Posts Tagged ‘The Independent’

An Editor is never too old to learn a new trick

11 June 2013

vinod

After 42 years of handwriting his columns, articles and books on scribblepads—at Debonair,The Sunday Observer, The Indian Post, The Independent, The Pioneer and Outlook*—and after hiding the vicious mouse behind his PC all his life, Outlook* editorial chairman Vinod Mehta writes his latest Diary on his new laptop, in New Delhi on Tuesday.

“I found the Google Search fantastic,” says the new convert, who has coincidentally discovered the joys of the world wide web.

“I used to ask the librarian to get me George Orwell but now I type in the window, I get more than I bargained for. Even the thesaurus, not only does it give the synonyms and antonyms, it comes up with so many other options.”

Mr Mehta would neither confirm nor deny that he will start tweeting soon.

* Disclosures apply

Vinod Mehta on Arun Shourie, Dileep Padgaonkar

7 November 2011

“India’s most independent, principled and irreverent editor” Vinod Mehta has just published a memoir. Titled Lucknow Boy, the editor-in-chief  of the Outlook* group of magazines, recaptures his four-decade journalistic journey via Debonair, The Sunday Observer, The Indian Post,  The Independent and The Pioneer.

With trademark candour often bordering on the salacious, the twice-married but childless Mehta reveals that he fathered a child in a tryst with a Swiss girl in his 20s, and that as a young copywriter in Bombay, he posed as a prostitute’s boyfriend to get her sister married off (and was paid Rs 500 for his services).

Along the way, Mehta also slays two very holy cows of Indian journalism, Arun Shourie and Dileep Padgaonkar, revealing their hypocrisy and duplicity in the way they dealt with colleagues while grandstanding in public as suave, softspoken, scholarly men of letters.

***

By VINOD MEHTA

Over the years, Arun Shourie and I have not seen eye to eye on many issues—something I don’t regret. Shourie, as editor of the Indian Express, had broken the big Antulay story, ‘Indira Gandhi as Commerce’ [in the early 1980s].

The expose revealed that the Maharashtra chief minister, A.R. Antulay, had started an organisation called the ‘Indian Gandhi Pratibha Pratishtan’ through which he collected illicit funds from builders. The corruption scandal forced Antulay to resign.

Arun Shourie and the Express, now implacably opposed to Indira Gandhi and the Congress, had bagged a big Congress scalp. Among journalists and sections of civil society Mr Shourie was flavour of the month—or shall I say many months.

A young reporter in the Free Press Journal with friends in the Express came to see me. He said he had a story, but was not sure if a recently launched paper like the Sunday Observer had the nerve to publish it. According to him, the chief reporter and several other senior reporters in the Express were sulking because Arun Shourie had hogged all the limelight.

While they acknowledged Shourie’s contribution, much of the legwork for the scoop had been done by the Express bureau, a fact which was never acknowledged in the story. Staff morale apparently was at an all-time low.

‘Shourie and the Penthouse conspiracy’ duly appeared. ‘Penthouse’ was mentioned because Mr Shourie allegedly sat in the Express penthouse with Ramnath Goenka and wrote the expose.

It did not take long for Arun Shourie to come back. He demanded a full rebuttal in the form of an extended interview with him. ‘Your story is a complete fabrication,’ he charged.

Kumar Ketkar, then a young and pugnacious Bombay journalist, jumped into the fray. In a letter to the editor [of The Sunday Observer], he noted: ‘The self-righteous breast-beating of Shourie is a fast spreading gangrene in the profession of journalism. If not checked in time, it could acquire the dimensions of witch-hunting and Macarthyism.’

And concluded: ‘Free from any constraint of veracity, Shourie is always able to provide exclusive stories.’ The debate on our letters page continued for many weeks.

***

On 19 October 1989, The Independent published an eight-column banner headline, ‘Y.B. Chavan, not Morarji Desai, spied for the US.’ For two days the story went largely unnoticed. Except for Mid-Day which carried our Chavan report almost verbatim, the rest of the media kept away.

That did not suit the perenially insecure editor of The Times of IndiaDileep Padgaonkar.

