Posts Tagged ‘Samar Halarnkar’

18 factoids in ‘Caravan’ profile of Shekhar Gupta

1 December 2014

shekhar The December “media issue” of Caravan magazine has a 20-page profile of former Indian Express editor-in-chief and shortlived India Today editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta.

Authored by Krishn Kaushik, the profile is titled “Capital Reporter”, with the strapline “How profit and principle shaped the journalism of Shekhar Gupta”.

***

# The son of a minor bureaucrat from Haryana, Shekhar Gupta‘s annual salary at The Indian Express sometimes exceeded Rs 10 crore ($1.6 million) per year. Current chief editor Raj Kamal Jha got Rs 1.25 crore, Jaideep “Jojo” Bose of The Times of India was paid under Rs 2 crore.

# Shekhar Gupta made Rs 36.67 crore in “capital gains” in 2009-10, through the demerger of the Indian Express‘s real estate wing and the newspapers, which resulted in the sale of the iconic Express Towers at Nariman Point in Bombay.

# Gupta is not too bothered with his exit from The Indian Express or his even hurried exit from India Today: “Look, I am a bit of a big fish right now for these factors to bother me now.”

# A senior television journalist is quoted as saying: “He is a social terrorist. He will look at you for five seconds, then look at the next person coming in.” Congressman Mani Shankar Aiyar says Gupta once “cut me dead and walked away” at a party.

# Paranjoy Guha Thakurta: “He looks down upon you [if you are unable to make use of the opportunities the free market throws up, work hard and make it to the top].”

# After interviewing over 50 people, the reporter Krishn Kaushik writes that “detractors of the ‘Shekhar Gupta phenomenon’ contended that Gupta’s wealth compromised the “Journalism of Courage” he promoted at the Indian Express.

# Gupta categorically says: “Nobody can ever find a paisa which will be a surprise to my taxman or to any of my employers.”

# Fallen Tehelka editor Tarun J. Tejpal who is quoted several times in the story, says: “If in reviving the Express he made money, not just the lala, I don’t know what the problem is.”

# When an Indian Express report on the alleged violations in the acqusition of land for Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani‘s Antilla tower was to appear in the Bombay edition, he called resident editor Samar Halarnkar “from a train in Italy” although in fairness, he did not block the story.

# Krishn Kaushik writes that at least half-a-dozen current and former members of the Express news team gave the reporter “specific instances” of stories being killed, allegedly without discussion with those reporting them—stories that went against a top industrialist, a cabinet minister, a real-estate group.

# One journalist described how Gupta once had him debrief a foreign government agency, which seemed irrelevant to any of the stories he was working on.

# Former Union home and finance minister P. Chidambaram was the ‘holy cow’ in the Express newsroom. “You could not criticise him.” The Express staff “sort of had the feeling that the Ambanis were untouchable.”

# Around the time Shekhar Gupta became CEO of Express, a gentleman called B.S. Raman would come to Express Towers in Bombay for a few hours every day from the nearby Reliance Industries’ office at Maker Chambers. Raman tells the reporter he was asked by his office to help Viveck Goenka‘s company.

# A Express staffer told the reporter that the C-story  “The January night Raisina Hill was spooked” had been pushed by P. Chidambaram, who was then the home minister, and Nehchal Sandhu, then the director of the intelligence bureau.

# Kaushik writes that Chidambaram pushed for Shekhar Gupta to be nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 2009, which was eventually given to former Tribune, Express, TOI and Hindustan Tims editor, H.K. Dua. However, both Gupta and Chidambaram deny the claim.

# “Ashutosh Rais” was the pen name of former Business Standard editor T.N. Ninan, for pieces which he wrote for Democratic World, where Shekhar Gupta held his first formal journalism job as an assistant editor.

# Shekhar Gupta had been in touch with Aroon Purie of India Today from around the time he relinquished the CEO role at The Indian Express in August 2013.

# Gupta’s mentor Arun Shourie said the jump to India Today as vice-chairman and editor-in-chief was a mismatch: “Yeh shaadi galat ho gayi hai.”

Anant Goenka, the son of Viveck Goenka who heads Express‘ online push and whose arrival in 2010 is widely seen as propelling Shekhar Gupta’s exit, did not speak to the Caravan reporter, saying he did not want to discuss an “ex-employee.”

Also read: Shekhar Gupta gives up his managerial role

To all Express employees. From: Shekhar Gupta

From Viveck Goenka. To: Indian Express employees

The Indian Express, Shekhar Gupta, Gen V.K. Singh

The Indian Express, Reliance and Shekhar Gupta

All the news that is fit to cook, serve and eat

9 December 2011

Although his reputation as a political journalist lies in tatters after the Niira Radia tapes, Vir Sanghvi is still a marquee food name in the Hindustan Times‘ Sunday magazine, Brunch. When not reporting for his paper’s hunger project, former HT managing editor Samar Halarnkar whips up a food column in the business daily Mint, titled Our Daily Bread

Business Standard opinion pages editor Mihir S. Sharma used to do a food column of sorts in his former port of call, The Indian Express even while he was gorging on sweet meat. And rare is the journalist who doesn’t confess to spending quality time in the kitchen to “destress”.

