Posts Tagged ‘The Wall Street Journal’

How to pass IAS: read newspapers & magazines

17 May 2013

banik

It is not often these days that news consumers have something good to say about newspapers.

And magazines.

And TV stations.

And blogs.

And websites.

Individual and institutional transgressions—paid news, private treaties, medianet, Radia tapes, shrieking anchors, sensationalism, jingoism, corruption, etc—have all contributed enormously to the cynicism of the media among the consuming classes.

How heartening therefore to hear Debasweta Banik.

At 22, one of youngest to pass the civil services examinations this year, the NOIDA girl tells the Wall Street Journal‘s India Realtime, that she didn’t reach out for textbooks or attend coaching classes. Instead, she dipped into newspapers to keep abreast with current affairs and frame her essays better.

Yes, newspapers.

WSJ reporter Preetika Rana writes:

“A typical day, Banik says, would begin by studying three out of seven English-language news dailies her father – an engineer at a Noida-based state-run firm – subscribes to. Her staples were The Indian Express, Hindustan Times and The Hindu, but she would also dip into others.

“‘I made cuttings out of articles – commentaries and news stories – which interested me,’ said Ms. Banik, who ranked 14th in the exam. ‘These were my notes.’

“Opinion pieces written by political analyst Ramachandra Guha and economist Abhijit Banerjee helped her better frame long answers in the exam, she added….

“‘People underestimate the knowledge in newspapers,’ said Ms. Banik, who is from Noida. ‘I don’t know how I would have done this without them. They were my lifeline,’ she said.

Image: via Facebook

Link: courtesy Nikhil Kanekal

Read the full article: How I aced India’s toughest exam

Also read: Shekhar Gupta on Express and the Hindu

The Hindu: the most readable daily in the world?

The sudden rise of media mogul Mukesh Ambani

3 January 2012

Mukesh Ambani (left) went to sleep last night as India’s richest man and woke up this morning as also India’s biggest media mogul. That, in a nutshell, is the sum and substance of the dramatic announcement by Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) that it was getting into a tie-up with Raghav Bahl‘s Network18.

The tie-up means an RIL subsidiary will pump funds into a rights issue by Bahl’s Network18 that is deep in the red. This will help the latter pare down its debts and it will also help it pick up RIL’s stake in the Eenadu Television (ETV) channels owned by southern media strongman, Ramoji Rao.

Although RIL has said the investment will be done by way of an independent trust and that Raghav Bahl and team will have full control, in effect, it means overnight Mukesh Ambani’s direct and indirect shadow will be over at least three English news channels (CNN-IBN, NDTV, NewsX), a top flight business news channel (CNBC TV18), and a clutch of language channels.

With younger brother Anil Ambani too reported to be in the media in ways unseen and unreportable, and with the two warring brothers doing a recent jig together, the RIL-Network 18 tieup raises troubling questions over the hold of India’s biggest corporate house on the media and the potential for the creation of a media duopoly.

Today’s RIL announcement of a tie-up with Network 18 confirms a Business Standard story last month and makes nonsense of a Times of India story the following day that Rajeev Chandrasekhar was picking the ETV channels. The announcement also confirms a Wall Street Journal report which had been vehemently denied by RIL.

The only official previous RIL involvement with the media was when it bought the Sunday Observer and launched the Business and Political Observer in 1991. Both those ventures were soon shut.

Below is the full text of the RIL press release:

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MUMBAI, 3 January 2012: RIL today announced that a part of the interest owned by it in the ETV Channels is being divested to TV18 Broadcast Limited (TV18). As a part of the deal, Infotel Broad Band Services Limited (“Infotel”), a subsidiary of RIL, has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with TV18 and Network18 Media and Investments Limited (Network18) for preferential access to all their content for distribution through the 4G Broadband Network being set up by it.

As per the Memorandum of Understanding, Infotel shall have preferential access to (i) the content of all the media and web properties of Network 18 and its associates and (ii) programming and digital content of all the broadcasting channels of TV18 and its associates on a first right basis as a most preferred customer.

