Archive for April, 2012

Times of India: one movie, one review, 3 ratings

9 April 2012

On Saturday, the venture capitalist Mahesh Murthy drew attention, through his Facebook account, to the differing number of stars in The Times of India review for the same film (Housefull-2) by the same reviewer (Srijana Mitra Das) in the Bombay and Madras editions of the paper.

ToI  got the “discrepancy” rectified, but the disparity remains in the Kochi edition.

Rating in Bombay edition: two-and-a-half stars

Rating in Kochi edition: three-and-a-half stars

Rating in Madras edition: 4 stars

Links and screenshots via M.V.J. Kar

Also read: It takes 3 Idiots to call the bluff of Pauper Tigers

Aditya Sinha tears into Indian Express ‘C’ report

8 April 2012

Aditya Sinha, editor-in-chief of DNA, in his weekly column:

“There was a telephone call from my father, who lives abroad, a few days ago. He wanted to know if it was true that the Army had planned to attack Delhi back in January, as reported in The Indian Express. Don’t worry, I said, no such thing. If the Army Chief had planned a coup to ensure he spent another year in office, then he wouldn’t have filed a petition on his date of birth in the Supreme Court.

“When we rang off, it seemed that there must be many ordinary Indians far and near who were scared by this story. What a shame. And the author tried to camouflage the cynical timing of the story (immediately after the government’s ugly spat with the Army Chief) by saying the story took 11 weeks to materialise.

“That would be credible if the story was loaded with data or fieldwork, like a story on child malnutrition in Maharashtra, for instance; it wasn’t. Even an RTI application gets answered in less time (though no RTI request would have generated such a cock-and-bull story).

“At the end of the day, a well-regarded journalist (he reported on the Nellie massacre in Assam nearly 30 years ago) was used by a cynical government. Guess who emerged from this looking diminished….”

“Too many editors in India (mostly the post-superannuation lot) who would never dare publish irreverence because they believe themselves to be part of the ruling class, and that it is their job to steer the country…. [Here] the editor not only values his friendship with the powerful over his devotion to his profession, but never hesitates to make himself the centre of the story.

“Compare men of letters (like Kingsley Amis and Edmund Wilson) with those in India who today have no ideology other than the service of power. Instead of the watchdog of democracy they would rather be the lapdog of crony capitalism.”

Also read: Indian Express ‘C’ report: scoop, rehash or spin?

Indian Express stands by its ‘C’ report

How the media viewed the Indian Express ‘C’ report

Aditya Sinha on the world-view of Delhi journalists

Read the full article: When the watchdog turns lapdog

‘Mouth ka Saudagar’ to play Rajdeep & Arnab

7 April 2012

Emran Hashmi, the Bollywood actor who has attained the reputation of a “serial kisser” in his film career, is to play the role of an “upwardly mobile journalist with a top news channel” in the upcoming film, Rush.

HT City, the city supplement of the Hindustan Times in Delhi, quotes the movie’s director as saying Hashmi’s character is based on Rajdeep Sardesai of CNN-IBN and Arnab Goswami of Times Now.

It’s a mad, ad, mad, ad, mad world in Bombay

6 April 2012

A full-page advertisement on the back page of the Bombay newspaper, DNA, hitting out at you-know-who:

From luring the brands with incentives to no-escape clauses in their advertising contracts, the industry is stooping to newer lows for gaining advertising revenue. However, at DNA, we still hold a torch to some old-fashioned traditional values. Our principles guide us.

# We have no qualms if you choose to advertise in other publications along with DNA.

# You are free to decide how much of your communication budget you want to spend with us.

# With whom do you want to advertise first is absolutely your call.

# There is no clause to lock-in ads with us for any particular duration of time.

# The ownership pattern of your company is exclusively your domain and is most sacrosanct to us. We are not going to barter the ad space in DNA for stakes in your company’s ownership.

Link via M.V.J. Kar

Also read: Good morning, your paper is free of paid news!

Are journalism’s best practices in your DNA?

“Only the weather section is not ‘sold’ these days!”

