Posts Tagged ‘The Sunday Times’

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

What to do when a rival hijacks your story

18 January 2013

oprah winfrey scan

How should a newspaper which has been pursuing a scandal for over a decade react when a rival journalist scoops a confessional interview with the personality at the centre of the story? Or looks likely to lob softball questions?

If you are Rupert Murdoch, you advice the interloper.

Oprah Winfrey‘s interview with cycling champ turned cheat Lance Armstrong, recorded on Monday, will air tonight on Discovery, and the channel has advertisements in Indian newspapers today announcing the show timings.

But in the run-up to the recording, the Chicago Tribune, the home-paper of the City where Oprah’s channel OWN is headquartered, The Sunday Times of London took out an advertisement, with 10 questions Oprah should ask.

The questions come from chief sports writer David Walsh who spent 13 years investigating allegations that Armstrong had taken performance enhancing drugs.

How Tavleen Singh fell out with Sonia Gandhi

21 November 2012

The columnist Tavleen Singh has just penned what she calls her “political memoirs”.

Titled Durbar (Hachette, 324 pages, Rs 599), the book charts Singh’s view of the corridors of power in Delhi from the inside out—from Indira Gandhi‘s Emergency in 1975 to her assassination in 1984; from Rajiv Gandhi‘s rise to his downfall and death in 1991.

The book jacket describes how Singh, at various times a reporter for The Statesman, Delhi; The Telegraph and Sunday, Calcutta; The Sunday Times, London:

“observed a small, influential section of Delhi’s society—people she knew well—remain strangely unafffected by the perilous state of the nation…. It was the beginning of a political culture of favouritism and ineptitude that would take hold at the highest levels of government, stunting India’s ambitions and frustrating its people well into the next century.”

In chapter 14, titled Euphoric Early Days and a Plot, Singh chronicles throws light on how her friendship with Rajiv’s window Sonia Gandhi waned—and the role played by a 1986 profile of the current Congress president in India Today magazine.

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By TAVLEEN SINGH

By the middle of 1986, my relations with M.J. Akbar had become so fraught that I decided I was better off going freelance. I was writing regularly by then for the Sunday Times, London, which brought in more money than I earned at the Telegraph.

I came to an arrangement with Aroon Purie, owner and chief editor of India Today, to do some freelance work for him as well and with a considerable degree of pleasure sent Akbar my resignation. His tantrums and sulks had now become so routine as to make constant difficulties for me professionally….

So it was that I happened to be in the India Today office on the afternoon the news came that someone had tried to shoot Rajiv Gandhi when he was visiting Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial, Rajghat, on 2 October 1986. The failed assassin was a twenty-four-year-old Sikh called Karamjit Singh, who was such an amateur that he used a country-made pistol as his weapon….

When I heard that Sonia had been with Rajiv at Rajghat, I called her to find out what had happened. She said that what had upset her most was that when they heard the shots the first people to duck were Rajiv’s new and supposedly highly trained bodyguards from the special protection group (SPG).

I must have mentioned our conversation in the India Today office that afternoon because immediately afterwards Aroon Purie summoned me to his room to ask if I could do an interview with Sonia Gandhi.

He said that people were blaming her for the negative stories that were beginning to pollute the atmosphere around Rajiv and everyone was curious about what kind of person she was and whether she really controlled the prime minister as people said she did. Although she went everywhere with the prime minister nobody knew anything about her at all.

What did her voice sound like?

How did she spend her days?

What did she think of India?

I called Sonia and told her that India Today wanted to do an interview with her and emphasised that her image was really bad and that it might help her to give an interview and clarify some of the things that were being said about her.

I told her that she was being blamed for interfering in government affairs and such things as throwing Arun Nehru out of the circle of Rajiv’s closest advisors…. She listened in silence and remained silent for a few moments before saying that she would check with the prime minister’s media managers and see if they thought she should give an interview to India Today.

