Posts Tagged ‘The Asian Age’

The investigative TV journo who now sells sarees

6 March 2014

dib

The state of mainstream Indian journalism, it can be argued, is somewhat reflected by the number of journalists churning out books; leaving for greener PR, corporate communications and “policy”) pastures; joining thinktanks; going on sabatticals, etc—and it is probably no different from the rest of the world.

But nobody drives home the issue better than Dibyojyoti Basu.

Once chief of bureau at M.J. Akbar‘s Asian Age in Calcutta. Once the director of Calcutta Doordarshan’s first news-based private television show Khas Khabar (a la Aaj Tak). Once the head of Ananda Bazaar Patrika‘s television wing. Once host of Khoj Khabar on Tara Bangla. And now…

And now, the proud owner of Woven, a lounge in Delhi’s Meher Chand marker, for Bengali sarees.

Basu, who hosted his last show in 2011  on Akash Bangla before it was pulled off by its Left-leaning promoters, sees this as a hibernation period, before he achieves his life ambition of starting his own TV station.

Visit Dibyojyoti Basu’s shop: Woven

‘International Herald Tribune’ becomes INYT

14 October 2013

iht

The legendary International Herald Tribune (IHT) has published its last print issue today with its current mastead. From tomorrow, 15 October 2013, it will be sold under the name-plate “International New York Times” (INYT).

IHT’s name-change isn’t the first.

The New York Herald, launched in 1887 in Europe, became the New York Herald Tribune, which became the International Herald Tribune. International New York Times marks the complete takeover of the IHT by NYT after The Washington Post pulled out of the collaboration a few years ago.

The Indian edition of IHT has been published by the Deccan Chronicle out of Hyderabad despite the group’s extraordinary troubles, by a complex circumvention of publishing laws. And despite his exit from The Asian Age, also published by DC, M.J. Akbar was IHT‘s titular editor.

Also read: How International Herald Tribune is made

Ex-IHT journalist goes missing from Rishikesh

9 lessons a ‘terror-suspect’ journo learnt in jail

27 February 2013

Deccan Herald journalist Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddiqui has walked out of the central jail in Bangalore a free man, six months after being named by the city’s police in an alleged Lashkar-e-Toiba plot to target two Kannada journalists and the publisher of the newspaper they were earlier employed in.

Siddiqui had been accused of being the “mastermind” of a gang of 15 in August last year to kill editor Vishweshwar Bhat, columnist Pratap Simha and publisher Vijay Sankeshwar, allegedly for their “right-wing leanings“. The journalists were with Vijaya Karnataka of The Times of India group, before they joined Rajeev Chandrasekhar‘s Kannada Prabha.

The national investigation agency (NIA), which investigated the case, didn’t name Siddiqui in its chargesheet on February 20 following which a special court trying the case ordered his release on February 23.

On Monday night, Siddiqui walked out of jail and on Tuesday, he addressed a press conference.

Reporting for the Indian Express, Johnson T.A. writes:

About six months ago, when he appeared in court for the first time after being named by the Bangalore Police, Siddiqui, 26, still had the glint of youthful exuberance in his eyes.

But now, the first thing that comes to mind on seeing Siddiqui after his release from prison on Monday, is the disappearance of that enthusiasm from his face. Gone is the glint in his eyes, and in its place is a serious, sad man.

Even so, Siddiqui, whose thesis suggestion for his PG diploma in mass communication—’Media coverage of terrorism suspects’—was struck down by his supervisor pulled no punches in describing his own ordeal before his colleagues, compatriots and competitors.

***
siddiqui

Deccan Herald journalist Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddiqui with a relative at a press conference at the Press Club of Bangalore on Tuesday, 26 February

# “The media has forgotten the ‘A’ in the ABC of Journalism [Accuracy-Brevity-Clarity].”

# “I always thought the police, media and society at large do not treat terror suspects fairly. That thinking has been reinforced by my experience.”