How the media viewed Express ‘C’ report

5 April 2012

Editorial in Deccan Herald:

“There is reason for deep concern over the report in a national daily, The Indian Express, about an ‘unexpected (and non-notified) movement’ of two army units towards Delhi on the night of January 16-17… To insinuate that General V.K. Singh would attempt a coup to settle scores with the government is downright slanderous. It is an insult to the Indian Army, which has an unblemished record of being an apolitical force. There are enough safeguards in our system to ensure the supremacy of the civilian government over the military.

“It does seem that the newspaper read too much into what was a harmless and routine movement of army units. It should have exercised greater caution and responsibility in reporting the story the way it did.”

Editorial in The Hindu:

“The Indian Express is entirely within its rights to write about a sensitive matter like this, even if its treatment was overblown. Just as it is unfair for anyone to cast aspersions on the Indian Army, it is unfair to question the motives of the journalists who wrote the story.”

Jim Yardley and Hari Kumar in the New York Times:

“The article, splashed across the front page, created a sensation in the Indian news media, stirring a discussion on the country’s all-news channels and on Twitter, where many criticized the Express for, they said, sensationalizing the episode when relations between civilian and military leaders are already fraught….

Uday Bhaskar, a retired Indian Navy commodore, agreed that mistrust between military and civilian leaders had deepened, partly because of the poisonous political environment in New Delhi, which he said was fueled by an increasingly sensationalistic media.”

Sandeep Bamzai in Mail Today:

“A leading daily may have unintentionally extrapolated from the website report and sensationalised the story. Or it may have got it right because as they tell us the event is dated January 16 this year. But to run a story of this magnitude may well be a disservice to media and to national interest. Because now it is not just the Army chief, but the Armed Forces which will be viewed with suspicion.”

Editorial in the Economic Times:

“The overall fallout of the story is to lower both the army chief and the defence minister in public esteem, as those who bumble into a messy civil-military standoff.”

Manoj Joshi in Mail Today:

“In journalism, there are dividing lines that define when a news report informs, analyses, titillates or sensationalises. But there is just one line which separates a report which serves national interest from one which does disservice to it. The report in a national daily, which talks about the movement of two crack Indian Army units towards New Delhi on the night of January 16, not only makes unwarranted conjectures, but in the process, damages the body politic of the country.”

Editorial in the Business Standard:

“A binary choice should not be forced on this discussion. Talk of a coup is absurd and the newspaper report may be alarmist; yet there are questions that must be addressed…. Anything less than direct engagement with the substance of the Express report would serve to further undermine public trust in the institution.”

News item in M.J. Akbar‘s Sunday Guardian:

“Sources involved in tracking sensitive developments claim that a senior minister of the UPA government was the mastermind of the April 4 front page item in a daily newspaper about a suspected coup attempt. The sources claim that the minister is connected – through his close relative – with the defense procurement lobbies gunning for Chief of Army Staff General V K Singh, and that the decision to “trick the newspaper into running a baseless report was to drain away support for General Singh within the political class”, who could be expected to unite against any effort at creating a Pakistan-style situation in India….

“According to these sources,the minister in question “is well-known to senior journalistic levels of the publication” that ran the coup report. A military source was “surprised that the newspaper in question ran such a story,in view of the high level of competence of its senior staff”, but added that ” a senior minister being the source of the initial information would explain their belief in the truth of the report”.

Also read: Indian Express ‘C’ report: scoop, rehash or spin?

Indian Express stands by its ‘C’ report

‘The Indian Express’ stands by its ‘C’ report

4 April 2012

Everybody from the prime minister to the defence minister have dismissed the Indian Express front-page story on the coup that wasn’t in Delhi on the night of January 16-17. Now, the paper has published a formal statement standing by the story on its website.

Below is the full text:

***

“The Indian Express report “The January night Raisina Hill was spooked: Two key Army units moved towards Delhi without notifying Govt” has, as expected, prompted widespread reaction.

“The report is a meticulous reconstruction and a very sober interpretation of the movement of two key Army units towards New Delhi on the night of January 16-17.

“Investigated over six weeks and written by editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta; chief of investigative bureau Ritu Sarin and deputy editor and chief of the national bureau Pranab Dhal Samanta (with help from assistant editor in the investigative bureau Ajmer Singh), the report draws on highly credible sources.

“They have chosen to be anonymous and the newspaper is committed to protecting their identity.

