Author Archive

‘News TV covered Modi US trip like govt media’

3 October 2014

Like town criers in the old days, who arrived before the Maharaja and extolled his virtues, Indian news television reporters were in the United States even before prime minister Narendra Modi had set foot in God’s Own Country.

And, over nearly a week, provided breathless coverage that left little to the imagination.

Superman (or was it Spiderman) was interviewed at Times Square; Modi’s “rockstar” thanks-giving address to his NRI followers was shown ad nauseam; and all manner of policy wonks were rolled out to complete the circus.

Business Standard has an editorial:

“Prime Minister Modi’s trip to the United States was marred by news reporting that was excessively fawning. Coverage was, in fact, reminiscent of the bad old days of state-controlled media, when the nightly news bulletin on Doordarshan was little more than a paean of praise to Rajiv Gandhi or Indira Gandhi. In fact, the saturation coverage was so disproportionate to the actual scope or achievements of the prime minister’s visit that it was embarrassing….

“Modi has begun a new tradition since taking office. Journalists no longer travel with him on Air India One. This is part of a larger attempt to keep the media as distant as possible. Only a few journalists from state-controlled agencies went along with the prime minister. Others went there themselves. But the cost of the tickets was wasted when they wound up sounding like state-controlled media themselves.”

Read the full editorial: Over the top

Also read: Why Modi shouldn’t take media with him

‘Being a South Indian, his Hindi was immaculate’

18 August 2014

ramansans serif records the demise of J.V. Raman, the Delhi University economics professor who read the news in Hindi, on Doordarshan, back in the days when the state-owned channel was the only TV news vehicle.

Mr Raman taught at the capital’s Rajdhani College, whose website proudly records that he was among the college teachers associated with the media.

blog post on Doordarshan’s newsreaders recorded Mr Raman thus:

“Let’s now come to some male Hindi newsreaders. And the most iconic of them would be J V Raman. Being a South Indian, his Hindi was immaculate. Thick black-rimmed glasses occupying most of face, he would comb the long-grown leftover over his bald pate. An average-looking gentleman, he had charmed Indian population like no one else could. If J V Raman was reading the news, everyone listened. Exceptionally clear and crisp voice, JV was the iconic figure for DD news.”

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Tejeshwar Singh: A baritone falls silent amid the cacophony

Salma Sultan: no monkeying around on India’s TV anniversary

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External reading: They are able too

Gitanji Aiyar: A sepia peek into the far yesterdays

Why NaMo shouldn’t take media on foreign trips

14 August 2014

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addresses the media on the way back home from the United States in October 2013. There were 34 journalists on that junket.

As Indian journalists come to terms with a Narendra Modi dispensation that doesn’t want to court them or take them on foreign junkets, K.P. Nayar, the former Washington correspondent of The Telegraph, Calcutta, writes that the US administration is no better.

Each correspondent who accompanied US president Barack Obama on his trip to India had to shell out $8,400 (approximately Rs 500,000) in air fare, plus an additional $2,500 (Rs 150,000) for a hop-across to Amritsar, plus $1,000 (Rs 60,000) for renting the hotel hall where administration officials briefed the media, plus “filing charges”, plus coffee, plus tea, etc.

All in stark contrast to the pampering and molly-coddling of India media bigwigs by Indian administrations, who not only misuse taxpayer’s money on foreign trips but also throw their weights around in ways that embarrass the tricolour.

To illustrate the point, Nayar, quotes three incidents:

# The most appalling incident of media highhandedness that I was witness to was at Cairo airport, some 20 years ago, when a very senior journalist flung his boarding pass in the face of an Air India ground hostess because his seat had been changed for the next leg of the prime minister’s flight. He then walked off and had to be pacified by having his chosen seat restored before the Egyptian police physically restrained him for breach of security because he was on the tarmac.

The fault-lines go beyond the fourth estate and intersect the government’s media management because this gentleman is a former media adviser to a prime minister: for the record, not one of any recent appointees.

# Accompanying P.V. Narasimha Rao to the UN general assembly one year, we were alighting at the media hotel, the Lexington, once owned by the Tatas.

Two senior colleagues urged me to follow them if I wanted to watch some fun. An owner-editor, who was the first to reach the media centre, was already on the phone to his news desk.

Mein pahoonch gaya hoon [I have reached],” he blared into the phone, “Pradhan mantri bhi pahoonch gaya hai. Baaki sab agency lena. [The prime minister has also reached. All the rest you take from the agencies].”

He put down the phone, then called his office again as an afterthought, “Oh, mera byline dal dena [Oh, put my byline in).” That was his professional contribution for the day. He was soon out in jeans and walking shoes enjoying the Big Apple.

