Posts Tagged ‘R. Jagannathan’

Narendra Modi, Mukesh Ambani & Network 18

9 November 2013

In the latest issue of Open magazine, former NDTV and Headlines Today journalist-turned-academic Sandeep Bhushan, throws light on how the television media is covering the BJP’s “prime ministerial candidate” Narendra Modi:

“Several past and serving employees of the media behemoth Network 18 have told me that a heavy-duty ‘go-soft-on-Modi’ campaign is underway within the group.

“The editorial line is allegedly emanating from the ‘top’.

“A former anchor with IBN7 traces the changes in the network’s ‘line’ to a specific event. They came about only after Mukesh Ambani picked up a stake in the media group. “Arvind Kejriwal was virtually blacked out after he hurled charges at Mukesh. On the news floor, in both CNN-IBN and IBN7, every journalist knows that there are orders to rein in anti-Modi stories,” he adds.

“There are standing instructions to cut live to any Modi rally or speech”, says another journalist.

“However, Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN, trashes all this. “This is all cock and bull,” he says, “There has been no change in line at any time. Both Rahul [Gandhi] and Modi are top contenders for the PM’s post. We neither deify nor demonise either of them, but analyse their pluses and minuses in great detail.”

“But if Sardesai is right, then how does one explain the cloyingly pro-Modi chant on the group’s news portal, Firstpost.com? Here is a gem masquerading as reportage: ‘Delhi on Sunday witnessed a public the likes of which it had not seen in decades’, thanks to Modi’s ‘rock-star’ image that created a ‘maddening frenzy’.

“Another story headline screams; ‘JD(U) MP makes Nitish [Kumar] squirm: Are you jealous of Modi?’ This article, on Shivanand Tewari’s recent speech in Rajgir praising Modi’s ascent, has little explanation of the ‘jealously’ angle. Yet another so-called report on the website gushes. ‘Patna blasts showed Modi’s leadership, Nitish’s ineptness.’

R. Jagannathan, editor-in-chief of First Post, defends the group website by saying. “We are essentially an opinion portal. We also carry news. We have different editors who are free to air their own views. As the editor-in-chief, I don’t interfere.” On the Ambani factor, Jagannathan says, “I report to Raghav Bahl and there are no specific editorial instructions from him.”

The Open article also punches holes in the coverage of Narendra Modi by Times Now.

Photograph: courtesy Reuters via First Post

Also read: ‘Media’s Modi-fixation needs medical attention’

How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feast, a promo’

For cash-struck TV, Modi is effective TRP

Not just a newspaper, a no-paid-news newspaper!

Has a ‘desperate party’ bought TV channels?

Steve Forbes named in Forbes India legal notice

28 June 2013
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Top row: Indrajit Gupta (L), Dinesh Krishnan
Bottom row: Shishir Prasad (L), Charles Assisi

Three of the four Forbes India editors, who were forced out of the fortnightly business magazine allegedly for demanding that the promoters fulfill their contractual commitments on employee stock options (ESOPs), have shot off legal notices to Network 18 and Forbes Media, demanding immediate reinstatement and settlement of dues and damages for loss of livelihood, reputation and mental harassment.

Steve Forbes, the chairman and CEO of Forbes Media, and William Adamopoulos, CEO Asia of Forbes Media, have been named among the eight respondents, since Forbes India is a title licensed by the American parent organisation, Forbes.

The others named in the legal notice are Network 18 chief operating officer Ajay Chacko, editor-in-chief web and publishing R. Jagannathan, group HR director Shampa Kochhar, group general counsel Kshipra Jatana, and group CEO B. Sai Kumar.

Interestingly, neither Raghav Bahl, the controlling shareholder and managing director of Network 18, nor Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani, whose name was drawn into the controversy by the Bombay Press Club, have been named in the June 18 legal notice.

(Update: The managing director of Digital 18 Media is the chief recipient of the legal notice, which at this current time happens to be Raghav Bahl.)

