Archive for the 'For the record' Category

On National Press Day, a shop floor then & now

16 November 2013

The Hindu office-composing room-1950

Today, November 16, is National Press Day.

The photograph above, excerpted from Madras then, Chennai Now by Nanditha Krishna, Tishani Doshi and Pramod Kapoor (Roli books, 2013), is the floor of the composing room of The Hindu from the 1950s, a far cry from the ultra-modern printing towers of today.

As the text accompanying the picture in the book notes:

The Hindu was the first newspaper to introduce colour in 1940 and the first to own its own fleet of aircraft for distribution in 1963. In 1969, the Hindu adopted the facsimile system of page transmission. In 1986, it began using a transmission satellite. Computer-aided photo composition commenced in 1980. In 1994, text and graphics were fully integrated in computerised page make-up and remote imaging.”

***

Below is the picture of the offices of The Hindu at 100, Mount Road, where it was housed for more than half a century, starting 1883.

hinduoffice

And, below, is the newsroom of The Hindu, as seen in circa 2005.

hindu_newsroom_chennai_20051017

For the record, Pramod Kapoor used to publish the Sunday Mail newspaper from Delhi in the 1990s before he sold it to the Dalmias who, after a revamp under T.V.R. Shenoy, shut it down.

Photographs: courtesy Roli Books, and Outlook

‘Corporatocracy is cause of Indian media’s ills’

5 November 2013

Below is the abridged text of a message sent by Justice P.B. Sawant, former chairman of the Press Council of India (PCI), to a seminar on the state of the media held by the Editors Guild of India in New Delhi on November 2, to mark the 100th birth anniversary of Nikhil Chakravartty, former editor of Mainstream:

***

By P.B. SAWANT

“The deterioration in the standard of journalism that is often complained of, is on account of many contributory causes. The low mental, moral and intellectual calibre particularly at the top, being not the least important among them.

“But here, it is necessary to draw distinction between different media outlets.

“The corporate-owned and dominated media-houses have their journalists on the leash, and many times appoint them only to fill the post. On account of the hefty pay packages and alluring perks, many do not mind being the call-boys of the management.

“It is common knowledge that the views injurious to the interests of the owners, their friends, political patrons, the advertiser and co-businessmen are not allowed to be published, and the editors have to submit to the management policy from time to time.

“Gone are the days when the independent editors strode the path with majesty. They had value of their own and commanded respect and readership on account of their intrinsic qualities. The newspapers were identified by their names and the readers moved with them to different newspapers.

“That breed of journalists cannot be expected in the philistine world of today. Those who cannot adjust to the present ambience, fight their lonely battles, and except a few, fail to survive.

“Even the average readers of the day, have no time and taste for serious journalism. The values have changed and are changing fast. The role of the journalist is reduced to the commentator on the events. The comments have also to be within the framework laid down.

“Unfortunately for the last some years, the foreign element has also become prominent in quite a few editorials, main articles, reportage, and anchoring and interviews. When the government and non-government so called experts also crawl before the foreign interests, this is not surprising. And yet, some plead for the wholesale entry of the foreign media.

“There is enough documentation on the role the foreign agencies have been playing through many dubious devices including the media, to spread economic imperialism, and to weaken the countries and their governments. There is a fleet of journalists in every country on the pay-roll of the foreign intelligence agencies.

“Our journalists have to be on guard lest they fall an easy prey to the alluring alien snares. On the other hand, they should, in the national interests, expose these insidious rackets.

“Some apologists argue that today the journalists do not have lofty causes to pursue as the freedom struggle, the initial phases of nation building, sharp ideological skirmishes, wars with Pakistan, emergency, cold-war and regional hot wars, etc, which not only sharpened the pen of the former generation journalists, but shaped their characters.

“It is therefore not proper to compare the present generation journalists with their predecessors. It may at once be agreed that it is not fair to weigh the present generation with the earlier generation in any field, for obvious reasons. But it is incorrect to argue that we are not faced with as important problems as did the past generations.

