that all Malayalee journalists have a uniform fancy for drumsticks, and 2) The minister’s ignorance of non-Malayalee journalists’ secret appreciation of the vegetable’s famed aphrodiasical qualities.

Which is just another way of asking: why hasn’t a packet of drumsticks landed at the offices of sans serif, from the minister or from Malayalee journalists?

Or, to indulge in a bit of word play, has all this blogging over five years been to no avial?

Image: courtesy Mail Today

Also read: The journalist who offered a Rs 2 crore bribe

Cash transfer system is already here for journalists

Bangalore journalists named in site allotment scam

The curious case of N.Ram, DMK and Jayalalitha

24 May 2011

N.Ram, editor in chief of The Hindu, calling on Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha, in Madras, on Tuesday, 24 May 2011

ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from Madras: If a picture conveys a thousand words, the picture above should convey a couple of them, and then some more.

At left is N. Ram, the editor-in-chief of The Hindu, currently embroiled in a major row with his brothers N.Murali and N. Ravi (and their cousins Malini Parthasarathy, Nirmala Lakshman and Nalini Krishnan), over who should succeed him at the family-owned newspaper.

At right is Jayalalitha Jayaram, the newly elected chief minister of Tamil Nadu, whose AIADMK government in 2003, ordered the arrest of then editor N.Ravi and executive editor Malini Parthasarathy, chief of bureau V. Jayanth, and special correspondent Radha Venkatesan for alleged contempt of the legislative assembly.

Then freshly installed at the helm, Ram turned the arrest order into a cause celebre.

Meeting Jayalalitha today may appear to be an entirely appropriate courtesy call, one which most editors think they are entitled to in the call of duty.

But is it too early to forget that Jayalalitha came to power on the back of the 2G spectrum allocation scam which has the who’s who of the DMK involved in it, and on which N. Ram has been under a targetted attack from his brothers and cousins of, a) being an apologist for the main accused in the scam, A. Raja, and b) of practising a strange kind of “paid news” by running softball interviews in return for ads in the paper.

The additional edge in the Ram-Jayalalitha picture is provided by WikiLeaks.

The Hindu, which scooped the American diplomatic cables pertaining to India from WikiLeaks, gladly ran a cable showed Trinamul Congress in poor light at the height of the election campaign in bengal. The insinuation that Washington wanted to cultivate Mamata Banerjee‘s party quickly became ammunition for the Left, with Ram’s Loyola Collegemate Prakash Karat even addressing a press conference on the issue.

The Bengal cable was published on 21 April; Bengal went to the hustings on April 18, 23, 27, May 3, 7, and 10.

However, the WikiLeaks cable that showed the fissures in the DMK between the Karunanidhi family and the Maran family were published only on Monday, 23 May 2011, a month and 10 days after Tamil Nadu went to the polls and ten days after the DMK had lost the election lock, stock and 2G to Jayalalitha’s AIADMK.

The best-case scenario is that The Hindu staff chanced upon the Dayanidhi Maran cable only after results day, 13 May. The worst-case scenario is not to difficult to imagine.

Amen.

Also read: The four great wars of N. Ram on Hindu soil

How The Hindu got hold of the WikiLeaks cables

External reading: Save The Hindu

Why a unique newspaper isn’t covering the IPL

24 May 2011

Parimala Bhat reads Sparshdnyan, one of the world’s few newspapers to cater to the visually impaired.

This week’s Sunday Guardian carries a story on Sparshdnyan, a newspaper in Braille for the visually impaired. Published out of Bombay twice a month, the 48-page paper is sent out to some 400 subscribers in Maharashtra.

The paper’s editor Swagat Thorat estimates readership at 24,000 copies per issue, most of them in the 18-35 segment  that advertisers love, but not surprisingly the paper gets no ads.

The editor tells correspondent Rick Westhead that he receives 600-700 letters each issue, and covers his Rs 30,000 per month administrative costs by selling wildlife pictures.

“We cover almost everything,” Thorat says, “but there are a few topics we don’t like.”

One, surprisingly, is India’s national passion: cricket.

“The paper we use is very expensive because it’s so thick for the Braille and I just don’t want to waste it on a topic that is covered in so many other places,” he says.

“I want to make sure we have more on things like science technologies, missions to Mars, and maybe more on India’s foreign policy.”

Photograph: courtesy The Sunday Guardian

Read the full article: Braille newspaper shows blind new world

Contact Sparshdnyan: sprshdnyan [at] gmail [dot] com

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Also read: The Musalman: world’s oldest calligraphed paper

Sudharma, India’s only Sanskrit newspaper turns 38

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