# “Security agencies are not sensitive towards the poor and weaker sections of society. If you look at the way the entire operation was carried out by the police and reported by the media, this insensitivity is clear.”

# According to the [Bangalore] police and the media, I am the mastermind. If I am the mastermind, why are the others still in jail? I hope they too will get justice.”

# “The media and the police need to be more sensitive toward the downtrodden, Dalits and Muslims. The way the media and the police behaved raises basic questions about their attitude toward Muslims.

# “Muslims are often cast by the media and police in stereotypes. There is an institutional bias which manifests in such cases. This is not just about me; it is about hundreds like me who are in jails [across the country] on terror charges. Muslims are not terrorists.”

# “If I was not a Muslim the police wouldn’t have picked me…. They first arrest people, then find evidence against them. What happened on August 29, 2012 was no arrest but downright kidnapping. A bunch of strong men barged into our house and forcefully took us away in their vehicles. This even as we were pleading and asking why we were being taken out.”

# “They kept interrogating me as if I was the mastermind and kept saying that I’d be in for seven years for sure. Everyone knows that jail is no fun place. For the first 30 days we were cramped in a small room. The confinement itself was torture.  They did not inform our families. They did not tell us what we were being arrested for. They made us sign 30-40 blank sheets of paper. One of these papers was used to create fake, back-dated arrest intimation.”

# “Some fair play is still possible in the system. Though justice was delayed, it wasn’t denied in my case.”

Siddiqui, who is still on Deccan Herald‘s roster, says he wants to go back to journalism, for that is his passion, but wants to spend time with his family first.

Two other journalists—Jigna Vora of The Asian Age and S.M.A. Kazmi—have been arrested in recent times on terror charges. They are both out on bail.

Photograph: Journalist Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddiqui at a press conference in Bangalore on 26 February 2013 (courtesy Md. Asad/ The Times of India)

Also read: Bangalore journo in plot to kill editor, columnist?

Anti-minority bias behind foiled bid on journos?

L’affaire Mohammed Haneef

‘Mail Today’ rises in the land of ‘The Daily Mail’

5 March 2012

Making use of the five-and-a-half hour time gap, Mail Today, the tabloid daily from the India Today group, has expanded its footprint to the United Kingdom.

Editor-in-Chief Aroon Purie explains the move in a note on page 3:

“Targeting the large south Asian population in London, Mail Today wants to connect with the diaspora by bringing the best of Indian news packaged in a modern avatar. It gives us great pleasure to bring a slice of the new rising India.”

Both The Asian Age and The Sunday Guardian launched by M.J. Akbar, currently editorial director of India Today, have editions out of London.

Will underworld dons trust such a hot reporter?

12 January 2012

Mail Today, the tabloid newspaper from the India Today group, has a report today that Gul Panag, the former Miss India Universe, has been signed up by the maverick film maker Ram Gopal Varma to play a crime reporter in an upcoming film.

The buzz in film circles is that Gul Panag may play the role of Jigna Vora, the Asian Age crime reporter who was arrested for her alleged involvement with the underworld in the murder of J.Dey, the investigations editor of Mid-Day.

But true to her movie metier, Gul Panag—a regular on the Sunday night television circuit with a number of journalists among her  followers on Twitter—is offering no confirmation.

“I play a crime reporter in the film, a woman who has made her mark in a field that is otherwise dominated by men…. All I can say right now is that the film deals with the underworld and its various connections including the media.”

On her website, Gul Panag’s bio reads “actor, activist, animal lover, adrenalin junkie, adventurer, avid traveller, automobile enthusiast and biker” all rolled into one. At least the on-screen hack has one thing in common with the rest the pack: she is a jack of all trades.

The media is a recurring theme in Ram Gopal Varma’s oeuvre. He made an Amitabh-starrer called Rann on the television industry not too long ago.

