Posts Tagged ‘The New York Times’

In ‘The Last Mag’, Nishant Patel is Fareed Zakaria

2 July 2014

DILIP CHAWARE writes from New Jersey: The Last Magazine is Michael Hastings’s novel which has been published a year after his death. This controversial young journalist, who worked for Newsweek as a war correspondent, died last year in a car accident in Los Angeles when he was just 33.

Very few were aware about this book, which was resurrected from his laptop.

The novel, though, is a portrayal of real life within a major news organisation, the nexus between the government and the media and broadly discusses the relevance and future of the print medium.

Hastings is back in the news owing to his Rolling Stone article published in 2012, surrounding the recent release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by the Taliban. The article dealt with Bergdahl’s army platoon.

Various references in the novel The Last Magazine clearly identify its main players.

The character of Nishant Patel is in fact Fareed Zakaria, then international editor of Newsweek. Patel is painted as having a mega ego.

Zakaria’s bête noir is Jon Meacham, (Sanders Berman in the novel), the managing editor.

Patel and Berman vie with each other to appear on television.

Both want to be visible and compete to write cover stories for Newsweek.

Hastings captures a turbulent period of half a decade, beginning 2002. It is a difficult time for a sensitive journalist and centres on the war with Iraq.

Hastings implies by innuendo that the news media in the US collaborated with the government while covering the conflict. He lampoons all and sundry, based on his firsthand experience as a frontline war correspondent.

Hastings lost his girlfriend Andi Parhamovich, who was killed in 2007 when her convoy was ambushed in Iraq. She was an aid worker. He wrote a book I Lost My Love in Baghdad, based on that experience.

His second-last book, The Operators was published in 2012. It is about the US military presence in Afghanistan. That book was a result of an article Hastings wrote in Rolling Stone.

The incisive article proved to be the death knell for the career of Gen Stanley A. McChrystal, the US supreme commander in Afghanistan.

Hastings worked as an intern in Newsweek for a year 2002-3. This was the time the US escalated its war with Iraq. This was also the period when the electronic medium was seen overshadowing the print medium.

The Last Magazine deals with a professional’s dilemma and the dejection he felt due to the decline of professionalism of the print medium. His grim predictions proved too true in the case of Newsweek, which had to fold up.

His wife Elise Jordan was instrumental in publishing the unfinished novel on the first anniversary of his death. Hastings was 25 when he first went to Baghdad.

Due to the death of Andi Parhamovich, he was diagnosed of suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder. Jordan, a Yale graduate was a speechwriter for then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She was an avid advocate of war against Iraq.

Hastings and Jordan’s courtship started in 2010 in Kabul. While he was working on the McChrystal article, she was on a freelance assignment a magazine. They married in 2011.

Hastings died at 4.20 am last year on June 18 as his Mercedes crashed into a tree in Los Angeles. His death became grist for the conspiracy theorists for some time. But the coroner declared that he had marijuana and trace methamphetamines in his blood.

Hastings is no more but the debate he unleashed rages on.

(Dilip Chaware is a former journalist with The Times of India, Bombay)

Photograph: courtesy Amazon

Also read: Will this man be the next US secretary of state?

Fareed Zakaria: a barometer in a good suit

Iran to China, Newsweek has the world covered

Who, when, what, how, why, what the…

Indian Express, India Today teach NYT a lesson

4 June 2014

To say that the Indian media is in a tizzy of seismic proportions would qualify as the understatement of the year. So far.

Editors are quitting, being sacked, or finding ever new ways of being quietly eased out. Promoters are exiting their dream projects after acquiescing to giant business houses. Reporters are making discreet enquiries. Etcetera.

Still, in the midst of all the bloodbath, there has been a palpable sense of grace in the manner in which Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of the Indian Express has been sent off by his organisation, and the manner in which he has been welcomed to his new port of calling, the India Today group.

Despite Gupta’s exit being in the air for nearly a year, the Express went out of its way to promote his new book, and Express chairman Viveck Goenka (to whom Gupta dedicated his collection of columns) was at hand at the book’s launch. Gupta’s last columns for the paper have been given pride of place on page one.

