Posts Tagged ‘K.M. Mathew’

Now, you can lick an “Indian Legend” for Rs 5

3 August 2011

From left, K.S. Sachidananda Murthy, Delhi resident editor, Malayala Manorama; P.J. Kurien, MP; Kapil Sibal, Union communications minister; Mammen Mathew, chief editor, Malayala Manorama; Manmohan Singh, prime minister; and Thangam Mammen at the release of the stamp in memory of the late Malayala Manorama chief editor, K.M. Mathew

No statue may be erected in memory of a critic, but a stamp can certainly be issued in memory of an editor.

K.M. Mathew, the chief editor of what was once India’s largest selling newspaper, Malayala Manorama, who passed away a year ago, has been described by the prime minister as an “Indian legend“.

And a five-rupee stamp and first-day cover have been released in his memory.

Also read: K.M. Mathew, chief editor, Malayala Manorama, no more

15 things you didn’t know about K.M. Mathew

What K.M. Mathew could teach today’s young tykes

What K.M. Mathew could teach today’s tykes

9 August 2010

By T.J.S. GEORGE

Being famous is different from being important.

The trimurtis of English journalism in India–Pothan Joseph, Frank Moraes, M. Chalapathi Rao–are still unequalled in their star value and brilliance of writing. But historically they mattered little because they introduced no movement that transformed their profession.

Devdas Gandhi of Hindustan Times and Kasturi Srinivasan of The Hindu were not celebrities, but they were historically important personages because they helped convert pre-1947 missionary journalism into an organised industry, lending it strength and direction.

Ramnath Goenka was both celebrated (for his king-maker role in politics and his daring in opposing the Emergency) and important (for launching the then-original concept of a newspaper chain covering the vastness of India).

C.P Adityanar of the Dina Thanthi and Ashok Sircar of Ananda Bazar Patrika are other print media leaders who carved a niche for themselves in the history books. Both encouraged innovations to turn newspaper language from scholarly “written” style to accessible “popular” style. This was a major step towards the era of mass readership in India.

When we look at the media scene in this wide perspective, we see one man standing out as historically more significant than most others. The importance of K.M.Mathew, who passed away last week, rests not so much on the growth rate and acceptance level he achieved for Malayala Manorama as on how he achieved them.

First, he had a visionary outlook.

Secondly, he had that rare ability to change with the times.

When he became chief of the family-owned newspaper in 1973, it was selling 30,000 copies. He told a circulation department functionary: “If we can somehow reach 50,000, we can have an all-India presence, right?”

What was noteworthy was not the figure mentioned, but the vision of an all-India presence for a language paper from a small town in Kerala. A few days before Mathew’s death last week at age 93, his paper crossed a record print order of 18 lakhs.

He worked the magic by becoming an innovator. Eager to learn from others, he was instrumental in bringing the International Press Institute’s Tarzie Vittachi to India. Mathew helped Vittachi visit other newspaper establishments as well, often making the arrangements himself.

Seminars and workshops followed. Several newspapers benefited, but none more than Mathew who built a team of young journalists and managers, giving them training in India and abroad and professionalising management practices as well as journalism.

Mathew’s innovations were effective because he was a modernist who changed as ideas around him changed. Especially in the 1980s and 1990s, the world changed in revolutionary ways, IT and mobile phone leading the way. Mathew was ready with new inroads into television, FM radio, on-line editions. He even devised ways to reorient print journalism so that it could rise above television’s 24-hour breaking-news advantage.

Only in political orientation, he remained old-fashioned. Anti-communism sat as heavily on his paper as the position that the Congress could do no wrong. But Mathew’s personal warmth towards ranking communist leaders helped keep bitterness away.

Besides, his paper’s social involvement was too deep for anyone, including political critics, in ignore.

Special teams were commissioned to propagate one movement after another–water conservation, environment protection, garbage disposal. Large funds were spent to provide free heart surgery for children and housing for victims of earthquakes and tsunami.