While the other editors in the Times group were troubled by my presence, Dileep had a special and urgent reason to feel troubled. I and my team were producing an English paper every day which looked infinitely better than the paper Dileep was editing, and on many mornings it even read better.

Mr Padgaonkar’s insecurities when word got around that, at a meeting with his senior managers,[Times bossman] Samir Jain mentioned me as a possible editor of The Times of India.

Dileep and the Maharashtra Times editor, Govind Talwalkar, got together to ensure the Chavan story did not go unnoticed. In an editorial on 21 October, the Times viciously attacked me and the Independent. It went so far as to incite physical violence against me, suggesting that if it did occur, it would be my own fault.

Departing from its pompous, lofty, measured tone, the Times launched a series of vituperative onslaughts targeting me, which observers found astonishing since the two papers were ‘sister publications’. One opposition leader told the media that while the (Chavan) story was indeed objectionable, it was the Times group which created the ‘hysteria’ around it.

I hold no grudges against Dileep Padgaonkar. He is who he is. However, the man who once claimed he held ‘the second most important job in the country’ can be legitimately charged with single-handedly opening the door for the denigration and decline of the Editor as an institution.

When Dileep’s bosses asked him to bend, he crawled. Since then it has been downhill all the way for other editors.

(Lucknow Boy by Vinod Mehta, published by Penguin Viking, 325 pages, Rs 499)

Read an excerpt: Vinod Mehta on Radia tapes, Vajpayee, V.C. Shukla

Buy the book onlineIndia Plaza offer prize Rs 299

File photographOutlook editor-in-chief Vinod Mehta, at home in New Delhi in 2008

*Disclosures apply

***
Also readS. Nihal Singh on Arun Shourie: Right-wing pamphleteer

Why Khushwant Singh fell out with Arun Shourie

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

How Dileep Padgaonkar christened a Pierre Cardin model

How the Sakaal Times dream became a nightmare

Old wine in very old bottle is still old wine

26 September 2009

toi

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: The Times of India has unveiled its ‘Crest Edition‘ in Bombay and Delhi with a 40-page offering at an “introductory price” of Rs 6 per copy. (The ‘Crest Edition‘ branding is embedded below the masthead in italics.)

“Why another newspaper or magazine, you may well ask. Don’t we already have enough? To begin with, Crest isn’t really a new paper or magazine. It is The Times of India unbound, with narrative pieces that sparkle with rich reporting, great perspective and Aha! moments. We will leverage TOI’s unequalled network of correspondents, analysts, writers and editors to anticipate the changes bubbling below the surface of society as well as enhance our understanding of the world around us. Crest is for the curious mind; it hopes to be every intelligent reader’s guide to politics and policy, art and culture, environment and education, and more,” writes The Times of India‘s editorial director Jaideep Bose in an introductory edit.

The new paper’s menu, self-explanatory, is as under:

menu

The colour theme is: aquamarine with promise of ‘seas unsailed and shores unhailed’.

“Aquamarine is the colour of adventure, surprise and delight. It stimulates, it excites, and it’s cool. It invokes sky, ocean and earth.”

***

All things considered, Crest, coming from the house of the world’s largest English newspaper, breaks no fresh ground and is in fact reminiscent of the Sunday edition of The Indian Express in its design and stories.

Nothing about the new paper—the price (double the regular Times‘ Saturday cover price of Rs 3), the quality of the newsprint (standard), the choice or display of stories—suggests “premium”, “lofty” or “high road”, terms used by Times in promoting its newest baby.

In fact, the tiny masthead of the new Crest edition suggests that Times, which burnt its hands with its earlier premium offerings in Bombay—The Independent and The Metropolis in Bombay—is playing it extra-safe in an uncertain advertising scenario and in markets where the perception is growing that ToI is feeling the heat from a variety of sources, including the competition, for keeping reader interest subservient to the advertiser’s.