Goenka’s graceful letter below announcing Gupta’s exit—and Aroon Purie‘s dignified letter welcoming him back into the fold—are a lesson, in an era when even the supposedly great New York Times removed the name of its first woman editor Jill Abramson in a matter of hours.

***

EXHIBIT A: VIVECK GOENKA, Chairman, The Indian Express

My dear colleagues

With much regret, I accept Shekhar Gupta’s resignation as Editor-in-Chief of The Indian Express. I truly​ appreciate his letter to all of us and I wish him the very best.

Shekhar leaves on June 15, just a year short of his 20 years here — another moment of transition in the long history of this ​great institution.

When I chose him for the position of Editor​ in 1995, I was taking no leap in the dark. I was absolutely convinced that Shekhar, then 38, was the best person to guide this newspaper into the future. And I feel more than vindicated today.

So many news breaks (I have happily lost count) delivered by the finest reporters, editors, sub editors, designers and photographers, a team I am very proud of,  team which is the envy of every newspaper publisher: three International Press Institute Awards for Excellence in Journalism; the most questioning opinion section in the business and the most generous, too, given how it welcomes dissenting voices; a renewal of talent each year by the youngest and the brightest from our campuses – Shekhar leaves the newspaper stronger than ever.

Key to each one of these achievements has been the consistently stellar work of the Express team under the leadership of Editor Raj Kamal Jha.

Raj’s leadership is grounded in his commitment to professional excellence and uncompromising integrity. He brings to the newsroom creativity, clarity and depth, three qualities increasingly rare in our business. This not only inspires his colleagues, it powers them to realize their best potential.

Raj could not have a stronger partner in the newsroom than Managing Editor Unni Rajen Shanker.

Unni has been a reporter, an Editor, a Resident Editor (Mumbai) and Editor of the Express News Service. He brings to his leadership a deep understanding of all the different roles in the changing newsroom and an unrivalled sense of fairness and empathy. It’s this that enables him attract the finest talent and then nurture them. Unni is one of the pillars of the Express.

Since they joined in 1996, both have steered change and are, therefore, ideally placed to help guide the paper into the future. That is why, to facilitate a seamless transition, I am proud to repose my faith in them and redesignate them for their new roles.

Raj will be Chief Editor and will report to me. Unni will be Editor.

I look forward to working closely with them. They will find me every bit as supportive as all their predecessors, including Shekhar did, as we plan and implement exciting new upgrades to all our news brands.

There is​ work to do.

We have witnessed a remarkable election and an even​ more remarkable victory that bring with it challenges for all of us in the news business whose mission is to question, to report, to interpret and to analyse.

I firmly believe and, more so, given the changes in the media landscape, that these are challenges best suited for The Indian Express given how strongly independence and courage are wired in our ​genes​.

I believe that the present news media environment in India offers us an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to what we do best: faithful and courageous journalism.

With all the shrill voices on TV, the paid news in print and the corporate funded or politician backed news organizations, The Indian Express must be the voice India can turn to and trust.

Speaking truth to power is hard wired in the genes of our editorial teams. The “Express” commitment to this legacy, mine and that of the future generation, will certainly endure. The newsroom is and will be the most sacred space in our institution.

I am committed to raising the bar and instilling a fresh new energy in our editorial teams. In addition to revamped content, I  look forward to closely integrating all our news operating systems because our growth is now across platforms. This​ was evident last month, during Verdict 2014.

We had print editions that were reported and produced to the finest standards and a digital edition that broke all our records with over 52 million page views, more than 100,000 active users for eight hours, a live video news stream from the Express newsroom, all of this making us among the five most visited news sites in the country.

Looking ahead, that’s the road we take. Not only reporting the news first but also being the first to understand it and​ question its assumptions. This means better stories, better analyses, better pictures, better everything and ensuring that The Indian Express journalism of courage reaches the reader wherever she is, whenever she wants it, whichever device she wants to receive it on.

Shekhar, whether he is at the Express or not, will always be a part of this journey.​ For, he leaves us with a sense of determination and purpose. And a wonderful tool-kit of ideas and values that we will use and keep adding to.

Please join me in wishing him, once again, the best of luck as he scales what I am sure will be a new professional summit.

And, Raj and Unni, let us​  get to work. I wish you and your teams my very best.

