Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

WaPo, Amazon, HT, and the Reliance-TV18 deal

6 August 2013

There was plenty of buzz about the Washington Post building being sold to shore up the books. But when the paper’s staff was convened for a meeting on the afternoon of August 5, they were in for a shock: the family-owned newspaper itself was being sold.

The sale, to Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, has made global headlines, not least because of the paper’s iconic place in modern journalism, thanks to its Watergate investigation.

Not least because a digital titan was the “white knight” riding in to save a dead-tree medium.

The low value of the sale has also set alarm bells ringing of the mortality of the print medium, as indeed has the ease with which the Katherine Graham family has parted with a one-town, one-industry paper they had so affectionately, so assiduously nurtured into a global brand.

Here, Anant Goenka, the scion of the family-owned Indian Express group, analyses the sale and its aftermath in the Indian context.

***

anantgoenka

by ANANT GOENKA

“Comparing WaPo’s price to Tumblr & Instagram is stupid. Guess what? Great journalism is a worse business than social networking! Who cares?” A tweet from the Atlantic’s Andrew Golis.

Here’s why he’s wrong.

The Washington Post brand—a role model for journalism around the democratic world, and an aspiration in countries that don’t enjoy free press like Singapore and China—once considered priceless, now has a value.

Even the Hindustan Times, a thinly traded stock, has a value of Rs. 2,250 crore today that is based only on their profit and loss, and doesn’t factor in real estate or the brand.

WashPo’s value at Rs. 61 to the US dollar is Rs 1,550 crore.

This is relevant as it marks a shift in the way news media companies are valued.

Newscorp, Disney and New York Times didn’t value Wall Street Journal, ABC (and ESPN) or the International Herald Tribune like PE funds at 25 times profit after tax.

They believed they were bidding for the brand.

Twenty years ago, when the New York Times bought over Boston Globe, they valued it based on current revenues, expected future revenues from joint ad selling, cost efficiencies from scale, and, importantly, value of the Globe’s brand: possibly calculated by assigning a certain dollar value to each paid subscriber.

World over, news companies weren’t just valued by their business success, but for intangibles such as ability to influence public perception, discussion and political agenda, and the brand recall as well. And for good reason.

It’s no small feat for a brand to be recognized by every household in America.

McDonalds, Ford, Elvis Presley during his time, these are brands every American has heard of. Washington Post, New York Times, ABC, CBS, and other media companies, with a fraction of the turnover of McDonalds or Ford, are names known to every American.

How do you assign a value to that?

Similarly, Red Sox owner’s purchase of the Boston Globe at a value of 70 million dollars three days ago puts a pretty low value to a brand that is known to every citizen in Massachusetts.

Aside from the fact that the sale shows that proprietors are willing to exit without assigning any major value to the brand, it also shows that proprietors have given up, maybe without trying enough, finding ways to monetize a brand either by innovative brand extensions or franchise operations beyond the core product.

You can’t blame them. Experiments world over have shown that audiences are sticky to the first medium and don’t transfer across.

The most commercially successful radio channels, TV stations and magazines were started by a team of people dedicated to their platform and didn’t have much to do with the core business.

Take Time Out for instance, present in every major city, owned by very autonomous franchises. There isn’t any city where the destination city happenings/blog site is TimeOut.com.

Not Bangalore, London, Mumbai, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Prague or St. Petersburg.

It’s too soon to tell if the sale of Washington Post is good for journalism or not.

It’ll depend on the maturity and seriousness with which the new owner decides to run the paper with.

The trend of billionaires owning newspapers will only benefit journalism if they are as ruthless with the bottom lines of their news companies as they would be of any other company they have a stake in.

Because for any industry to flourish, bad business models and poorly run companies in the industry must perish quickly.

Companies that do journalism the world over will benefit only when Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos and other billionaire owners use their wealth of knowledge, experience in their areas of specialization and deep pockets to experiment with the goal of creating a business model that sustains itself.

This is why I believe Network 18’s sale to Reliance was a disservice to the news industry in India – it allowed a business that was far too expensively run to survive longer.

And the sale, now in its second year, will only help the industry when, with Reliance’s business acumen, the Network 18 group can find a way to be profitable (inclusive of interest cost).

Sure, it’s legitimate strategy to bleed the competition if you can sustain your loss, but to have a sugar daddy reinforcing poor business will soon lead India to an environment with only vested interest business media owners.