The registration number and issue date of the Crest edition is that of the regular paper and the editors are the same as that of the regular Saturday paper (Derrick B D’Sa in Bombay market and Vikas Singh in Delhi market), suggesting that Crest far from being a new paper is just a new, souped-up edition of the old one, issued in the hope that the daily reader will graduate to the new edition over the weekend and help The Times bottomline floundering in the face of the paper’s private treaties and other misadventures.

In earlier days, newspapers had the dak (postal) edition, which was printed earlier than the City edition and mailed to faraway centres or transported over long distances by road and rail.

The Crest edition is a similar venture but legal experts in the print industry might like to look at a juicy question:

Can a newspaper with the same title, same registration number, same volume number, same issue number, and same editor be sold at different cover prices in the same City on the same day?

The RNI number for the main edition of The Times of India in Bombay on Saturday is 1547/57.

The RNI number for the Crest edition launched on Saturday is 1547/57. The volume number (CLXXII) is the same for the main edition and the Crest edition, and the issue number (227) is the same too.

So, has the Times taken a legally questionable step in publishing and selling a different edition of the paper at a different cover price?

Also read: A lofty title takes the high road at premium price

Readers take rest. Premium readers take Crest

Calcutta editor arrested for Independent article

12 February 2009

Many years ago, a news editor of Indian origin was arrested in Dubai for having carried a Peanuts cartoon strip that was not OK with the censors.

In a similar incident, the editor, and publisher and printer, of The Statesman, Calcutta, were arrested yesterday on “a specific complaint” from a resident of Calcutta against the republication of an article from The Independent, London, which was deemed to be offensive to “the religious sentiments of a minority community”.

The editor, Ravindra Kumar, and the printer-publisher Anand Sinha, were later granted bail, but the arrests, under sections 295A (maliciously insulting the religions or the religious belief of any class) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code, underlined the growing perils of editors and publishers even in “secular” Bengal.

Only last year, the exiled Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen, who had made Calcutta her home, was forced to flee after a few lines from a short story were deemed offensive.

The original Independent article titled “Why should I respect these repressive religions” was by Johann Hari—the youngest person to be nominated for the Orwell Prize for political writing. The Statesman carried it as per a syndication arrangement with the London paper.

Read the original article: Why should I respect these repressive religions

‘I wish I had a gun rather than a camera’

2 December 2008

Sebastian D’Souza, the photo editor of Mumbai Mirror, whose image of one of the terrorists, who sprayed bullets at Victoria Terminus coolly walking around the railway station, went around the world has spoken of how he got to catch the frame.

Some of the police on duty, he tells The Independent, London, were reluctant to chase the gunman.

“I told some policemen the gunmen had moved towards the rear of the station but they refused to follow them. What is the point if having policemen with guns if they refuse to use them?

“I only wish I had a gun rather than a camera.”

Read the full article: ‘Armed police would not fire back’

View the big picture @ Boston.com: Bombay under attack

Have you signed the petition to Save Pervez?

3 February 2008

Pervez Kambaksh, a 23-year-old Afghan journalist is facing execution after a religious court in that country found him guilty of downloading material from the internet which is said to question the role of women in Islam. The Independent, London, has launched a campaign to save Pervez, and Roy Greenslade says every journalist must sign the petition.

“Every journalist should sign, not simply because Kambaksh is “one of us”, not even because his conviction is a denial of press freedom, but because it is barbaric to put anyone to death for standing up for people’s human rights.”

Sign the petition here

When a forger decides to use a famous byline

2 February 2008

When Robert Fisk, the London Independent‘s most famous byline, received a copy of a small, 272-page Arabic paperback biography of Saddam Hussain in the mail, he didn’t care much until he read a small note in English accompanying it.

“Robert,” it read. “Did you really write this?”

Robert really hadn’t. So he decided to trace the author who had forged his name, and the publisher in Cairo, Egypt.

“How many copies of this book have you sold,” I asked.

Mahmoud” drew on his cigarette. “At least 100 so far.”

“So you owe me 3,000 Egyptian pounds!” I was enjoying this.

“But, no, Mr Robert, we don’t owe you this,” “Mahmoud” said with a cringing smile. “Because you have just told me you didn’t write this book. How can we pay you for a book you did not write?”

Read the full story: The curious case of the forged biography

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