The “termination” of services of Forbes India editor Indrajit Gupta, the “resignation” of managing editor Charles Assisi, director photography Dinesh Krishnan, and executive editor Shishir Prasad, was slammed by the Editors Guild of India as a move that cuts at the “very root of editorial independence”.

While the first three have sent the legal notices, the fourth has chosen not to contest the case.

The notices are seen as the first step before a full-blown court case which would test human resource practices at one of India’s largest media organisations.

The silence of the Press Council of India, created to preserve the freedom of the press and to maintain and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies in the country, has been defeaning, given the demonstrated propensity of its chairman Justice Markandey Katju to intervene in public debates.

Also read: How the Forbes India editors were forced out

Bombay Press Club blasts Forbes India purge

Forbes purge is a freedom issue: Editors’ Guild

External reading: Forbes will stick to its DNA: R. Jagannathan

Bombay Press Club blasts ‘Forbes India’ purge

8 June 2013

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The Press Club of Bombay has reacted to the “termination” of services of Forbes India editor Indrajit Gupta, and the “resignation” of his colleagues Charles Assisi, Shishir Prasad and Dinesh Krishnan by the magazine’s India franchisee, Network 18.

The Club has termed the manner of the dismissals of the four journalists “nothing short of shameful”, and curiously , or perhaps not, drawn Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani into the debate.

The following is the full text of the resolution passed by office-bearers of the Club on Saturday.

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“On Monday, May 27 and Tuesday May 28, four of the senior-most editors of Forbes India – editor Indrajit Gupta, Managing editor Charles Assisi, director photography Dinesh Krishnan and executive editor Shishir Prasad – were summarily dismissed from service either by unilateral termination or through resignations extracted by bullying and threats.

“We understand the immediate dispute was over payment of ESOPs that had matured and were due to them, but the HR and business teams thought otherwise.

The method of ejecting them from the company was nothing short of shameful. (emphasis added)

“Journalists are not only messengers of news and information, but are the collective voice of civil society. They have a special place in our democratic polity, especially in the current times of stress and confusion. Surely, this team of editors which has served Forbes India since 2008 deserved better.

“We don’t rule out changes in business plan the Forbes India management may have wanted to make; but there is the way of discourse and negotiation.

Editors with 15-25 years of experience cannot be forced out with a gun on their head.

The episode has shocked journalists throughout the country and shown the Network18 Group in bad light.

“We will be writing to [Reliance Industries chief] Mukesh Ambani, who has a special position of influence in the media group, as well as to the Network18 Group’s MD Raghav Bahl, to appeal to them to reverse this decision and to enter into discussion with the editors so that an amicable solution is found.”

***

Also read: How the Forbes India editors were forced out

How the ‘Forbes India’ editors were forced out

6 June 2013
IG_DK_Charles_Shishir

Top row: Indrajit Gupta (L), Dinesh Krishnan
Bottom row: Shishir Prasad (L), Charles Assisi

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: The abrupt exit last week of the top four editorial heads of the business magazine Forbes India, including of its editor Indrajit Gupta, has swung the spotlight once again on the questionable—but rarely ever questioned—human resources (HR) policies and practices in Indian media houses.

In this case, one of India’s biggest: Network 18.

On the face of it, the “termination” of services of Indrajit Gupta, and the “resignation” of managing editor Charles Assisi, director photography Dinesh Krishnan, and executive editor Shishir Prasad, might seem like a small matter—even an “internal” issue—in a company whose 2012 assets were valued at Rs 2,400 crore.

In fact, Network 18’s chief operating officer Ajay Chacko sought to paint the exits as a routine matter; almost a natural consequence of the ongoing “restructuring” in the company after First Post editor R. Jagannathan‘s leadership role was expanded in March to also overlook the print publications in the stable such as Forbes India.

“There were always going to be some redundancies after ‘Jaggi’ took over [as editor-in-chief],” Chacko told Media Nama, after reports of the sudden exits emerged, suggesting that in a converged newsroom, the presence of the four was not required.

