Posts Tagged ‘The Week’

V.N. Subba Rao: a ‘shishya’ remembers his Guru

12 October 2012

There are few more misleading terms in Indian journalism than the phrase “national media”.

Only those who flit around in the rarefied circles of Delhi and Bombay, rubbing shoulders with the high and mighty, qualify; everyone else is “upcountry”. Only the bold-faced names from big English media houses are supposed to be national; everyone else is smalltime, moffusil—even “downmarket”.

In reality, our media is richer because of the sweat and toil of hundreds of fine journalists in far corners, who carry on manfully for years, if not decades, without reward or recognition and often times without the expectation of both. Here, a veteran  journalist remembers his first “Chief” who hired him 41 years ago; a guru who would have been a “national” name if only he didn’t suffer from the fear of flying.

***

By A. SURYA PRAKASH

Indian journalism lost a giant earlier this week with the passing of V.N. Subba Rao, a top-notch political analyst, a prolific writer and a guru who trained hundreds of journalists in a career that spanned six decades.

Subba Rao’s interests were catholic.

He was arguably the best-informed political journalist in Karnataka in his hey day; a lover of cinema with an authoritative grip on the history and art of film making and a film critic of repute; a lover of art and culture; and an authority on Kannada literature.

VNSR, as he was affectionately known, also had other qualities which put him way ahead of his peers in the world of journalism. He was a brilliant teacher and a builder of teams and, given his varied interests, a man who could boast of friends in every walk of life.

***

VNSR was also a lover of words and produced eminently readable copy at a pace unmatched by anyone in his time. His day would begin early and he would walk into the office of the Indian Express on Queen’s Road, Bangalore, around 9 pm with more than a couple of news stories under his belt.

He would order some tea, set paper to typewriter and get down to doing the story of the day. From then on, all one heard was the clatter of the typewriter, with the peon walking in every ten minutes to take the typed sheet, which VNSR would yank out of the machine, to the desk, which would be waiting anxiously for what would invariably be the lead story in the paper next morning.

But, VNSR’s output for the day would not end with this important political copy.

He would have other things to write about—a film review, an interview, or even a routine announcement of a theatre or film festival from a press conference he had attended.

He was equally prolific in Kannada.

So, after a hard day’s work, VNSR and many of us who were just hanging around, waiting for “The Chief” to finish, would hop into what we called “the sheep van” or “the dog van” – those rowdy, robust mid-sized trucks in which newspapers were dispatched past midnight to various destinations in the state – and get dropped at our homes.

Given this routine, some of us were late risers, but for VNSR, his phone would start ringing from seven in the morning. Often the first caller would be the Chief Minister of the day: D. Devaraj Urs, R. Gundu Rao, Ramakrishna Hegde et al.

The caller would invariably praise VNSR for his deep insight into the political games the ministers were playing behind his back. This would be followed by phone calls from ministers offering fresh inputs or from the director and the stars of the movie which he had reviewed.

Everybody loved reading him because when VNSR had something good to say about a person or his work, the person written about would love to cut and frame Subba Rao’s piece.

***

I first met VNSR in 1971 when I walked into the Express office wanting a job.

VNSR made a simple offer. He said he would give me assignments for a week. If he felt I would fit into his team, he would hire me. “I need to see if you have news sense and if you can write clean copy” he said.

A few days down the line he said “you are hired!”

That decision of VNSR changed the course of my life. Since then, it has been a roller-coaster ride for me and has taken me from print to television to media teaching and scholarship and to my current status as a columnist and author.

By the mid-1970s VSNR had a bureau in Bangalore which was the envy of every other newspaper. Since he kept a punishing 14-16 hour work schedule,that became the norm for all his “boys” and so, most of us would hang around till the late hours and plan stories and features.

VNSR hired and trained hundreds of journalists and it’s impossible to remember all of them.

K.S. Sachidananda Murthy, currently resident editor, The Week; Prakash Belawadi, national award-winning film director; Chidananda Rajghatta, foreign editor, Times of India; Anita Pratap, former South Asia bureau chief, CNN and former correspondent, Time; Ramakrishna Upadhya, political editor, Deccan Herald; E. Raghavan, former resident editor, Economic Times, Bangalore and Girish Nikam, anchor, Rajya Sabha TV are a few names that immediately come to mind.

Apart from those whom he hired and trained, he was the Guru to hundreds of journalists from other print and television establishments who sought him out each day for a better understanding of events and personalities. Among those who belonged to this extended Shisyavarga of VNSR was Kestur Vasuki, a seasoned television and print journalist, who is currently with The Pioneer and many young television journalists who would catch up with him at his favourite watering hole– The Bangalore Press Club.

He demanded nothing but complete commitment to work and had his own unobtrusive way of teaching us. That is why, on his passing the Samyukta Karnataka described him as “The Dronacharya of Journalism”.

