Archive for the 'For the record' Category

An Editor reveals his friendship with a politician

7 April 2014
Star of Mysore editor-in-chief K.B. Ganapathy (right) with the politician H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda, who passed away yesterday

Star of Mysore editor-in-chief K.B. Ganapathy (right) with the politician H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda, who passed away yesterday

The relationship between politicians and journalists is usually an after-dark activity in India, with neither participant ready or willing to put the other’s involvement on the record.

Wise heads in politics will counsel newcomers against getting too close to journalists, because, well, you never know when the snake could discover its fangs.

Grey beards in journalism will lament such proximity, because, well, it could harm the holy grail of our profession that textbooks say exists—”objectivity”.

K.B. Ganapathy, the editor-in-chief of the evening daily Star of Mysore, swerves off the beaten track to pay a heart-warming tribute to the three-time BJP MLA in Karnataka, the former mayor of Mysore, H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda, who passed away yesterday.

***

By K.B. GANAPATHY

It was 1979; Star of Mysore was into its second year of publication from its office in Saraswathipuram near Kamakshi Hospital.

One afternoon, a young, lean, tall man, neatly dressed with his shirt tucked into his pants held in by a leather belt, wearing specs with thin plastic frame, came to my desk hesitantly wanting to discuss an incident to be published.

He was an angry young man. There was clarity in his speech and honesty in his voice.

The officer in charge of issuing cement permits in those days of scarcity and license-permit Raj at the divisional commissioner’s office was partial and corrupt, he said and wanted the paper to expose him.

He had come to me after creating a scene at the office with the support of the disappointed permit-seekers. I grabbed the opportunity and published the story with his picture.

Lo and behold, a leader was made.

Having been a journalist in Bombay, I knew every leader would have his detractors. Soon, I was fed with information about his antecedents, specially as a manager in the Janata Bazar. But I knew there was not much truth in it.

He was already into poultry business with his unit at Martikyatanahalli on Bogadi road, eight km from city. He was staying with his family in his own house near our office. His name was H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda.

And soon we became very close friends.

***

The first quality I found in him was his helping nature. Second quality was his societal concern. The third quality was his immediate reaction both in words and deeds.

To me he was a unique kind of a person. Naturally our contact blossomed into friendship. This bonding had helped both of us in succeeding in our chosen field of activity.

To cut out details, he as a politician and I as a journalist and newspaper publisher.

I remember those early days, he on his scooter and I on my motorbike, going to his farm, in the evening, to spend some ‘quality’ time enjoying boiled eggs and omelette aplenty or even a chicken fry. And he would load my motorbike’s side box with vegetables and trays of eggs on the rear seat despite my protestation.

To further strengthen our friendship, he found out a three-acre land close to his which I bought, but later sold, just as he himself did with his farm.

Again, it was at his insistence and moral support that in 1983 I built my own house at Kuvempunagar in a 60×40 site.

A dashing man of courage and confidence, I was convinced by him that I could build a house knowing that I did not have required money.

In the meanwhile, he was wanting to become a politician, Janata Party politician. By then I had built personal rapport with the leading politicians of Janata Party in city as a journalist and through my elder brother late Dr K. B. Subbaiah.

Again rivalry and he was nowhere in the race for Corporation election ticket.

I was doing the background work no doubt, but it was his presence of mind and the way he reacted in lightning speed that enabled him to wangle a ticket from Janata Party.

One day, he was in my ‘own’ house at 7 O’clock in the morning on his scooter. By then I had a Fiat car.

I took him to the government house to meet Azeez Sait [the late Congress leader], made him speak to M.S. Gurupadaswamy [former Union minister], went to T.V. Srinivasa Rao’s house in Vidyaranyapuram where Shankaralinge Gowda’s challenger for the ticket too was there.

He gave me a sheepish smile and whispered, “what have I done to you?” in Kannada.

First I went into a huddle in a room with H. Kempe Gowda, the city president of the party, Azeez Sait and T.V. Srinivasa Rao. Gurupadaswamy did not come but had given his consent. Then I called my friend and introduced him to the party honchos.

Well, Shankaralinge Gowda never looked back.

