Archive for May, 2012

Dear students: here’s wishing you the very worst

30 May 2012

On her blog, CNN-IBN anchor Suhasini Haider, who says she encountered seven rejections before her first job, lists five wishes for students of journalism marching out into the profession with blazing bylines in their eyes:

My dear graduates

I am going to hope for you that each of you gets rejected for a job in exactly the same way because if you don’t understand what your passion is, it helps to have an interviewer that does. Because in the profession you have chosen, there will be many reasons to quit, and only one reason to stay – and that is the passion to tell a story.

1. I wish for you a really mean boss , one who makes you cry. Let’s be honest. This is a tough business, one where you have to push and bully your way to a story, you need to develop a thick skin early on.

2. I wish for you many, many days spent in the heat. So much of our job requires you to stand on someone else’s footpath, waiting for the person who lives inside to come out or go in, it’s a great thing to get used to.

3. I wish for you many unwell colleagues. That does sound horrid, but honestly, it’s how I got most of my early breaks. You get sent on an assignment only because someone else is indisposed.

4. I wish for you assignments in places where telephones and computers don’t work, because the joy of heading out to a remote area, where you work on one story for 3 days without having to report back, no hour-on-hour deadline pressure is something you must do.

5. I wish for you interviews with many eccentric quirky people… because those are the ones who will give you the story.

Read the full story: Dear journalism students

‘Media doesn’t figure in society transformation’

29 May 2012

Sheela Bhatt, senior editorial director of rediff.com and India Abroad:

“Where do the media figure in this turbulent transformation of Indian society? The plain truth is: Nowhere.

“Making loud noises is not journalism. There are over three million cases pending in India’s 21 courts and 26.3 million cases in the lower courts and a quarter of a million undertrials in jails. Do we care?

“Even our worldview is getting skewed as most English-language newspapers have tie-ups with Western media sources. They reprint the Western perspective on world events. Still we say that the Indian media is ‘influential’!

“Take the issue of dynastic politics or the maladies of Indian democracy. The Indian media has not been effective in generating public opinion against them. In fact, it has shamefully indulged in ‘paid news’.

“Many controversial members of Parliament are columnists and television panelists.

“Corporate influence on the media is evident. On an average, newspapers give half a page of news coverage to parliamentary proceedings. In the name of reader interest much is omitted, while cricket, cinema and entertainment get prime attention.”

Read the full article: Sheela Bhatt on the Indian media

No half-truths for New Delhi’s newest paper

24 May 2012

Yes, Kumar Mangalam Birla is right: the media is a sunrise sector and further proof of it comes through the launch of New Delhi’s newest daily, the Millennium Post.

The 16-page, all-colour broadsheet priced at Rs 3, boasting the tagline “No Half Truths”, was launched on May 2. (Click here to view the front page of the first issue.)

Millennium Post is published and edited by Durbar Ganguly, a former associate of Chandan Mitra at The Pioneer, and printed at the Indian Express press.

Daipayan Halder, former resident editor of Mid Day, Delhi, is its executive editor.

The role of the press in India-China relations

23 May 2012

In which, The Economist, London sounds no different from the average bankrupt politician who blames the media for all his ills, as if India-China relations would have been a bed of roses if there were no newspapers, television, websites or magazines:

“The National University of Singapore this month convened a workshop on the role of the press in India-China relations. It brought together practitioners and experts from China and India and one foreign journalist (Banyan).

“To say there was a meeting of minds would not be honest. The Chinese journalists were frank that their role in bilateral relations was to promote them. The Indians thought their job was to report and analyse them. The foreigner agreed with the Indians.

“Some consensus was reached, however, in identifying the problems. Far too few Indian reporters are based in China—just four—and vice versa. Indian commentary on China tends to be monopolised by a few loquacious hawks, including retired members of the security and intelligence establishment, whose paranoia about China seems to carry especial weight.

“And, with the burgeoning of the Chinese media, nobody knows any more who speaks for the government. In particular, the Global Times, a newspaper produced out of the People’s Daily stable, which takes a strongly nationalist and hence sometimes anti-Indian line, could give the Indian press lessons in hawkishness. And the blogosphere remains heavily policed. So the dividing line between “outrageous-but-tolerated” and “officially sanctioned” is very blurred.