Infotel is setting up a pan India world class 4th Generation Broadband Network using state of the art technologies. Infotel expects to take a leadership position in content distribution through broadband technology through a host of devices. Digital content from entertainment, news, sports, music, weather, education and other genres will be a key driver to increase consumption of broadband.

RIL, through investments of about Rs.2600 crores, by its group companies, currently holds interest in various ETV Channels being operated and managed by Eenadu Group viz. (i) 100% economic interest in regional news channels, namely ETV Uttar Pradesh, ETV Madhya Pradesh, ETV Rajasthan, ETV Bihar and ETV Urdu channel (“News Channels”) (ii) 100% economic interest in ETV Marathi, ETV Kannada, ETV Bangla, ETV Gujarati and ETV Oriya (“Entertainment Channels”) and (iii) 49% economic interest in ETV Telugu and ETV Telugu News (“Telugu Channels”).

A part of the above investments comprising of 100% interest in News Channels, 50% interest in Entertainment Channels and 24.50% interest in Telugu Channels is being profitably divested to TV18 Broadcast Limited.

Network18 and TV18 have today announced that both the companies are raising funds for the acquisition of ETV Channels through a Rights Issue.

Independent Media Trust (“Trust”), a trust set up for the benefit of Reliance Industries Limited, has agreed to fund the Promoters of Network 18 and TV18 to enable them to subscribe to the proposed Rights Issue announced by both the companies today. The Promoter Companies of Network18 and TV18 and the Trust have entered into a Term Sheet under which the Trust would be subscribing to the Optionally Convertible Debentures to be issued by the Promoter Companies.

Reliance will leverage its deep understanding of the Indian markets – consumer insights, technological expertise, and the ability to build & manage scale – to make this a “win win” partnership. This will create value and be accretive to the shareholders of RIL.

Raghav Bahl and his team will continue to have full operational and management control of both the companies. Raghav Bahl and the current Promoter Entities of Network18 and TV18 will continue to retain control over Network 18 and TV18. RIL reposes full faith in the current leadership and management team of Network18 and TV18.

The investments in these media properties are being made by RIL through an independent trust which will have eminent individuals as Trustees, thus preserving the management, operational and editorial independence of these media companies.

The investment by the Trust in the Promoter Companies of Network18 and TV18, and the arrangement between Network18/TV18 and Infotel for the acquisition and distribution of content on the Infotel platform, is one of many such partnership initiatives being undertaken by Infotel.

The combination of India’s leading TV content provider, with a bouquet of nearly 25 channels, and Infotel, will be a significant step in bringing a high quality “live TV” experience to broadband customers across the country. Likewise, Network18’s market-leading web portals and e-commerce operations will provide several value added services to Infotel’s broadband subscribers. This unique alliance is expected to differentiate Infotel and create value for all stakeholders.

External reading: The column The Hindu didn’t publish

Medianama on the RIL-Network 18 deal

***

Also read: Why the Indian media doesn’t take on the Ambanis

The Indian Express, Reliance & Shekhar Gupta

Niira Radia, Mukesh Ambani, Prannoy Roy & NDTV

Thrice bitten, will FT find love after 20 years?

4 May 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: For a newspaper that likes to think it is the handbook for global executives on how to run their businesses, Financial Times hasn’t quite had a textbook entry into India.

Twenty years ago, when the doors of the economy were opened ajar and the rumours of the iconic British business newspaper being published from India gained steam, The Times of India group tripped FT by launching a weekly supplement to The Economic Times, mischievously calling it Financial Times. A long courtroom battle over trademark violation ensued between the two groups.

Boxed into a corner, FT got into a tieup with what was then India’s no. 2 business newspaper, Business Standard, becoming the first foreign company to make a major investment in Indian media. FT‘s representatives sat in the BS news and board rooms, but that relationship went sour in 2008, with FT divesting its 13.85% stake in the paper.

Three years ago, rumours of Raghav Bahl‘s Network 18 launching the India edition of FT hit the roof, with rumours of then ToI executive editor Jaideep Bose being wooed to head the operation. ToI again hit back, retaining “Jojo”, as Bose is known, and elevating him to editorial director. The global downturn also helped put the project in cold freeze.