***

It was I who advised him to change his sartorial choice immediately to that of what politicians are seen wearing. In his case, kurta and pyjama, with a stoll.

I was his political guru (and he would embarrass me by declaring it in public meetings) till he won the first MLA election from the BJP which he joined, again, at my insistence and a little help. Later, both my guruhood and friendship too faded away to the point of occasional telephone contacts.

I recall today the timely help given to me by Shankaralinge Gowda when I had faced threat to my life and harassment by those who were upset by what was published in those early first 10 years. It was during those trying days Shankaralinge Gowda showed his sterling qualities of heart and head for a friend.

If anyone doubts the time tested saying that ‘A friend in need is a friend indeed,’ here I am to vouch for the veracity of such a saying. He was a friend who stood by me, specially on two occasions.

One, when I was harassed and threatened by one who was exposed for cheating students seeking medical college seats and two, when my life was threatened by another group taking offence to what was published connected to LTTE.

Shankaralinge Gowda may not be with us today but his memory and my days of friendship with him will always remain indelible in my memory.

Adieu my friend, goodbye.

RIP, Shankaralinge Gowda.

Also read: A song for an unsung hero, C.P. Chinnappa

9 steps for success from a (super-successful) editor

When a freelance writer cannot meet an editor

The Khushwant Singh “pre-obituary” from 1983

20 March 2014

Khushwant Singh, the self-proclaimed “dirty old man of Indian journalism”, has passed away at his home in New Delhi, at the age of 99.

Exactly, 30 years ago, when Singh was 69, the journalist Dhiren Bhagat wrote a pre-obituary of the “sardar in the light bulb” for the now-defunct Sunday Observer.

Ironically, Dhiren Bhagat was to predecease Singh by 24 years, and Khushwant Singh ended up reviewing a collection of his work for India Today in 1990.

Below is the full text of Dhiren Bhagat’s “obituary”, written for the February 13, 1983 edition of The Sunday Observer.

***

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By DHIREN BHAGAT

I was saddened to read that Khushwant Singh passed away in his sleep last week. What a quiet end for so loud a man.

How the gods mock the mocking.

Contradictions surrounded Khushwant at every stage of his life. He strove to give the impression that he was a drunken slob yet he was one of the most hard-working and punctual men I knew.

He professed agnosticism and yet enjoyed kirtan as only few can and do.

He was known nationally as a celebrated lecher but for the past thirty years at least it was a hot-water-bottle that warmed his bed.

He devoted his last years in the service of a woman who  decisively spurned him in the end.

He made a profession of living off his friends’ important names and yet worked single-handedly to diminish that very importance.

Empty vessels make the most noise but Khushwant was always full of the Scotch he had cadged off others.

He was a much misunderstood man. So before the limp eulogies start pouring in (how Khushwant would have hated them!) let me set the record straight.

As Khushwant once said, the obituary is the best place to tell the truth for dead men file no libel suits. (An agnostic to the end he didn’t believe in the Resurrection.)

***

Khushwant was born in 1915 in a rich but not particularly educated home. They were Khuranas from Sargodha who made good in Delhi.

His father, Sir Sobha Singh, was the contractor who built the city of New Delhi and who in consequence received a knighthood. In 1947 it used to be said (somewhat inaccurately it must be admitted) that ninety-nine per cent of New Delhi was owned by the Government and one per cent by Sir Sobha Singh.

After his initial education Khushwant was sent to England to appear for the ICS. He didn’t make it.

Later he would tell a story of how he had made it to the Merit List but how that year there was a reserved place for a non-Jat from Phulkian state (later PEPSU) and how some-one with less marks than him filled that place. But Khushwant was always a great raconteur so it is difficult to know what to believe.

Once bitten, twice shy. Khushwant didn’t try for the ICS again but instead enrolled himself at the London School of Economics from where in the course of things he acquired a BA.

The examiners decided to place him in the Third Class. After his degree Khushwant read for the Bar where he was equally successful. (His brother Daljit, now a businessman, was always the better scholar of the two.)