“One point of consensus was that much is the fault of the foreign press, accused of playing up tensions and frictions between China and India, and thereby influencing perceptions in both countries, which are then reflected in the local press.”

Read the full article: India-China relations and the media

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

China Daily‘ hands back occupied territories to India

Hu, Wen and why China scorns the Indian media

Censorship in the name of ‘national interest’

If a report isn’t ‘wrong’, surely it must be ‘right’?

Chinese hackers break into The Times of India

Never believe anything until it’s officially denied

One paper’s 40% threat is another’s 60% dud

How Bombay is skewing the media worldview

21 May 2012

On the day the world economy was in a tailspin and the rupee was tanking, much of the media led with a spat between Shah Rukh Khan and a security guard at the Wankhede stadium in Bombay.

Much of the blame for this warped worldview rests with the Bombay media, says DNA editor-in-chief Aditya Sinha:

“Whereas everyone moans about how Delhi runs things, it is actually Mumbai which sets the agenda, and nowhere is this more manifest than in the media…. after all, this is where the media began getting corporatized, where news became a commodity, and appeal to the lowest common denominator became a badge of honour.

“To put it in perspective, when American matinee idol George Clooney recently hosted a fund-raiser for President Barack Obama — a legitimate political event — the serious US news outlets gave it prominence, but did not make it lead….

“You could claim that the traditional media is booming in India and not in the US, but it is also true that more innovation, both in areas of content and revenue, is happening over there rather than right here.”

Read the full article: Fiddling with the stars

Also read: Aditya Sinha on the “worldview” of Delhi journos

Good news: ‘Media sector is a sunrise sector’

19 May 2012

What was bazaar speculation for quite a while is now a matter of record. Aroon Purie, the bossman of the India Today group, has divested over a quarter of his holding in Living Media India Limited, in favour of one of India’s richest men, Kumar Mangalam Birla for an undisclosed sum

(Business Standard reports that the deal may have been worth Rs 35o crore).

The stake sale brings one of India’s biggest corporate houses, the Aditya Birla group, into mainstream magazine and television space (the K.K. Birla group owns the newspaper Hindustan Times); sets up a clash of telecom titans for the 4G space (Mukesh Ambani‘s Reliance Industries has bought into the TV18 network); and raises questions over growing corporate ownership of the media.

Below is the internal note shot off by Ashish Bagga, the group CEO of the India Today group, at 9.10 pm on Friday, 18 May 2012:

***

Dear All

I am pleased to inform you of a significant development for the INDIA TODAY group.

Just this afternoon, the $35-billion Indian multi-national, ADITYA BIRLA GROUP (ABG) and your company, which is India’s most respected and diversified media corporation, have come to an agreement for a 27.5% financial investment by a private investment company of the Aditya Birla Group in our holding company, Living Media India Ltd.

Commenting on the investment, Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman, Aditya Birla group said: “The Indian media sector is a sunrise sector from our investment point of view. I believe that the India Today group offers one of the best opportunities of growth and value creation. ITG’s management ethos, values, brands, product portfolio and future plans offer one of the best opportunities for growth and value creation.”

Aroon Purie, our chairman said, “I am delighted to partner with the Aditya Birla Group to aggressively address the current and future potential of the Indian media business which is at a tipping point. The Aditya Birla group with its strong leadership, global footprint, diversified business interests and its shared values of integrity, commitment and social responsibility make it a perfect fit with the India Today group.”

By virtue of this development, your company will embark on a high growth and expansion strategy across all its existing and new businesses.

I look forward to a successful and trail-blazing future.

Ashish Bagga, group CEO

Image: courtesy Mail Today

What they said when Shankar shut his Weekly

19 May 2012

The capitulation of the Congress-led government at the Centre in the Ambedkar cartoon controversy was welcomed with the thumping of desks by parliamentarians who seemed to have little appreciation of the legendary Shankar‘s work and even less of what its inclusion in a school textbook meant.