However, a closer examination of L’affaire Forbes India, based on multiple off-the-record conversations, reveals the brazen manner in which giant Indian media companies, whose promoters flatulently pontificate on how India must be run, conduct themselves and play around with the lives of their employees and their families.

More importantly, the exits throw not-so-kind light on the pulls and pressures Indian newsrooms are facing due to growing financial pressures; how global brands which franchise their titles are dealt with by their Indian partners; and how the high-stakes game of “valuations” is getting shaped in the digital age.

Above all, that all this should have happened in a business magazine belonging to a company with two business TV channels (CNBC-TV18 and CNBC Awaaz), which is part-owned by India’s most powerful business house, Mukesh Ambani‘s Reliance Industries Limited, provides no small irony.

And that there is so much silence all around from the media fraternity tells its own story.

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forbes-india

The launch issue of Forbes India, 2009

Insiders at Forbes India, which was launched within four days of the UPA return to power in 2009, say there was little indication of the impending exits of M/s Gupta & Co till as recently as even a fortnight ago.

When the magazine came out with a special double issue to mark its fourth anniversary recently, SMSes and e-mails congratulating each other were being happily exchanged between the editorial and business sides.

But plenty was afoot in the boardroom of Network 18’s Matunga office in central Bombay, where Forbes India staff were now sharing the floor with their First Post colleagues, in the first baby steps towards “integration”—the creation of a combined newsroom where the website’s and magazine’s staffers would happily cohabit under editor-in-chief R. Jagannathan, “Jaggi” as he is known to friends and colleagues.

Indrajit Gupta, Charles Assisi, Dinesh Krishnan and Shishir Prasad, all key founding-members of Forbes India’s launch team, were involved in conversations with the HR side of the company, reminding them on the Employee Stock Options (ESOPs) which they had apparently been promised five years ago when they were being induced to come on board.

The quantum of the combined ESOPs is not known.

Forbes India insiders say it is about Rs 2 crore in all, split between the four; others at Network 18 say it could be a little higher but not exceeding Rs 5 crore. However, unlike in listed companies, Network 18 underwrote the value of the ESOPs. Meaning: it assured the four Forbes India staffers that it would pay the promised money at the end of four years.

Network 18 sources say about a month and a half back, the four Forbes India staffers began the process of cashing out their ESOPs, first informally, then officially.

On Friday, May 24, when they met formally with the company’s HR, they were told to forego their old ESOP scheme and presented with a new ESOP scheme.

They were given a 48-hour deadline to sign up.

However, on Monday, May 27, the HR head Shampa Kochhar, in the presence of Jagannathan, is said to have served editor Indrajit Gupta a fait accompli: resign on the spot by signing a letter that absolved the company of all claims on the five-year-old ESOPs and take a severance cheque. Or have your services terminated.

Indrajit Gupta is believed to have opted for the latter course.

The experience of the other three was no different.

They, too, were told to relinquish the old ESOP plan and presented with a new ESOP plan. And they, too, were told that they must resign on the spot or face termination with no benefits.

Unlike Gupta, Assisi, Krishnan and Prasad resigned.

(A fifth ESOP recipient, online director Deepak Ajwani, however acquiesced.)

***

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When news of the exits trickled out on Thursday, May 30, it was clear that the dirty tricks department was already at work.

Forbes editors were negotiating with a PE (private equity) fund to take over the magazine once Network 18’s franchise with Forbes expires next year. Network 18 found out and asked these editors to quit,” read one SMS this reporter has seen.

In truth, though, Network 18’s end-goal of integrating the Forbes India newsroom with the First Post newsroom seems to have been the trigger which sparked the implosion—and the ESOP scheme seems to have come in handy to force the exits.

The less charitable view within Network 18 is that the “old school” Gang of Four sought to cash out their ESOPs because of their reservations over the “integration” plan and that they were always hoping to go out this way and end up as martyrs in the eyes of the world.

# From the Forbes India perspective, integration meant its reporters reacting to breaking business news and writing for First Post, perhaps vice-versa too. It also meant getting used to having an editor-in-chief (Jagannathan) besides the editor (Indrajit Gupta).