They did not think it was a good idea. So we agreed to do an interview disguised as a profile and that only Sonia and I, and of course India Today, would know that the profile was done with her cooperation. I asked her all the questions that Aroon wanted me to and produced a profile that was so anodyne that Aroon said, ‘I don’t mind being considered a chamcha of Rajiv Gandhi, but of Sonia…’

I pointed out that I had said right from the start that I would not be able to say anything negative about her since we were doing the profile with her cooperation. Aroon was unconvinced and said that the very least we should do was put in the things that people were saying about her. He suggested that we put some bite into the piece by getting my colleague Dilip Bobb to work with me so that if I had problems with Sonia afterwards I could put the blame on Dilip.

So on the cover of the 15 December 1986 issue of India Today there appeared a profile titled ‘The Enigmatic First Lady of India’.

I am going to quote here the first two paragraphs and admit that the writing of them had more to do with Dilip than me. My contribution was to provide information about Sonia’s likes and dislikes, her friends and her life as the prime minister’s wife:

Had fate – in the form of assassins’ bullets – not intervened, she would have probably been quite content to linger in the shadow of her formidable mother-in-law, her assiduously protected privacy undisturbed by the fact that she belonged to the most famous family in the land. But destiny – and dynasty – willed otherwise. Unwarned, Sonia Gandhi was suddenly pitch-forked into the position she would have least wanted – India’s First Lady.

It is, as the last two years have painfully revealed, a role she is not comfortable in. Compared to the relaxed style of her debonair husband, she appears awkward and wooden. Though impeccably attired and carefully groomed, her face, framed by luxuriant chestnut hair, is an immobile mask. Perhaps deliberately, her public personality has given her the image of a mere ceremonial appendage to the Prime Minister. She is not a Lalita Shastri, but neither does she seem cut out to be Nancy Reagan or a Raisa Gorbachova. And the fate of someone who falls between two stools is not a happy one.

The article went on to charge Sonia with being the power behind the throne ‘plotting the downfall of opponents, through cabinet reshuffles (she didn’t trust Arun Nehru) and advising her husband on everything from the Kashmir coalition to Pepsi Cola’s entry into India.’

The profile was not flattering but it was not as bad as it could have been. Considering how much vicious gossip there was about the Quattrocchis by then, the piece was not unfair. There was only an illusion to her friends using her name when they threw their weight around Delhi’s drawing rooms and government offices. This was mentioned in passing.

So, when I called Sonia to find out what she thought of the profile I did not expect the frosty response I got.

I asked her if she had seen the profile and what she thought about it, and I remember being surprised by the icy tone in which she replied that she did not think she was like the person I had described in the profile. In what way, I asked, and she mentioned the reference to her friends using her name.

I said, ‘Look, Sonia, there are people using your name. I don’t want to give you details over the phone. But let’s have coffee and I will tell you exactly what is going on and who is doing what.’

We agreed to meet the next day or the next, but an hour before our scheduled meeting Madhavan, her personal assistant, called to say that Mrs Gandhi was unable to keep our appointment as she was accompanying the prime minister to Kashmir. He had been instructed to tell me that she would call when she returned to fix another time.

She never did.

Some weeks later I wrote to her to offer condolences on her father’s death and got a polite handwritten reply in her neat, carefully formed handwriting. My New Year’s card in January 1987 was not written by hand and signed by both of them as it was the year before. It came from the prime minister’s office and was formally signed by Rajiv Gandhi.

I had been dropped.

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Book excerpt: courtesy Hachette

Photo illustration: courtesy Amarjit Siddu via Al Arabiya

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Also visit: Tavleen Singh‘s website

Follow her on Twitter: @tavleen_singh

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Also read: Vinod Mehta on Arun Shourie, Dileep Padgaonkar

Kuldip Nayar on Shekhar Gupta, N. Ram & Co

B.G. Verghese on the declaration of Emergency

The Times, they are a-slowly changing in Bombay

8 March 2011

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After allowing itself to become the favourite whipping “old lady” of all and sundry, The Times of India group seems to have embarked on a drive to get honest.