When Khushwant came back after six years in England a family friend asked his father: ‘Kaka valaiton kee kar ke aayaa hai?  (What has the boy done in England?) Sir Sobha Singh replied ‘Time pass kar ke aaya hai jee.’ (He has been marking time.)

It is unlikely the canny contractor was joking.

***

After the Partition Khushwant joined the Indian Foreign Service and this phase of his career took him to London, Ottawa and Paris. In this period he began publishing short stories on rustic themes.

In 1955 he shot to fame when a novel of his won a large cash award set by an American publishing house in order to attract manuscripts. It was a mediocre Partition quickie called Mano Majra (later published as Train to Pakistan).

Years passed. Khushwant kept writing books, on the Jupji, on the Sikhs, on India, stories, translations: many of them provocatively titled and indicative of his deepest desires, “I Shall Rape the Nightingale”, “I Take This Woman” etc. Some of these attempts were successful.

But success and cosmopolitan living did not spoil the earthiness of the robust Jat.

He continued to down his Scotch with a ferocity that made his hosts nervous. He

continued to tell stories that revealed his deep obsession with the anal.

He had a theory that all anger was a result of an upset stomach and instructed his son to ask his mother if her stomach walls troubling her whenever she scolded him.

In his more smug moments he attributed his own iconoclastic calm to the severe constipation from which he had suffered since childhood.

In 1969 Khushwant took over the Illustrated Weekly of India and embarked on the most controversial phase of his career. On the editor’s page Mario Miranda drew a bulb and Khushwant sat in it, along with his Scotch and dirty pictures.

Sitting in that cross-legged position Khushwant took the ailing magazine from success to success, all along illuminating millions of readers on the more outre aspects of the world’s brothels.

Once in a while he tore into a friend’s reputation. So great was our prurience that he became a household name in a short while. Fame he had, honour he sought.

In the early seventies an eminent Muslim journalist friend of Khushwant’s approached Rajni Patel. Could Rajnibhai fix Khushwant with a Padma Bhushan? If the honour didn’t come his way soon Sardarji would have a heart attack. Patel flew to Delhi twice and fixed it. Later Khushwant showed his gratitude in strange ways.

***

Then came the Emergency. Khushwant’s friends and admirers were very troubled by his stand: IndiraGandhi was Durga incarnate, SanjayGandhi the New Messiah and the highways of the land were clogged with smoothly running Marutis.

Many explanations have been offered for his position but I believe I am the only person to know the right one. (Khushwant in an unguarded whisky-sodden moment once opened up to me and told all.) And since it is only in obituaries that it is proper to disclose the little-known details of a man’s personal life I shall come out with it now.

Impotence had claimed Khushwant back in the fifties. At first he had been sorely troubled by this condition (most Jats are) and had tried several remedies, mostly indigenous. This accounted for his immense knowledge of jaree-bootees and his disillusionment with quacks.

When he had finally given up all hope of lighting the wick he had turned to other pleasures with a vengeance. (Exposing his friends’ affairs was a favourite pleasure: it was envy compounded with righteousness.)

It must be remembered that Khushwant’s lechery was of the mildest order: he as a voyeur, he could do nothing. Scotch was a palliative, but in the end even that failed to make up the loss.

It was Sanjay’s power that finally did the trick. So great was the vicarious pleasure the ageing Sardar felt that it went to his head. And after Sanjay’s death Khushwant lost his vitality, his vigour. He grew listless.

And then the quiet end. A lively man all in all. Even as I write this I am sure Khushwant is busy looking up the angels’ skirts. And since angels are constitutionally condemned to celibacy that should suit Khushwant fine.

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Also read: Khushwant Singh on his last day at The Weekly

Why Khushwant Singh fell out with Arun Shourie

External reading: The journalism of Khushwant Singh

President speaks of paid news, dumbing down

28 February 2014

Chandan Mitra, editor-in-chief of The Pioneer, Delhi, is honoured by President Pranab Mukherjee at the INS platinum jubilee celebrations. INS president Ravindra Kumar of The Statesman is at right.

The following is the full text of the speech delivered by the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, at the inauguration of the platinum jubilee celebrations of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) in New Delhi on Thursday, 27 February 2014:

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By PRANAB MUKHERJEE

“Seventy-five years ago, the world was a very different place. Our country was yet to take its place in the comity of nations. Millions of Indians were engaged in the struggle for freedom.