“Every generation has it its own problems and some of them are graver than any faced by the earlier generations. We are today confronted with aggressive casteism and communalism, rampant corruption in every field, growing criminalisation of public life, galloping economic imperialism all over the world euphemistically called neo-liberalism and globalisation, all round environmental destruction and pollution, piling of atomic, chemical and biological weapons, blatant unilateral invasion of countries for plundering their oil, minerals and other natural resources and capturing their markets, anti-national policies and projects, treaties and agreements, enormous economic inequalities, terrorism born of deep social and economic injustice as well as of fanaticism etc. But there is no crusade against any of these national evils and disasters.

“On the other hand, the voice of the media is muted on some of these issues, lest the vested interests and patrons are hurt. The comments on these developments, when made are superficial. No attempt is made to delve into the basic causes, with the result that the real culprits remain free to indulge in their nefarious activities.

“Journalism, one thought was for educating the people, and not for satisfying their curiosity by any feedback.

“The lack of independence of the journalists is the main weakness of journalism today. That is on account of corporatocracy is undisputed. It can only be cured by the ownership of the media by the journalists themselves either through co-operative or company structure. The venture will succeed, if the journalist concentrates on journalism, and hand-over the administrative and business part to the professional managers. The Le Monde of France may serve as an example.”

Photograph: courtesy Outlook

Also read: The editor who decline the Padma Bhushan

Also read: Editors Guild backs Times Now in libel case

HT springs to TOI’s support in Times Now libel case

The Editor who declined the Padma Bhushan

3 November 2013

20131103-124049 PM.jpg

Today, 3 November 2013, is the birth centenary of Nikhil Chakravartty, the “barefoot reporter” who founded the journal Mainstream.

NC or Nikhilda, as most who knew him called him, plunged into active journalism as a special correspondent with the Communist Party organ People’s War (1944-46) and People’s Age (1946-48), and later Crossroads (1952-55) and New Age (1955-57).

He then set up a feature news service, India Press Agency (IPA) in collaboration with another Communist journalist David Cohen.

In 1959, IPA shot into prominence with a report of the then prime minister’s personal assistant M.O. Mathai, that rocked Parliament, forcing Mathai to resign.

Nikhil Chakravartty quit the Communist Party for its support of Indira Gandhi‘s emergency and played a key role in opposing press censorship (1975-77) and Rajiv Gandhi‘s anti-defamation bill in 1989.

Tellingly, he declined the Padma Bhushan conferred on him by the National Front government In 1990, with a dignified letter to the then President, “pointing out that a journalist carrying out his professional obligation should not appear to be close to any government and/or any political establishment.”

A commemorative issue of Mainstream, released at a seminar organised by the Editors Guild of India in New Delhi yesterday, records:

“He always called himself a ‘reporter’. He did have the finest attributes of a reporter, and despite airing his own views in commentaries and editorials never discarded fairness in reporting or tampered with facts.

“His fidelity to facts was extraordinary. And he knew what to report and what not to report—always preserving the confidence reposed in him by his interlocutors.”

Nikhil Chakravartty passed away on 27 June 1998, by which time he had stepped down as editor of Mainstream to become its editorial advisor.

Mainstream is now edited by his son Sumit Chakravartty.

Also read: Why Rajdeep, Barkha must decline Padma Sri

Lessons for Vir Sanghvi & Barkha from Prem & Nikhilda

Did Radia tapes impact Padma awards for journos?

External reading: Usha Rai on Nikhil Chakravartty

”The Hindu’ situation had become irremediable’

29 October 2013

ram1

ram2ram3ram4ram5ram6

The “professional” editor may have been eased out by redesignating him; the services of the “professional” CEO may have been summarily terminated; and the front page of the paper may have returned to its past.

But The Hindu saga is not over yet.

After six board members on the 11-member board of Kasturi & Sons (K. Balaji, K. Venugopal, Ramesh Rangarajan, Lakshmi Srinath, Vijaya Arun and Akhila Vijay Iyengar) wrote to the other five against the removal of Siddharth Varadarajan and Arun Anant, the chairman of the board N. Ram has responded in kind through a seven-page response, with the operative paragraphs on pages 3 and 4.