First, a code of ethics for The Economic Times and ET Now.

Now, an upfront disclosure on the pages of its City supplements—Bombay Times, Delhi Times, Bangalore Times, etc—that they are what its critics have always accused it to be: a bunch of paid-for, deals-within-deals pages.

On January 1, the strapline below the masthead of the Bombay Times supplement read, “Entertainment and Advertising Feature”. On March 1, after the Sunday Times sting, it reads: “Advertorial, Entertainment Promotional Feature”. Go, figure.

Images: courtesy The Times of India

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Also read: Why a ‘serious’ Reuters journo reads a tabloid

Why is Rupert Murdoch taking on Samir Jain?

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Full coverage: Pyramid Saimira, Tatva & Times Private Treaties

Times Private Treaties gets a very public airing

SUCHETA DALAL: Forget the news, you can’t believe the ads either

SALIL TRIPATHI: The first casualty of a cosy deal is credibility

PAUL BECKETT: Indian media holding Indian democracy ransom

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA: ‘Indian media in deeply murky ethical territory’

The scoreline: Different strokes for different folks

Selling the soul or sustaining the business?

It takes 3 Idiots to call the bluff of pauper tigers

‘Only the weather section isn’t sold these days’

Why is Rupert Murdoch taking on Samir Jain?

23 February 2011

New Delhi’s media circles have agog all this week with news of a “sting” operation on The Times of India by The Sunday Times of London.

The question: why would Rupert Murdoch‘s paper take on Samir Jain‘s, especially when it is not revealing anything particularly new?

Is something afoot between the media giants?

Has a deal gone sour?

Have the first shots been fired in a war between News Corp and Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd?

The Sunday Times article has, however, been unavailable to readers because of paper’s paywall and because newspapers which subscribe to The Sunday Times syndication service have refrained from running it.

Below is the full text of the article, carried without the permission of the publishers. And in the dock is not just ToI but Hindi heavyweights like Dainik Bhaskar, Dainik Jagran and Aaj, the first two of whom are listed on the stock exchanges.

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India’s media demand cash to run favourable news

By Nicola Smith/ Delhi

The Indian government has condemned a rise in so-called “paid news”, in which newspapers and television channels accept money to run favourable articles about politicians, companies and celebrities.

The move by Ambika Soni, the broadcasting minister, follows a damaging report commissioned by the Press Council of India, which revealed that the practise of playing for positive coverage in the Indian media was widespread.

Soni, who proposed a new body to regulate broadcasting, said the phenomenon was undermining the credibility of new reports. “The paid news issue does not crop up during the elections but at other times as well,” she said.

The Press Council report criticised newspapers and broadcasters that demand money from politicians to run sympathetic stories about them. It said some papers misrepresent paid-for advertising as news and enter “private treaties” with companies that guarantee favourable coverage in exchange for free shares.

The report quoted a long list of politicians who disclosed that newspaper had asked them to pay large sums to write about their campaigns during state elections in 2009.

Harmohan Dhawan, a former aviation minister, was told that if he wanted coverage, he would have to pay two local newspapers, Dainik Jagran and Dainik Bhaskar, up to one million rupees (£13,600) each.

“Representatives of the print medium came to me and asked for money. They said their newspapers (would) give coverage if I paid them money. They offered a ‘package’ to me and in one such package I was told editorials would be written in my favour,” he said.

The story was echoed by Santosh Singh, a candidate for the ruling Congress party in Uttar Pradesh, who said he had been offered packages costing up to one million rupees by the Dainik Jagran and Aaj newspapers.

“The representatives of these newspapers who me said they were merely following orders given to them by their managements,” he said.

The Press Council report also highlighted the role of Medianet, a company created Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd, which publishes The Times of India, The Economic Times and a range of other leading titles.

Medianet, for a price, openly offers to send journalists to cover launches or personality-related events, or arranges “news stories” based on a particular product to appear in the newspaper supplements.