Today, the Indian Express group of Viveck Goenka, which owns the Financial Express, has announced a “content partnership” with the Financial Times, exactly two years to the day after it started printing a facsimile edition of FT‘s rival, The Wall Street Journal.

“In addition to daily news and features from the Financial Times, readers will benefit from access to reporting from FT bureaus around the world and columns by eminent writers such as Martin Wolf, Lucy Kellaway and Simon Schama,” reads a front-page announcement in the Express.

Express is already in a similar “content partnership” with The Economist, which is half-owned by Pearson, the publishers of FT, publishing a co-branded page a day.  The Rupert Murdoch-owned WSJ, besides printing its editions in Express presses, is in a “partnership” with Mint, the business daily owned by the Hindustan Times.

Thrice bitten, will Financial Times find lasting love in relationship no. 4 with the Express group? And will the consummation of the marriage see the birth of FT in the 20th year of reforms? More to the point, is there an unseen hand, with nascent interests in news television, behind the Express-Economist-FT partnership?

Hu, Wen and why China scorns Indian media

22 January 2011

When the Chinese premier Wen Jiabao visited India in December 2010, he was critical of the Indian media, saying it repeatedly sensationalised the border situation, causing damage to bilateral ties. He even lectured a group of editors to play a more active role in enhancing friendship between the two countries.

However, when the Chinese president Hu Jintao faced aggressive questioning at a joint press conference with his US counterpart Barack Obama in Washington D.C. last week, he couldn’t muster the courage to castigate the American media. He was defensive, evasive , even conciliatory.

Why did Wen not bother with the diplomatic niceties that his president employed?

The veteran columnist Sunanda K. Datta-Ray in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“One reason is that no Indian publication is any longer taken seriously as an interlocutor like the Post and Journal in the US…..

“National papers of record have become vehicles of private interest. Some are trivial, some project a borrowed ideology, others are obsessed with what are called ‘Page Three people’….

“Wen is dismissive about media freedom and contemptuous about its “sensationalizing” because he knows his diplomats can buy favourable coverage by extending hospitality to leading commentators and doling out what passes for exclusive titbits of information.”

Read the full article: A study in contrasts

Also read: Censorship in the name of ‘national interest’

If a report isn’t ‘wrong’, surely it must be ‘right’?

Chinese hackers break into The Times of India

Never believe anything until it’s officially denied

One paper’s 40% threat is another’s 60% dud

‘Complacent US media can learn from India’

27 December 2010

S. Mitra Kalita, the US-born Indian-American who did a two-year stint at the business daily Mint before returning to the Wall Street Journal, has just done a book on her Indian experience, titled My Two Indias.

In an interview with Aseem Chhabra of India Abroad, the “daughter of Assam”, shares her thoughts on Indian journalism:

What was your experience with journalists in India?

“The challenge in India is that it is so competitive, cutting corners becomes a way of doing things….”

As compared to the journalists you met at The Washington Post and the WSJ, how would you rate Indian reporters?

“Indian journalists have a whole lot of heart and hustle. Every morning I wold get those nine newspapers at my doorstep and they were a reminder of what those reporters were up against.

“The complacency that has set in American journalism was pretty absent in Indian journalism.

“In the US, I could be working on a feature story for three or four days. In India if you have a great idea, you have to do it right away, because everybody else may also have the same idea.

“When I went back to the Journal, it was redefining itself as a more general newsy paper. So I could apply the lessons I learnt in India. It is interesting because once upon a time your Indian journalism experience counted for nothing….

“I still think that a lot of the downall of the newspapers in US—yes, some of it was caused by the internet, but some of it, in other industries too, was driven by complacency. In India, you just can’t be complacent. From the time you wake up and turn on the faucet—and there’s no guarantee that you will get water—there is no room for complacency in India.”

Never believe anything till it’s officially denied

8 September 2010

Can anything be off-the-record when the prime minister of the largest democracy in the solar system has a rare celestial confluence with the stars and satellites of the media galaxy?

More importantly, should anything be off the record?

And merely because a media minder says so, should it remain off the record, howsoever important the issue?