VNSR was also a builder of teams and encouraged team work and this produced excellent results when big events happened in the state. One event that is often remembered in the Indian Express family is our coverage of the landmark Chickmagalur by-election in November 1975 1978 (in which Indira Gandhi contested against Veerendra Patil) that attracted global attention.

The Express’ coverage of Chickmagalur was unmatched.

VNSR held many senior editorial positions in several newspapers and wrote for many more. Kannada Prabha, Samyukta Karnataka, Deccan Herald, Vijaya Karnataka, Newstime, Mid-Day and the Kannada political weekly Naave Neevu and film magazine Tara Loka of which he was the founder-editor. But, he gave much of his blood and sweat to The Indian Express and was the pillar of the Bangalore Edition of that newspaper during the days when the fiery Ramnath Goenka ruled the roost.

In VNSR’s departure, I have lost my Guru and Indian media has lost a consummate journalist and a legend.

(A. Surya Prakash is former chief of bureau, Indian Express, New Delhi; former executive editor, The Pioneer, and former editor, Zee News)

External reading: Goodbye, my mentor

Also read: V.N. Subba Rao, an Express legend, is no more

V.N. Subba Rao, an Express legend, no more

9 October 2012

sans serif records with regret the passing away of V.N. Subba Rao, the former chief reporter and chief of bureau of the undivided Indian Express—and a guru and mentor to hundreds of young journalists—in Bangalore, on Tuesday morning. He was 81 years old and had been ailing for a few months.

VNSR, as he was known to his myriad friends and colleagues, was brilliantly bilingual, churning out thousands of words each week in English and Kannada at frightening speed, from the intricacies of Karnataka politics, most of whose practitioners he knew on first-name terms, to the shenanigans of the Kannada film industry.

He wrote his weekly political commentary column “In Passing” on a typewriter with barely a mistake in the copy, the rhythmic sound of the carriage making music across the corridor of No. 1, Queen’s Road where the Express was nestled in its glory days. That column shifted to Deccan Herald, where he worked briefly.

Upon his retirement, VNSR launched a tabloid political weekly and a film weekly, both of which folded in quick time. Unlike modern-day political commentators, Subba Rao proudly wrote Kannada movie reviews with the zeal of an intern and attended every press conference without fail.

The New Delhi-based political commentator, A. Surya Prakash, who got his first job with the Express in Bangalore under VNSR in 1971, said: “The net value of all the journalists who learnt their craft under Subba Rao must run into a few hundred crore rupees.”

K.S. Sachidananda Murthy, the resident editor of The Week in New Delhi, who too worked under VNSR, sent this message to friends: “Let us remember his great leadership, quest for exclusive news, soaring prose, unquenchable curiosity and grooming of many of today’s stars of journalism. A life fit for celebration.”

For one who dealt with the high and mighty of Karnataka politics, VNSR had the unique ability to be surprised even by a small fire. His trademark reaction to every story and tip-off, big or small, was a simple “Howdaa?” (Is it so?) followed by a noisy hands-free swipe of the nose which seemed to suffer from a perpetual cold.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Alfred D’ Cruz: The Times of India‘s first Indian sub

Tarun Sehrwat, 22 and killed in the line of duty

Chari, a lens legend at The Hindu

Harishchandra Lachke: A pioneering cartoonist

T.N. Shanbag: Man who educated Bombay journos

Rajan Bala: cricket writer of cricket writers

Jyoti Sanyal: The language terrorist and teacher

Russy Karanjia: The bulldog of an editor

Sabina Sehgal Saikia: The resident food writer

M.G. Moinuddin: The self-taught newspaper designer

Naresh Chandra Rajkhowa: Journo who broke Dalai Lama story

J. Dey: When eagles are silent, parrots jabber

E. Raghavan: Ex-ET, TOI, Vijaya Karnataka editor

Prakash Kardaley: When god cries when the best arrive

Pratima Puri: India’s first TV news reader passes away

Tejeshwar Singh: A baritone falls silent watching the cacophony

N.S. Jagannathan: Ex-editor of Indian Express

K.M. Mathew: chief of editor of Malayala Manorama

Amita Malik: the ‘first lady of Indian media’

***

K.R. Prahlad: In the end, death becomes a one-liner

M.R. Shivanna: A 24×7 journalist is no more

C.P. Chinnappa: A song for an unsung hero

T.S. SATYAN Awards for Photojournalists

14 December 2011

The winners of the T.S. SATYAN Memorial Awards for Photojournalism 2011: (Left to right) Yagna, K. Gopinathan, Netra Raju, Bhanu Prakash Chandra, Regret Iyer, M.S. Gopal

sans serif is pleased to announce the winners of the inaugural T.S. Satyan Memorial Awards for Photojournalism, instituted by India’s first web-based photosyndication agency, Karnataka Photo News, in association with churumuri.com, in memory of the legendary photojournalist who passed away two Decembers ago.

