Archive for November, 2011

Suhel Seth shows why he is such a cute Tweetiya

30 November 2011

Those who live by the media shall die by it, was not what the editor-in-chief of the Harijan said. But he would well have had he been around in the era of Suhel Seth. The adman cum image consultant cum lobbyist cum columnist cum TV regular, who counts media bigwigs and gasbags among his many admirers, has known nothing but a fawning press.

But a scalding review of the balding Seth’s book Get to the Top by the Indian Express journalist turned Business Standard journalist, Mihir S. Sharma, in the latest issue of the monthly magazine Caravan, has seen the boarding school-boy from St. Paul’s school, Darjeeling, lose his shirt and civility—and on Twitter.

Seth called Caravan a magazine no one reads and the Harvard-educated Sharma an unemployed economist sacked from every job he has held. As blogosphere heated up, Seth, who was recently sued by tobacco major ITC for Rs 200 crore for a set of similarly senseless tweets, got the message and pulled out the tweets.

Thankfully, Caravan senior editor Jonathan Shainin has captured the exchanges between author and critic for posterity.

Screenshots: courtesy Jonathan Shainin/ Caravan

Read the review: The Age of Seth

How papers are working around wage board

30 November 2011

With the Union government having notified the recommendations of the Majithia wage board for journalists and other employees, newspaper managements are on a collision course.

The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has slammed the government go-ahead despite industry representations; at least three newspaper houses have filed cases against it; and insiders say a November 16 meeting of INS was “defiantly unanimous” that newspapers should not implement it, come what may.

Meanwhile, some newspaper managements, like that of the Bombay tabloid Mid-Day (now owned by the Dainik Jagran group) have commenced their own measures to deal with the debilitating economic effects of the implementation of the wage board recommendations by circulating a bond for its journalists to sign.

Point no. 3 reads, inter alia:

“We, therefore, exercise our option to retain our existing salaries and wages of existing emouluments as defined in Majithia wage board award along with all existing allowances of whatsoever nature as well as method of determination and extent of neutralisation of dearness allowance being following by the newspaper extablishment (Mid-Day) year after year, with retrospective effect. We also realise and agree that all such future increments as may be granted by the newspaper establishment (Mid-Day) in respect of pay, allowances and emoulments shall be in our interest and we shall abide by the same.

“Now in witness whereof we being all the employees of newspaper establishment (Mid-Day) in exercise of our option as available under the Majithia wage board, retain our existing payscale and “existing emoulments” including allowances with retrospective effect by affixing our individual signatures hereinbelow.”

M.J. Pandey of the Brihanmumbai union of journalists (BUJ) writes:

“The Mid-Day management has got its staffers to sign a special undertaking that they are not in favour of the wage board and wish to opt out of the award. Last week, the staffers were called in and made to sign the opt-out form individually and on the spot. No copies of this undertaking were given to them.

“All the journalists, who are on contract, have complied. However, the non-journalist employees, who are part of the Maharashtra media employees’ union (MMEU), have refused to sign the undertaking and are awating the implementation of the award.

“It is incredibe that these journalists have made no calculations of the benefits they would have got under the wage board. This wage board, for the first time, brings the wages of non-contract employees on par with the contract employees – especially in larger media conglomerates – and that’s part of the reason for the stiff resistance of the latter to the wage board.”

Image: via Geeta Seshu

Also read: INS: “We reject wage board recommendations”

Media barons wake up together, sing same song

Why Majithia wage board is good for journalists

9 reasons why wage board is bad for journalism

POLL: Should newspapers implement wage board?

Allow me to point out, Mr Arnab Goswami

Vir Sanghvi says his HT column will resume soon

29 November 2011

After gripping the nation’s attention for nearly a year, the Niira Radia tapes that brought the politics-business-media nexus into sharp focus, is now on a slow but screechy rewind.

The lobbyist Radia has shut shop; arrested politicians (Kanimozhi) are on the way out of jail; the corporate bosses and business executives have secured bail; the government is busy reassessing the quantum of the scam (from Rs 173,000 crore to zero-loss to something more agreeable) and the case goes on.

Now, Vir Sanghvi, the former editor of the Hindustan Times, who “suspended” his weekly column in the Delhi paper and was redesignated “Advisor, HT Media” instead of “Advisory Editorial Director, HT Media”, after he was caught in conversations with Radia, claims he is on the way to resurrecting his “Counterpoint”.

In an interview with Revati Laul of Tehelka magazine (after a two-page column in Outlook* magazine and an appearance on NDTV to tout his innocence after forensic labs apparently certified that the tapes containing his voice were faked), Sanghvi claims he now stands vindicated:

Why did you feel the need to withdraw the column and from political journalism?
Because the allegation was that I was hand-in- glove with the Congress and that I was willing to offer Counterpoint to industrialists who wanted me to write things about them. These were damaging allegations. There are two ways to react to it. One is to say they are fake and I will ignore them. Or there’s my way. Which is to say they are fake and until I can prove they are fake, I will not do anything because I think it’s only reasonable that I go away and prove my innocence. I took the second approach.

