Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

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

Will Barack Obama be page one news tomorrow?

7 November 2012

Will Barack Obama‘s reelection be front-page news in your newspaper tomorrow?

Not if your paper has a “jacket advertisement” in this Diwali season, in which case it will technically be on page 3. Not if your paper two jacket ads, in which case it will be on page 5.

In many ways, Indian newspapers have overturned the traditional importance of the front page (the disease now afflicting even The Guardian, London) although there are many  media watchers who believe a newspaper is well within its rights to monetise its most important space.

***

The veteran editor Surendra Nihal Singh addresses the issue in the latest issue of Society magazine:

In this age, the advertisement department has more sway than the editorial. What do you have to say about it?

Nihal Singh: The front pages of mainstream newspapers are plastered with adverts. This is happening very often. These newspapers are killing the essence of the front page.

The Statesman had strict restrictions on front-page advertisements. During my editorship of the paper in Calcutta, the advertisement manager Chandran Tharoor (father of politician Shashi Tharoor) would beg me for an xtra half-centimetre of space for a front-page advert, but I used to turn down his request.

The contrasts could not be starker with today’s media. In many newspapers, it is the advertisement department that sets the terms. The newspaper owner has given himself the title of editor.

Then again, the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi was not front-page news in “India’s national newspaper”. Reason: The Hindu only carried ads on page one in the innocent days of 1948.

Also read: Selling the soul or sustaining the business?

Arun Shourie: a Hindu right-wing pamphleteer

Would our media spend Rs 20 lakh on a ‘junket’?

22 November 2010

A PTI story estimating US President Barack Obama‘s India trip at $200 million a day prompted CNN anchor Anderson Cooper to do some number-crunching, and elicited a column from Pulitzer prize winning New York Times foreign affairs columnist Tom Friedman, and a response from PTI editor-in-chief M.K. Razdan.

Now, the Indian Express has a diary item on the expense incurred by US journalsits who hopped on the President’s “junket”.

Image: courtesy The Indian Express

‘Indian Media lost all balance during Obama trip’

15 November 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The visit of the 44th president of the United States of America, Barack Obama, and his wife, Michelle, was covered by the Indian media in a way reserved historic occasions like the sinking of the Titanic or the invention of penicillin would have been, if only there was 24×7 television.

Everything else that happens in our wide and wonderful land—and everything that is conveyed to us as “Exclusive-Breaking News-Flash-First On” in normal times—was summarily relegated to nanosecond bits before the weather forecast, or bunched together ‘in other news’.

As if nothing else mattered.

If ever there was an overdose of verbal and visual onslaught on, this was one.

Channel after channel, hour after hour, minute after minute, spewed forth raw and unprocessed data of every bit of the Obamas’ three-day trip as if there was no tomorrow. Thankfully, secret service didn’t allow cameras to record and beam footage after the couple retired for the night.

Studio discussions with a pantheon of “experts”—who were seeing the action on TV screens like the rest of us, normal folk, but who were duty-bound to say something wise and illuminating at the same time—only aggravated the national headache enveloping the country.

The newspapers were no different, devoting page after dedicated page.

Truth to tell, fawning over celebrities, especially visiting dignitaries, has been a national obsession for a long time, with ‘Athithi Devo Bhava’ being taken to ridiculous lengths to make the visitor feel at home. But do we have to lose our head and bend our backs as if we have no spine?

When our prime minister visits foreign countries, especially the US, his stay and activities get reported on page 4 of section 2, in the sixth column, for a grand total of 150 words.

Even at the height of the East Pakistan war, prior to the formation of Bangladesh, when Indira Gandhi visited the United States to convince President Richard Nixon, all she was accorded was page 32 or something in the Washington Post.

Walter Cronkite on CBS news or Chet Huntley and David Brinkley on NBC would not give more than 60 seconds on their prime time news, and here we were covering what was essentially a trade trip by a Nobel laureate with vanishing aura back home, as if our lives depended on it.

Despite the gains of the renewed friendship being trumpeted by our networks ad nauseam, Manmohan Singh still barely gets a minute or two in the US media, both electronic and print media. Shouldn’t be there some kind of reciprocity, or a semblance of balance?

Every student in India knows by now that Michelle Obama can play hopscotch and that she studied in Harvard law school. And that she is a better dancer than he.