Best always

Viveck Goenka

***

EXHIBIT B: AROON PURIE, Chairman, India Today group

Dear Colleagues

I am delighted to announce the appointment of Shekhar Gupta as Vice Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of all news properties of the India Today Group. It includes all our news and business publications, news TV brands and all related news and business digital brands. This comes into effect July 1, 2014.

This is a homecoming for Shekhar. He joined India Today in 1983 and was here for 12 eventful years during which he was an outstanding journalist. He broke many exclusive stories and covered world changing international events like the fall of the Soviet Union, the first Gulf War, Afghan Jehad and the Tiananmen Square uprising.

In 1995, he took charge of The Indian Express group steering it into a position of editorial leadership and financial strength.

Shekhar is a reporter’s Editor, thinker, author, mentor and active on the international speaking circuit. He typically is an “all sleeves rolled up” hands-on professional who not only leads from the front but works collaboratively and believes in action.

He literally “Walks the Talk”! He is highly regarded  in the profession for his integrity independence and knowledge. That’s why he attracts, inspires and builds fine talent.

As I mentioned in my Founders Day speech I would like us to be the best media group in every which way by our 40th birthday which is two years from now. I believe Shekhar joining us would be a force multiplier in achieving this goal.

He will report to me and will be responsible for the editorial quality of all our news and business brands, and our overall expansion and profitability. He will work closely with Ashish Bagga, Group CEO, and enable him to effectively grow the readership and viewership of our brands, profitably.

Anil Mehra will step down as Vice-Chairman but will continue as consultant to advise the Group on matters of strategic importance.

At a personal level, Shekhar’s return is a moment of deep satisfaction and vindication of my belief, our shared belief, in the power of good journalism to reveal and to inform, to question the unquestioned, to help make sense of the noise rather than to add to it.

We need to work relentlessly to prove our essential belief that there is no contradiction between good journalism and the marketplace.

I have always believed: create good content and money will follow. That will be the principle behind another project that I greatly look forward to with Shekhar’s arrival: the launch of some new editorial offerings that will uniquely blend the best of reporting and analysis.

In his new role, Shekhar has promised to liberate me from day-to-day operations so that I can work to guiding the group into a future of great promise, growth and excitement.

Shekhar, welcome back.

Aroon

***

Also read: An Aroon Purie tribute worthy of emulation

Aroon Purie: how to say goodbye to a departing editor

How a TV news presenter fought her cancer

13 July 2013
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Channel 4 news presenter Bridgid Nzekwu after her double masectomy. Her surgeon opted for the ‘tummy tuck’ reconstruction method.

Bridgid Nzekwu-Cancer victim2

Fluid being drained from Bridgid’s chest (left), and the prosthetic nipples she has yet to use

The actress Angelina Jolie made global headlines a couple of months ago for revealing her double masectomy through a signed article in The New York Times.

This week, in The Sunday Times, London, Bridgid Nzekwu, a Channel 4 news presenter reveals her own heroic battle against cancer after she discovered a malignant lump in her left breast.

Over a five-page article (paywall), Nzekwu, 42, recounts her double masectomy in April with the kind of candour that should be a lesson to all those fighting the dreaded ‘C’.

“If you saw me dressed now, you would never know anything that happened. It’s three months since the operation and I’m back to my original bra size. I have enough energy to play with [my son] Oscar, take him to and from nursery, go shopping, cook, do housework. I’ve even started an exercise DVD.

“So far I haven’t used my prosthetic nipples—I quite like the look of my new boobs as they are which I hadn’t expected. They make me feel proud and defiant.

“My new slimeline tummy will take more getting used to. It still looks quite ugly and will do until the revision surgery is completed. Soon I will be going back to work. I’m pretty sure I won’t feel nervous going back on camera; it’s only without my clothes on that I feel self-conscious about my new body.

“Overall, this experience has been less traumatic than I feared.”

Photographs: courtesy The Sunday Times, London

Will TV channels lose out to newspapers by 2050?

18 April 2013

Before the reforms of 1991 prised open the doors of Indian journalism (and the minds and wallets of publishers and promoters), “Gulf” was the El Dorado journalists and editors chased. In Bombay and Bangalore and Delhi, dozens of journalists and editors attended road shows and group-interviews in the banquet halls of five-star hotels.