On development issues he spent company money to convene meetings of experts so that constructive ideas would emerge for the authorities to act upon. He never cheapened these projects by using them as publicity gimmicks. He was a corporate citizen in the truest sense.

The greatest lesson Mathew left behind was that a newspaper could achieve commercial success and simultaneously fulfil its social responsibilities in a big way. This is a timely lesson because some very successful papers today have adopted the philosophy that they have no social responsibility whatever.

That is selfish, ignorant bunkum, and the proof is K. M. Mathew.

(Author, columnist and editor, T.J.S. George is founder editor of Asiaweek and editorial advisor to the New Indian Express)

Also read: K.M. Mathew, chief editor, Malayala Manorama, is dead

15 things you didn’t know about K.M. Mathew

15 things you didn’t know about K.M. Mathew

2 August 2010

The passing away of the doyen of Malayalam journalism, Kandathil Mammen Mathew, better known as K.M. Mathew, on Sunday has resulted in a rare outpouring of coverage, with Indian media proprietors burying their usual pettiness about competitors to salute one of their own.

So much so that the news of the death of the chief editor of Malayala Manorama is the front-page lead in its closest competitor, Mathrubhumi, accompanied by a front-page editorial. But the English language papers have a wealth of detail on the deceased doyen, too.

# That he was the eight child of his parents, which is why he titled his memoirs Ettamathe Mothiram (eighth ring).

# That his nickname was Mathukuttichayan ; that he was a hands-on editor; that he attended office till almost the last day.

# That he had short stint in the family’s balloon business in Bombay and as a planter in Chikamagalur before taking over the reins of the paper following his brother’s death.

# That he took the circulation of Manorama from 30,000 copies in 1973 to 18 lakhs in 2010; from one printing centre to 18.

# That the Manorama group now publishes 46 publications, and has presence in radio and television.

# That he maintained a low profile despite the soaring circulation of his paper. That, “KM never shouted; he smiled. He wouldn’t say, ‘ You’re wrong, that’s a crazy idea’.  He’d say and it was sincere, ‘Very interesting, would you help me understand your thinking?’”

# That he said: “Mistakes might appear on a newspaper. I too have made mistakes. The solution is not to write a resignation letter but to ensure that such a thing does not happen in future”.

# That he kept himself abreast of even the most minute developments in the media world.

# That he introduced reader-friendly editorial packaging techniques and professional page designing, and that he got a bunch of foreigners to work on the Manorama‘s design at various stages like Edwin Taylor (The Times, London); Peter Lim, (Strait Times, Singapore);  Peter Ong (American society of newspaper design) and Mario Garcia

# That he pioneered the hyper-localisation of news before “zoning” became a trend; that he thought a newspaper should reflect even the subtle issues of a region; that he brought out local editions for two or three panchayats, with less than 50,000 population.

# That he was so close to India’s ruling Nehru-Gandhi family that one of the first condolences upon news of his death came from UPA chairperson, Sonia Gandhi.

Illustration: courtesy Sudipto Sharma/ The Indian Express

K.M. Mathew, chief editor, Manorama, no more

1 August 2010

sans serif records with regret the passing away of K.M. Mathew, the rubber planter who became chief editor of Malayala Manorama and founding editor of the newsweekly magazine, The Week.

The end came in his residence in Kottayam this morning. Mr Mathew was 93 years old, and is survived by three sons—Mammen Mathew, Philip Mathew, Jacob Mathew, respectively editor, managing editor and executive editor of the family-owned Manorama.

Mr Mathew had been a member of the Press Council of India, president of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS), and chairman of the Press Trust of India (PTI). A Padmabhushan awardee, he played a pivotal role in making a regional Malayalam newspaper India’s biggest.

Mr Mathew had been predeceased by his wife Annamma Mathew, the chief editor of India’s largest selling women’s magazine Vanitha, and author of an acclaimed food column Pachaka Vidhi, which later became a best selling cook book.