How many of us in India know that Gurusharan Kaur (that is the PM’s wife for you) is a trained teacher? That she can sing keertans and she has sung on All India Radio many a time? Do US networks ask her play hopscotch in Washington and make her sing on TV when the Singhs are visiting?

No doubt, the Obamas are well educated and enlightened and make a nice couple. But where is the sense of discretion from our media who went crazy for three days lock, stock and smoking gun?

Strangely, readers don’t spot the dollar sign

10 November 2010

The interpretation of news and views by readers is a pretty straightforward affair. But how do they “read” images?

Above is the cartoon that The Hindu‘s Keshav drew at the end of US president Barack Obama‘s three-day visit to India on Tuesday, 9 November.

Below, are a set of three responses to it, published by the paper today in the letter to the editor column.

# This refers to “Cartoonscape” (Nov. 9). Obama did not bend his back, as depicted. In fact, “the President came to India with an economic agenda, and he pretty much got what he wanted”. —Venkatesh S.P., Hyderabad

# The cartoon brilliantly sums up the performance of Obama in India. Words have been delivered and lustily cheered by our parliamentarians. Now let us wait for the deeds.—A.P. Govindankutty, Cheruthuruthy

# The cartoon depicting prime minister Manmohan Singh as the caddie of Obama is realistic. How long are we going to play second fiddle to the U.S.? We have a history of our own and matters to be proud of. We are under the illusion that we will benefit from U.S. jobs and better pay. It is the other way round. Ours is cheap labour but, at the same time, we are honest and hard working. If parts of the world are in conflict, it is perhaps because of the opportunistic foreign policies of different U.S. governments at different times. Hospitality is our hallmark, but let it not be at the cost of our pride.—T. Anand Raj, Chennai

While his support for India’s bid for a seat on the UN security council and his naming Pakistan as a haven for terrorists was music to Indian ears, for Obama, the key highlight of the trip was the signing of deals worth $10billion that would stitch up over 50,000 jobs back home.

The PTI journo who scooped Obama interview

5 November 2010

For weeks ahead of US President Barack Obama‘s full visit to India in his first term in office, speculation was who would get the prized pre-tour interview.

The buzz was that The Times of India would get the print interview given its reach, while NDTV would get the television interview. NDTV’s Prannoy Roy was said to be camping in Washington, DC.

There was even speculation that Obama would give one-on-one interviews to a clutch of representatives of Indian media houses so that no one felt shortchanged.

But, in the end, an unlikely news source got the Obama interview first: Press Trust of India (PTI). And the man who secured the interview? Lalit K. Jha, the news agency’s principal US correspondent (in picture).

The Delhi University history honours graduate and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan journalism diploma holder’s interview made it to the front pages of most papers, but only The Indian Express gave him a byline.

The former Hindu and Hindustan Times reporter, with 12 years in the business, has been based in the United States since 2005, serving as North America correspondent for a number of South Asian publications,  including a Burmese magazine and the Afghan news agency.

Photograph: Jay Mandal/ On Assignment, courtesy Lalit K. Jha

Could the media end up killing Barack Obama?

25 September 2009

Al Jazeera’s media show The Listening Post on how 24×7 media is dangerously inflaming passions against US President Barack Obama with lies, untruths, rhetoric—a little like the way a newspaper advertisement greeted John F. Kennedy the day he arrived in Dallas in 1963.

Also read: How global media covered Barack Obama inauguration

The media’s obsession with Obama is worrisome

Who, why, when, how, where, what, what the…

10 September 2009

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The new, redesigned Newsweek has had plenty of what can only be mildly termed “negative fan following”.

The designer Juan Antonio Giner wrote recently that it was time to “forget Newsweek“.

“It’s irrelevant. Awful design. Cheap opinions. No reporting. No news. No quality. No necessary content. And… a newsroom of hundreds. For what? Fat newsroom for a dying magazine.”

Vir Sanghvi, the former editor of the now-defunct Sunday, Bombay and Imprint magazines, called it “uninfluential, unreadable and unprofitable“:

“The desire to emulate The Economist has made the new Newsweek less dependent on correspondents and more focused on columnists. That may not be a bad idea in itself but the problem is that the columns are dull and are so poorly laid out that you never want to read them. My guess is that either Newsweek will rethink this format or it will finally close down.”