# From the First Post perspective, integration meant the domain expertise of an established brand like Forbes India in business stories. It meant access to sources and subjects. It also meant credibility.

# From Network 18 group’s perspective, it meant a larger workforce to feed the “bottomless monster” that is the worldwide web, at no extra cost.

Initially it looked like a win-win, and the indication was that Jagannathan and Gupta were on the same page.

The two had worked together at Business Standard and at a review meeting in April, the former is reported to have said that he would make way for the Forbes India team to run the show after a few months.

Network 18 sources say initially Gupta & Co were not seen as a “hindrance” to the integration, although at least two of the four were allegedly told in their “exit” meetings with HR that they were seen as such and that they would be “redundant” in the converged newsroom.

Since a couple of crores could not have been the problem for either Network 18 or RIL, the key problem area could perhaps have been “mindset”.

The orbits of the two organisations—and their means, methods, motives and motivations—are signficantly different.

Like its US parent, Forbes India occupies the leisurely and rarefied world of a fortnightly. Stories are deeply, immersively researched. Stories are slow-cooked from a week up to a month or more, before being written and re-written and re-re-written by editors.

On the other hand, First Post is all speed and on-the-spur. Provocation is its middle name. And, despite coming from a massive group backed by a giant business house, much of its output is cheaply spun and rehashed by arm-chair pundits with an “angle” and “attitude”.

More importantly, the political impulses of the two organisations were diametrically different.

Although Forbes prides itself as the “capitalist tool” in America, Forbes India had a slight liberal streak. First Post, on the other hand, like Network 18 founder Raghav Bahl, unabashedly tilts to the right. (Bahl recently said in the presence of Narendra Modi that India’s predominant political impulse was “right”.)

In the end, a low-cost solution seems to have been found to a potentially head-on editorial—and ideological—collision between the online and offline organisations, but at what cost?

Regardless of what prompted the exits, will Forbes, which licensed its title to Bahl’s Network 18 for six years, be told why the top four names on the masthead will be suddenly missing from the next issue?

Will its readers be told?

***

At the end of the day, though, the issue is one of signals.

By securing the exit of senior editors in this fashion, by showing how dispensable even an Editor is, the signal has gone down the line, to fall in line. Or else.

And by making ESOPs such an elastic matter, other ESOP holders in different companies of Network 18 have been sent the signal that they too can take nothing for granted.

But…

# What signal does the viewer receive at 9 am every week day, when Udayan Mukherjee and Mitali Mukherjee start grandly quizzing TCS, Infosys or Wipro managers on ESOPs?

# What signal do editors across the country receive when the Press Council, Editors’ Guild and other bodies remain silent when media corporations treat employees and their lives with such abandon?

# What signal do media houses send of their concern for a free, fair and responsible press if HR staff behave in an irresponsible manner and attack professional, independent minded journalists?

# What signal does a global brand like Forbes, or other foreign media houses, receive of the seriousness of their Indian partners to play by the book and observe the rules?

# And finally what signal does Mukesh Ambani’s RIL, which is now in the media in a big way, send of the seriousness of corporates to preserve the core values of the media?

Also read: What Raghav Bahl could learn from Samir Jain

‘Business journos deserve credit for reforms’

10 December 2011

India’s second oldest business magazine, BusinessWorld, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month. A special issue to mark the occasion features all the  editors of the fortnightly turned weekly magazine from the Ananda Bazaar Patrika (ABP) stable talking about their respective tenures:

Dilip Thakore (now editor, Education World): I served as editor of BusinessWorld for seven years (1981-87) during which — together with a strong and reliable country-wide team — I produced 166 issues of this then fortnightly magazine, and wrote over 100 cover stories which I believe transformed the national mindset about the character and potential of private sector business and industry.