From Congress president Sonia Gandhi (whose mother-in-law Indira Gandhi ushered in press censorship in 1975 and whose husband Rajiv Gandhi tried to pass the defamation bill in 1987) to the BJP which opposed both; from the supposedly “liberal” Left to the young MPs who represent the “future”, no one (bar one) raised a voice.

But back in 1975, when the legendary cartoonist P. Shankar Pillai decided to close down Shankar’s Weekly, there was a flurry of letters from politicians in the final issue. At least five Congress chief ministers mourned its imminent closure, including the Bihar CM Jagannath Mishra, who would later become synonymous with the Bihar press bill.

Here’s a mirror of India circa 2012 vis-a-a-vis 1975:

***

It is indeed sad and unfortunate that the only letter you chose to address to me personally should convey to me your intention to bow out. It is going to be a painful ordeal for thousands of your readers including myself, to go without the Weekly. I must believe you when you say that advancing age and ill-health have compelled you to close down Weekly, but I see neither of them reflected in your magazine. Indeed a tribute to your spirit – so young despite age! I am sure the Souvenir you propose to bring out will be an adorning piece on your lovers’ and admirers’ book-shelves! It will also serve as a lesson and guide to the new generation of cartoonists and journalists, convincingly telling them what an individual can achieve single-handedly.

S.B. Chavan
Chief Minster, Maharashtra

***

I was rather distressed to hear that the great journal is closing down after twenty-seven years of yeomen service to the nation and significant contribution to journalism in India. I really wish I could compel you not to close down Shankar’s Weekly, but I quite understand the reasons that have forced you to take this painful decision.

Harideo Joshi
Chief Minister, Rajasthan

***

I have received your letter with mixed feelings. That a journalist of your eminence has excellently finished his innings in this harsh world in a tribute to your sobre manners, accommodating  spirits, and the immense sense of humour which you have been exhibiting for the last quarter of a century. You have shone on the horizon of Indian journalism in a manner which is difficult to imbibe. You are an institution in yourself and the younger generation in the journalistic field will feel proud to emulate your example in all spheres of life.

H N Bahuguna
Chief Minister, Uttar Pradesh

***

Sorry too learn that you are not keeping well, but I am impressed to find that your sentiments remain the same. Your effort to publish a souvenir of Shankar’s Weekly are praiseworthy.

Jagannath Mishra
Chief Minister, Bihar

***

I am really sorry that you are closing down Shankar’s Weekly.

D. Devaraj Urs
Chief Minister, Karnataka

***

I read the contents of your letter with deep concern. I know how the Shankar’s Weekly was started with your efforts and made a name of itself and continuous devotion and dedication. I am sure you have taken the decision after deep thinking and for the good of your health and for other reasons. You always had my admiration and regards, and it will grow whether you are with the Shankar’s Weekly or not.

Radha Raman
Chief Executive Councillor, Delhi

***

Shankar’s Weekly has served a very good purpose for over 25 years and could rank as one of the best cartoon journals in the world.

Jagannath Rao
Member of Parliament, New Delhi

(Published in the 31 August 1975 issue of Shankar’s Weekly)

Photograph: courtesy National Book Trust

Research: courtesy D.D. Gupta

Also read: Shankar‘s Weekly: the final editorial

MUST READ: ‘Shankar’s Weekly’ final editorial

18 May 2012

Media freedom in India id est Bharat has never been a more scarce commodity than in the year of the lord 2012.

The fourth estate is under concerted attack from all three pillars of our democracy—the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. Organisations mandated to protect media freedom (like the press council of India) are happily chomping its heels. Every day the sound of some distant door closing echoes through the internet chamber.

On top of it all, or because of it all, the sparks of public cynicism about the media and its practitioners (thanks to paid news, private treaties, medianet, and this, that and the other) has become a wildfire, its faceless flames licking the very hand that feeds. Regulation and self-regulation is the mantra on every lip.

(Why, supposedly courageous practitioners of journalism themselves don’t hesitate to intimidate those who expose their warts.)

The illiberalism, the intolerance, the control-freakery that have become a part of the accepted discourse in 21st century India was most evident last week when parliament—the so-called temple of democracy—committed the ultimate sacrilege: a Harvard-trained poet agreeing to remove newspaper and magazine cartoons from school textbooks because they could hurt the fragile egos of faceless mobs back where they go out with their bowls every five years.