“The Indian Express sent a detailed questionnaire to the army and the ministry of defence and accurately reported their responses in the report. These responses were reiterated by them on Wednesday.

“Neither side explained why the Ministry of Defence wasn’t notified, why the troops were suddenly asked to go back and what explanation was offered, if any, by the army to the Government.

“There are some in the government and outside who have questioned the report, even calling it “disturbing” and “baseless”. All this, even those comments that attribute false motives, are, we believe, part of a necessary debate.

“The Indian Express stands by the report.

“And in the tradition of its commitment to journalism of courage and the readers’ right to know, it will continue its investigation into the events of January 16-17 and the questions these raise.”

Indian Express ‘C’ report: Scoop, rehash, spin?

4 April 2012

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: The front-page, full-page report in the northern editions of The Indian Express this morning, that two units of the Indian Army moved towards Delhi on January 16, 2012—the day the Army chief V.K. Singh‘s petition before the Supreme Court on his date of birth was coming up—has sent New Delhi into a tizzy.

The report, anchored by the paper’s redoubtable editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta, with reporting from Ritu Sarin, Pranab Dhal Samanta and Ajmer Singh—that barely disguises its attempts to hint at a “coup” that wasn’t—has been stoutly denied by the ministry of defence and an official statement from the defence minister A.K. Antony is due.

As the old saying goes, never believe a story until it is officially denied.

Still, is the Express story a “scoop” throwing light on something that was hidden or unknown; a rehash of previously published stuff; or just plain Delhi-style “spin”, against the backdrop of leaks and plants that have been coming in a torrent in the crossfire between the outgoing Army chief and the “establishment”?

To give Express its due, the three-deck, four-byline, eight-column banner headline suggests plenty of leg work. It gives  the context, the background, the colour and indeed the intrigue around the Army movement.

Still…

What blunts the edge somewhat on the Express story is that the Army manoeuvre was reported by Rediff.com’s R.S. Chauhan 22 days earlier—on March 13, 2012. What also muddies the waters is that the Army itself held an official briefing on the subject two days after that—on March 15, 2012—in Agra.

So, regardless of the official denials, is the Express story a scoop, a rehash or spin?

(An earlier version of this post mentioned March 10, 2012 as the date of the Army briefing)

Read the Express report here: The “C” report

Read the Rediff.com report here: Paratroopers meet their match

How the ‘bribe bomb’ landed at ‘The Hindu’

2 April 2012

The chief of the Army staff, Gen V.K. Singh‘s interview to The Hindu on March 26, in which he accused a former army officer of making a Rs 14 crore bribe offer, stirred the proverbial hornet’s nest last Monday.

The timing of the charge, on the eve of the BRICS summit in Delhi, set tongues wagging.

The paper’s interviewer, Vidya Subrahmaniam, provides some perspective in today’s issue:

“I met the General at his official residence in Delhi for an hour-long taped interview a few days before its eventual publication on March 26. This time was required to fill in some gaps in information as well as to transcribe the long, meandering content of the conversation.

“It wasn’t as if the chief was bursting with unspilled secrets.

“The interview, I assumed, was about the age controversy and the state of the army, and so it was for the large part…. Half way into the questioning, when he was specifically asked who was behind the controversy, he mentioned “the Adarsh lobby and some equipment lobbyists.”

“Then suddenly he dropped the bombshell about the bribe attempt. I absorbed the information trying not to show too much excitement, and quizzed him on the details. He said it was for clearing the purchase of a tranche of overpriced trucks that had no proper facility for “maintenance and service.”

“Also that he was so enraged by the brazenness of it all that he took it up with Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony. But Gen. Singh simply wouldn’t part with more information, nor explain what action he or the Minister had taken.

“‘Leave it,’ he said.

“Journalists know when they have a scoop and they also know how far to push their source. I do not know if the General knowingly concealed the scoop in a maze of information, I do not know if his intention all along was only to disclose the bribe attempt, but at that point, my overwhelming concern was that he shouldn’t retract….

“I emerged out of Gen.Singh’s home with the BRICS summit, still many days away, hardly in my consciousness.”

Illustration: Keshav/ The Hindu

Read the full article: Sack the general, did you say?

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