Khaleej Times, Gulf News, The Peninsula… would eventually be the ports of call that beckoned some of India’s bigget and brightest names, from S. Nihal Singh to Pranay Gupte, Bikram Vohra to Khalid A.H. Ansari.

Khaleej Times turned 35 years old this week and like the rest of its dead-tree brethren across the globe is coming to terms with the realities of the modern world. Ramesh Prabhu who left Mid Day, Bombay, to join the Dubai paper, writes in the anniversary issue on the what the next 35 years holds for newspaper journalism.

***

By RAMESH PRABHU

Eight years ago, while addressing college students at a media seminar in Bangalore, the editor-in-chief of The Indian Express group had bemoaned the fact that television news was chipping away at the raisons d’être of newspapers.

Television channels had expropriated from the dailies, Shekhar Gupta said, the who, what, when, and where of news. “Of the five W’s and one H,” he told the audience, “we are now left with only the why and the how.”

Shades of “Video killed the radio star”?

At the time, in 2005, when Gupta was dwelling on a topic that would resonate with newspaper journalists everywhere, it had not yet become clear that Google was well on its way to eating the newspaper industry’s lunch and dinner, having already chomped down its breakfast.

Quite a few people, especially young adults, were going online to get the who, what, when, and where of news. And when there were no compelling reasons to look for, or to understand, the why and the how, what did they have to read a newspaper for?

Cut to 2013. Already, the iconic Newsweek has gone “all-digital”, while other print publications, including daily newspapers, especially in the West, are in the doldrums, pondering a future without a physical presence, as in the case of Newsweek, or any presence at all, as in the case of the Chicago Daily News and the Baltimore Examiner (visit NewspaperDeathWatch.com for all the gory details).

What to do?

***

Parvathi Menon, resident editor of the Bangalore edition of The Hindu, recently gave aspiring journalists something to think about regarding this issue.

Speaking at a local media college’s annual seminar in February, Menon referred to the economic problems plaguing the industry but she asserted that the principles of journalism have not changed and do not need to change; it is only the medium that is changing.

She also spoke about the urgent need for newspapers to figure out how to make money off their Web offerings. The underlying message: Newspapers are not going to survive, leave alone thrive, unless they come up with a sound online strategy.

But what constitutes a sound online strategy?

The New York Times, one of the world’s great newspapers, has been thinking hard about the answer to this question for some years now.

As far back as July 2008, responding to a reader’s question on the newspaper’s website, Marc Frons, the executive in charge of digital operations, had written that the goal was to enable “our readers to have the best of both worlds — technology that allows them to personalize aspects of their experience while at the same time highlighting the editorial judgment that’s unique to The Times”.

In other words, the aim at The Times was, and is, to engage with its audience not just once a day at the breakfast table but throughout the day with a continually updated, reader-friendly website.

***

Closer home, in India, the respected business paper, Mint, last year adopted what it calls a Web-first philosophy. What does this mean for the reader?

The editor, R. Sukumar, explained in a note in the paper that stories would now be broken first on the website, and updated continuously if they merit updates. The note continued (bear with me here for reproducing the longish excerpt below, but this will help us to understand the manifold changes newspapers need to think about making):

“It means opinion and analysis pieces, too, appear first on the Web, soon after a big event, so that the readers can understand what it means. It means the extensive use of social media to amplify stories, engage with readers, and also, in some cases, to constantly provide updates on developing-by-the-minute stories. It means the extensive use of multimedia, including video. It means reaching out to people on a variety of devices (phones, tablets) through apps and a dynamic website.

“It means producing a paper that factors in everything we have done in the past 12 hours and understanding what makes most sense for readers, sometimes a full 18 hours after the original news has broken. And it means doing all this without compromising our integrity or high journalistic standards.”

There is no better way to chart out what should be the priorities of every newspaper today.

Note the emphasis on reaching out to people on a variety of devices. Most young people I know do not subscribe to a daily newspaper. And they will not read a newspaper, if they can help it. If at all they make an attempt to glean the day’s news, they do it by firing up an app on their mobile phones or using their mobiles to surf online.

Note, too, the emphasis on editorial judgment in The Times executive’s quote, and on journalistic standards in the Mint editor’s note.