Also read: Guess who came to Rajdeep Sardesai‘s house last night

Shekhar Gupta: The journalism film Dev Anand didn’t make

Supriya Nair: When a film star weds a journalist, it’s news

Devyani Chaubal: the queen bee of Bombay film journalists

Amitabh Bachchan: I want to expose the media

Sashi Kumar, Ranganath Bharadwaj: Acting is second string in bow

Coming soon: ‘Deccan Herald’ from New Delhi

24 August 2011

Bangalore’s oldest English newspaper, Deccan Herald, is launching an edition in New Delhi, making it the first South Indian publication to reach out to readers and advertisers in the North with a decidedly South Indian title.

There has been no formal announcement from the family-owned group yet, but the buzz is that the edition may take off as early as this December, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of New Delhi as the capital of India.

An advertisement in the Delhi edition of The Hindu makes DH‘s plans clear. The ad seeks a news editor, sub-editors, city and sports reporters, artists and photojournalists “for its edition in the national capital.”

The Madras-based Hindu has long printed an edition from Delhi, but “Hindu” is a generic name with wider appeal. And the Hyderabad-based Deccan Chronicle comes out in Delhi and other cities as The Asian Age.

The “Deccan” in DH‘s title presents an altogether different challenge in terms of acceptance, especially among non-Karnataka readers unaware of the brand, its values or its core strengths.

The 63-year-old Deccan Herald pondered the possibilities of editions in the southern States in the mid 1990s, but was pegged back by a fractious family fight among the three brothers who own the paper (K.N. Hari Kumar, K.N. Tilak Kumar and K.N. Shanth Kumar) and the concomitant success of the revamped Bangalore edition of The Times of India.

DH‘s northern foray in 2011 comes after a division of responsibilities in the family helped stave off the challenge thrown by new entrants Deccan Chronicle and DNA on its home turf, and retrieve some lost ground, although ToI is the leader in Bangalore by a long way.

Also read: How Deccan Herald welcomed the Republic of India

Finally, a redesign not done by Mario Garcia

A package deal that’s well worth a second look

‘Media standards not keeping pace with growth’

18 April 2011

Sanjaya Baru, editor of Business Standard and former media advisor to prime minister Manmohan Singh, delivered the second H.Y. Sharada Prasad memorial lecture on media, business and government at the India International Centre on Sunday, 17 April. This is the full text of his address:

***

By SANJAYA BARU

I first met H.Y. Sharada Prasad in 1982 in the very room in which I later sat in the Prime Minister’s Office. He knew me only as Rama’s husband!  I was in Delhi on a visit from Hyderabad where I was a University lecturer and went to call on him because Rama had asked me to.

I would meet him occasionally during my days at the Economic Times and Times of India and tried hard to get him to write for the editorial page of the TOI, when I was in charge of it in 1994-96. He always declined the invitation with a smile. Finally, when he chose to write a column I had already left TOI and it was M.J. Akbar who managed to get him to do so for The Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle.

Perhaps as a consolation he called me one day and told me that he had informed Encyclopedia Britannica that he would stop writing the chapter on India that he had written every year for close to fifty years, and henceforth they should approach me for the chapter.

I was flabbergasted, flattered and honoured.

The editor of Britannica wrote me a warm letter saying that I must be someone very special because after a “life long” association with EB, “Mr Prasad has chosen you to inherit his annual contribution to the Britannica.” I have written that chapter since, every year.”

On 2 June 2004 I joined the PMO in the morning and called on “Shouri mama” (as Sharada Prasad was called by his friends and family) the same evening to seek his blessings and take his advice. He spoke to me at length about the office itself, and the significance of every nook and corner.

“You are sitting in the same room in which Jawaharlal Nehru first sat as Prime Minister,” he told me, referring to the corner room next to the cabinet room. Nehru had to wait for a month to move into what is now the PM’s room, since that room’s earlier occupant, Girija Shankar Bajpai, would not vacate it till the room assigned to him was ready, that being the present principal secretary’s room.