# Visiting Bhutan, Indira Gandhi once strolled into the quarters of the accompanying media. An agency correspondent then, the late A.N. Prabhu’s door was open and she peeped in to find a carton prominently labelled “Bhutan Rum” on the floor.

“What is it, Prabhu?” she asked. “Apples,” Prabhu replied, unfazed.

“I would like some of those apples too,” she smiled. 

Read the full article: Big egos and bylines

Also read: A mile-high experience for the hack pack

How Pakistan helped The Hindu save $800

I couldn’t go to the US, my name’s Zia Haq

India’s first woman journalist Vidya Munshi, RIP

9 July 2014

sans serif records the demise of Vidya Munshi, arguably India’s first woman journalist, in Calcutta on Monday, 7 July 2014.  She was 94 years old.

Born in Bombay, she worked in several newspapers and magazines, including a ten-year stint with Russy Karanjia‘s Blitz.

A 2006 profile of Ms Munshi in The Telegraph, Calcutta, noted:

“At that time (1952-62), she was the Calcutta correspondent of Blitz, a Bombay weekly critical of government policies and excelling in investigative journalism.

“One of her ‘scoops’ was on two Canadian pilots who were to fly from Hong Kong with gold and drop it on an island in the Sunderbans, which was then to be smuggled into Calcutta.

“Another of her major stories that made headlines was on the Chinakuri mine disaster in Asansol where hundreds of miners were killed; the famous playwright and actor Utpal Dutt went on to script the tragedy into a chilling play, Angar.”

Also read: India’s first woman photo-journalist, Homai Vyarawalla

India’s first television news presenter: Pratima Puri

In ‘The Last Mag’, Nishant Patel is Fareed Zakaria

2 July 2014

DILIP CHAWARE writes from New Jersey: The Last Magazine is Michael Hastings’s novel which has been published a year after his death. This controversial young journalist, who worked for Newsweek as a war correspondent, died last year in a car accident in Los Angeles when he was just 33.

Very few were aware about this book, which was resurrected from his laptop.

The novel, though, is a portrayal of real life within a major news organisation, the nexus between the government and the media and broadly discusses the relevance and future of the print medium.

Hastings is back in the news owing to his Rolling Stone article published in 2012, surrounding the recent release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by the Taliban. The article dealt with Bergdahl’s army platoon.

Various references in the novel The Last Magazine clearly identify its main players.

The character of Nishant Patel is in fact Fareed Zakaria, then international editor of Newsweek. Patel is painted as having a mega ego.

Zakaria’s bête noir is Jon Meacham, (Sanders Berman in the novel), the managing editor.

Patel and Berman vie with each other to appear on television.

Both want to be visible and compete to write cover stories for Newsweek.

Hastings captures a turbulent period of half a decade, beginning 2002. It is a difficult time for a sensitive journalist and centres on the war with Iraq.

Hastings implies by innuendo that the news media in the US collaborated with the government while covering the conflict. He lampoons all and sundry, based on his firsthand experience as a frontline war correspondent.

Hastings lost his girlfriend Andi Parhamovich, who was killed in 2007 when her convoy was ambushed in Iraq. She was an aid worker. He wrote a book I Lost My Love in Baghdad, based on that experience.

His second-last book, The Operators was published in 2012. It is about the US military presence in Afghanistan. That book was a result of an article Hastings wrote in Rolling Stone.

The incisive article proved to be the death knell for the career of Gen Stanley A. McChrystal, the US supreme commander in Afghanistan.

Hastings worked as an intern in Newsweek for a year 2002-3. This was the time the US escalated its war with Iraq. This was also the period when the electronic medium was seen overshadowing the print medium.

The Last Magazine deals with a professional’s dilemma and the dejection he felt due to the decline of professionalism of the print medium. His grim predictions proved too true in the case of Newsweek, which had to fold up.

His wife Elise Jordan was instrumental in publishing the unfinished novel on the first anniversary of his death. Hastings was 25 when he first went to Baghdad.

Due to the death of Andi Parhamovich, he was diagnosed of suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder. Jordan, a Yale graduate was a speechwriter for then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She was an avid advocate of war against Iraq.

Hastings and Jordan’s courtship started in 2010 in Kabul. While he was working on the McChrystal article, she was on a freelance assignment a magazine. They married in 2011.

Hastings died at 4.20 am last year on June 18 as his Mercedes crashed into a tree in Los Angeles. His death became grist for the conspiracy theorists for some time. But the coroner declared that he had marijuana and trace methamphetamines in his blood.

Hastings is no more but the debate he unleashed rages on.