The ostensible provocation was a 1949 cartoon of B.R. Ambedkar, the Constitution framer and Dalit icon, drawn by P. Shankar Pillai, the legendary cartoonist, in his now-defunct magazine Shankar’s Weekly that had been included in an NCERT textbook in 2006.

But it was clearly a smokescreen to sneak in the scissors to cut out all cartoons about all politicians in all textbooks.

Shankar’s Weekly shut down on 31 August 1975, the very year Indira Gandhi declared Emergency, on whose back rode a beast called Censorship.

In circa 2012, as her daughter-in-law Sonia Gandhi thumped the desk when Kapil Sibal eloquently ushered in Censorship without the formal proclamation of Emergency, it’s useful to go through Shankar Pillai’s farewell editorial, which shows that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

***

FAREWELL

“We started with an editorial 27 years ago. We will end with another.

“The world was different in 1948. The Cold War had not taken the sinister overtones that it later did. The atom bomb was in our midst and there was scare of war. But there was no apprehension that life would be wiped out from the earth in a nuclear holocaust.

“The United States was riding high with sole possession of the atom bomb. Communism was to be rolled back by its strength and Time magazine’s brave words. But monolithic communism was already breaking up. In 1946 Yugoslavia was expelled from the Cominform.

“Less than a year after Shankar’s Weekly was born, Mao Tse-tung took over mainland China, for ever changing the dimensions of international affairs. While Europe was still struggling to get over the aftermath of a ruinous war, Asia stood up for the first time as independent entity.

“Soon after Africa emerged from colonial darkness. The old imperialisms watched uneasily at Bandung and Afro-Asian solidarity. Perhaps there was something in Nehru’s non-alignment after all.

“The world of today is very different. The Cold War is still there but played according to already laid ground rules usually. West Europe has been integrated in a sense, although the sense of nationalism is still strong. Africa by and large has not steadied itself except in one or two countries.

“White supremacy is still unchallenged in South Africa and Rhodesia. Asian politics has become uncertain largely due to Sino-Soviet rivalry. Latin America seethes with unrest, but the CIA and multi-nationals are trying to contain discontent. Economically, the world is somewhat better off than 27 years ago despite runaway inflation and drought and so on. But the quality of human life cannot be said to have shown any qualitative change.

“This is what brings us to the nub of the matter. In our first editorial we made the point that the our function was to make our readers laugh – at the world, at pompous leaders, at humbug, at foibles, at ourselves. But, what are the people who have a developed sense of humour? It is a people with a certain civilised norms of behaviour, where there is tolerance and a dash of compassion.

“Dictatorships cannot afford laughter because people may laugh at the dictator and that wouldn’t do. In all the years of Hitler, there never was a good comedy, not a good cartoon, not a parody, or a spoof. From this point, the world and sadly enough India have become grimmer.

“Humour, whenever it is there, is encapsuled. Language itself has become functional, each profession developing its own jargon. Outside of the society of brother-cartoonists, an economist is a stranger, floundering in uncharted territory, uncertain of himself, fearful of non-economic language.

“It is the same for lawyers, doctors, teachers, journalists, and such-like.

“What is worse, human imagination seems to be turning to the macabre and the perverse. Books and films are either on violence or sexual deviations. Nothing seems to awaken people except unpleasant shocks. Whether it is the interaction of the written word and the cinema on society or not, society reflects these attitudes. Hijackings, mugging in the dark, kidnappings, and plain murder are becoming everyday occurrences and sometimes lend respectability by giving it some kind of political colouration.

“But Shankar’s Weekly is an incurable optimist. We are certain that despite the present situation, the world will become a happier and more relaxed place. The spirit of man will in the end overcome all death dealing forces and life will blossom to a degree where humanity will find its highest purpose discharged.

“Some call this God. We prefer to call it human destiny. And on that thought we bid you good-bye and the best of luck.”