I too had occupied that very room briefly till I moved into the much larger adjacent room, the one Shouri had occupied with great distinction for almost two decades. After letting me know that I was sitting in Nehru’s first room in the PMO, he added with a mischievous smile, “of course Natwar (Singh) also sat there!”

He regaled me with stories about the various occupants of the PMO during his decade and a half there, about their egos and their foibles. He gave me valuable advice on how I should discharge my duties both as media advisor and speech writer that stood me in good stead throughout my four-and-a-half years in the job.

On a couple of occasions when I had difficulty convincing the PM and his senior aides about my media strategy in dealing with an issue, I would called Shouri and having received his endorsement of my plan inform the PM that Mr Sharada Prasad has approved my idea. The PM would instantly fall in line and allow me to go ahead, over ruling the dissenters. Securing Shourie’s imprimatur was enough.

For a man who wielded a powerful and elegant pen for the Prime Minister of India, who had the unquestioned trust and confidence of a powerful Prime Minister like Indira Gandhi, who had travelled around the world with her, hearing her read out his prose, whom generations of Indians had seen in Films Division documentaries and front page photographs sitting next to Mrs Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, here I was with him on my first day in the PMO in his two-room, Punjabi Bagh DDA flat.

Every day of my four-and-a-half years in the PMO, I would recall that first evening that I spent with Shouri.

Don’t fool yourself, I would tell myself, you may be here today, but one day you too will have a modest apartment to retire to. Shouri was among the very few who worked with Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi who had no Vasant Vihar or New friends Colony or Maharani Bagh house to leave for his children. It is the combination of his wisdom and simplicity, his prose and wit, his deep knowledge of both India and the world that makes him a truly unique occupant of that all powerful corner of Raisina Hill. This memorial lecture is dedicated as much to Shourie as to the values he embodied.

***

One of the things that Shouri said to me when I met him the evening of my first day at the PMO was that during his long tenure at the PMO he kept in regular, almost daily contact, with key interlocutors in just five newspapers – Hindustan Times, Indian Express, The Statesman, The Hindu and Times of India. That was a different world.

While India reported less than 500 newspapers in the years Shouri first came to deal with them, and only one television channel, by 1991 there were 923 newspapers and still only one TV channel. But Shouri regarded dealing with just the top five English dailies adequate to influence the rest of the media. These five, he presumably believed, set the tone and the agenda for all others to follow. It is also possible he believed having these five on one’s side is what mattered as far as the PM was concerned.

In 2008, the year I left PMO, the Registrar of Newspapers reported that 2,337 newspapers were in circulation in India. In 2004 there were already several news TV channels, but by 2008 the number had more than tripled. By the time I left my position in mid-2008 I would normally be dealing with at least a couple of dozen newspapers and TV channels every day.  The era when one could happily say that the PM’s media advisor kept in touch with just five top English newspapers was long gone. Not only had Indian language TV and print become more important, but even English language TV and print had burgeoned and the internet had arrived.

It was during my last days in office that I acquired a Facebook account and Outlook magazine put me on their cover, along with some celebrities, for being the first PMO official with a Facebook account. Twitter had not arrived by the time I left office. Today Shouri would not be able to recognise, much less relate, to the media scene in India. My 84-year-old parents take pride in letting me know that they neither watch TV news, nor spend more than a few minutes reading a newspaper. They have opted out of daily news.

But, the rest of India has not. Nowhere has there been a bigger boom in media than in India.

At the last World Association of Newspapers convention in Hyderabad in 2009, India was hailed as the great global hope for media, especially print. The WAN invitation to the Hyderabad convention said:

“Developing literacy and wealth are part of but far from all the story: Great credit needs also to be given to Indian newspaper professionals, who are re-inventing the newspaper to keep it vibrant and compelling in the digital age……. Although broadband and mobile are booming in India, print newspapers are growing right along with them. The country has more daily newspapers than any other nation and leads in paid-for daily circulation, surpassing China for the first time in 2008. Twenty of the world’s 100 largest newspapers are Indian. Newspaper circulation rose a further 8 percent last year.”