“Your Society came to life on the eve of World War II.

“Newspapers of the time not only survived the  shortages that war brought in its wake, but also engaged themselves in the difficult task of informing people of the momentous events of a contentious period in our history.

“It took resolve, vision and a sense of destiny on the part of the founding fathers to have formed a Society that could take up issues of common interest for its members.

“INS can also be proud that it helped create and nurture institutions like the Press Trust of India and the Audit Bureau of Circulation.  INS members have played a vital role in nurturing a free Press which is a critical component of our democracy.

“Over the years, INS members have informed society and promoted debate on the important questions that confront our nation.

“Be it the ravages wrought by war or those inflicted by the man-made Bengal Famine, the trials and tribulations of a nation torn asunder by Partition or the building of modern day India, newspapers have played a crucial role in educating Indians and giving expression to the diversity of views in our society, upholding thereby the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.

“The plurality of media in our country has its roots in our freedom struggle.

“The Press in India evolved, not through the aegis of the Government but due to the commitment of individuals who used it as a tool to fight enforced opinions and create platform for social reform movements across the country.

“It is matter of pride that between 1780 until India’s Independence in 1947, more than 120 newspapers and periodicals were launched in almost in every Indian language. Each of these publications vowed to carry the ideals of democracy to the doorsteps of the people and spread the message of independence.

“As the media landscape undergoes change, the media has assumed different roles of being a facilitator, protector and enabler of democratic institutions and processes.

“Our vast, varied and vibrant media is a national asset.

“The media as a whole not only keep people informed but also performs a very crucial function of presenting ideas and alternatives in the domain of policy formulation and implementation.  The media space thus becomes an important component in the fabric of a functional democracy by not merely reporting the ‘dialogue of democracy’ but also by taking an active part in that dialogue.

“As India grows in the 21st century, it is extremely important that media reaches out to the inaccessible areas and the under-served population of this country.

“It is critical that the media provides an enabling environment for the spirit of inclusive growth to be ushered in and that the varied tools of communication are able to disseminate the “India Story” in a positive, accurate and focused perspective.

“Even as iconic newspapers and magazines around the world are ceasing to print, our newspaper industry, one of the largest in the world, continues to grow. The market for Indian newspapers, with over 90 million copies in circulation, is expected to grow at a double-digit Compounded Annual Growth Rate of 10% and emerge as the world’s sixth-largest newspaper market by 2017.

“The regional and vernacular print sector, in particular, is growing on the back of rising literacy and low print media penetration as well as the heightened interest of advertisers wanting to leverage these markets.

“Today, according to industry sources, print media has a combined market penetration of only 14%. There is considerable potential, therefore, to expand readership across the national canvas.

“These are changing times and it is not possible for the newspapers to be spared from the consequences of the evolution of ideas and the embrace of technology. It is essential for newspapers to be alive to the challenges of technology, and to harness responsibly the opportunities that present themselves.

“The history of the Press in India bears testimony to the fact that the pioneers created strong and durable institutions as well as traditions.  That is your inheritance and you must build on it. It is incumbent upon you as a Society of newspapers and periodicals to weed out such aberrations as might have crept into the functioning of the media.

“Let me point out in this regard that it is distressing to note that some publications have resorted to “Paid News” and other such marketing strategies to drive their revenues.  There is need for self-correcting mechanisms to check such aberrations.

“The temptation to “dumb down” news should also be resisted.

“The nation faces critical challenges that go well beyond the pressure of ‘Breaking News’ and immediate headlines.

“While you must continue to be effective raconteurs, you must also be visionary nation builders.  You are after all the crystal ball that millions of Indians gaze at. It is your responsibility and your bounden duty to ensure that ideas are debated dispassionately and thoughts articulated without fear or favour so that opinion is always well informed.

“The influence, credibility and quality of our media is well recognized. Newspapers must be keepers of the conscience of our country.  They have to be active participants in our continuing endeavour to nurture a democratic republic committed to achieving justice and fundamental freedoms for all citizens.