Manmohan Singh, a television-era politician with a face for the radio (who hasn’t given a single one-on-one interview to any Indian print, television or digital journalist since 2004), called for a rare pow-wow with a dozen of the “second-most important people in India“, on Monday, 6 September, the year of the lord 2010.

Obviously, it was a belated attempt at getting some good press after the intimations of mortality some of his party colleagues have been giving him in morse code. More such interactions are to follow.

All went to plan till the paperboy flung the Tuesday papers into 7, Race Course Road.

The nation’s largest English daily, The Times of India, led with the headline: “China wants India to be in state of low-level equilibrium.”

ToI (represented at the meeting by its executive editor Arindam Sengupta) reported that in response to a question, the PM had:

“agreed that Beijing could be tempted to use India’s ‘soft underbelly,’ Kashmir, and Pakistan ‘to keep India in low-level equilibrium….’ China would like to have a foothold in South Asia and we have to reflect on this reality.”

Turns out the PM’s comment was off-the-record, and the PM’s description of Kashmir as India’s “soft underbelly” was actually the questioner’s.

The Wall Street Journal has a story today on how the prime minister was “furious” at the outcome.

What’s not clear is whether Mr. Singh’s bad experience with the media will force him back in to his shell. “The idea was our friends in the media should have access to the prime minister,” the senior Indian government official said. “This is a bit of a setback.”

Obviously, there were some pre-arranged rules for the interaction. However, was the PM too trustful of the media on the hot-button issue of the day (China) on which two of his ministerial colleagues (Jairam Ramesh and P. Chidambaram) sparred openly and noisily?

Or did the PM himself let it slip deliberately?

Read the full article: Will media setback silence Mr Singh?

Also read: Why Manmohan should talk to the media more

Harish Khare: Because when man bites dog, it’s news—I

Harish Khare: Because when man bites dog, it’s news—II

Chinese hackers break into The Times of India

Censorship in the name of ‘national interest’

‘Better to be over-fair than not give full picture’

31 August 2010

Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal reporter and author of The Cure, Geeta Anand, in an interview with Meher Marfatia in Housecalls magazine:

Q: Are there are any rules for rookie reporters coming wide-eyed into the field?

A: I’d dvise young journalists to write the truth as it is, not like a movie screenplay. Never lie about your article’s intention… or be tempted by the slightest embellishments to it. There’s no shying away from saying what you have to, but not before loads of research. Go first to the ‘other’ side while starting a story. Better to be over-fair than not give the full picture. Stick with balance, nothing in life is black or white anyway.

Photograph: courtesy gogomag.com

Wall Street Journal editor ‘denies’ minister’s SMS

15 March 2010

M.J. Akbar‘s Sunday Guardian dishes out the garam masala of the day, outing the mischievous minister who allegedly sent allegedly inappropriate text messages to an editor of the Wall Street Journal after her recent interview with him.

Last week, the Delhi tabloid Mail Today had mentioned the gossip in its columns, two days in a row.

The minister, at the centre of a row over India’s alleged change of stance on climate change, has been at the receiving end of sections of the media over his u-turn on allowing genetically modified foods.

Newspaper facsimile: courtesy The Sunday Guardian

allegedly Italics: courtesy The Times of India

Also read: Why Ram Jethmalani started The Sunday Guardian

Will M.J. Akbar recreate The Telegraph magic?

External reading: Editor the Great

The Lone Ranger of Loony Hindutva versus…?

1 March 2010

A somewhat tenuous peace has been achieved in the ranks of the Bharatiya Janata Party after the “nasty jolt” it received in the May 2009 general elections. But a detente eludes journalists aligned with the BJP.

This, above, is the public exchange of words between the columnist Swapan Dasgupta and the Pioneer associate editor Kanchan Gupta on the microbloging site Twitter.

The provocation? Dasgupta’s piece in the Wall Street Journal on reinvigorating the BJP.

Also read: For the BJP, is the pen mightier than the trishul?

Who are the journalists running, ruining BJP?

Don’t laugh: do journalists make good politicians?

The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

How come no one saw the worm turn?