The awards will be presented by the governor of Karnataka, H.R. Bhardwaj, in Bangalore on Sunday.

Lifetime achievement award: Yagna, ex-Hindu, Udayavani, Mangalore

Best newspaper photojournalist: K. Gopinathan, The Hindu, Bangalore

Best professional photojournalist: Netra Raju, The Times of India, Mysore

Best magazine photojournalist: Bhanu Prakash Chandra, The Week, Bangalore

Best freelance photographer: ‘Regret Iyer, Bangalore

Best online photojournalist: M.S. Gopal, eyeforindia.blogspot.com

Nominations for the awards came from the Karnataka media academy, press club of Bangalore, Karnataka union for working journalists and the photojournalists association of Bangalore. The lifetime achievement award carries a cash prize of Rs 10,000 and a citation; all other prizes carry a cash prize of Rs 5,000 each and a citation.

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Read more about/by the winners

K. GOPINATHAN: Why namma Gopi (almost) cried in January 2008

REGRET IYER: Success is standing up one more time than you fall

M.S. GOPAL: Every pictures tells a story. Babu‘s can fill a tome

M.S. GOPAL: When Chamundi betta relocates to amchi Mumbai

Killer hospital was featured in two magazine lists

9 December 2011

Hindsight is 20-20 and this isn’t the time to point fingers, of course, but the ghastly fire accident at the AMRI hospital in Calcutta that has left nearly 90 dead, most of them patients, draws attention to the pitfalls of magazines, newspapers and TV channels getting into the ranking game, beyond their ken of expertise.

On the hospital’s website are two images showing that AMRI had been featured in the “Best Hospitals” ranking of The Week* magazine, and the “Most Caring Hospitals” ranking of India Today*.

While such rankings can certainly be considered information useful to readers, and perhaps AMRI was both among the best and the most caring, in reality pollsters and journalists are mostly operating in the dark, as the accident shows.

*Disclosures apply

Now, you can lick an “Indian Legend” for Rs 5

3 August 2011

From left, K.S. Sachidananda Murthy, Delhi resident editor, Malayala Manorama; P.J. Kurien, MP; Kapil Sibal, Union communications minister; Mammen Mathew, chief editor, Malayala Manorama; Manmohan Singh, prime minister; and Thangam Mammen at the release of the stamp in memory of the late Malayala Manorama chief editor, K.M. Mathew

No statue may be erected in memory of a critic, but a stamp can certainly be issued in memory of an editor.

K.M. Mathew, the chief editor of what was once India’s largest selling newspaper, Malayala Manorama, who passed away a year ago, has been described by the prime minister as an “Indian legend“.

And a five-rupee stamp and first-day cover have been released in his memory.

Also read: K.M. Mathew, chief editor, Malayala Manorama, no more

15 things you didn’t know about K.M. Mathew

What K.M. Mathew could teach today’s young tykes

M.R. SHIVANNA, a true 24/7 journalist, is dead

22 May 2011

sans serif records with regret the passing away of M.R. SHIVANNA, an unsung hero of Indian journalism, in Mysore on Saturday. He was 55, and is survived by his wife and daughter.

For 30 years and more, Shivanna slogged away in remarkable obscurity and was one of the pillars on which stands India’s most successful English evening newspaper, Star of Mysore. Starting out as a sub-editor in the local tabloid, Shivanna, a son of a farmer, had grown to be editor of the family-owned SoM at the time of his death.

Shivanna was no poet. His prose wouldn’t set the Cauvery on fire, nor was it intended to.

First in at work and last man out of the office, he wrote simple functional sentences day after relentless day. While dozens of young men cut their teeth at Star of Mysore on their way to bigger things in Bangalore and beyond, Shivanna stayed on, lending his boss K.B. GANAPATHY the kind of quiet solidity every owner and editor can only envy.

Here, CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY, one of Shivanna’s myriad ex-colleagues, who moved from Star of Mysore on to Frontline, The Week and The Times of India, among other ports of call, pays tribute.

***

By CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY

“(MRS).”

For decades, lakhs of Mysoreans have seen these three letters of the alphabet appended to thousands of news reports in Star of Mysore and Mysooru Mitra, Mysore’s dour media siblings, steered successfully by its founder-editor K.B. Ganapathy.

For most readers, these initials are a daily mystery, unravelled only in the anniversary issue of the two newspapers in February and March, respectively, when a mandatory “long-form” piece or an interview appears with the full form of the byline: M.R. Shivanna.

But for the remainder of the year, (MRS) was a byword for his straight, unaffected style.