Salivating at the India numbers, News Corp top executive James Murdoch told a FICCI–Frames conference in Mumbai last month that “India’s media industry is a ‘sleeping tiger’  waiting to be awakened.” He described global media firms as “grey and tired”. “The impressive achievements of the last two decades have not even begun to fulfill the potential of this great land,” said the son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

This boom is witnessed in every language, with Hindi’s Dainik Jagran emerging as the great success story in print media. But with growth have come its wages. The quantitative expansion of Indian media continues to outpace its qualitative development. Extreme inequality in compensation structures means there are some journalists who get world class compensation that would be the envy of even developed economy media, and there is a mass of under-paid staff, many of whom with low skills and lower motivation.

Speaking at the Silver Jubilee of the Chandigarh Press Club in September 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said:

“With the rapid growth of media in recent times, qualitative development has not kept step with quantitative growth. In the race for capturing markets, journalists have been encouraged to cut corners, to take chances, to hit and run. I believe the time has come for journalists to take stock of how competition has impacted upon quality. Consider the fact that even one mistake, and a resultant accident, can debar an airline pilot from ever pursuing his career. Consider the case that one wrong operation leading to a life lost, and a doctor can no longer inspire the confidence of his patients. One night of sleeping on the job at a railway crossing, an avoidable train accident, and a railway man gets suspended. How many mistakes must a journalist make, how many wrong stories, and how many motivated columns before professional clamps are placed? How do the financial media deal with market moving stories that have no basis in fact? Investors gain and lose, markets rise and fall, but what happens to those reporters, analysts, editors who move and make markets? Are there professional codes of conduct that address these challenges? Is the Press Council the right organization to address these challenges? Can professional organizations of journalists play a role?”

Apart from the problem of quantitative growth outpacing qualitative development, there is also the challenge of conflicting objectives and a clash of cultures. News media has become subsumed into the larger business of information and entertainment. This is in large part a consequence of the growing dependence of media, especially news media, on advertisement revenues, though India still has a substantial segment of the market that is still willing to pay for news.

One of the consequences of this growing dependence on advertising revenues, as opposed to subscription revenue, and the competition from competing media is that news media has become increasingly a mish-mash of news, views and plain entertainment.

A recent  FICCI- KPMG report, Hitting the High Notes on the Indian media and Entertainment Industry in 2011 not only unabashedly refers to ‘media and entertainment’ as one industry, but also points to the growing inter-linkages between the two sides of business. News is entertainment and entertainment is news! And, the stakes are high.

According to KPMG, the Indian Media and Entertainment (M&E) industry stood at US$ 12.9 billion in 2009. Over the next five years the industry is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 13 per cent to reach the size of US$ 24.04 billion by 2014.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report titled ‘Indian Entertainment & Media Outlook 2010’ predicts that the industry is poised to return to double digit growth to touch US$ 22.28 billion growing cumulatively at a 12.4 per cent CAGR to 2014.

Apart from the phenomenal growth prospects, which have become the envy of media companies around the world, and therefore attracting many of them to India, it is important to also note that there has been a vertical and horizontal integration, along the technological spectrum, of news, entertainment and communication. Print, TV, radio, film, music, gaming, mobile telephony, internet and banking and finance are all getting integrated. New technologies will integrate the businesses and the markets even more.

The KPMG report adds, “While television and print continue to dominate the Indian M&E industry, sectors such as gaming, digital advertising, and animation VFX also show tremendous potential in the coming years. By 2015, television is expected to account for almost half of the Indian M&E industry revenues, and more than twice the size of print, the second largest media sector.  The contribution of advertising revenue to overall industry pie is expected to increase from 38 percent in 2007 to 42 percent in 2012.”