A Sunday Times reporter telephoned Medianet last week posing as the public relations agent of a company wanting coverage for a party at Emporio, an exclusive shopping mall in Delhi.

Chandru Sambasivan, the head of Medianet’s Delhi office, said space could be bought in the Delhi Times supplement, the Times‘ society pages, for £27 a centimetre on the front page, of £16 inside.

He said it could “definitely” be dressed up as a genuine news story, as along it met a “celebrity quotient”. Celebrities were available to attend the event at an extra cost, he said.

“Once you are able to share it (the launch product) with us, we could always build a story around it and make an interesting article for the readers,” he said. “Basically, if you are looking at a launch, then it can go on ‘launch pad’, on page 3 of Delhi Times.”

Sambasivan confirmed that the latest launch pad feature, in which Katrina Kaif, the Bollywood star, promoted Uni-ball pens, had been paid for by a marketing company. The article, which has no writer’s name attached, does not make clear that it was sponsored.

In it, Kaif, 26, gushed: “I’m excited about being the face of a youthful, high-quality, international brand, which I have personally grown up with in the UK; and I particularly love Uni-Jetstream, which I think is the smoothest pen in the world.”

Ravi Dhariwal, the chief executive of The Times of India, said yesterday: “There is no paid in news in any of our main papers and titles. We do have advertising and promotional supplements which sometimes carry paid features.”

The practice of “paid news” has been widely criticised.

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, one of the authors of Press Council report, said adverts posing as new were “cheating” readers.

Also read: Good morning! Your paper is free of paid news

Roy Greenslade: India’s dodgy ‘paid news’ phenomenon

How Kremlin trapped ‘Newsweek Russia’ editor

4 April 2010

The editor of Newsweek Russia, Mikhail Fishman, has been surreptitiously filmed snorting what appears to be a line of cocaine and sitting on a sofa next to a woman wearing only a t-shirt, in what is being described as a “honeytrap” laid by Kremlin to ensnare critics.

The video has surfaced on YouTube (the operative portion after 3 minutes). Fishman is quoted by The Sunday Times, London, as saying the KGB style tactic was a signal to independent journalists to keep a low profile.

Read The Times article: Honeytrap ensnares enemies of Kremlin

Read The Daily Beast article: Russia’s amazing drugs and hookers scandal

The Queen on why she hates women interviewers

21 November 2008

Helen Mirren, the British actress who won the Oscar for playing The Queen, on why she likes to be interviewed by male reporters, in The Sunday Times magazine:

“I prefer male journalists because there’s a streak of female journalism—the bitches—who are mean-spirited and nasty because you are another woman and want to make you feel crap.

“It’s very upsetting.

“I’m more careful when I’m being interviewed by a woman because, from experience as well as reading articles about other women, I know there is a little stiletto knife hidden behind the back.”

Photograph: courtesy The Daily Mail, London

‘Azadi advocates should be tried for treason’

24 August 2008

Chandan Mitra, editor-in-chief of The Pioneer and a Rajya Sabha member nominated by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP):

“Last weekend two prominent newspaper columnists [Swaminathan Aiyar in The Sunday Times, and Vir Sanghvi in The Hindustan Times] wrote about the need to think out-of-the-box urging us to seriously consider if it is morally right to hold “unwilling” Kashmiris back in this country.

“I agree with them…. But under no circumstances can Indian citizens be allowed to promote secession.

“Advocating the right of Kashmiris to secede, as a professional female agitator [Arundhati Roy] (who believes the Vajpayee Government staged the December 13, 2001 attack on Parliament) reportedly did in Srinagar, is tantamount to treason and must invite provisions contained in the law relating to waging war against the State.

“Personally, I feel that even publicising such treasonable views, leave alone using dedicated columns to indulge in secessionist propaganda, should invite the charge of promoting terrorism and anti-national activity.”

Read the full column: Better Mush than traitors

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