Looking back in retrospect, I believe it was the missionaries of BusinessWorld (and Business India) who deserve a greater share of the credit for the 1991 liberalisation and deregulation of the Indian economy — than Dr Manmohan Singh and his over-hyped lieutenant Montek Singh Ahluwalia who were enthusiastic executives, if not architects, of licence-permit-quota raj for several decades and who were at the time earning unmerited dollar fortunes in the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

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R. Jagannathan (now editor, First Post): My predecessor Dilip Thakore had made the magazine a hit with big business by pioneering personality-oriented writing…. Thakore reported on personalities, accompanied by large, professionally shot pictures. Critics sometimes rubbished this approach as soft PR, but I believe it was an important stage in the development of business journalism in India. He humanised business writing…. Thakore helped businessmen get comfortable with the camera, and coaxed them to bare their souls to the media….

BusinessWorld saw the growing interest in share investment and created a 16-page ‘InvestmentWorld’ section — perhaps the first general business magazine to do so. A bonus: if I recollect right, an amateur technical analyst called Deepak Mohoni also debuted in BusinessWorld, and was the first one to coin the term Sensex for the Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index….

Another change that looked big then, but now appears routine, is colour. For the first time ever, BusinessWorld introduced 32 pages of colour during my watch. It was a bold statement to make to our readers, but we needed that to capture the bright new tapestry of Indian business. The black-and-white dullness of the Indian economy was about to change forever. But we didn’t know it then.

***

T.N. Ninan (now chairman, Business Standard):  My time at BusinessWorld (1993-96) was a productive and satisfying period when we ran some really good stories and profiles, introduced prize columnists like P. Chidambaram and Ashok Desai, and saw the over-all development of the magazine and (if memory is not playing tricks) a trebling of circulation in those four years.

Two other points are sources of satisfaction today: how well some colleagues of the time have done in their subsequent careers, in India and overseas — leading publications and TV channels, and winning awards — here and internationally; and the warmth and mutual regard that members of the team still have and share.

Unfortunately, there are no photographs of the Sarkar brothers doing a gentle jig, along with everyone else including Shobha Subrahmanyan who was the chief executive, around an evening campfire above a Goa beach, where we had gone for an editorial conference but played water-polo. Those pictures might have undermined the staid image of Aveek, Arup and Shobha, back home in Calcutta (as it was then), and were confiscated!

***

Tony Joseph (now heads MindWorks): No sooner had I taken over than the Vajpayee government decided to shake up the sands of Pokhran with a nuclear explosion. We were discussing how to handle that week’s issue and I remember the advice one senior colleague gave me.

“Ask yourself what Ninan would do,” he said, referring to T.N. Ninan, my predecessor, former boss and probably the most influential business journalist in the country. If that comment implied a certain lack of confidence in the new editor, I pretended not to notice! With a novice at its helm, I think we pulled off that issue without disaster, but soon other bombs were to go off.

A few weeks into my editorship, a consultancy firm that ABP had hired was considering what to do with BusinessWorld — let it go, or let it grow…. We started with a staff of about 71 in April 1998 and about a year and a half later, that number was down to 51, made up mainly of new recruits. Of the original staff, barely seven or so remained. I can only say that my communication skills must have been remarkable for it to have produced that dramatic an effect. Talk about inspirational leadership!

I would come into the office every morning wondering who was going to leave that day — and what would be up on the office notice board. Those who thought the magazine was going downhill despite the rising circulation would put up newspaper cartoons depicting clueless bosses making bone-headed decisions. I still wince at the sight of Dilbert cartoons!

However, we managed to retain some senior staff and build a core team of editors and writers who together shaped a new Businessworld, one that captured the zeitgeist of changing India. The change was not just in terms of what stories we covered, but also how they were covered.

***

Jehangir S. Pocha (now co-promoter, NewsX): When I joined BW, my peerless predecessor, Tony Joseph, had already turned it into India’s most sold, most read business magazine…. But the best products re-invent themselves before they are forced to. With India transforming, ABP’s editor-in-chief Aveek Sarkar wanted to refresh and re-think BW.