How Chandan Mitra has his halwa and hogs it too

Advani: Prime minister maybe, but not a good sub

When editor makes way for editor, gracefully

12 January 2010

The change of editorship at Indian publications is (usually) a graceless cloak-and-dagger affair, done in the dead of night after the janitors have left the building. Media consumers are rarely ever told why the helmsman has left or why a new one has come in, especially when there is a cloud shrouding the midnight operation.

At the crack of the new year, however, the business daily Business Standard had a more civilised change of captaincy. Here, the veteran editor and wordsmith T.J.S. George, founder-editor of Asiaweek magazine and a longtime editorial advisor of The Indian Express group, offers his salute.

***

By T.J.S. GEORGE

Appointments inside a newspaper are usually of no concern to the general public. But what happened in Business Standard last week should interest every citizen.

For it was a re-assertion of values we all hold dear and yet are vanishing almost unnoticed by us.

Outwardly it was a simple matter of re-styling. The editor of the paper was made chairman of the company and a new editor appointed in his place. But the significance of the move is wide-ranging for a variety of reasons—its rarity, the quality of the players involved, the importance of the values they represent, and the universality of stake-holders in this field.

Editor turning chairman is a rare phenomenon anywhere in the world. In India it has never happened before outside family-run newspapers.

In Britain it happened when Denis Hamilton, editor-in-chief of The Times was made chairman as well. In the US, Peter Kann who was covering Asia for the Wall Street Journal from Hong Kong was recalled and made publisher  in 1988 and, four years later, chairman of the Dow Jones Company.

What is noteworthy here is that only papers that had achieved high public confidence through their editorial excellence entrusted the company itself to the editors who had helped attain that excellence.

In the news business there is no greater asset than credibility.

In many other cases also credibility was gained when the owner/chairman allowed the editor to rule unfettered. The Washington Post and The Guardian are examples. In the latter case, owner John Taylor willed that the paper be sold to editor C.P.Scott.

That’s where the quality of players, both owner and editor, comes in.

Hamilton, the most innovative editor in England at the time, became chairman when the owner was Roy Thomson, a man of inherent  virtue who respected the high traditions of The Times. When the company was sold to Rupert Murdoch, a man of inherent faith in his own virtues, Hamilton left and became chairman of Reuters.

T.N. Ninan became editor of Economic Times (1988) when it was a staid, uninteresting paper. He completely re-invented it, gave it variety, liveliness and freshness. This approach of comprehensiveness was to become the template for other financial dailies.

In that sense, Ninan can be called the Father of Business Journalism in India.

He is effective because of his non-projection of himself, his habit of delegating powers and his knack of picking top-notch team mates. His choice for the chair he vacated at BS was Sanjaya Baru, perhaps the most accomplished scholar-academic-administrator-analyst in the newspaper business.

Unfortunately for Ninan, there was no Roy Thomson in Economic Times. Worse, the ghost of Rupert Murdoch lurked in every corridor. Ninan moved to Business Standard where owner Aveek Sarkar was conducting the Ananda Bazaar Patrika group rather like the Sulzburger family was conducting the New York Times company. He revamped BS on Ninan’s advice, but eventually sold the title.

Uday Kotak, the new majority shareholder, is said to have decided on investing only after getting an assurance from Ninan that he would mind the company as well. The chairmanship now conferred on Ninan is thus the culmination of  a philosophy already in place.

It is important that this philosophy  succeeds. Journalism has already sunk to unacceptable levels in our country.

How unethical this socially responsible profession has become  was demonstrated last year when the greatest newspaper scandal in the democratic world hit India. Several leading newspapers took money from politicians to publish reports praising them at election time. This was disguised as news—a clear case of cheating readers.

Is that the journalism India wants?

BS has progressed from  8000 copies to 185,000. But it is said to be facing problems typical of these uncertain times. In publications where values are upheld even when times are hard, every citizen is a stake-holder.

If honourable publications suffer, we all suffer.

If they succeed, we all succeed.

Photographs: courtesy Business Standard

Also read: It’s all official about the return of Sanjaya Baru

Sauce for a paper ain’t sauce for a TV station?

Conflict of interest and an interest in conflict

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