Incidentally, the Indian Express and its owners have no other business interests. The Hindu and Ananda Bazaar Patrika are other such companies.

In the fields of education, healthcare and news media, being purely “for-profit” has always seemed to be a little bit of a conflict of interest. But it is at times like these that we remind ourselves that a self-sustaining business model is the most important trait of a company that wants to be consistent in its impact on society

Also read: RIL has no direct stake in media companies

The Indian Express, Reliance & Shekhar Gupta

Ex-IHT journalist goes missing from Rishikesh

2 May 2012

Mail Today, the tabloid newspaper from the India Today group, on Jonathan Spollen, the 28-year-old Irish journalist formerly with the New York Times-owned International Herald Tribune, who has gone missing from Rishikesh.

Read the full article: Irish journalist goes missing

Will RIL-TV18-ETV deal win SEBI, CCI approval?

9 January 2012

PRITAM SENGUPTA in New Delhi and KEERTHI PRATIPATI in Hyderabad write: Media criticism in India, especially in the so-called mainstream media, has never been much to write home about.

Operating on the principle that writing on another media house or media professional means exposing yourself to the same danger in the future, proprietors, promoters and editors—most of whom have plenty to hide—are wary of taking on their colleagues, competitors and compatriots.

That risk-averse attitude amounting to a mutually agreed ceasefire pretty much explains why the biggest media deal of the decade—Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) funding Network 18/ TV 18 group to pick up ETV—has been reported with about as much excitement as a weather report.

That the newspaper which issues P. Sainath‘s monthly cheque, The Hindu, declined to publish media critic Sevanti Ninan‘s fortnightly column on market rumours about the impending deal (without telling readers why) provides a chilling preview of what lies in store as the shadow of corporates lengthens over the media.

In 2008, New York Times‘ columnist Anand Giridharadas wrote of why the Indian media does not take on the Ambanis of Reliance Industries in an article titled “Indian to the core, and an oligarch“.

“A prominent Indian editor, formerly of The Times of India, who requested anonymity because of concerns about upsetting Mr Ambani, says Reliance maintains good relationships with newspaper owners; editors, in turn, fear investigating it too closely.

“I don’t think anyone else comes close to it,” the editor said of Reliance’s sway. “I don’t think anyone is able to work the system as they can.”

***

First things first, the RIL-Network18/TV18-ETV wedding is an unlikely menage-a-trois.

Reliance Industries Limited is a behemoth built by Dhirubhai Ambani and his sons Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani using a maze of companies and subsidiaries built on a heady cocktail of mergers and demergers, using shares, debentures, bonuses and other tricks in the accounting book—and many beyond it.

The only known interest of the Ambanis in the media before this deal was when they bought a Bombay business weekly called Commerce and turned into the daily Business & Political Observer (BPO) to match the weekly offering, The Sunday Observer, which they had acquired from Jaico Publishing.

(Top business commentators like John Elliott and Sucheta Dalal have alluded to a blog item to convey that Mukesh Ambani’s media interest goes beyond the recent announcement.)

Anyway, BPO, launched under the editorship of Prem Shankar Jha, was long in coming unlike typical Reliance projects. Suffice it to say that in 1991, when India was at the cusp of pathbreaking reforms, some of India’s biggest names in business journalism were producing dummy editions of BPO.

The Ambani publications were under the gaze of the more media-savvy younger brother, Anil Ambani, who operated with R.K. Mishra, the late editor of The Patriot, as chairman of the editorial board. The Observer group shuttered before the beginning of the new millennium.

As Mani Ratnam‘s film Guru based on Sydney Morning Herald foreign editor Hamish McDonald‘s book The Polyester Prince makes clear, the Ambanis have always cultivated friends across the political divide, but they have been identified with the Congress more than the BJP.

Raghav Bahl‘s Network18/TV18 is in some senses an ideal fit for RIL.

Till its latest cleanup came about a year and a half ago, it was difficult to understand which of its myriad companies and subsidiaries came under which arm. It too has friends on either side, but suffice it to say, CNN-IBN‘s decision not to run the cash-for-votes sting operation in July 2008 revealed where its political predilections lay.

Eenadu and ETV, on the other hand, is a long, different story.