“The discussions on the performance of Mr Siddharth Varadarajan as Editor of The Hindu was in fact a continuation of the discussions in the Board meeting held on August 20, 2013 as reflected clearly in the minutes of the meeting approved unanimously at the meeting on October 21, 2013. Not a single Director had any words of praise for or defence of his performance. Mr Siddharth Varadarajan had been informed in detail by me as Chairman of the previous meeting Board meeting of the view of the Board and some Directors had raised such issues with him periodically. Mr N. Murali, Mr. N. Ravi, Ms Malini Parthasarathy, and I referred to many instances of gross and continued violation of the binding Code of Editorial Values in terms of editorialising in the guise of news coverage, unfair and exaggerated reporting, banning or downplaying coverage of certain personalities with personal preference and prejudice, overriding professional news judgement, unsatisfactory coverage in the in main Chennai market, frequent absences from Chennai, and inadequate time and commitment to the overall task of editing the newspaper. Some of you wanted these issues address with Mr Siddharth Varadarajan. I pointed out that these issues had been taken up with him repeatedly to no effect and Mr. N Ravi expressed the view that the situation had become irremediable.

“Mr. K. Venugopal made the suggestion at the meeting that the Board should vote on reposing confidence in the then CEO and the erstwhile business and editorial arrangement. I then put the following resolution to vote: “Resolved that the present structure be retained”. Mr K. Venugopal declared that he was voting for his resolution and five others voted in favour. As rightly noted in your letter, six Directors opposed the resolution and the motion consequently failed in the absence of a sufficient majority. It was therefore evident that the erstwhile management structure had become untenable and the Company could not continue to repose trust and confidence in the then Editor and the then CEO. Of necessity and solely with a view to preventing the newspaper’s activities from coming to a grinding half, the managerial supervision of the business and editorial affairs of the Company had perforce to be reorganised.

“It was in this vacuum that I circulated the draft of a resolution of the new structure and allowed the Directors time to go through it before starting discussions on it. The main elements of the proposed structure had been discussed repeatedly in Board meetings as well as outside. Thereafter, discussions on the proposed structure followed with some Directors expressing support and others expressing opposition to it. When the draft resolution assigning that I, in my capacity as Chairman, out of necessity and in the interest of the Company, exercised my casting vote to approve the resolution. Failing this, not only would an unacceptable crisis have arisen in leadership but the very citadel of the newspaper built over more than a century would have been grievously threatened. Such a situation would certainly have been exploited by the Company’s competitors to the obvious disadvantage of the newspaper’s loyal readers. Consequently, the management of the Company who undoubtedly have tremendous experience and credentials in this regard….”

Also read: In family-owned paper, only furniture is fixed

The Hindu issue is more complex than you think’

Hindu‘ family chucks out ‘professional’ redesign

‘International Herald Tribune’ becomes INYT

14 October 2013

iht

The legendary International Herald Tribune (IHT) has published its last print issue today with its current mastead. From tomorrow, 15 October 2013, it will be sold under the name-plate “International New York Times” (INYT).

IHT’s name-change isn’t the first.

The New York Herald, launched in 1887 in Europe, became the New York Herald Tribune, which became the International Herald Tribune. International New York Times marks the complete takeover of the IHT by NYT after The Washington Post pulled out of the collaboration a few years ago.

The Indian edition of IHT has been published by the Deccan Chronicle out of Hyderabad despite the group’s extraordinary troubles, by a complex circumvention of publishing laws. And despite his exit from The Asian Age, also published by DC, M.J. Akbar was IHT‘s titular editor.

Also read: How International Herald Tribune is made

Ex-IHT journalist goes missing from Rishikesh

When everyone forgets, the family remembers

1 October 2013

soumya

An ‘In Memoriam’ advertisement appearing in New Delhi newspapers on September 30, for Soumya Viswanathan, the Headlines Today journalist, who was found murdered in Delhi in 2008, shortly after leaving work for home.

In 2009, United News of India (UNI) reported that Soumya’s employers, TV Today Network, were fined Rs 250 for violating the capital’s working hours. The 26-year-old journalist had left her place of work at 03:02 am, say police, who got word of the incident at 3.41 am.