Given that charter, I felt BW had to transcend the traditional business news weekly formula of summing up the previous seven days. Instead, I wanted BW to become a forward-looking magazine, a kind of soothsayer and sentinel
for business.

Convinced that BW had to be world-class, New York-based designer Francesca Messina was commissioned to redesign the magazine. In-house art director Jyoti Thapa Mani, her team and I spent many hours bringing Francesca’s design to life, giving BW the look and new sections it boasts today. Though a new edit team also formed at the magazine, we remained committed to BW’s inimitable mixture of clever thinking and clear writing.

Without you, where would we in the media be?

3 June 2011

In 2006, Time magazine declared that the person of the year was you, yes, you—a smart way of acknowledging the rise of Wikipedia, YouTube, MySpace and other crowd-sourced media avenues in the internet era.

In 2011,  Web18, the internet arm of Raghav Bahl‘s Network18, which has launched a heavily promoted website called First Post—an assemblage of quirky blogs, edited by R. Jagannathan, the former executive editor of DNA—does ditto.

‘Good morning! Your paper is free of paid news!’

16 February 2011

In this era of mercenary managers and predatory proprietors, brave is the editor who can actually stick his neck out—at least in public—and vouch for the virginity of his product. But Aditya Sinha, the new editor-in-chief of the Bombay daily Daily News & Analysis (DNA), clearly doesn’t mind taking the risk.

At least, if nothing else, to send a signal to managers and proprietors who have hired him.

The masthead of the paper now sports a seal affirming that the paper is free of the latest scourge of Indian journalism—paid news. And this, in the cradle of the newspaper group that is seen to be the motherlode of all things negative about the profession: medianet, paid news, private treaties and what have you.

For the record, DNA, under its previous editor R. Jagannathan, had kicked off a front-page campaign in 2009 against paid news with a set of advertisements.

Also read: Time to drop the “A” from DNA?

Aditya Sinha on the world view of Delhi journalists

Why Aroon Purie ‘elevated’ Prabhu Chawla

7 November 2010

After being badgered left, right and centre online for his jetlag-inspired plagiarism, India Today editor-in-chief Aroon Purie finally gets some old-fashioned good press, courtesy the “dirty old man of Indian journalism”.

Khushwant Singh uses a session on the couch with Headlines Today host Koel Purie Rinchet to throw light on her father and grandfather Vidya Vikas Puri, in the Hindustan Times:

“Her grandfather Vidya Vikas Puri, migrated from Lahore after partition in 1947, and set up business as a financier in Delhi. He became a multi-millionaire. He decided to buy himself a Rolls Royce which was, and is, the ultimate status symbol of success. He went to London to get one.

“The salesman of the showroom snubbed him and told him he could not afford it and not to waste his time. He bought one, brought it to Delhi. At that time only descendants of erstwhile princely families drove in chauffeurs-driven Rolls Royces.

“Puri was the only commoner driving one on Delhi roads.

“His son Aroon added an ‘e’ to his surname and became a legend in his life time. He owns the largest chain of media consortiums in India: four TV channels, over a dozen weeklies, including India Today, Reader’s Digest, Harper Collins and The Thompson Press to print his journals and books. A new addition is the tabloid daily Mail Today.

“Aroon is as generous an employer as he is ruthless towards those who fail to deliver the goods.

“A case in point is the ‘elevation’ of Prabhu Chawla, his subjantawala [the man who knows everything] editor of India Today and get M.J. Akbar on Akbar’s terms to take and run it, as he sensed it was losing on its readability to Frontline, The Week, above all, to Outlook*.”

Khushwant’s column is the third piece in old media that has come to the rescue of Aroon Purie, after Sanjaya Baru‘s Business Standard nixed a column on the subject and DNA published a piece by its executive editor R. Jagannathan in defence of plagiarism.