***

The ETV network of channels was launched by Ramoji Rao, the founder of the Telugu daily Eenadu. Rao has many claims to fame (including launching Priya pickles), but he is chiefly known as the media baron behind the transformation of the Telugu film star N.T. Rama Rao into a weighty non-Congress politician.

Rao and his men are known to have crafted speeches that tapped into dormant Telugu pride for the politically naive NTR. The massive media buildup in Eenadu—Ramoji Rao pioneered multi-edition newspapers with localised supplements—saw NTR become the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh just nine months after launching the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in 1982.

Two years later, when NTR was removed from office by a pliant governor (Ram Lal) working at the behest of Indira Gandhi‘s rampaging government, Ramoji Rao played a key role in protecting the numbers of TDP MLAs by having them packed off to Bangalore and Mysore, and building public opinion through his newspapers.

When NTR’s son-in-law N. Chandrababu Naidu walked out of TDP to “save” TDP, Ramoji Rao backed Naidu and played a hand in his ascension as CM. Thus, Ramoji Rao galvanised non-Congress forces in the South leading to the creation of the National Front, which installed V.P. Singh as PM in 1989 after the Bofors scandal claimed Rajiv Gandhi.

In 2006, Ramoji Rao placed his political leaning on record:

“I submit that until 1983 the Congress was running the State in an unchallenged and unilateral manner for the past 30 years. The Congress party became a threat to democracy and in view of the single party and individual rule by Indira Congress, the opposition in the state was in emaciated condition. It has been reduced to the status of a nominal entity. The dictatorial rule of the Congress proceeding without any hindrance. I submit that as the opposition parties were weak and were in helpless situation where they were unable to do any thing in spite of the misrule by the ruling party, Eenadu played the role of opposition. I submit that in the elections of the State Assembly held in 1983, the Congress for the first time did not secure a majority in the elections and lost the power to the newly formed Telugu Desam Party. I submit that on the day of poling i.e. January 5, 1983, I issued a signed editorial on the front page of Eenadu supporting the manifesto of Telugu Desam Party and calling on the electorate to vote for Telugu Desam Party giving cogent reasons for the stance taken by me.”

In short, the marriage between RIL-Network18/TV18 and Ramoji Rao is one between a largely pro-Congress duo and a distinctly non-Congress one.

***

Indeed, Ramoji Rao’s troubles that has resulted in substantial sections of his ETV network getting out of his grasp and into RIL’s, are largely because of his consistently anti-Congress stance, which gained an added edge in 2005 when the Congress under Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy (YSR) trumped the TDP under Chandrababu Naidu in the assembly elections.

Reported The Telegraph:

A slew of news reports in Eenadu and programmes on ETV since 2005 have accused Congress ministers, politicians and senior government officials of corruption and hanky panky. One report, for instance, debunked the official claim that the number of suicides by farmers had dropped. Another attacked construction by Y.S. Vivekananda Reddy, the chief minister’s brother, on disputed land. A third said that Eenadu had discovered, based on a survey, that voter lists for elections for local bodies had omitted the names of opposition party sympathisers.

It didn’t take long for YSR to hit back.

It was a two-pronged attack: his son Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy launched a project to own launch his own newspaper and newschannel house to take on the might of Eenadu and ETV. Simultaneously, a Congress MP from Rajahmundry attacked Ramoji Rao where it hurt most: his finances.

Arun Kumar Vundavalli, the MP, revealed that Rao’s Margadarsi Financiers had started dilly-dallying about repaying depositors, even after their deposit period had expired. Kumar showed that Margadarsi Financiers—a Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) company, of which the karta was Ramoji Rao—had collected deposits from the public, although a 1997 RBI law forbade HUFs from doing so.

Margadarsi Financiers owned a 95% stake in Ushodaya Enterprises, Ramoji Rao’s company which owned Eenadu and ETV.

A one-man committee of enquiry constituted by the Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy government revealed that Rs 2,600 crore of money was collected from the public in violation of RBI norms. Although his companies were not in great shape, Ramoji Rao assured the Andhra Pradesh high court that he would repay the full amount of Rs 2,600 crore due to the depositors.

Enter Blackstone.

In January 2007, the world’s largest private equity player indicated that it wanted to pick up 26% in Ushodaya Enterprises group for Rs 1,217 crore. At the time, it was reported to be India’s single largest foreign direct investment (FDI) in the print media.