(Dilip Chaware is a former journalist with The Times of India, Bombay)

Photograph: courtesy Amazon

Also read: Will this man be the next US secretary of state?

Fareed Zakaria: a barometer in a good suit

Iran to China, Newsweek has the world covered

Who, when, what, how, why, what the…

A rash I&B ministry “advisory” to TV, print media

26 June 2014

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When he was health minister in the UPA’s first term, Anbumani Ramadoss made it mandatory for movies and TV channels to show the statutory warning against smoking and drinking each time someone on screen lit a cigarette or sipped a drink.

The Telegraph reports that the NDA’s information and broadcasting ministry under Prakash Javadekar has shot off an “advisory” to TV stations and newspapers “against portraying or “glorifying” rash or dangerous driving, as well as helmet-less riding and a failure to fasten car seatbelts.”

“All TV channels/ Doordarshan/ print media are advised to be extremely careful in portraying such stills/ images/ scenes which depict rash, negligent or dangerous driving; and in case such portrayal is necessary, then it may be accompanied by appropriate messages/ warnings,” the letter said.

The letter also spelt out a few of the possible warnings: “Over speeding kills”, “Driving two-wheeler without wearing helmet is dangerous and illegal”, “Driving four-wheeler without wearing seatbelt is dangerous.”

Read the full article: Rash driving edict to newspapers

Also read: I&B ministry “advisory” on TV protest coverage

Newspaper delivery boy reads papers, enters IIT

25 June 2014

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Last year, N. Shiva Kumar, a newspaper vendor in Bangalore—the son of an illiterate mother and a truck driver—cracked CAT 2012 and went to the Indian institute of management, Calcutta, as a student.

This year, C. Prashanth, a construction labourer’s son in Mysore, who delivered The Times of India (surely, among other papers) has obtained the 255th rank in the scheduled tribe category.

“Prashanth said he couldn’t afford to buy a newspaper but while selling them, he managed to read them and that helped him gain knowledge crack the prestigious exam,” TOI quoted him as saying.

Newspaper tear: courtesy The Times of India

Also read: How to pass IAS: read newspapers, magazines—I

How to pass IAS: read newspapers & magazines—II

So how many journalists cracked CAT 2012?

Another substandard post by unqualified journo

Yes, Kofi Annan is a dish, Teesta Setalvad is an actress

The hottest reporters covering the World Cup*

19 June 2014

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The Times of India fills a vital blank in the public discourse: the hottest reporters covering the football World Cup in Brazil— Ines Sainz and Vanessa Huppenkothen.

* Search engine optimisation techniques shamelessly at work

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Raveen Tandon as Shobha De: Glamourous, sexy, brainy, seductive

Look, who wants to play Christiane Amanpour: Kareena Kapoor

Will the underworld a hot reporter like Gul Panag?

Anju Mahendroo plays queen bee of film journalism, Devyani

Sheethal Shetty: Anchoring news easier than acting

When a brand provides the quotes, it is news

17 June 2014

Perhaps a new first in Indian journalism. An exclusive interview in The Economic Times with Argentinian football captain Lionel Messi… with “quotes provided by Adidas”.

The scoop interview that didn’t see light of day

17 June 2014

Reporters look as if they have been stabbed in the back, as if the world as they knew it has come to an end, when their favourite stories and hobby horses are stopped in their tracks by those godawful editors who have “never been in the field” unlike the only Indian living editor who has been a reporter.

Amit Roy, the London correspondent of The Telegraph, Calcutta, and once a reporter with the Daily Telegraph, London, recounts a similar tale of woe from a long time past—concerning Anthony Howard, a former editor of the New Statesman, who died in 2010, aged 76.

“Howard was described as “one of the most acute political commentators of his generation.”

“So he was, but on Indian politics he was not infallible, even though the Left-wing New Statesman has long boasted expertise on India.

“In 1975, when I was in Calcutta on holiday, my father persuaded me to go to Bihar and see Jayaprakash Narayan—“there’s only one story in India.”

“I managed to catch up with JP in deepest Bihar. Initially, he refused to grant an interview but then relented when someone told him I was my father’s son – the two had been close friends in their Bihar days (a card I hadn’t played).

“JP affectionately put an arm round me, told me not to be cross and gave me an interview which lasted from 10 pm till dawn. Alas, the New Statesman “spiked” my long piece because the then unknown JP and his campaign against Indira Gandhi seemed like gobbledegook to Howard.

“Sorry, I was wrong,” he was gracious enough to apologise when we met at a drinks party after the declaration of the Emergency.”

Image: courtesy India Today

Also read: ‘A cricket writer as loved as any great cricketer’

Does journalism have any power any longer?

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