Also read: What we can learn from The Daily Telegraph

S.D. Rohmetra: founder-editor of Daily Excelsior

Charudatta Deshpande: journalist turned corp comm manager

Sivanthi Adityan: editor of Tamil daily, Dina Thanthi

Alfred D’ Cruz: TOI‘s first Indian sub-editor

Tarun Sehrwat, 22 and killed in the line of duty

Chari, a lens legend at The Hindu

Harishchandra Lachke: A pioneering cartoonist

T.N. Shanbag: Man who educated Bombay journos

Rajan Bala: cricket writer of cricket writers

Jyoti Sanyal: The language terrorist and teacher

Russy Karanjia: The bulldog of an editor

Sabina Sehgal Saikia: The resident food writer

M.G. Moinuddin: The self-taught newspaper designer

Naresh Chandra Rajkhowa: Journo who broke Dalai Lama story

J. Dey: When eagles are silent, parrots jabber

E. Raghavan: Ex-ET, TOI, Vijaya Karnataka editor

Prakash Kardaley: When god cries when the best arrive

Pratima Puri: India’s first TV news reader passes away

Tejeshwar Singh: A baritone falls silent watching the cacophony

N.S. Jagannathan: Ex-editor of Indian Express

K.M. Mathew: chief of editor of Malayala Manorama

Amita Malik: the ‘first lady of Indian media’

***

K.R. Prahlad: In the end, death becomes a one-liner

M.R. Shivanna: A 24×7 journalist is no more

C.P. Chinnappa: A song for an unsung hero

From: Viveck Goenka. To: Express employees

30 August 2013

mr-vivek-goenka-cmd-indian-express-group-with-his-1934-packard-tourer-at-cartier-travel-with-style-preview-photo-18_640x480The following is the full text of the email sent by Indian Express chairman Viveck Goenka, announcing the re-entry of George Varghese into the group as CEO, after editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta relinquished his managerial responsibilities with effect from Krishna Janmashtami:

***

Dear All,

You must have all read Shekhar’s mail of 26th August.

I have always admired Shekhar’s leadership, commitment, acumen and foresight and am proud to say that today, the Express is a lean and efficient company, thriving in a challenging environment. We have created a strong space for ourselves that I now hope to grow.

This is the first of what I hope will be many communications from me to all of you. This one is to introduce to you, George Varghese, whom some of you may remember. He joined the Express very early in his career, where he headed marketing and circulation. He then went on to do stints at Hughes Telecom, Reliance Infocomm and KEC International. I have known him for many years and have admired his energy, thoroughness and professionalism. George will be our new Chief Executive Officer.

All department heads other than editorial and the innovations team will report in to him with immediate effect.

For me, the ideal business model has always been good journalism allied with a robust top and bottom line. I take pride in the fact that this company has never declared a dividend. Whatever money we make goes back into the paper and to the cause of high-quality and empowering journalism.

All of you have worked at the Express with an admirable sense of commitment and purpose and I am sure you will continue to do so.

Consequently, the transition from Shekhar going back to an editorial role will be seamless. Shekhar will continue to shape the public discourse through the pages of The Indian Express and The Financial Express. He is, to my mind, one of the finest editors India has produced. I hired him as our Editor when he was all of 38 years of age and I am proud of the result.

News media is facing a time of enormous change but I believe that this is also a time of enormous possibility, especially with the new audiences the internet brings to our content. While the old certainties may be gone, the values of the Express—integrity, courage and the relentless pursuit of the truth—are immutable. These values and my commitment to the independence of the Express will never change.

With best wishes,

Viveck Goenka

***

Photograph: courtesy Zig Wheels

Also read: Shekhar Gupta gives up his managerial role

To all Express employees. From: Shekhar Gupta

Shekhar Gupta gives up charge as Express CEO

27 August 2013

Below is the full text of the “global” email shot off by Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta on Monday, August 26, in which he formally announces his decision to relinquish his managerial functions at the newspaper group.

***

Dear All,

Looking at the flurry of communication from me over the past few weeks, mainly on corporate and business issues, some of you may have wondered what was going on. This is particularly because it hasn’t been my method to write “dear all” mails often.

Or, more likely, that I am too lazy to be doing so.

Those of you in the New Delhi newsroom know this well, since you see me pacing up and down every Friday evening, wrestling with those 1200 words for National Interest, and in the dread of delaying City-I once again.

So here is the story.

