Archive for the 'Blogosphere' Category

Jug Suraiya takes on the mighty Big B

19 June 2009

jug-suraiya amitabh_bachchan

The reverberations of Amitabh Bachchan‘s blog comments on the Academy Award-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire are now being felt in the “cesspool” of Indian journalism.

In his reaction to the movie, Bachchan wrote in January:

“If SM projects India as [a] third-world, dirty, underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations.”

That prompted a column in The Times of India by its in-house satirist Jug Suraiya on March 2.

Suraiya wrote that the reason people like Bachchan were angry with SM was not because it showed the world how pitifully poor India was, but because it revealed how culpable all of us were in the “continuance of poverty”.

“The real Slumdog divide is not between the haves and the have-nots; it’s between the hopers and the hope-nots: those who hope to cure the disease of poverty by first of all recognising its reality, and those who, dismissing it as a hopeless case, would bury it alive by pretending it didn’t exist.”

All very harmless, boilerplate stuff, but a month later, on April 3, Bachchan chose to respond to Suraiya with a long rejoinder that attacked the journalist.

I accuse the journalist Jug Suraiya of failing his professional ethical code of conduct by means of wilful error in the collection of facts…. He should be thoroughly ashamed of himself, not only as a professional journalist, but as a human being too. Mere opinion and ill-supported prejudice are contemptible in both species.

“My blog did not ‘spark off the current round of controversy on India’s poverty’… Nor am I ashamed of anything about my country. I may be highly critical in judgement, as any citizen of any nation should be, of the society to which I hold allegiance. In this light, I do not find that material poverty in India is ‘a terrible family secret’ as Jug Suraiya alleges.”

Now, Suriaya has hit back in the latest issue of Magna Carta, the in-house newsletter of the Magna group of publications, which had carried Bachchan’s rejoinder.

(Magna owns the movie magazine Stardust, which led a 15-year-long boycott of Bachchan at the prime of his career.)

In a letter addressed to the Magna group’s proprietor Nari Hira, Jug Suraiya writes:

“The newsletter said there was an ‘eerie silence’ from the press to Bachchan’s rejoinder. This is not quite true. The Guardian newspaper, which Bachchan had cited along with my column, has I am told done a detialed rejoinder to his rejoinder.

“In my case, I did not choose so much to maintain an ‘eerie silence’ as to exercise my option of fastidious disdain: I hold Bachchan beneath my contempt and shall not dignify him with an answer to his rantings (which, I am told, are written for him by an ex-journalist hack).”

Suraiya recounts meeting Bachchan years ago in Calcutta. He says he greatly enjoyed his performances and complimented him on them.

“Since then, of course, he has become an international celebrity who uses his iconic status to endose any and all products from gutka paan masala to cement, cars to suiting. There is a word for such indiscriminate commercial promiscuity. I leave it to you to figure out what it is.

“This together with his much-publicised ritualised religiosity makes him an object of scorn for me, all the more so in that he is, regettably, a role model for so many people of all ages, in India and elsewhere.”

Photograph: courtesy The Times of India

Also read: How Big B has pushed India to a regressive low

Before the slumdogs, the mahout millionaire

A cartoon for every journo-blogger’s dashboard

14 June 2009

the_week_13088_27Courtesy: David Horsey of Tribune Media Services

Link via The Week

Every journalist’s essential guide to Twitter

15 May 2009

Twitter, twitter everywhere.

Journalists are signing up to the micro-blog site. News organisations are launching Twitter feeds. Events are being covered live on Twitter.

But what precisely can journalists achieve with Twitter?

What are other journalists reading, writing and following on Twitter? Who are the journalists who are using Twitter around the world? How can you hook up with them? Need some help with a story? How can you keep track of the torrent of Tweets? Can you receive an alert if something of your liking is Twittered?

And WTF is hastag?

Read The journalist’s guide to Twitter

‘Stifling speech is a losing strategy with bloggers’

27 April 2009

Salil Tripathi in the Far Eastern Economic Review:

“Most Indian businesses are growing accustomed to criticism from bloggers. Yet there are still some that, instead of mounting a PR offensive, send in their lawyers and try to stifle speech on the Internet. What they’re finding is that this approach is counterproductive—they may succeed in silencing an individual blogger, but a hundred more then take up the cause. Like Western companies before them, Indian companies must learn that trying to stifle speech instead of winning debates is a losing strategy.”

Read the full article: Learning to live with bloggers

Also read: Will NDTV and Barkha Dutt sue Facebook next?

Will NDTV and Barkha Dutt sue Facebook next?

1 February 2009

If there is anything that l’affaire Barkha Dutt versus Cheytanya Kunte holds a mirror to—besides media hypocrisy, thin skins, forked tongues, and such like—it is: a) the quality of legal advice media behemoths receive and act upon, and b) the mainstream media’s bottomless ignorance of the wired world and how it works.