Are you going to revive the column?
Yeah. Once I finish shooting the two television shows I’m working on.

For the record, HT replaced Sanghvi’s column in the same slot with a column bylined Chanakya six months after he “suspended” his.

* Disclosures apply

Photograph: courtesy Hindu Business Line

Read the full interview: ‘I have been vindicated’

Also read: Scribe says tribe crossed line in Radia tapes

Vir Sanghvi & Barkha Dutt: “We were targetted”

HT strips Vir Sanghvi of editorial advisory role

Vir Sanghvi “suspends” Hindustan Times column

‘Black Day’ to protest bid to scuttle wage board

29 November 2011

PRESS RELEASE: Delhi Union of Journalists(DUJ) will observe a “Black Day” on Friday, 2 December 2011, to protest against moves to scuttle the wage board for journalist and non-journalists, and concerted moves to kill the working journalists Act.

The Black Day will also spotlight the increasing attacks on journalists in sensitive areas, and moves by the Jammu & Kashmir state government to withdraw advertisements to select newspapers.

A statement by the DUJ general secretary S.K. Pande called upon members to be ready for a phased action plan, with full support to all confederation plans. The “Black Day” will be the first action plan which could culminate in a march to Parliament in co-ordination with the Confederation, the DUJ said.

Also read: INS: “We reject wage board recommendations”

Media barons wake up together, sing same song

Why Majithia wage board is good for journalists

9 reasons why wage board is bad for journalism

POLL: Should newspapers implement wage board?

INS: Wage board move will kill most newspapers

Ex-journo ends life owing to “work pressure”

28 November 2011

sans serif records the demise of Smitha Rao, a former Times of India and Bangalore Mirror journalist, who had joined Infosys, apparently owing to “work pressure” at the bellwether IT company.

A former colleague who described her as “very bright, high strung, hugely temperamental”, said she kept saying she missed journalism.

Image: courtesy One India

External reading: Infosys manager found hanging

‘China Daily’ hands back occupied areas to India

28 November 2011

Tongue firmly in cheek, James Fallows of The Atlantic Monthly (a one-time resident of Beijing) calls it “the world’s finest daily”. Two weeks ago it began to appear on the streets of the United States.

Now, “China Daily” has spread its wings to India.

A 24-page edition of the weekly tabloid, printed in Hong Kong and priced at Rs 10, appeared in Delhi on the weekend, tucked into one of the business dailies (not The Hindu Business Line).

Barring a two-page spread of ads of serviced apartments in Hong Kong, the edition is almost completely free of any kind of advertising, except for an in-house ad (above) advertising its availibility in India.

The storylist of the inaugural November 25-December 1 is decidedly nationalistic. The cover story, headlined “Brand Global“, talks of Chinese brands likely to make up the next wave of household items.

Many of the other stories would warm the cockles of Pravda staffers. “Key gas pact signed with Turkmentistan” and “China, Brunei ink energy deals” are the headlines of news stories. There is an opinion piece on East Asia not being a US playground and another warning US against spying activities.

The only India components in the launch issue are an opinion piece by former Hindu and Indian Express analyst C. Raja Mohan on Indo-Pak ties, and a full-page profile of the PC-maker Lenovo’s India head, by a correspondent in Calcutta.

For a “Made in China” product, quality control in “China Daily” is still not cuting edge yet: two different stories on pages 4 and 5, one on China’s global brands and the other on intellectual property laws, carry the same intro: “China is bracing for a leap forward in marketing and promotion of its products across the world.”

No, wait, it is not a mistake; the stories are actually linked, just that the editors thought that a common intro would convey China’s much-renowned sense of uniformity better.

Indian nationalists and nuisance-makers might, however, like to take a second look at the map of India in the issue-ad (on page 6) in the launch issue, which only shows the parts of Kashmir as being occupied by Pakistan and not the parts occupied by China (as a New York Times map, above, shows) .

Surprisingly, though, unlike The Economist which repeatedly faces troubles at the hands of Indian censors for the “inaccurate depiction of India’s borders”, China Daily has sailed through.

Also read: The Hindu and the scribe who was told to shut up

How New York Times stumped Indian censors

Censored, but no copies of Economist have been confiscated

EPW, the ‘Economist’ of emerging countries?

26 November 2011

The former West Bengal finance minister, economist and left ideologue, Ashok Mitra, in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“Gentlemen do not engage in public brawl; if they have a grievance to air, they write to the London Times. That was the British code…. The Indian gentry, as could only be expected, inherited the code of the ruling nation….  For all of them, the British convention of unburdening one’s point of view in letters to newspaper editors became the accepted mode.

“A geographical distribution of the load of the letters that got written took place almost in the natural course. Gentlemen in the south — and occasionally ladies — would write to the stodgy Hindu owned by the Kasturi family. Those in the west wrote to The Times of India, managed by the Bennett Coleman group, which had already passed on to Indian hands.

“Letters from the northern region would crowd into the office of the Hindustan Times, owned by the Birlas and edited by the Mahatma’s son, Devdas Gandhi. For the East, the preferred destination was the Chowringhee Square address in Calcutta of the still-British-owned Statesman, slightly hoity-toity, but at least continuing to be jealous of the elegance of its language and grammar.