“Journalists must bring to public notice the array of ills and deprivations that continue to beset large numbers of our people – be it malnourishment, continuance of discriminatory practices against sections of society, particularly dalits, or the burdens and tragic consequences of indebtedness. They must shape and influence public opinion even as they provide objective and balanced coverage of news.

“The media has an important role to play in cleansing public life.  However, to undertake this role, the conduct of the media itself should be above board.  It must be always kept in mind that ends and means are both important.

“The highest standards  of ethics must be maintained at all times.

“Sensationalism should never become a substitute for objective assessment and truthful reporting.

“Gossip and speculation should not replace hard facts.

“Every effort should be made to ensure that political or commercial interests are not passed off as legitimate and independent opinion.

“Integrity and independence are two sides of the same coin and both must be equally important for our media and for every one of us.  There should be recognition that the media is accountable to its readers and viewers at large and through them to the entire nation.

“As the fourth estate, the media is the mediator between the public and public servants. It is a watchdog of public interest. It gives voice to the downtrodden and dispossessed. It is inherent in the role of a watchdog that the media draws attention to what is wrong. But, gloom and dark alone should not dominate news coverage.  A conscious effort must be made to highlight the positive and inspire change for the better.  The power of the media should be used to engage in a nation-wide endeavour to reset our moral compass.

“I call upon INS and all its members to remain torch bearers of responsible journalism. They must always be a voice for justice and equally, spokespersons of hope and reason.

“In conclusion, let me remind that one of the most prolific and influential journalists as well as publishers of our nation was Mahatma Gandhi. His thoughts on journalism are most illuminating and must guide our media.

“Gandhiji wrote in My Experiments with Truth:

The sole aim of journalism should be service. The newspaper press is a great power, but just as an unchained torrent of water submerges whole countrysides and devastates crops, even so an uncontrolled pen serves but to destroy. If the control is from without, it proves more poisonous than want of control. It can be profitable only when exercised from within.”

He also wrote:

Week after week I poured out my soul in its columns and expounded the principles and practice of satyagraha as I understood it.  I cannot recall a word in these articles set down without thought or deliberation or a word of conscious exaggeration, or anything merely to please.  Indeed, the journal became for me a training in self-restraint and for friends a medium through which to keep in touch with my thoughts.”

Amartya Sen on leaks, plants and Indian Express

25 February 2014

It ain’t over till the economist sings.

First, there was a report in The Indian Express on 18 February, headlined “Amartya Sen threatens to quit Nalanda University over funds’ queries.”

“At its crux is a massive Rs 2,727 crore financial package to the University over a period of 12 years. The finance ministry’s department of expenditure has asked the ministry of external affairs, the nodal agency for the project, the reasons why government rules should not apply to the project.”

The following day, the Nobel laureate responded in the columns of the paper.

“The Indian public is used to bad reporting in newspapers., but your report on Nalanda University goes beyond bad reporting to dishing out falsehoods. Without even talking to the person whose intentions are being reported (an odd violation of professional journalism by one of India’s leading papers), your reporter comments on my alleged intention—or threat—to resign, which is quite untrue….”

The reporter, Pranab Dhal Samanta, responded this:

“This news report was based on information which is a part of the government’s record, where Amartya Sen is recorded as having threatened to resign. This is available with the ministry of external affairs….”

Now, in an interview to The Telegraph, Calcutta, on 24 February, Sen weighs in again in response to the first question hurled at him:

There was a controversy over a report that you are resigning from the Nalanda board as its chancellor — something you have subsequently denied.

Amartya Sen: Not subsequently. I never threatened to resign. There’s a distinction between something which is called a “leak”, information which you are not meant to share.

And, there’s something called a “plant”, that’s a misinformation that is sent around.

In this case, it was a “plant”, not a “leak”. Somebody in the ministry of external affairs (MEA), a senior civil servant, who talked to some people completely made up the story.

Image: courtesy Nalanda University

When journo dedicates book to journo, it’s news

19 February 2014

Tens of Indian journalists are writing books these days and there are all manner of dedications. But Manoj Mitta‘s The Fiction of Fact-finding: Modi and Godhra stands out from the crowd for who it remembers.

