Posts Tagged ‘India Abroad’

Africa-watcher Hari Sharan Chhabra is no more

17 December 2012

On the pages of The Times of India in Delhi, the grim news of the passing of an Indian who looked at a part of the world most of the media doesn’t: Hari Sharan Chhabra, editor of Africa Diary and World Focus and a frequent contributor to the Economic & Political Weekly (EPW).

Chhabra’s elder son, Aseem Chhabra, has been one of the stellar names from New York covering the arts for Rediff.com, India Abroad and Mumbai Mirror, among a range of publications.

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Also read: Alfred D’ Cruz: The Times of India‘s first Indian sub

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’

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V.N. Subba Rao, an Express legend, is no more

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

‘Media doesn’t figure in society transformation’

29 May 2012

Sheela Bhatt, senior editorial director of rediff.com and India Abroad:

“Where do the media figure in this turbulent transformation of Indian society? The plain truth is: Nowhere.

“Making loud noises is not journalism. There are over three million cases pending in India’s 21 courts and 26.3 million cases in the lower courts and a quarter of a million undertrials in jails. Do we care?

“Even our worldview is getting skewed as most English-language newspapers have tie-ups with Western media sources. They reprint the Western perspective on world events. Still we say that the Indian media is ‘influential’!

“Take the issue of dynastic politics or the maladies of Indian democracy. The Indian media has not been effective in generating public opinion against them. In fact, it has shamefully indulged in ‘paid news’.

“Many controversial members of Parliament are columnists and television panelists.

“Corporate influence on the media is evident. On an average, newspapers give half a page of news coverage to parliamentary proceedings. In the name of reader interest much is omitted, while cricket, cinema and entertainment get prime attention.”

Read the full article: Sheela Bhatt on the Indian media

‘Complacent US media can learn from India’

27 December 2010

S. Mitra Kalita, the US-born Indian-American who did a two-year stint at the business daily Mint before returning to the Wall Street Journal, has just done a book on her Indian experience, titled My Two Indias.

In an interview with Aseem Chhabra of India Abroad, the “daughter of Assam”, shares her thoughts on Indian journalism:

What was your experience with journalists in India?

“The challenge in India is that it is so competitive, cutting corners becomes a way of doing things….”

As compared to the journalists you met at The Washington Post and the WSJ, how would you rate Indian reporters?

“Indian journalists have a whole lot of heart and hustle. Every morning I wold get those nine newspapers at my doorstep and they were a reminder of what those reporters were up against.

“The complacency that has set in American journalism was pretty absent in Indian journalism.

“In the US, I could be working on a feature story for three or four days. In India if you have a great idea, you have to do it right away, because everybody else may also have the same idea.

“When I went back to the Journal, it was redefining itself as a more general newsy paper. So I could apply the lessons I learnt in India. It is interesting because once upon a time your Indian journalism experience counted for nothing….

“I still think that a lot of the downall of the newspapers in US—yes, some of it was caused by the internet, but some of it, in other industries too, was driven by complacency. In India, you just can’t be complacent. From the time you wake up and turn on the faucet—and there’s no guarantee that you will get water—there is no room for complacency in India.”

Mint deputy editor bags Shakti Bhatt book prize

7 December 2010

Samanth Subramanian, a deputy editor at the business daily Mint, has won the 2010 Shakti Bhatt First Book prize for his debut book, Following Fish.

There were six books in this year’s shortlist but the three-member jury found Subramanian’s pursuit of fish curry round coastal India “a delightful read, adventurous and unabashedly fun”.

“Subramanian brings us in close contact with people who charm and sometimes dismay, and each encounter seduces us with a new anecdote or a new dish. Comic, and picaresque, with many surprise nettings of wisdom, Following Fish is a sparkling debut by a talented writer,” said the judges.

In its third year, the Shakti Bhatt prize—named after the deceased daughter of the journalist and commentator Sheela Bhatt—is a cash award of Rs one lakh and a trophy. The award function will be held at the British Council, New Delhi, December 10 at 7.30 pm.

Photograph: courtesy Shakti Bhatt foundation

Less is better for the new, redesigned rediff.com

15 July 2009

India’s pioneering news, views and e-commerce portal, rediff.com, has unveiled a brand-new, minimalist home page that is a far removed from its earlier “busy” homepage (screenshot below), and is almost a replica of the beta version of its world homepage.

The NASDAQ-listed site, founded in 1996 by adman and entrepreneur Ajit Balakrishnan, is edited by Nikhil Lakshman, the former editor of The Sunday Observer, The Indian Post, Mid-Day and Sunday Mid-Day, and a top editor at The Illustrated Weekly of India.

Rediff also publishes the New York weekly newspaper, India Abroad.

Also read: ‘Indian journalists take themselves too seriously’

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

‘Indian journalists take themselves too seriously’

22 June 2008

A case of exploding mangoes,’ the fictional account of the mysterious death of Pakistani president General Zia-ul-Haq by Mohammed Hanif (in picture), the air force man turned journalist who now heads the BBC’s Urdu service in London, has been acclaimed as the fiction debut of the year. So far.

In an interview with Nikhil Lakshman, editor-in-chief of rediff.com and India Abroad, Hanif handles a series of email questions, including one on journalists, with aplomb:

Nikhil Lakshman: Unlike Indian writers who, to my mind, are incapable of achieving the heights of Swiftian satire which you have scaled, I am always amazed by the breathtaking verve with which Pakistani writers use satire to unveil the deficiencies and foibles of the Pakistani system. Do you think working within the limits enforced by military dictatorships and intolerant regimes like [Benazir] Bhutto‘s and [Nawaz] Sharif‘s have spawned a grand tradition of satire, to bypass censorship and the limits on free speech? Do you believe democracy is a deterrent to great satire?

Mohammed Hanif: I’ll happily swap this so-called grand tradition of satire for a semblance of democracy. But I think you are being unfair to Indian writers by suggesting they have no sense of humour. I think Vikram Chandra is very funny. I think Nayyar Masud has probably written the funniest and saddest stories I have read in any language.

I think more than fiction writers, it’s the Indian media, journalists like you and me, who take themselves very seriously, and try to do their nationalistic duty. We have got Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gillani for that purpose. We should let them get on with their jobs.

I also think equating dictatorships with the Bhutto and Sharif regimes is a bit unfair. It might look the same from the outside but there is a slight difference which we journalist tend to forget.

Read the full interview: ‘A mullah general can only happen in a Bollywood film’

Photograph: courtesy Random House

‘It’s all about irreverence, not subservience’

21 March 2008

Indian journalist Seema Mustafa on the genesis of her opposition to the India-US nuclear deal, which some speculate could have contributed to M.J. Akbar being eased out of his position as editor of The Asian Age:

“It had to do with a certain commitment with which I joined the profession—a belief that journalism was powerful enough to change the world.

“I was fortunate in working with the greatest editors in Indian journalism, who not just added to this conviction, but also taught me that a good journalist was not one who made his or her peace with the establishment (as that is very easy and very comforting), but who questioned policy and wrote about the pitfalls.

“Journalism, they said, was all about irreverence, and had nothing to do with subservience.”

Excerpted from a column by Seema Mustafa in India Abroad

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