“The habitué of the writing-letters-to-the-editor club are miffed to no end by the steady plebeianization of the entire lot of what were once described as national newspapers; these look more and more tabloid with every day and have ceased to be ambassadors of daily tidings from all over the country and the world. The intellectual community, in particular, is disconcerted; it is, it feels, beneath its dignity to have its contributions besmirched by being printed next to pictures of damsels in G-strings and money-crazy cricketers caught red-handed for spot-fixing — those pearls of wisdom deserve a better receptacle for display. It is now increasingly turning to the Economic & Political Weekly. A weekly publication with its limited circulation is not quite the same thing. Even so, the EPW has at least the imprimatur of respectability; it is supposed to be the leading social science journal coming out of Asia; it is, some say, the Economist of the emerging countries.”

Read the full article: If the price is right

Also read: EPW journalist bags Appan Menon award

EPW: Top-6 dailies devote 2% coverage on rural issues

The Economist: How to get from B to A

The Economist: A newspaper that’s a genuine viewspaper

An Emergency-style witchhunt of the media?

26 November 2011

The top item (above) in the gossip column of The Indian Express today lends further credence to the conspiracy theory doing the rounds in Delhi that there may be a pattern to, and a devious intent behind, all that is happening to the media in recent weeks: the sweeping remarks of press council chairman Justice Markandey Katju, the notification of the Majithia wage board recommendations for journalists, the talk of regulation of the electronic media, the curbs on crossmedia ownership, etc.

And that in circa 2011—following the exposes of the gigantic scams and scandals that powered the anti-corruption movement—the Congress-led UPA government may have quietly ushered in a very sophisticated form of whiplashing and witchhunting the media, without the formal declaration of censorship as in 1975.

Image: courtesy The Indian Express

Also read: Should media corruption come under Lok Pal?

B.G. VERGHESE: The declaration of Emergency in 1975

KULDIP NAYAR: Hindu and HT were were worst offenders

Journalist arrested in journalist’s murder case

25 November 2011

Jigna Vora, the deputy bureau chief of The Asian Age, Bombay, who was arrested today in connection with the dastardly murder of Mid-Day journalist J. Dey.

Vora, who was formerly of Mumbai Mirror, has been charged under Section 120 (b) of the Indian penal code (conspiracy), read with 302 (murder) and Maharashtra control of organised crime Act (MCOCA).

The police say she passed on information such as email IDs, residential addresses, motorcycle number and J Dey’s movements to the organised crime syndicate, based on which the murder was orchestrated.

Photograph: courtesy Mid-Day

Also read: J. Dey: ‘When eages are silent, parrots jabber’

Then and Now: How TOI covered the Tata change

24 November 2011

There is a change at the top of Bombay House, the headquarters of the Tatas, and the manner in which it is covered by Bombay’s biggest media house, The Times of India, is illustrative of how much journalism has changed, and how much the way journalists look at business news has changed, in the last 20 years.

On top is the ToI news item announcing the appointment of Ratan N. Tata as the chairman, 20 Octobers ago, succeeding J.R.D. Tata. Below is today’s ToI front page, announcing the appointment of Ratan Tata’s successor, Cyrus P. Mistry.

# Then, the news of the appointment was not the lead story, it was probably second lead on columns 6,7 and 8, continued on “turn page”. Now, the news of the appointment earns lead story status. Business news is no longer anathema.

# Then, when print was king and television was not commonplace, the news of the appointment was conveyed as is in the headline. Now, with television and internet having broken the news 12 hours earlier, the lead headline is a smart pun.

# Then, the front-page picture was larger than the two tiny mugshots now. Interestingly, the 1981 picture had both the outgoing chairman and incoming chairman in one frame. Not so in the tightly controlled media atmosphere of 2011.

# Then, bylines were mostly anonymous. “By Our City Editor” was shorthand for our business editor, probably the veteran D.G. Gupte. On today’s front page, there are at least three bylines: Reeba Zacharaiah, Boby Kurien, Namrata Singh.

# Then, it was just news of the change. Now, there is plenty of backgrounding (“Why Cyrus? How he swung the vote”, “The Mistry connection”) plus a colour piece on his hobbies (“Avid golfer & foodie, avoids cocktail circuit”). Bollywood also sneaks into today’s front page with the slug “Being Cyrus”.

# Then, it was all black white, now there is a profusion of colour, although much of the colour now appears in the typography in the info-box in the absence of a good picture. Then it was just one story, now it is four stories, an infobox, two quotes and five pointers.

The Times of India‘s blanket coverage is also interesting because the paper was blacklisted twice during the outgoing chairman Ratan Tata. Once in protest at ToI’s coverage of the Tata Finance scandal, and then against the backdrop of the Niira Radia tapes, which proved to be a public relations disaster for the group.

Images: courtesy The Times of India

Also read: Why Ratan Tata hired Niira Radia

Have the Tatas blacklisted Times of India again?

Everybody loves a nice mutual admiration club

Four lessons in journalism from Tata’s chief PRO

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