The Times of India‘s senior editor, who co-authored a seminal book on the 1984 pogrom in Delhi, dedicates his latest work on the 2002 massacre in Gujarat, to his mother Indira

“and in the memory of the journalist Shoebullah Khan, who paid with his life in 1948 for advocating the merger of Hyderabad, my native place, with an India he had trusted would remain pluralist.”

Shoebullah Khan was in his 20s and editor of the Urdu newspaper Imroze, which he had launched because there was no space in the existing Urdu newspapers of the time to advocate the nationalist line.

Most Urdu newspapers back then either advocated independence or merger with Pakistan.

Shoebullah Khan published Imroze from the backyard of the house of Burgula Ramakrishna Rao, who would soon become the first elected chief minister of the liberated Hyderabad state. Rao’s nephew Burgula Narasing Rao, who saw him off at the gate, was the last person to talk to Khan.

He was killed in August 1948 by suspected Razakars as he stepped on to the road and his right palm was chopped off for defying their line.

An archived paper notes:

“On the 19th August, 1948, Kasim Razvi commemorating the “Nanaj Day” in the Zamarrud Mahal condemned the Indian leaders and uttered threats at the so called puppets of India.

“In the course of his speech he declared, ” The hand that rises against the the Muslims should either drop down or would be cut off”.

“This speech was literally taken by one Munim Khan and his associates who on the 21st August, 1948 shot down Shoebulla Khan, the editor of the nationalist paper,  Imroze  which criti­cised the Razakars, and when he fell down attacked him with swords and cut off his hands.”

The murder of the heroic journalist provided, in many ways, the impetus for “police action” that led to the liberation of Hyderabad the following month. Kasim Razvi was later convicted for the killing of Khan.

Shoebullah Khan saw the Congress’s Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as his hero but in recent times, Khan has been appropriated by the BJP. He was remembered by L.K. Advani in 2003, and when Narendra Modi addressed a public meeting in Hyderabad recently, one of the gates was named after Khan.

Osmania University awards a medal in the name of Shoebullah Khan to the best student of journalism each year.

External reading: The Manoj Mitta interview*

* Disclosures apply

***

Also read: When a Delhi journo joins New Yorker, it’s news

When an editor draws a cartoon, it’s news

If The Economist looks at Tamil News, it’s news

When a stringer beats up a reporter, it’s news

When the gang of four meets at IIC, it’s news

When a politician weds a journalist, it’s news

When a magazine editor marries a starlet, it’s news

When dog bites dog, it’s news—I

When dog bites dog, it’s news—II

A Kannada paper breaks RG’s code of silence

17 February 2014

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Even before he sat down last month with Kalpesh Yagnik of Dainik Bhaskar and Arnab Goswami of Times Now for one-on-one interviews, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had met Editors in Delhi off and on, more off than on.

These meetings were long, relaxed,  informal but strictly off the record.

Smart phones and cameras had to be deposited with the security guards before entering the venue, where on each chair lay a piece of cardboard with a pencil to take notes.

Attendees were free to report what was uttered without directly quoting Rahul Gandhi or suggesting that he was the source. So, “highly placed Congress sources said…” kind of stories were legion even if nothing earthshaking had been revealed.

The arrangement worked neatly in Delhi where the deference to power borders on stenographic servility.

Not so in the rest of the country.

As “The Candidate who doesn’t say he is The Candidate” goes around the country spearheading his party’s election campaign, his media meisters are enabling journalists from the  “regional” media to come face to face with Gandhi. And the results are not always to script.

In Karnataka, on Saturday, Rahul Gandhi met Bangalore’s editors informally “not for reporting“—and if Ajay Maken & Co expected stenographic servility in cyber-coolie capital, they were in for a surprise.

Kannada Prabha, the daily newspaper that mobile phone baron turned media baron Rajeev Chandrasekhar bought from the New Indian Express group, front-paged Rahul Gandhi’s interaction with the media, accompanied by a photograph shot with a cell phone.

Editor-in-Chief Vishweshwar Bhat recorded his impressions of the 45-minute meeting, with a three-deck headline saying it all: “It’s nice to see and hear Rahul’s words, but they are impractical. He is a good purchaser/ customer of his own ideas”.