This series of mails was by way of completing a great deal of unfinished business. All of you know what a procrastinator I am. So everything that can be put off till the last moment, is put off. Or, as we like to say in cliched journalism, put on the backburner. Until a deadline takes away the excuses.

The deadline we had given ourselves was end of August (and on a personal note, August 26, my 56th birthday). And both ways we are getting there now. Hence, this note.

***

As you may have seen from my earlier communication, as also the buzz in the market, our company is now in an unprecedentedly robust shape.

We have already had six stellar quarters and, on all evidence as I track revenue figures for this month and the projections for September, are heading for an even better seventh. Businesses have to now work in this brutal QSQT (Quarter-se-Quarter-Tak) environment. And it is a truly brilliant achievement on the part of our various teams given the mayhem in media markets.

We are today acknowledged to be one of the soundest news media companies within-our-size category. And no, we never do paid news, or stretch any of the First Principles of Journalism.

Never.

The truth is, it is overly simplistic to say, that we have a Chinese wall between marketing and editorial. We have never needed one. Because it is our colleagues in sales and marketing who have protected our editorial integrity with as much zeal and commitment as us journalists.

And yet, we have built such a fine company. It vindicates our belief, our founder’s and our CMD Viveck Goenka‘s, that there is no contradiction between good journalism and the market.

This is why, I believe, and can say with great satisfaction, that my job on the corporate side is now done.

***

It was in an unusual set of circumstances, and at a critical juncture in the history of our company, that Viveck had asked me to take over the additional responsibility of overseeing the management.

Those unusual circumstances, or any sense of imminent crisis, no longer exist.

From those perilous years, the company has now been nursed into great health.

Credit for this goes to all of you, but most of all to Viveck.

My profound gratitude is also owed to him for placing his trust in me to handle a responsibility I had no skills or training for. It is a perfect time, therefore, for me, to hand over a flourishing company back to Viveck, now that he has the time to take over the management.

And since you can always trust him to pick the most auspicious day in the calendar, he has chosen, for the new arrangement, August 28, Janmashtami.

***

We will share more details with you in the course of time. I am pleased to also inform you, meanwhile, about the return of another Express Group veteran, George Varghese, as the Company’s CEO, to assist Viveck who will be fully hands-on.

Given where the company has reached now, I believe that we need a more structured and formally organized corporate leadership to build on the wonderful platform all of you have created. That is precisely what we will get now. George is a wonderful professional and old-timers among us remember him fondly.

Please join me in wishing him, and Viveck well.

Since I am a story-teller by profession, though, I can’t help but tell you one here. When Viveck asked me to take over this additional charge one winter afternoon, I was petrified. I did not even know debit from credit and thought an RO, our daily bread-giving advertisement Release Order, was some water purifying system.

So I excused myself for a minute, went outside, and called T.N. Ninan, my friend and former editor whose counsel I have sometimes sought with such dilemmas and who has himself done a fine job of balancing edit and business leadership.

He gave me a bunch of quick suggestions and then concluded, in his usual grave tone: but be careful so-and-so…people should not say that a journalist took over a publishing business and made a mess of it.

If I have no such concerns now, it is entirely because of the motivation, talent, commitment and trust that all of you have shown, often surprising even the thick-skinned me with your resilience and optimism.

***

A couple more thoughts. Besides a consistently decent bottomline, we had also set ourselves stiff targets on improving our working conditions, technologies and, of course, compensations. All of you have contributed to turning into reality what had then looked like an impossibility.

We routinely have media websites wondering how we manage to have such nice offices and pay ourselves so well.

Our answer: go check our balance sheets. So thank you all once again for so energetically putting your shoulder to the wheel, even overlooking the unusual fact that I was such a novice to business. And nor did I carry a corporate title, or any title other than the old-fashioned Group Editor-In-Chief.

Which is how I will be working full-time henceforth. Besides all editorial teams (except Loksatta), our tiny but super-productive brand, innovation, archive and CSR teams will continue working with me. I also hope to be able to find more time to build EXIMS, our media school, which is a labour of love.

I will soon be speaking with the team heads individually and answering any questions they might have. I will be fully helping out with transition on the corporate side. Meanwhile, please make sure nothing falls between the cracks. We must maintain total continuity.