Even the spitting-image puppets that NDTV hauls out of the cupboard a few times a day to generate a laugh would have counselled Prannoy Roy & Co (for free) against embarking on the petty path of picking on a hapless blogger sitting in The Netherlands.

The bomb-Shell™ (pun intended) had boomerang written all over it, and in more ways than one.

If Dutt and NDTV wanted to protect their fair name, etc, from the slander, what are they proposing to do about Admiral Sureesh Mehta, who repeated the libellous charge of the channel and the correspondent “endangering lives” in Kargil by asking a military officer to trigger the Bofors gun for their cameras, at a media conference?

Has the channel issued the Admiral a notice, like it did to Kunte? Has he clarified/ retracted his comments/ apologised? Why is his response not public?

Secondly, how far is NDTV, which has a “convergence” outfit, from achieving convergence?

Was NDTV unaware that NDTV.com had run excerpts from the blog item that their lawyers were suing Cheytanya Kunte for? And do the “tech” chaps who run NDTV.com have no idea that everything, including everything they remove, is cached by Big Brother at Mountain View?

Scaring a blogger to apologise was the easy part.

What do NDTV, Prannoy Roy and Barkha Dutt propose to do with the Facebook group that has over 4,660 members demanding that she be taken off air? Will they sue Mark Zuckerberg next?

Good luck, NDTV (third-quarter losses: Rs 120.8 crore).

Prem Panicker, the editorial director of India Abroad, the New York weekly newspaper owned and run by rediff.com, asks the best questions about Dutt’s (and NDTV’s) fundamental inability to differentiate between fact and opinion:

***

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By PREM PANICKER in Bombay

“But in journalism, we know that, praise and criticism are twins that travel together. And we welcome both and try and listen to both carefully.”

That is Barkha Dutt, writing against the backdrop of pervasive criticism of her conduct, and those of her electronic media confreres, during and in the immediate aftermath of 26/11.

Admirable sentiments, admirably expressed.

One of the many critical voices Dutt and her media parent NDTV listened to was this blog post [From Google cache; scroll down to the post titled ‘Shoddy Journalism’]. And as a result of that careful listening to a critical voice, this happened.

Kunte’s withdrawal and apology, likely the outcome of a threat of legal action by Dutt and NDTV [Parenthetical aside: Can I be sued for saying this? If yes, I the undersigned do hereby, et cetera...], has created an even greater storm than the television media’s hysteria-tinged coverage of 26/11 did.

Here’s a round up of posts: Patrix; a DesiPundit round up; The Comic Project; Venkatesh Sridhar… [There are likely many others, but you get the picture].

The immediate temptation is to wear my blogger’s hat, and blast away at NDTV and Dutt for muscling Kunte—the classic reaction in a David v Goliath face-off.

It is not that simple, though—I also have a journalist’s hat, and with it on my head, some points occur.

My name is my brand—and as with any brand, its equity is built carefully, over time, through much hard work and careful attention to quality. Legitimate criticism of that brand is welcomed [and even if I didn’t like it, there is SFA I can do about it, provided the operational word is ‘legitimate’].  In this case, though, I am not so sure: While respecting Kunte’s right to his opinion, I would suggest that ‘opinion’ needs to be differentiated from ‘fact’.

It is my considered opinion that Barkha Dutt is as a television personality a borderline hysteric; most comical when she is attempting to be most serious; and far too prone to put herself at the center of every story [Among the many moments when, even in the midst of the mayhem, I found myself laughing out loud was the one where Dutt, during the climactic phase of the Taj operation, got into a major flap about a flapping window curtain and alternately spoke to the viewer and to the cameraman on the lines of There, see, look at it, the curtain is flapping… no no, focus on the curtain, zoom in… no, now pan to me… there, see, the curtain is still flapping...].

That is fair comment [and if Barkha doesn’t like it she can do the other thing]. I do not, however, have the right to state as fact that Dutt endangered lives, whether in Kargil or in Mumbai—because the causal chain of Dutt’s admittedly over-the-top reporting and loss of life has not been established.

I’m totally with Kunte when he opines that Dutt and her ilk are insufferable bordering on incompetent [Barkha, note, that is an opinion]; I’m not however able to defend his right to state as fact something that is not demonstrably true [Brief aside: No, it is not a defense to say that I was merely quoting someone else, and to ask why that someone else—in this case, a wiki entry—has not been sued.].

All of that said, the NDTV-Barkha Dutt action leading to Kunte’s retraction leaves a very bad taste in the mouth. In her earlier, lengthy defense, Dutt says two things that IMH opinion are contradictory:

But in journalism, we know that, praise and criticism are twins that travel together. And we welcome both and try and listen to both carefully.