***

The zillions of bloggers out there offer news of a sort, sure, but the writing on most blogs, apart from being of poor quality, is often slanted and ill-informed, making it difficult to comprehend what one is reading. Only trained and experienced journalists can provide editorial judgment and be expected to uphold high journalistic standards.

(Yes, and this is sad but true, some publications have justly earned a reputation for being on the make. However, I believe that the greater number of newspapers — and journalists — take very seriously their role as watchdogs of society. This is a discussion, though, for another occasion.)

But are editorial judgment and high journalistic standards enough to attract the next generation of readers, the people who will form the bulk of the readership 35 years from now? The answer appears to be “No”, going by the indifference to newspapers of young people today.

If we want them to read news on handheld devices and if we want newspapers to become the go-to sites on their screens, we need, as journalists, to focus on what I term the three E’s of journalism: engage, entertain, enlighten.

Given that the basic values and disciplines of journalism have been imbibed and are being practised, the writing has to be top-notch, above all. There was a time when the No. 1 quality sought in journalists was their nose for news, their ability to judge newsworthiness; if their writing skills were, at best, adequate, it was considered good enough.

But adequate writing skills are not good enough today. And they won’t be any good in 2050.

Indifferent writing breeds indifferent readers.

Quality writing attracts readers of all kinds.

In a topical book I am reading just now, The Imperfectionists by journalist-turned-novelist Tom Rachman, published in 2010, the editor of a Rome-based newspaper tells the mediator at an industry conference that news will survive and quality coverage will always earn a premium.

“Whatever you want to call it,” she says, “news, text, content — someone has to report it, someone has to write it, someone has to edit it.”

Rachman’s fictional editor, Kathleen Solson, also discusses living in an era when technology is moving at an unheralded pace. “I can’t tell you if in fifty years we’ll be publishing in the same format,” she tells the mediator. “Actually I can probably tell you we won’t be publishing in the same way, that we’ll be innovating then, just as we are now.”

On that promising note, I am going to go out on a limb and predict that 35 years from now when Khaleej Times sets out to hire journalists for its expanded web-print empire, it will be looking for tech-proficient reporters and editors who have not only been trained in Journalism 101 but also have exceptional writing skills, even new writing skills that we are missing out on now.

They will be able to speedily compose and edit articles that will engage, entertain, and enlighten readers. Articles that will be read from first word to last. Articles that will give readers compelling reasons to stay glued to their screens.

The five W’s and one H of news will be buttressed by two additional, crucial elements: “So what?” and “What next?”

There will be an incentive to care about the news again. And a well-known television journalist, speaking at a media seminar in 2050 in Dubai, will then lament how TV news channels are losing out to newspapers.

What is it they say about just deserts?

(Ramesh Prabhu has worked as a journalist in Mumbai, Dubai, and Bangalore, having begun his career with Mid Day in 1981. He is now professor of journalism at Commits Institute of Journalism & Mass Communication, Bangalore.)

How Tinkle magazine came to be called ‘Tinkle’

28 September 2012

Tinkle, India’s English first magazine for children, has just published its 600th issue.

Rajani Thindiath, who took over as the magazine’s editor after the demise of Anant Pai, speaks to the New York Times  blog, India Ink:

Q: First things first. Why is Tinkle called “Tinkle”?

A: Subba Rao, who was the associate editor of Amar Chitra Katha, proposed the idea of a comic book for children to Anant Pai during a meeting. Mr Rao’s idea was accepted, and the team began discussing a name for the magazine. Mr. Pai said he wanted a musical name—and that’s when a call interrupted the meeting.

Mr. Rao, whose phone had rung, told the caller that he was busy and that he would give a “tinkle,” or call back, later in the day. Then, when he put the phone down, Mr. Rao proposed ‘Tinkle’ as the name of the new magazine. Mr Pai liked the name and Tinkle was born.

Soon the ‘Tinkle Tinkle Little Star’ campaigns started airing on radio and TV, based on the popular children’s rhyme, to launch the new magazine.

Read the full interview: Rajani Thindiath

Hussain Zaidi: ‘Unlikely mafia killed J. Dey’

21 July 2012

He is a crime reporter of note, having authored two best-selling books (Black Friday and Dongri to Dubai), one of which became a hit film, another is in the making.