The Blackstone offer placed the value of Ramoji Rao’s company at Rs 4,470 crore.

But the FDI proposal got stuck in the I&B ministry for months, allegedly at the behest of Vundavalli, who raised a variety of concerns over the Blackstone-Eenadu deal. In January 2008, when the clearance for the Blackstone investment was still not coming, Mint asked:

“Does the promoter of an Indian company, who is selling a stake in his family’s media firm to a foreign investor, have the right to do what he wants with that money, in this particular case, pay off liabilities of another company that his family separately also owns?….”

“FIPB records then show that the finance ministry, specifically citing Vundavalli’s claims, ‘has observed that prima facie, it appears that the purpose of securing funds from M/s Blackstone is not for advancing the business of Ushodaya Enterprises Ltd, but for repaying the deposits taken by M/s Margadarsi Financiers.”

When the Blackstone deal did not materialise, Nimesh Kampani of JM Financial stepped in as Ramoji Rao’s white knight although, as Sucheta Dalal writes, Kampani was never known to have any interest in the media except in deal-making.

According to VC Circle, Kampani picked up 21% of Ushodaya Enterprises for Rs 1,424 crore, which valued the company at Rs 6,780 crore, or over 50 per cent more than what Blackstone was willing to accept.

“The first public report of Kampani’s investment came in early February 2008, or around 10 days after stock markets crashed globally.”

Now, YSR got after Kampani.

Andhra Pradesh police issued a “look-out” notice for Kampani. Nagarjuna Finance, of which Kampani had been director, had allegedly defrauded depositors. Although Kampani had resigned from the independent directorship of the company nine years earlier, it was a sufficient handle to beat him with.

For months, Kampani had to stay out of India, fearing arrest. It was only after his bete noire YSR met with a bloody death in a helicopter crash in September 2009 that Kampani could return home.(YSR’s death in the aircrash was itself not without controversy involving the Ambanis.)

In May 2010, rumours surfaced of Mukesh Ambani buying up JM Financial but they soon fizzled out.

Shortly before buying into ETV, Kampani had recently sold his stake in a joint venture with Morgan Stanley to his foreign partner for $440 million and had the cash. The Margadarsi bailout, it was assumed, was in his personal capacity. It took a petition in 2011 filed by YSR’s widow seeking an inquiry into Chandrababu Naidu’s assets assets for the penny to drop.

Enter RIL.

YSR’s widow, Y.S. Vijayalakshmi, an MLA, alleged that when gas reserves were found in the Krishna Godavari basin in Andhra Pradesh in 2002, the Chandrababu Naidu government wilfully surrendered its right over the discovery in favour of Reliance, “while allowing Naidu’s close associate Ramoji Rao to be the vehicle of the quid pro quo.” (page 32)

“In consideration for the favour done by the Respondent No. 8 (Chandrababu Naidu) in allowing the State’s KG basin claim to be brushed under the carpet, the Reliance group facilitated the payout of Ramoji Rao’s debts to his depositors. This was carried out through known associates and friends of Mukesh Ambani.

“Two of these known associates of Ambani and the Reliance Group are Nimesh Kampani (of JM Financial) and Vinay Chajlani (of Nai Duniya).

“Kampani extended himself in ensuring that Ramoji Rao would be bailed out. Within a short span of 37 days between December 2007 and January 2008, six “shell companies” were floated on three addresses, which are shown as Sriram Mills Compound, Worli, which is the official address of Reliance Industries Limited. Reliance diverted Rs 2,604 crores of its shareholders money through the shell companies to M/s Kampani’s Equator Trading India Limited and Chajlani’s Anu Trading.”

In other words, RIL’s involvement in Eenadu through Kampani became known only recently in response to Vijayalakshmi’s petition, but it was market gossip for quite a while.

T.N. Ninan, the chairman of Business Standard and the president of the editors’ guild of India, wrote in a column in January 2011:

“If reports in Jagan Reddy’s Saakshi newspaper are to be believed, Mukesh Ambani is a behind-the-scenes investor in Eenadu, the leading Telugu daily.”

Vijayalakshmi’s 2011 petition makes several serious allegations.