Which leads us to ask, after cooking up stuff at their day-job—in a manner of speaking—does cooking food come naturally to journalists? Or can only a cook who knows what to serve for the body know what it takes to serve for the mind?

Sourish Bhattacharyya writes about the latest chef on the block in Mail Today:

Journalists seem to have discovered a second career in the kitchen. [Former ToI and Express staffer] Satish Warrier led the way with the much- acclaimed Gunpowder in Hauz Khas Village and now Arun Kumar, journalist-turned-filmmakerturned-chef (in picture, above), has rescued Zambar from its amateurish foray into South Indian cuisine….

Unlike Jiggs Kalra, who was the first journalist to get into the food business but has never cooked in his life, Arun Kumar ( like Satish Warrier) has been a serious hobby chef. He picked up recipes on his many filmmaking assignments across the country and replicated them for Ritu Dalmia’s catering company.

Photograph: courtesy Mail Today

Also read: When Samir served a thali, Vineet served a scoop

Julie & Julia, Betty Crocker and “Premila Lal

ToI food writer Sabina Sehgal Saikia is dead: RIP

Khalid Mohamed on ToI, DNA, HT and the stars

28 January 2011

Khalid Mohamed, longtime film critic of The Times of India and sometime editor of Filmfare—who hopped over to DNA and then to Hindustan Times in Bombay after making four films in the interim—talks about his 32 years in journalism and the stars he met along the way, in the January issue of Society magazine.

# “Of course, I had to do all escort service. If Shah Rukh Khan had to address a meeting, I would be an escort. ToI were always demanding. Bring this one and that one. DNA was releasing a supplement and I was asked to get Urmila Matondkar. That’s not the job of a journalist. I found the whole thing demeaning. I gave up for that reason.”

# “This era is all about marketing. Suppose I was reviewing a film and the evening before I was asked, ‘How many stars are you giving it? If you are giving it three or four stars, we can get ads.’ I said: ‘I am not interested.” It is peculiar and happens everywhere. ToI does in the form of Medianet, but other papers do it in other forms. In fact, journalists don’t know that stars say things like ‘Usko teen lakh mein kharid liya‘ (that journalist was bought for three lakh rupees).”

#”Pradeep Guha was the only guy who I like to call boss. I really looked up to him and he is a marketing genius. Even at the Filmfare awards, I was a bystander while he was the showman. Having said that, I haven’t been much in touch.”

# “I always saw myself as a ToI person and not a Filmfare person. I don’t think there has been an editor like Sham Lal. Today, do you know who the editor of The Times of India is?

# “At DNA, I was asked to take Isha Koppikar out to lunch. Later I asked marketing guys, ‘Did you get the ad?’ They said no. They had got dinner coupons on which they will take their clients out. I said, ‘Not happening’.”

# “Everyone wants to be ToI. They all end up going that way. If ToI did a story which DNA didn’t do, there would be a lot of hulchul. I never understood that. No one had a distinct vision though DNA was supposed to have one. I felt downsized. Maybe the editor didn’t like me. Even if I did a hard hitting story, it would land up on the 14th page instead of the first. However, I got the highest money.”

# “I like being in a startup operation. Pradeep Guha and I had reformulated Filmfare. Dina Vakil and I had started the Sunday Review. [At Hindustan Times] We needed a competitor to Bombay Times so we thought of starting the HT Cafe. The resident editor Samar Halarnkar didn’t like my face from the very beginning. We had verbal slanging matches.”

# People I really looked up to were Behram Contractor, Sham Lal, Bikram Singh and Khushwant Singh. I liked what Shobhaa De wrote in Stardust and Society. Where are the journalists of that time? It may sound a bit academic. I am not a perfectionist but I’ll see every comma, every heading and caption in place. If I have become outdated because of that, too bad for me.”

Also read: Khalid Mohamed‘s blog

Everybody loves (to claim credit for) an expose

17 November 2010

Indian television news channels, whose fortunes rise and fall each week, routinely advertise their ratings “victory” after each major event: the Union budget, the general elections, the Obama visit, etc.

It looks like newspapers are quickly following in the footsteps of television in the 2G spectrum allocation scam, and this even as the Supreme Court was commenting acidly on the “morality of the modern media“.

The day after the “King of Corruption”, A. Raja, resigned as Union telecommunications minister, The Pioneer, Delhi, went to town in its lead story, patting the back of special correspondent J. Gopikrishnan for his 70 incisive stories that launched the crusade to get the corrupt minister out.