The Economist bug is reflected in the desire to explain everything that happens in the world.

Who, why, what, where, when, which, how, what next, what the….. may be the fundamentals of journalism, but when done week after boring week from the ramparts of the desktop, it can get very predictable, resulting in an “analysis paralysis”.

Below are 45 headlines, straplines and introductions from just the last eight issues of the international edition of Newsweek (dated July 13 to September 14) edited by the Indian-born policy wonk Fareed Zakaria, and they present to the reader the scary spectacle of a bunch of smug know-it-alls, who have cracked every problem on earth.

Every problem except how to make their own magazine*.

1) How Russian and US interests align

2) What we don’t know can hurt us

3) How China’s consumer society is built by the state

4) Helping Africa save itself

5) Why ‘steady’ lost

6) How Obama looked at the Kremlin

7) Why the economic crisis is hitting the rich hardest

8) Why the crisis is good for some powers that be

9) How the crisis only makes Washington stronger

10) How the mighty have fallen

11) Why the GOP is falling out of love with gun-toting, churchgoing, working-class whites

12) Why France needs Turkey in the EU

13) How India will define its grand strategy

14) Why Japan isn’t rising

15) What lurks beneath

16) Why polaroid is the new black

17) Why the US will emerge from the crisis on top

18) How Tony Blair came to be Europe’s choice

19) Why good web sites shouldn’t be free

20) Why it’s even worse than we feared

21) Why fears of a Muslim takeover are all wrong

22) Why the United States will come out of the crisis on top

23) How crisis will kill off the empire

24) Why space junk is a nuclear threat

25) How do we move forward, not back?

26) How come Goldman is making billions and I’m still broke?

27) How crisis will make the EU stronger

28) How we filled the skies with junk

29) Why bad times could make America’s top schools even stronger

30) How to solve the education crisis—and why more money alone isn’t the answer

31) How Koizumi killed Japan’s ruling party

32) Why IBM is profiting despite the crisis

33) Why goofy glasses are in your future

34) What’s good for IBM is as good as it gets for America

35) Why Japan’s new rulers will only solidify into the second rank

36) What you need to know: alient exist, settlements aren’t the problem, elections aren’t the answer, and more

37) How Ted confounded the Kennedy myth

38) How Russia sees the world

39) How football went East

40) What Teddy can’t teach us

41) Why, years after the Cold War, the Kremlin’s still obsessed with getting respect

42) How nuclear weapons may make the world a safer place

43) How do you break the internet?

44) Why Japan’s new leaders aren’t so scary

45) What to do if jobs don’t come back

* Disclosures apply

Also read: Fareed Zakaria: Will this man be the next US Secretary of State?

Tina Brown: Magazines, like mushrooms, should grow in the dark

How to wish ‘Happy Birthday’ without a script

5 August 2009

On his 48th birthday, US President Barack Obama wishes the grande dame of the White House press corps, Helen Thomas, on her 89th.

Let history record that the Wisher-in-Chief did not use a teleprompter when he wished her Happy Birthday.

Link via Juan Antonio Giner/ Innovation in Newspapers

Also read: The fastest 100 days in 72 days

‘The media’s Obama infatuation is worrisome’

5 June 2009

The Pew Research Center’s project for excellence in journalism shows that US president Barack Obama has received more positive media coverage (42 per cent) in his first months in office, more than either Bill Clinton (27%) or George W. Bush (22%).

***

Robert J. Samuelson in Newsweek:

“The Obama infatuation is a great unreported story of our time. The press—on domestic, if not foreign, policy—has so far largely abdicated its role as skeptical observer.

“The infatuation matters because Obama’s ambitions are so grand…. Journalists seem to take his pronouncements at face value even when many are two-faced.

“The cause of this acquiescence isn’t clear. The press sometimes follows opinion polls; popular presidents get good coverage, and Obama is enormously popular…. Perhaps the preoccupation with the present economic crisis has diverted attention from the long-term implications of other policies.

“But the deeper explanation may be as straightforward as this: Most journalists like Obama; they admire his command of language; he’s a relief after Bush; they agree with his agenda (so it never occurs to them to question basic premises); and they don’t want to see the first African American president fail.”

Read the full article: The Obama infatuation

Also read: Why journalists like Barack Obama

How global media covered Obama inauguration

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