Published on Sunday, 31 August 1975

Hat tip: D.D. Gupta

Image: A facsimile of the front cover of Shankar’s Weekly

How to launch a TV channel at half the cost

17 May 2012

On the New York Times site India Ink, Raksha Kumar writes on how the Kannada news channel Public TV got launched:

“I got these lights for just 40 rupees each (76 U.S. cents) when Wipro closed one of its branches in Bangalore,” said H.R. Ranganath, chairman and managing director, pointing at the ceiling.

“These cubicles, which my reporters and editors use, were bought from a shut-down office of Kingfisher,’’ he added, while doors were purchased from a Siemens branch that closed….

“We bought the cameras we use for 200,000 rupees each,” said Shashi Deshpande, facilities manager at Public TV. “Each of them would have cost us one million or more if purchased new….

“According to Mr Ranganath, the cost of starting up a regional television news channel in Karnataka is anywhere from 45 to 50 crores, or 450 million to 500 million rupees ($8.5 million to $9.4 million). He figured that if he could cut capital and operational costs at least in half, then he would be able to build a network without any outside financial help.”

Photograph: courtesy The New York Times

Also read: Editor declares assets, liabilities on live TV

Is there room for another Kannada news channel?

This is your chief minister and here is the news

What they’re saying about Express ‘sue’ report

16 May 2012

A 10-page defamation notice sent by the legal advisors of The Indian Express to Open magazine, over an interview granted to the latter by Vinod Mehta, editorial chairman of Outlook* magazine, criticising the Express ‘C’ report, is now in the public domain.

The letter—on behalf of the Express, the paper’s editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta, its reporters Ritu Sarin, Pranab Samanta and Ajmer Singh—seeks the removal from Open‘s website of the offending interview and an apology from the magazine and its employees, failing which it threatens a Rs 500 crore lawsuit (Rs 100 crore for each).

The Open interview was conducted by Hartosh Singh Bal, and like in other Express lawsuits, even the web official who put up the interview online has been named.

***

Anonandon:

“There are some things in life that we will perhaps never understand. Like how life came into being. Or the size of the universe. Or the fact that Fifty Shades of Grey and its two follow-ups are bestsellers.

“Or what possessed Shekhar Gupta of the Indian Express to not only sue Open magazine for publishing an interview with Vinod Mehta (in which he criticised Indian Express’s story about a potential army coup), but to sue them for some $95 million.”

Anant Rangaswami on First Post:

“The Indian Express, like all of us, including Firstpost, make such comments every day. As Mehta and Open magazine have done. If Mehta describes the original IE story as the mother of all mistakes, this legal notice might cause the Express the mother of all embarrassments.”

The Hoot:

“Rs 100 crore defamation notices are now par for the course. After Justice Sawant‘s suit against Arnab Goswami, and Times Now‘s legal notice for the same damages to The Hoot, we now have Shekhar Gupta and other authors of the Indian Express page one story on April 4 asking Vinod Mehta and Open magazine for  Rs  100 crore (sic) in damages for defaming them.”

Mumbai Mirror:

“What is perhaps not so well known is the long acrimonious history between Vinod and Shekhar, with Outlook often taking pot-shots at the newspaper. All that bad blood has now come to a boil.

“While Open is examining legal options, Vinod, perhaps the only editor to keep this plaque in his office-Hard Work Never Killed Anyone, But Why Take The Risk-is characteristically mild-mannered. ‘What’s the fuss, he (Shekhar) is perfectly entitled to sue me if he wishes to.’

Sanjaya Baru on Facebook:

“Hartosh is a good journalist, but this interview was bad judgement, and giving the dubious Vinod Mehta free run was wrong editorial judgement. Vinod has no business saying what he has, but then what’s new, he is like that only! Glad Shekhar has taken him to court.”

Sevanti Ninan on MxM:

“Vinod Mehta essentially said it was a planted story and it was a huge mistake to carry it. Considering that the first byline on the story was that of the chief editor, that is quite a statement to make. You are saying the chief editor and his colleague are susceptible to plants, thereby seriously questioning their credibility. So I guess the Express could hardly ignore it.”

* Disclosures apply

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 tears into the Indian Express ‘C’ report

Adolf Hitler reacts to the Indian Express ‘C’ report

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