When news and entertainment become two sides of the same coin, indeed some would say the same side of one coin, with advertising revenue being the other side of the coin, and when the distinction between news and views gets blurred, journalism enters an uncharted territory where there are as yet no professional yardsticks to judge either purpose or performance. But it is not just the integration of businesses that is having an impact on media. It is the integration of business with politics and politics with business that is now shaping news media, and not just at the national level.

*** Read the rest of this entry »

The ‘Lone Hindu’ gets it from M.J. Akbar’s paper

27 October 2010

Dileep Padgaonkar, The Times of India’s former editor who once said he held the second-most important job in the country, has been named one of three interlocutors in Kashmir by the UPA government.

However, the usually softspoken Francophile has been hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons in his new job, even as he offers a quote to anybody who sticks out a mike before him.

And in M.J. Akbar‘s Sunday Guardian, diarist Nora Chopra sticks it in:

“Dileep Padgaonkar, a non-working journalist, is [J&K chief minister] Omar Abdullah‘s choice. He was a part of prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee‘s Kashmir committee, which was a non-starter. Omar was with the NDA at the time. After the UPA came to power, Padgaonkar became the lone Hindu member in the National Minority Commission (sic) with a  salary of around Rs 2 lakh per month.”

For the record, Padgaonkar is not a non-working journalist; he returned to the Times as editor of the edit page after the exit of another Times‘ loyalist, Gautam Adhikari. And at Akbar’s former abode, The Asian Age, Padgaonkar, an acknowledged foodie, most famously wrote a letter to the editor on the recipe for Egg Benedict.

Also read: How Padgaonkar christened a Pierre Cardin model

How the Sakaal Times dream became a nightmare

‘Indian media doesn’t value factual reporting’

5 December 2009

Of all the documentaries built around the November 26, 2008 siege of Bombay, none has quite matched the buzz created by Dan Reed for Channel 4.

Partly because it was the first of the lot; largely because it contained eyepopping footage including of the lone surviving terrorist Ajmal Kasab (in picture) being interrogated.

In an discussion held in Delhi, reproduced by MOB (Milk our Bovines), Reed, 47, modestly shines the light:

Question: You managed access to some highly classified data that no one in India had access to. How come no Indian media got their hands on it?

Answer: Over the years I have found that being an outsider confers a strange advantage when approaching a seemingly impenetrable story….

The key was just persistence, an open mind, making friends with the right people, and above all believing (cheesy though it sounds) that you can do it – because as we all know if you believe it strongly enough, others will too.

I certainly don’t think the Indian media was incompetent, but very, very few journalists I met had the rigorous high standards, the passion and the persistence necessary to do first-class work. I believe this situation has arisen because many newspapers and TV stations in India simply do not prioritise factual reporting and rigorous research.

“Why let the truth get in the way of a good story?” is an attitude by no means confined to the Indian media, but it is certainly prevalent there. The majority of the 26/11 stories I checked out in the Indian press contained major inaccuracies or errors. But then there were a few journalists whose work was nothing short of brilliant and who helped me a great deal.

S. Hussain Zaidi (in picture), the brilliant and fearless Asian Age bureau chief in Mumbai (and author of the outstanding Black Friday book), became a close associate of mine on this project and his shrewd assistance, inside knowledge and encouragement were vital to its success.”

Photograph: courtesy Dan Reed/ Channel 4

Read the full interview here: The truth behind the Mumbai attacks

Rajan Bala, a stellar cricket writer, is no more

9 October 2009

KPN photo

sans serif records with deep regret the passing away of the veteran cricket writer Rajan Bala in Bangalore this morning. He was 63 years old, and is survived by his wife and two sons.

Mr Bala, a former cricket correspondent of Deccan Herald, The Hindu, Indian Express and The Asian Age, had suffered a cardiac arrest two weeks ago while doing a television show for News9 in Bangalore and slipped into a coma.

Rest in peace.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: For Rajan Bala as he awaits The Great Umpire

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