That Ramoji Rao entered into the deal with Kampani’s Equator just 23 days after it was registered although it had no known expertise or business; that Ushodaya sold Rs 100 shares to Equator at a premium of Rs 5,28,630 per share; and that Ushodaya’s valuation had been pumped up by Rs 1,200 crore by its claims over a movie library.

Vijayalakshmi’s petition concluded:

“The interest shown by Reliance group in coming to the rescue of Ushodaya Enterprises headed by Ramoji Rao is clearly in defiance of any prudent profit-based corporate entity (since) Reliance does not gain any returns by virtue of that investment.”

***

It is this RIL baby that is now in Network18/TV18’s lap.

The timing of the RIL-Network18/TV18-ETV deal also hides a small story.

It comes when the probe into the assets of Naidu and his associates (including Ramoji Rao) has moved from the High Court to the Supreme Court. It comes when a parallel probe into Vijayalakshmi’s son Jagan Mohan Reddy’s assets has entered a new and critical phase. It comes when the KG basin gas controversy is heating up. And, above all, it comes when 2014 is looming into the calendar.

Several questions emerge from this deal which has politics, business and media in varying measures:

1) What does it mean for Indian democracy when India’s richest businessman becomes India’s biggest media baron with control over at least two dozen English and regional news and business channels?

2) What kind of control will Mukesh Ambani have over Raghav Bahl’s Network18/TV18 when and if RIL’s optionally convertible debentures (OCDs) are turned into equity?

3) What kind of due diligence did the financially troubled Network18/TV18 do on the Kampani-Ambani investment in ETV before agreeing to pick up RIL’s stake for Rs 2,100 crore?

4) How will CNBC-TV18, which incidentally broke the news of the split among the Ambani brothers in 2005, report news of India’s biggest company (or its political and other benefactors) now that it is indirectly going to be owned by it?

5) Is there a case for alarm when one man has a direct and indirect stamp over three of the five major English news channels (CNN-IBN, NewsX and NDTV 24×7), three business channels (CNBC-TV18, IBN Awaaz, NDTV Profit), and at least five Hindi news channels?

6) Do Raghav Bahl and team who ran a handful of channels heavily into debt, have the expertise to run two dozen or more channels, especially in the language space where there are bigger players like Star and Zee?

7) Is the ETV network really worth so much, especially when Ushodaya’s most profitable parts, Eenadu and Priya Foods, are out of it? Or is RIL using Network18/TV18’s plight to turn a bad asset into a good one?

8) Is RIL really tying with Network18/TV18 with 4G in mind, or is this just spin to push an audacious deal past market regulators such as SEBI and the Competition Commission of India (CCI)?

9) How immune are Mukesh Ambani and Raghav Bahl from political forces hoping to use the combined clout of RIL-Network18/TV18 to blunt negative coverage ahead of the 2014 general elections?

10) And have Network18/TV18 investors got a fair deal?

***

Infographic: courtesy Outlook

Also read: The sudden rise of Mukesh Ambani, media mogul

The Indian Express, Reliance & Shekhar Gupta

Niira Radia, Mukesh Ambani, Prannoy Roy & NDTV

NYT, WSJ weigh in on Tehelka’s Goa controversy

11 November 2011

The controversy surrounding Tehelka magazine’s Goa conference, ThinkFest, had so far been largely confined to sections of blogosphere, which used an editorial page piece in Hindustan Times by the theatreperson Hartman de Souza, and Tehelka editor Tarun J. Tejpal‘s response to it, as a trigger.

Only Deccan Herald among the large English dailies gave any play to the kerfuffle kicked up by remarks reportedly made by Tejpal at the end of the first day of the conference, that since they were in Goa, they could eat, drink, be merry and “sleep with whomever you want.” (Also see “Crusader turns Collector“)

Possibly because Tehelka‘s conference had international backers in Tina Brown‘s Newsweek and its sister website, The Daily Beast, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have both found the controversy over the location and sponsorship juicy enough to put out stories today.

***

Lydia Polgreen in NYT:

The slick and well-attended conference led some in the Twitterverse and blogosphere to wonder: had Tehelka sold out to India’s mining barons and real estate tycoons?

The festival was sponsored by some of India’s top corporations and held at a hotel allegedly owned by men in jail awaiting charges involving the 2G telecommunications scam.