On his Twitter account, Bhat wrote: “Rahul freely and excessively used the words, system and process. After 20, I lost and stopped the counting.”

And over a six-column story that spills on to page 8, Bhat provides his interpretation of all Gandhi said.

“When he repeatedly spoke of inner-party democracy, and the requirement for a new atmosphere, a new system and a new culture in the party, The Times of India‘s Washington correspondent Chidanand Rajghatta (who hails from Bangalore) said to Rahul:

“We have been hearing the same words, since the party’s Bombay national executive meeting, for the last 25 years. But the party has remained the same and the dinosaurs have survived.”

“For a moment, Rahul was stumped, and then said maybe Chidu shouldn’t have used the word ‘dinosaurs’.”

For the record, Rahul Gandhi held a similar interaction in Bhubaneshwar on February 9, which one participant described as “super-boring“.

Also read: Is “Modi Media” biased against Rahul Gandhi?

‘Media’s Modi-fixation needs medical attention’

Mani Shankar Aiyar launches into Arnab Goswami

‘The Hindu’ sets up anti-harassment panels

1 December 2013

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Following the Tarun J. Tejpal meltdown at Tehelka, media organisations are scrambling to put in place in-house mechanisms as mandated by law to deal with potentially similar incidents.

As of today, 1 December 2013, The Hindu, which has a woman Editor at its helm in Malini Parthasarathy, has constituted internal complaints commissions in its offices to deal with sexual harassment.

A six-page document accompanying the announcement defines sexual harassment as:

# Physical contact and advances, or
# A demand or request for sexual favours, or
# Sexually coloured remarks, or
# Showing pornography, or
# Any other unwelcome physical, verbal, non-verbal conduct of sexual nature

.

Online appeal to protect Tehelka journo’s privacy

22 November 2013

The following is the full text of an online appeal to protect the privacy of the Tehelka journalist whose complaint against the magazine’s editor Tarun J. Tejpal resulted in his “offer” to recuse himself from office for six months.

To all editors, journalists, bloggers, users of social media, and the public:

Some websites and blogs are posting the Tehelka journalist’s complaint to the magazine’s management or reproducing parts of it, perhaps with the intent to expose a grave act of sexual assault by a man occupying a powerful position.

However, in doing so, they are violating basic ethical and legal injunctions on the way cases of sexual assault must be reported.

The journalist’s complaint to her company is a private document and not a public one.

While private documents can be leaked in the ‘public interest’, this principle is applicable to the emails of Tarun Tejpal and Shoma Chaudhury sent to Tehelka staffers, not to the journalist’s emailed complaint.

In cases of sexual assault, it is a well established principle that the media can name the perpetrator, but not the victim.

The identity and privacy of a victim must be protected at all costs.

We are distressed that many people are circulating the journalist’s emails, and other journalists, bloggers and users of social media are publishing it in parts or whole.

Some have argued that the leaked email has exposed the gravity of the assault, which justifies it coming into the public domain.

While we are determined to report violence against women, we also believe in doing it sensitively.

It is possible to report and comment on sexual crimes without providing explicit accounts that cause additional distress to the victim.

While we stand behind the journalist in her courageous fight, let her choose how she wants her experience reported in public.

In the past week, the journalist has, through her friends, requested several times that her privacy and dignity be protected and that her personal email not be shared.

Please remember that the woman’s private email may be used only with her written consent.

We request all users of social and mainstream media to refrain from infringing on a woman’s privacy.

We request those who have posted such content to remove it immediately. Let us be sensitive as we extend support to the journalist.

If you wish to support the petition, please email reportresponsibly.india@gmail.com

Link via Supriya Sharma

Tarun Tejpal steps aside as ‘Tehelka’ editor

20 November 2013

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The following is the full text of the letter sent by Tarun J. Tejpal, founder-editor of Tehelka, to the managing editor of the magazine, Shoma Chaudhury, at 2.58 pm today.

The subject line is: Atonement.

My dear Shoma,

The last few days have been most testing, and I squarely take the blame for this.