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

‘Hindu and HT were worst offenders in 1975′

29 June 2010

With  nearly 60% of India reputedly being under 25 years of age—in other words, with three out of five Indians having been born after 1985—it stands to reason that the 35th anniversary of the declaration of Emergency by the Indira Gandhi government should have come and gone without creating a ripple.

That, and the fact that the news channels and newspapers were too busy celebrating panchamda R.D. Burman‘s birthday and the World Cup to be bothered of the more serious things affecting life and democracy.

Nevertheless, the press censorship during the Emergency is one of the darkest periods in contemporary Indian media history, when promoters, proprietors, editors and journalists quietly acquiesced to the firman of the government to not publish anything that was considered antithetical to the national interest.

Censors sat over editors in newspaper offices and crossed out material (including cartoons and pictures) that didn’t conform to the official policy; criticism of the government was a strict no-no; over 250 journalists were arrested; 51 foreign correspondents were dis-accreditated, 29 were denied entry, seven were expelled.

In The Sunday Guardian, the weekly newspaper launched by M.J. Akbar, the veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar recounts life under censorship, names the pussies and lions, and says the media today is “too niminy-piminy, too nice, too refined” if such a disaster were to strike again.

***

By KULDIP NAYAR

L.K. Advani was right when he told journalists, “You were asked to bend, but you crawled.” Even then, the courageous part was that nearly 100 journalists assembled at Delhi’s press club on 28 June 1975 and passed a resolution to condemn press censorship. But subsequently, fear took over and they caved in.

They were afraid to speak even in private.

The press council of India (PCI), the highest body to protect press freedom, became a part of the establishment. The then chairman, Justice Iyengar, stalled a resolution to criticise press censorship by local members of the PCI. Justice Iyengar informed the information minister V.C. Shukla about his achievement in not letting the resolution of condemnation passed.

Except for the Indian Express, the leading light during the Emergency, practically all papers preferred to side with the government.

The two of the worst were The Hindu and the Hindustan Times.

Hindu’s editor G. Kasturi became a part of the establishment. He headed Samachar, the news agency that was formed after the merger of PTI, UNI and Hindustan Samachar. He obeyed the government diktat on how to purvey a particular story or suppress it. He could not withstand government pressure.

The Hindustan Times, owned by the Birlas, was always with the Congress. K.K. Birla, then its chairman, took over as chairman of the Indian Express and changed its editor by replacing incumbent S. Mulgaonkar with V.K. Narasimhan, who proved to be a tough nut to crack. Birla was the complete opposite of Ramnath Goenka, the owner of the Indian Express. Goenka fought the government tooth and nail and staked all that he had built in his life….

The Times of India was edited by Sham Lal, who had impeccable credentials. Girilal Jain, the resident editor in Delhi, too stood by the principle of free press. Both were pro-Indira Gandhi but against press censorhip. However they felt handicapped because the management wanted to play it safe. Not that Shantilal Jain, who owned the paper, was in any way pro-Emergency, but he had burnt his fingers when the paper was taken over by the government at the instance of T.T. Krishnamachari, then the finance minister, who doubted the paper on certain matters.

Leading regional papers were against the Emergency but did not want to face government wrath. Eenadu, under Ramoji Rao, refused to toe the government line but stayed within the contours of the Emergency to avoid trouble.

Ananda Bazaar Patrika owner Ashoke Sarkar was a man of courage and gave his blessings to his principal correspondent Barun Sengupta’s fight against the emergency. The paper, however, managed to escape the wrath of the then West Bengal chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray, who was the author of the Emergency.

My friend K.M. Mathew, the owner of the vast empire of Malayala Manorama, stood his ground and despite the pressures on him showed where his sympathies lay when he invited to open a photo exhibition at Kottayam after my release from jail. The country was still in the middle of the Emergency. Yet, Mathew showed his annoyance in his own way.”

Text: courtesy The Sunday Guardian

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

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