Potentially even more damaging, Tehelka faced accusations that it withheld an investigative story about illegal mining in Goa in exchange for the Goa state government’s support for the festival, an allegation the magazine’s editors strenuously deny. A version of the article was later published by Firstpost, a news Web site….

Tarun J. Tejpal, Tehelka’s editor, said that he was unaware of who owned the hotel or any environmental violations in its construction when his staff scouted the location months ago.

“When we looked for a hotel that could accommodate the scale we wanted, we couldn’t find a single hotel that could find a hall that could accommodate 600 to 700 people,” until they found the Grand Hyatt, which was still under construction. “Much later on the virtual eve of the fest we began to hear of these other issues.”

By then it was too late to shift to another location, he said.

Essar, one of the corporations sponsoring the festival, runs huge mines in Chhatisgarh and elsewhere, and some press critics have accused Tehelka of softening its criticism of the mining giant in exchange for sponsorship.

Tejpal flatly denied this, and said it was spurious to claim that his magazine’s journalism was somehow suspect, arguing that no publication has done more to highlight the plight of India’s dispossessed than Tehelkha, which frequently runs exposés of corporate and political misdeeds.

“There is a kind of absurdity for these arguments,” Tejpal fumed. “At the end of the day, by that count, virtually everything in India is suspect.”

Lucy Archibald in the WSJ:

However, some of the controversy merits a closer look. Most contentiously, writing in the Hindustan Times, Hartman De Souza, the sexagenarian theatre veteran and activist, accused the Tehelka editor of compromising a story about Goa’s illegal mining in order to get a green light for the festival.

According to De Souza, Tehelka reporter Raman Kirpal visited the state in March and discovered the illegal mining of iron ore at several times the environmentally cleared rate. This allegedly amounted to an illegal profit of Rs 8 billion ($163.5 million). Subsequently, the state-appointed Public Accounts Committee reportedly put the figure lost by the state exchequer closer to Rs 3,000 crore.

De Souza contends that Tejpal delayed the publication of the story just when he was in talks with Goa’s Chief Minister Digambar Kamat about approval and sponsorship for the event. And so far no such story on Goa’s illegal mining has run in Tehelka.

The reporter has since left the magazine and published his story on Firstpost.com, where he has now taken up a staff position. Coverage of the mining scandal followed in various local media outlets.

Several Goan government officials, including Kamat, were allegedly castigated in the committee’s report…. As a result of all this, De Souza objects to the inclusion of the Goan government as a sponsor of the ThinkFest event.

Tejpal published a strong riposte pointing out that the reporter in question was fired by Tehelka “on account of poor performance.” He strongly rejected De Souza’s version of events, calling his article “bizarre and baseless” and its author “full of rage at the world, but no facts.”

He also pointed out that they “actively refused sponsorship from all the Goan mining companies.” The festival was partly sponsored by companies including Aircel, Essar and Tata Steel.

Photograph: courtesy Newsweek

Also read: A magazine, a scam, an owner and his Goan house

Tarun J. Tejpal: “We haven’t bent or violated any rule”

How ‘New York Times’ stumped India’s censors

13 September 2011

Foreign publications usually get into a kerfuffle with superpatriotic Indian authorities over the depiction of the geographical boundaries of India in maps and infographs.

Publications like The Economist, for instance, have noisily run afoul of censors for (corrrectly) showing parts of Kashmir as belonging to Pakistan and China.

The New York Times which recently launched an India blog called India Ink, has found a way out of a potential panga by using a cartoonish map of India (above), which magnanimously hands back the Pakistan-occupied and China-occupied parts of Kashmir to India, and which is far removed from the cartographic version of India that NYT otherwise uses (below).

So, which is the India the NYT blog will cover?

(Which is, just a roundabout sort of way of drawing the attention of the “host, chef and chief bottle washer” of India Ink, Heather Timmons to sans serif. Chill.)

Also read: The Indian Express stands up for The Economist

Censored, but no copies of Economist have been confiscated

The troubling nexus doesn’t trouble too many

When Manu Joseph met Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

7 July 2011

Manu Joseph, editor of Open magazine, in The New York Times:

“Nine years ago, I was invited by the Art of Living Foundation to interview Mr Shankar.

“Mr Shankar was in the house of a wealthy businessman in South Mumbai.