A bad lapse of judgment, an awful misreading of the situation, have led to an unfortunate incident that rails against all we believe in and fight for.

I have already unconditionally apologised for my misconduct to the concerned journalist, but I feel impelled to atone further. Tehelka has been born and built, day on day, with my blood, toil, tears and sweat, and that of many others, against near-insurmountable odds.

It has lived for and fought the big battles of our time, always on the side of the oppressed and the wronged, always on the side of equity and justice. Its voice has travelled the world and changed policy and perceptions. It has been a beacon for those who would do the right thing.

Through bad, and worse, times I have protected Tehelka and its journalists from the inevitable demands of power and corporations. I have always allowed every journalist’s sense of the right to flower and express itself. No one has ever been asked to do what they don’t believe in.

I have always held that Tehelka the institution, and its work, have always been infinitely more important than any of us individuals. It is tragic, therefore, that in a lapse of judgment I have hurt our own high principles.

Because it involves Tehelka, and a sterling shared legacy, I feel atonement cannot be just words. I must do the penance that lacerates me. I am therefore offering to recuse myself from the editorship of Tehelka, and from the Tehelka office, for the next six months.

You have always been stellar, Shoma, and even as I apologise to you and all my other colleagues, for this unfortunate incident, I leave Tehelka in your more than capable and safe hands.

In apology,
Tarun

***

The following is the full text of the email sent by Tehelka managing editor Shoma Chaudhury at 7.03 pm today, forwarding Tejpal’s letter to all staffers.

Dear All,

This may come as a rude surprise to many of you.

There is a letter from Tarun appended to this mail. There has been an untoward incident, and though he has extended an unconditional apology to the colleague involved, Tarun will be recusing himself as the editor of Tehelka for the next six months.

Tehelka is an institution he has built, and which many journalists both current and former, have contributed to in the most profound ways. Throughout our 13-year career, we have proudly articulated and tried to live by the highest standards.

We have also believed that when there is a mistake or lapse of any kind, one can only respond with right thought and action. In keeping with this stated principle, and the collective values we live by, Tarun will be stepping down for the period mentioned.

This is a hard time for all of us, and I hope all of you will stand by the institution.

Best,
Shoma

Photograph: courtest Outlook

Also read: Tarun Tejpal on the five facets of his life

How Congress regime stepped in to help Tehelka

A magazine, a scam, a owner & his Goan house

NYT, WSJ weigh on Tehelka‘s Goa controversy

Tehelka promoter says he didn’t turn off FW tap

Sachin Tendulkar, Sigmund Freud & the media

18 November 2013

As the Indian (and global) media—print, electronic and digital—reports Sachin Tendulkar‘s retirement from cricket as if it’s the end of the world; as breathless reporters, writers, anchors and tweeters ask “What will happen to cricket now that Sachin is gone?”, now is a good time as any to remember Harold Ross and James Thurber.

Ross was the founder of the New Yorker magazine, and Thurber its most famous cartoonist, who could also write. Twenty-six years after he founded the legendary weekly, Ross passed away, as all of us must, in 1951.

Here’s what Thurber writes in ‘The years with Ross‘ (page 272):

“People still speak of ‘Ross’s New Yorker’, and his name is heard in conversations and seen on printed pages. At least half a hundred people in the past seven years have said, or written, to me, ‘I never knew Ross, but when he died I felt I had lost a dear friend’.

“One man, a literary agent who gets around town, told me, ‘You could feel the sorrow all over the city the day after Ross died. I don’t think I have ever experienced such a sense of communal grief about a man most people I met had never seen.’

“We were all asked, a hundred times, ‘What will happen to the New Yorker now that Ross is dead?’ We had our separate answers to that, but Joe Liebling’s is perhaps the one that will last: ‘The same thing that happened to analysis after Sigmund Freud died’.”

Id est, life goes on.

Chill.

Also read: A front page with two mastheads for two jewels

Sachin Tendulkar, Mid-Day and the Indian Express

Poonam Pandey, Sachin Tendulkar and The Telegraph

India’s cricket reporters are too soft on cricketers

Today’s cricket journos are chamchas of cricketers

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