On day two, the paper’s editor, Chandan Mitra, wrote a glowing front-page piece on Gopikrishnan, titled “The man who felled a king”:

“For a long time, I did not even know that J. Gopikrishnan was a stringer based in Thiruvananthapuram working for The Pioneer‘s now-aborted Kochi edition. So when he came to Delhi pleading for a job at the headquarters once the Kochi edition shut in 2007, I was rather sceptical.

“I told bureau chief Navin Upadhyay that although I had noticed a few bylined stories by him, Gopi had no exposure to Delhi and, therefore, was unlikely to have any worthwhile contacts here. Navin, however, persuaded me to try him out for three months. In fact, the letter of appointment specifically mentioned this along with a “stipend” that was truly laughable by Delhi standards.

“Gopi did not break any earth-shaking stories during the trial period. But his sincerity, diligence, dogged pursuit of stories and pleasing personality made up for that. He was given a proper appointment letter after three months although his salary remained rather low.

“My opinion began to change after friends in Left parties began to mention him to me in Parliament’s Central Hall, pointing to the depth of his knowledge of the telecom sector. Officially, he was on the Left beat so I still did not attach too much significance to that.”

On day three, today, a two-column  page one story in The Pioneer (in picture, above), authored by Gopikrishnan, proclaims: “CAG report vindicates Pioneer report”:

“The CAG findings confirm every aspect of the scam The Pioneer has reported over two years in its sustained effort to build public opinion and create political pressure on the government to act against Raja.”

On day three, again, The Times of India (which has in the past week claimed credit for outing Ashok Chavan in the Adarsh housing society scam, a story which Samar Halarnkar of Hindustan Times said he wrote in the Indian Express in 2003), has stepped in to claim the honours, with a front-page box titled “TOI on the DoT“:

“Since end-2007, The Times of India has carried many reports, first by Shalini Singh, later joined by Josy Joseph and Pradeep Thakur, detailing how the manner of award of telecom licences would—and now has—cost the nation a staggering sum in the form of lost revenue. Indeed, in our edition of May 31, 2010, we carried a very detailed report headlined, ‘Not auctioning 2G spectrum costs govt over 1 lakh crore’, which has now been borne out by the CAG in its report….”

Meantime, there is a flurry among politicians, too, to claim credit.

Mail Today gives the gadfly of Indian politics, Janata party president Subramaniam Swamy, his due, for it was his petition to the prime minister in November 2008 for sanction to prosecute the corrupt ministe, that seems to have recoiled on the squeaky clean image of Manmohan Singh.

“Thankfully for Indian journalists, Subramanian Swamy, who is in hot pursuit of former telecom minister A. Raja in the 2G spectrum scam, doesn’t often break into Mandarin — a language he is fluent in…. Though married to Supreme Court advocate Roxna, Swamy has often chose to argue his cases without the help of lawyers. His two daughters — one of them a TV journalist — know that quite well!”

On rediff.com, the Rajya Sabha member  Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who has a stake in the Kannada Prabha newspaper and the Suvarna News channels in Karnataka, gets credit for raising the issue as far back as in 2007.

“In my letter to the prime minister on November 14, 2007, I reiterated that the spectrum allocation process must pass the twin tests of public interest and transparency and questioned why the licence award or spectrum award procedure did not following a tender process — a route adopted to disburse all previous licences including FM (radio) licences. The prime minister responded with a letter saying he would examine the issue.”

CNN-IBN, meantime, says it has been lauded for making public the CAG report on the 2G spectrum scam.

In this video, preceded poetically by a Tata Docomo commercial for its new 3G services, editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai says:

“…parliamentarians cutting across party lines were fulsome (sic) in praise for the CNN-IBN expose”.

One newspaper that can proudly claim to have not broken the 2G spectrum allocation scam, though, is The Hindu. When it got a chance to buttonhole the condemned minister twice whle the rest of the media were chasing him in vain, R.K. Radhakrishnan opted to lob softball questions.

Not once, but twice.

For the record, The Hindu employees’ union is DMK-run, and A. Raja belongs to the party in question.

Star News chief made to ‘sweep’ Kashmir street

16 September 2010

The renewed violence on the streets of Kashmir—against the presence of armed forces, the stifling of free movement and speech, the alienation of the State and the humiliation of the people—is not sparing journalists on the job, too.

Samar Halarnkar of the Hindustan Times reports in today’s paper that…

“A friend’s husband, the chief of bureau of a national television channel, was recently made to get out of his car and sweep the streets — this on a day there was no curfew.”

Elsewhere in the same paper, correspondent Taufiq Rashid writes in a New Delhi datelined story:

Asif Qureshi, bureau chief of Star News, was recently made to clear stones on the roadside by the CRPF. “All Kashmiris represent stone-pelters for securitymen,” he said. “They asked me to clear the road, telling me my brethren had thrown them.”

And to think that Star News belongs to the world’s biggest media baron, Rupert Murdoch.

Photograph: via Facebook

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