“In the living room he sat on a large, embellished, thronelike chair as about 50 of Mumbai’s rich and famous sat on the floor, among them the film actor Vinod Khanna and the actress Nagma.

“At Mr Shankar’s feet sat a newspaper reporter, taking down notes as he spoke.

“All the interviews that evening were supposed to be conducted in this manner, with the reporter on the floor, at his feet, and he on the throne.

“When it was my turn, an absolute silence filled the room as I dragged a chair toward him. When I sat down, there was an audible moan from his followers. The interview did not go well. Most of his answers were snubs that elicited loud guffaws from his audience.”

Read the full article: Indian spiritualism made for the new age

‘The most prolific journalist of our times’

11 June 2011

Khushwant Singh on his Illustrated Weekly of India protege M.J. Akbar, in The Telegraph, Calcutta, the “unputdownable” Calcutta paper founded by Akbar in 1982:

M.J. Akbar must be the most prolific journalist of our times. He heads the editorial board of India Today, edits The Sunday Guardian financed by Ram Jethmalani, and writes for many other papers including The Times of India. He frequently appears on television channels and has over a dozen books to his credit. His latest is Tinderbox: The Past and Future of Pakistan. He is tireless and highly readable.

“I take credit for some of Akbar’s achievements, like a father would of his son’s successes. Akbar started his journalistic career as a trainee picked by me. He met his wife-to-be in my office and nominated me the godfather of his daughter. Few people could be closer than he and I.

“Despite our closeness, I went woefully wrong on one important issue. I had assumed that, like me, he was an agnostic. He is a devout Muslim. He fasts throughout the month of Ramzan but celebrates Id-ul Fitr in my home. He has performed the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina.

“He has many years to go before he retires. By the time of his retirement, I expect him to have done much by which posterity will remember him.”

For the record, Akbar’s name also appears as editor of the Indian edition of the International Herald Tribune, published by Deccan Chronicle from Hyderabad, in an arrangement with the New York Times.

Photograph: courtesy The Telegraph

Also read: ‘Never let your head stoop as a journalist’

‘News is the subtlest form of advertising’

‘In fractured media, the word is the common fact’

Look, who inspired R.K. Laxman‘s common man!

Barkha Dutt breaks silence in NYT interview

4 December 2010

For 15 days, as the media storm over the Niira Radia tapes raged around her, NDTV’s star-anchor Barkha Dutt opted to speak to the world through an official press release, an online essay, and a pre-recorded inquisition by print editors.

Dutt declined to appear on a Karan Thapar show and in a Headlines Today debate, and even spurned on-screen advice from Sanjaya Baru of the Business Standard to apologise and move on.

Now, she has broken her silence in an interview with Lydia Polgreen of the New York Times:

“I look at some of the conversations, and I do feel I should have been more alert,” she said in an interview on Friday at the studios of her television station, NDTV.

“I should have been more skeptical. I should have known better.”

Photograph: courtesy Lynsey Addario/ New York Times

In the dosa joint where ‘our beloved father’ ate

14 July 2010

New Delhi’s most famous media canteen—the one at the news agency United News of India (UNI)—finally steps out of the margins into the gossip columns.

Facsimile: courtesy Mail Today

Also read: Why the Indian media doesn’t take on Ambanis

Sorry brother, we got a few million dollars wrong

How media hyped up the Reliance Power IPO

Anil sues Mukesh Ambani for New York Times profile

The ‘troubling nexus’ doesn’t trouble too many

1 December 2009

Several Indian newspapers which have tie-ups with the New York Times have re-run Heather Timmons‘ piece on people of Indian origin returning to the United States because they find it difficult to work in the motherland.

Surprise, surprise—or perhaps no surprise, no surprise—almost all of them have excised former Mint editor, currently Washington Post managing editor, Raju Narisetti‘s damning quote on “the troubling nexus of business, politics and publishing“.

No mention of Narisetti or the “troubling nexus” in 624 words of The Economic Times re-run.

No mention of Narisetti or the “troubling nexus” in 306 words of The Indian Express re-run.

No mention of Narisetti or the “troubling nexus” in 821 words of The Telegraph, re-run.

There is a mention of Narisetti and the “troubling nexus” in 1,293 words in the online edition of The Times of India, but not the print edition.

One of the few newspapers that does carry Narisetti on the “troubling nexus” is the Bangalore-based Deccan Herald.

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