If confused, send communication, clearances etc to me with copy to Kumar Gyanam and we will either give you the answers, or be good postmen and redirect you to the correct addressees.

Yet again, before I sign off for the day, thanks and all the best. In any case, I am always around, and accessible and just as chaotically so — as before.

Shekhar Gupta

Editor-in-Chief

Photograph: courtesy Impact

Also read: To all Express employees, from the editor

If the Press Trust of India (PTI) had a newspaper

23 August 2013

All manner of media enterprises take flight in the run-up to an election and this, here, is the front page of volume 1, issue 1 of Dynamic Times, “India’s national weekly newspaper” as its tagline affirms.

All 132 stories in the 24-page broadsheet published from New Delhi are sourced from the news agency Press Trust of India (PTI). The editor is F. Sameudeen.

‘Licensing journos: recipe for total state control’

22 August 2013

Ravi_pic_ram_leiceL1000002_croppedThe following is the full text of the statement issued by N. Ravi, president of the Editors’ Guild of India, on the proposal mooted by minister of state for information and broadcasting, Manish Tewari, on a “common examination” for student-journalists and a “licence” for journalists to perform their function:

“The suggestion of the Union minister for information and broadcasting, Manish Tewari, that journalists should be tested and licensed to practice the profession is a recipe for the total state control of the media.

“Licensing of journalists is an obviously undemocratic practice that has been condemned repeatedly by international human rights organisations including the Inter American Court of Human Rights. Requirements such as membership of a particular organisation, specific qualifications and licences issued by the government are tools used by totalitarian states to control the media.

“The right to freedom of expression is guaranteed under Article 19 (1) of the Constitution and it is open to every citizen to practise it through the media subject only to restrictions on the grounds specified in Article 19 (2).  The reporting of facts and the expression of ideas is the right of every citizen and to require the passing of a test and the possession of a licence issued by the government would be a violation of the very concept of freedom.

“People with varying qualifications, ideas and interests should be allowed unrestricted access in the exercise of their right to free speech through the media.

“Besides, the media deal with the whole gamut of issues touching on the society– from political, economic and social issues to health, religion, art, literature, cinema, music and travel– and unlike in the case of some of the professions such as law and medicine, there is no fixed or identifiable collection of works or coherent body of knowledge on which journalists could be tested.

“In this age of citizen journalists, bloggers and social media and Internet users, it would be ridiculous to introduce any restriction on who should practise journalism even if it were possible to enforce it.”

***

Business Standard has an editorial on the topic:

“Charitably, Tewari’s point could be taken as an opportunity for the media to introspect as to why there are many calls for it to improve the quality of its output. There is little doubt that, as the media space has exploded, much has been produced that is not of sufficient quality or reliability or even credibility.

“Of course, whether this requires a licence-permit Raj to be introduced for journalism is another question altogether—though a reflexive belief in the virtues of control is the hallmark of the Indira Gandhi-loving United Progressive Alliance, which is in so many fields apparently desirous of returning India to the 1980s.

“Actually, it is diversity that should be prized in an open society with free expression, not uniformity and “standardisation”. It is ridiculous to imagine that an examination, however tough, would, in any case, weed out the corrupt and the incompetent. If that were the case, India would have had the most incorruptible and most efficient bureaucracy in the known universe.”

***

Madhavankutty Pillai in Open magazine:

“The exam and licence for journalists is couched as a measure for the benefit of the profession. It comes on the back of the Press Council of India Chairman, Markandey Katju, floating a similar proposal some months ago. Both are symbolic of our great faith in question papers despite overwhelming evidence that it is possibly the worst way to create an institution.

“IAS and IPS officers, the frame that rules India, are selected on the basis of one exam and what it churns out is an effete, morally compromised, characterless group. People with high IQ and a good memory can clear these exams but it guarantees nothing in terms of either integrity, efficiency or common sense.

“Both Katju and Tewari were lawyers and it is probably the Bar Council exam that they have as a model. Which makes what they propose even more ridiculous if you consider the state of the legal profession in India. The standardisation it has created is in the art of perpetually delaying a case, bribery as a legal strategy and the fleecing of clients.

Also read: Poll: common exam, licences for journalists?

A “license” for journalists is not a ‘sine qua non’

External reading: How licensing journalists threatens independent news media

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