* Disclosures apply

Read the full article: Falling in love with a TV show host

Also read: Prabhu Chawla out, M.J. Akbar in at India Today

How to write an editorial when not jet-lagged

‘Plagiarists speed up the spread of knowledge’

Khushwant Singh on his last day at the Illustrated Weekly

‘Plagiarists speed up the spread of knowledge’

4 November 2010

R. Jagannathan, the executive editor of DNA, offers an extraordinary, pinch-yourself, hope-he’s-being-sarcastic defence of plagiarism in today’s paper:

“Now that the buzz has died down, it is time to sit back and look at the whole issue of plagiarism with fresh eyes. I’m sure Aroon Purie, editor-in-chief of India Today, is embarrassed that his lines on Rajnikanth were “lifted” from Grady Hendrix’s article in Slate.com.

“Grady, for his part, has extracted the last ounce of juice from Purie’s discomfiture and subsequent apology, so much so that there is an entire column in Slate devoted to it. Not only did he dissect the apology for elements of contrition (Grady’s verdict: it wasn’t much of an apology), he was cock-a-hoop about it.

“Grady protests too much. He is the one true beneficiary in all this, for plagiarism is the ultimate form of flattery.

“When you quote somebody’s work and attribute it, you are merely acknowledging the source. But when you lift a passage out of someone’s myriad outpourings and pass it off as your own, you are paying him the ultimate tribute. You find the lines so good that you wished you had written it yourself.

“This is not an invitation to Indians to copy someone else’s intellectual output with a clear conscience. We Indians have to learn to respect copyright, as we are too blasé about stealing. But plagiarism does have real (positive) spinoffs: it speeds up the spread of knowledge at the cost of slightly retarding innovation.”

Read the full article: The upside of plagiarism

Link via Ramesh Prabhu

***

Also read: How to write an editorial when not “jet-lagged”

Is it all over for DNA in the battle for Bombay?

26 September 2010

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: The October 8 issue of Forbes magazine, from the CNBC-TV18 group, carries a four-page story that reads more like an advance obituary for DNA, the English broadsheet daily newspaper that was launched by the Dainik Bhaskar and Zee television groups to humble The Times of  India in urbs prima in Indus.

Five years and Rs 1,100 crore later, writes Rohin Dharmakumar evocatively citing the 1961 film Guns of Navarone, DNA’s original ambition lies in tatters, although the “theory” was perfectly feasible.

# DNA’s Bombay readership is down 15% from its 2009 peak, while The Times of India’s is 2.5 larger.

# DNA’s ad rates are one-third ToI’s on paper, but closer to one-seventh due to discounting.

# DNA’s revenue was Rs 148 crore last year, up 22% over the year before, but still Rs 70 crore short of covering its operating costs.

# DNA is now a distant No.3 in Bombay and Bangalore to Hindustan Times and Deccan Chronicle, respectively, and both are reportedly close to dislodging it from that position.

# Only current executive editor R. Jagannathan remains from DNA’s original star cast, many of whom were lured from The Times of India and hired at high salaries.

In hindsight, DNA’s faulty subscription drive, the launch and free distribution of Mumbai Mirror with ToI and the increase of ToI’s cover price to suck the newspaper budget of households so that a second newspaper cannot be bought, are seen to have been the key drivers in ToI fighting off the challenge.

Rahul Kansal, the chief marketing officer of ToI, is quoted as saying:

DNA came in with a lot of overconfidence. Heady with their launches in Gujarat and Rajasthan, they thought The Times of India would be a sitting duck. They started their outdoor campaign four months in advance, giving us adequate time to launch a new paper. I think they displayed their hand way too early, so by the time they launched, we had already soaked up a lot of the reading appetite.”

The southward turn in DNA’s fortunes is reflected in Subhash Chandra of Zee edging out partner Sudhir Agarwal of Dainik Bhaskar for a more hands-on role. Cost-cutting is the mantra of DNA’s CEO K.U. Rao, a former Shell executive in his first media stint.

“Probably the most stark sign of DNA’s transformation comes from Bangalore, where just over a year after it spent Rs 100 crore to put up a state-of-the-art press, it is now using it to print over 200,000 copies of Bangalore Mirror for The Times of India,” writes Rohin Dharmakumar.

The Forbes piece will be available online after October 7.

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