He has seen his protege Mid-Day crime journalist J. Dey murdered. He has seen his own colleague, Jigna Vora, being picked up for Dey’s murder, allegedly for helping the underworld to bump off Dey (after which his stint as the Bombay editor of the Asian Age came to a sudden end).

S. Hussain Zaidi answers the key question in an interview with India Ink, the India website of the New York Times:

Q: Your friend and colleague Jyotirmoy Dey was shot dead last year and your fellow crime reporters are being investigated in that case.

A: Mr Dey was my favorite prodigy. I taught him crime reporting. In 1995, when he joined The Indian Express, he said he wanted to do crime reporting and in turn he would teach me how to do weight lifting.

When I saw Mr Dey’s dead body on June 11, 2011—I have seen a lot of dead bodies. I have seen dozens of dead bodies,—but J. Dey? He was 6 foot 3 inches, when I used to look at him, such a strong muscular man; I thought he would never die. It was incredible sight to see him dead.

Who killed him is really a mystery, but I don’t think the mafia is behind his killing.

Photograph: courtesy Roli Books

Read the full interview: A conversation with Hussain Zaidi

Also read: Will underworld dons trust such a hot reporter?

Journalist arrested in journalist’s murder case

J: Dey: ‘When eagles are silent, parrots jabber’

Time, Sandesh and the six degrees of separation

11 July 2012

As the row over Time magazine’s “Underachiever” cover line on prime minister Manmohan Singh engulfs primetime news, Mail Today cartoonist R. Prasad cuts through the post-colonial clutter.

New York Times‘ India website IndiaInk has a gallery of past magazine covers on India, while Rediff compiles a slideshow of previous Time covers on Indians.

Meanwhile, Prasad links the brouhaha over Time‘s cover with the kerfuffle over Union minister Salman Khurshid‘s comments in the Indian Express on the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in a fresh cartoon.

Also view: After the full-page report, the full-page ad

The Indian cartoon offending the Aussies

How to launch a TV channel at half the cost

17 May 2012

On the New York Times site India Ink, Raksha Kumar writes on how the Kannada news channel Public TV got launched:

“I got these lights for just 40 rupees each (76 U.S. cents) when Wipro closed one of its branches in Bangalore,” said H.R. Ranganath, chairman and managing director, pointing at the ceiling.

“These cubicles, which my reporters and editors use, were bought from a shut-down office of Kingfisher,’’ he added, while doors were purchased from a Siemens branch that closed….

“We bought the cameras we use for 200,000 rupees each,” said Shashi Deshpande, facilities manager at Public TV. “Each of them would have cost us one million or more if purchased new….

“According to Mr Ranganath, the cost of starting up a regional television news channel in Karnataka is anywhere from 45 to 50 crores, or 450 million to 500 million rupees ($8.5 million to $9.4 million). He figured that if he could cut capital and operational costs at least in half, then he would be able to build a network without any outside financial help.”

Photograph: courtesy The New York Times

Also read: Editor declares assets, liabilities on live TV

Is there room for another Kannada news channel?

This is your chief minister and here is the news

How the media viewed Express ‘C’ report

5 April 2012

Editorial in Deccan Herald:

“There is reason for deep concern over the report in a national daily, The Indian Express, about an ‘unexpected (and non-notified) movement’ of two army units towards Delhi on the night of January 16-17… To insinuate that General V.K. Singh would attempt a coup to settle scores with the government is downright slanderous. It is an insult to the Indian Army, which has an unblemished record of being an apolitical force. There are enough safeguards in our system to ensure the supremacy of the civilian government over the military.

“It does seem that the newspaper read too much into what was a harmless and routine movement of army units. It should have exercised greater caution and responsibility in reporting the story the way it did.”

Editorial in The Hindu:

“The Indian Express is entirely within its rights to write about a sensitive matter like this, even if its treatment was overblown. Just as it is unfair for anyone to cast aspersions on the Indian Army, it is unfair to question the motives of the journalists who wrote the story.”

Jim Yardley and Hari Kumar in the New York Times:

“The article, splashed across the front page, created a sensation in the Indian news media, stirring a discussion on the country’s all-news channels and on Twitter, where many criticized the Express for, they said, sensationalizing the episode when relations between civilian and military leaders are already fraught….