And:

I believe that criticism is what helps us evolve and reinvent ourselves. But when malice and rumour are regarded as feedback, there can be no constructive dialogue. Viewing preferences are highly subjective and always deeply personal choices, and the most fitting rejection of someone who doesn’t appeal to your aesthetics of intelligence, is simply to flick the channel and watch someone else.

How does Barkha Dutt reconcile her stated respect for criticism and her intention to learn from it with the suggestion that those who don’t like what she does and the way she does it can say it with the remote? What the latter statement reveals is the hypocrisy inherent in the former—no more, no less.

A Barkha Dutt who grandly titles her show ‘We the People‘ [That title, factually rendered, should read ‘We the minuscule minority with access to cable TV who haven’t yet dissed you with our remotes], and who sheltering under that inclusive flag assumes the right to criticize the conduct of every politician, businessman, movie star and public figure in this country, needed to have shown more grace in accepting criticism directed her way.

So, we will now add this lack of grace, this intolerance for criticism, this tendency to the notion that you are immune to the searching examination you subject others to, to the already long list of reasons to reach for that remote.

Photograph: courtesy NDTV

Also read: The media is not the message

Messy desks, and items # 22 and # 69

17 January 2009

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The runaway success of Stuff White People Like has spawned plenty of imitations, including Stuff Asians Like. So, it was just a matter of time before somebody came up with Stuff Journalists Like.

Let the whole world know that, besides messy work stations, we like:

#3 Free Food

#9 Coffee

#10 Drinking

# 14 Bylines

#22 Interns

# 29 Exclusives

# 69 Dating other journalists

Photograph: courtesy stuff journalists like

Visit the site: stuffjournalistslike.com

Past, present, future of civic/citizen journalism

22 July 2008

NEWS RELEASE: What should the modern press do to reengage with its communities? How do principles and practices from the public journalism movement address that need? How could representative journalism work? What are some newer media formats being used by hyperlocal journalists?

These are some of the questions that will be addressed at three 75-minute sessions being held by the Civic & Citizen Journalism Interest Group to mark 20 years of the civic/public journalism movement.

Titled “The Past, Present and Future of Civic/Citizen Journalism,” the sessions will be held on Tuesday, 5 August 2008 between 2 pm and 6 pm at the journalism convergence lab, at Columbia College, Chicago.

Panel #1 will deal with civic/public journalism 2.0; panel #2 will deal with hyperlocal, community and citizen journalism in Chicago, and panel #3 will deal with blogging for journalism change.

The panel sessions will bring together recent grantees of the National Science Foundation, Knight Foundation and Harnisch Family Foundation and big names from the scholarship of civic/citizen journalism, including Jay Rosen, Jeff Jarvis, Kim Pearson, Mindy McAdams, Leonard Witt and
Ed Lambeth.

Link via Nikhil Moro, vice head, civic and citizen journalism interest group

These are a just few of my favourite things…

26 June 2008

Blogs like Stuff White People Like have spawned a variety of clones. 10,000 words comes up with an imaginative and startlingly accurate 27-point list of Stuff Journalists Like:

2.  All the President’s Men

5. Seinfeld

6. AP Stylebook

9. Correcting bad grammar/typos

13. Exclusives

16. Debates

21. New York Times

22. Coffee

25. Lists

26. Standing up for the little guy

View the entire list here: Stuff journalists like

The tenth life a cat has is on the ratings chart

10 April 2008

There’s never a dull moment when “breaking news” meets a “live” update on Indian television. Gautam Roy of Aajtak is the anchor, as India’s premier Hindi news channel, owned by the respected India Today group, chronicles the travails of a cat caught on a parapet for over six and a half hours.

Link courtesy Anupama

Why blogging is more interesting than reporting

25 March 2008

The jury is still out on blogging—and if left to the mainstream media, it will remain out for ever.

Is it good, is it journalism, does it have the “institutional” checks and balances, do bloggers go out and report a story… questions like these have been hurled for very nearly a decade without hurting anybody.

Now, Poynter’s Roy Peter Clark throws light on a Nieman narrative conference where reporter and Nieman fellow Josh Benton threw up an interesting theory on why blogging has come to be so interesting.

“Eyewitness reporting rendered in real time via the blog represents an interesting and worthy kissing cousin to long-form narrative journalism… in contradistinction to the kind of processed news reporting that still vanillas-up the typical newspaper.”

At its most basic, blogging represents natural reporting. It comes right after an event or an experience, when the story is hot. Through the authentic voice of the writer, it helps the reader catch the spark of the subject.

In a sense, blogging is like a conversation between friends: Fresh, unformed, unfiltered, as-is, not entirely accurate always, but fun, something that captures your attention.

Conventional reporting, on the other hand, takes more time, “neuters the point of view, neutralizes the language, and jams facts into standard suitcases.” But as more time passes, an investigative or feature writer recognizes the unrealized narrative potential of the story. Once again, “interestingness” becomes high.

Read the full piece: From blog to narrative

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