Uday Bhaskar, a retired Indian Navy commodore, agreed that mistrust between military and civilian leaders had deepened, partly because of the poisonous political environment in New Delhi, which he said was fueled by an increasingly sensationalistic media.”

Sandeep Bamzai in Mail Today:

“A leading daily may have unintentionally extrapolated from the website report and sensationalised the story. Or it may have got it right because as they tell us the event is dated January 16 this year. But to run a story of this magnitude may well be a disservice to media and to national interest. Because now it is not just the Army chief, but the Armed Forces which will be viewed with suspicion.”

Editorial in the Economic Times:

“The overall fallout of the story is to lower both the army chief and the defence minister in public esteem, as those who bumble into a messy civil-military standoff.”

Manoj Joshi in Mail Today:

“In journalism, there are dividing lines that define when a news report informs, analyses, titillates or sensationalises. But there is just one line which separates a report which serves national interest from one which does disservice to it. The report in a national daily, which talks about the movement of two crack Indian Army units towards New Delhi on the night of January 16, not only makes unwarranted conjectures, but in the process, damages the body politic of the country.”

Editorial in the Business Standard:

“A binary choice should not be forced on this discussion. Talk of a coup is absurd and the newspaper report may be alarmist; yet there are questions that must be addressed…. Anything less than direct engagement with the substance of the Express report would serve to further undermine public trust in the institution.”

News item in M.J. Akbar‘s Sunday Guardian:

“Sources involved in tracking sensitive developments claim that a senior minister of the UPA government was the mastermind of the April 4 front page item in a daily newspaper about a suspected coup attempt. The sources claim that the minister is connected – through his close relative – with the defense procurement lobbies gunning for Chief of Army Staff General V K Singh, and that the decision to “trick the newspaper into running a baseless report was to drain away support for General Singh within the political class”, who could be expected to unite against any effort at creating a Pakistan-style situation in India….

“According to these sources,the minister in question “is well-known to senior journalistic levels of the publication” that ran the coup report. A military source was “surprised that the newspaper in question ran such a story,in view of the high level of competence of its senior staff”, but added that ” a senior minister being the source of the initial information would explain their belief in the truth of the report”.

Also read: Indian Express ‘C’ report: scoop, rehash or spin?

Indian Express stands by its ‘C’ report

‘The New York Times’ calls Sibal’s Facebook bluff

13 December 2011

Indian politicians are long used to happily denying what they said on record (and in front of cameras) without ever having their versions contradicted. Union telecommunications and information technology minister Kapil Sibal is learning the hard way that The New York Times isn’t write-your-pet-hate-newspaper-or-channel-here.

Last Monday, an NYT story which said “Big Brother” Sibal had urged global giants like Google, Facebook to “prescreen” user-content set off an online storm. The Congress party quickly dissociated itself from the minister’s remarks and Sibal was reduced to furiously back-pedalling before chummy TV anchors ever eager to oblige.

On Karan Thapar‘s “Devil’s Advocate” programme on CNN-IBN, Sibal said nobody from his ministry talked to NYT, nor did anybody from NYT talk to his department, and that the piece was based on Congress party sources.

Further, Sibal made heavy weather of a light-hearted comment made by an  NYT reporter at a press conference, even going so far as to suggest that the New York Times somehow wanted to get at him.

New York Times has responded to the charges and said it stands by the original story.

# The article posted on Dec. 5 notes, “Mr. Sibal’s office confirmed that he would meet with Internet service providers Monday but did not provide more information about the content of the meeting.’’ India Ink called three people in his office before posting the article: Mamta Verma and S. Prakash, spokespersons who said they had little information about the issue, and Ranjan Khanna, a secretary who was unavailable.  The article attributes no information to Congress Party personalities.

# The reporter who wrote the article, Heather Timmons, introduced herself to Sibal at a news conference the day after it was published with the phrase “just trying to keep you on your toes.” It was intended as a friendly nod to the fact that he may not have liked the story, but that nothing personal was meant by it.

Image: courtesy Outlook* (disclosures apply)

Read the full article: Our response to Kapil Sibal

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Should Facebook be censored?

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