As a journalist, Shivanna knew his limitations and that perhaps was his greatest strength. In a world of flamboyant story-tellers, he was the odd man out. Shorn of scholarly airs or intellectual pretensions, MRS pursued his vocation with a constancy of purpose, a fierce diligence that is rare in a profession where careerism has taken hold.

At times it seemed as if MRS literally lived in the newsroom, straddling two worlds, two sensibilities.

He finished his work at Star of Mysore, which is an English evening newspaper, in the afternoon, only to seamlessly drift to the other part of the building and discharge his duties at Mysooru Mitra, the Kannada morning daily form the same group.

You called the office at any unearthly hour, and more often than not MRS would pick up the phone, ready with pen on paper. A bulk of the information from across the districts was communicated over phone by a network of stringers and reporters, who spoke in varying  degrees  of clarity. MRS was an expert in tactfully prising out ‘news’ from these guys, night or day.

MRS was a 24×7 journalist before 24×7 became business jargon.

***

In 1990, just before taking up my journalism course, I ventured to work in Star of Mysore as a trainee.

K.B. Ganapathy, after a cursory chat, called in MRS and asked him to take me under his wing and put me through the paces.

At first glance, MRS was distinctly unimpressive: He was frail, he had a funny moustache, he tucked his shirt out, walked with a slouch and was staccato in his speech. He fobbed me off to his colleague at the desk, Nandini Srinivasan, who helped me tremendously through the early years.

Over a period of time, slowly, steadily I built some rapport with MRS. Sometimes he would call me out for an occasional smoke which I would readily accept in the hope of having a good conversation. But MRS would keep to himself and allow me to do all the talking, seldom proffering advice or insight, a genial smile displaying his tobacco-stained teeth.

There was a manic phase, of about a month or so, when I drank with him regularly at a fancy bar in Mysore. These sessions were unremarkable, almost matter-of-fact,  as MRS insisted that the Hindi music be played at an exceptionally high volume. There was no chance for exchange of ‘journalistic views’ leave alone banter.

Through the years in college, my association with Star and MRS continued. He would give me occasional assignments and background on stories that I was following.  Although writing in English did not come naturally to MRS, he honed it over the years through repeated practice.

His news reports were structured tightly in the classic “5 Ws and 1 H” formula, and it served him well.

There were reams and reams of buff paper on which he wrote with a cheap ball point pen that leaked, smudged and grew errant due to over use. He had this peculiar habit of bringing the nib close to his lips and blowing at it, like as if he was fanning a dying cigarette. He did that always, probably to fuel his pen’s fervor.

As an old-school journalist brought up on letter press, MRS also used and understood sub-editing notation better than most journalists. He used a red ink pen to underline a letter twice for capitalisation, a hurried swirl to denote deletion, “stet” if he wanted something to stay as is.

And for all his limitations with the language, if you were ever at a sudden loss for a word, those standard ones that you use to embellish journalistic copy, MRS would spout it in a second. The words swam in his head all the time.

Instinct and Intuition guided his journalistic disposition.

Passion and Persistence gave it  further ballast.

***

In 1993, “MRS” won the Karnataka Rajyothsava award. And as it happens in journalistic circles, there were whispers of how he had engineered it all, how it was a complete joke, how he was underserving, etc. MRS continued unfazed, doing what he did best, day after day after day. In due course, the tired critics went to sleep.

Many years later, at the Taj Lands End in Bombay, I hastened to the breakfast buffet for a quick bite before a conference. I had by then quit journalism to join Intel.

I heard a familiar “Hello, Chethu”.

I swung around to see MRS holding a bowl of fruits.

Over breakfast, he told me that Intel had flown him down to cover the event and simply amazed me with the information he had collected about the company’s latest products and plans. He kept jotting down notes verifying and cross-checking facts as we spoke. That evening we promised to get together but it didn’t happen.

During R.K .Laxman’s  last visit to Mysore about two years back, MRS took on the entire responsibility of hosting him in the City. Apart from ensuring that the Laxmans stayed in a friend’s hotel he organised their trip to Chamundi hills for an exclusive darshan. Laxman was profusely thankful to him during the visit.

On their last day in Mysore, MRS called me over the phone. He began with enquiring about my well being and slowly moved on to  a long conversation on Laxman’s perspective on various issues around him. I took the journalist’s bait and went with the flow filling him with facts, quotes, trivia.

I imagined MRS at his desk, his pen scribbling away on sheafs of paper, periodically blowing into his nib, probably conjuring the headline, the lead, the middle for his copy.

MRS will continue to write wherever he is. In the end, the smudges don’t matter really.

Also read: A song for an unsung hero: C.P. Chinnappa

***

IN MEMORIAM

Naresh Chandra Rajkhowa: journo who broke Dalai Lama story

Chari, a lens legend at The Hindu

Harishchandra Lachke: A pioneering cartoonist

T.N. Shanbag: Man who educated Bombay journos

Rajan Bala: cricket writer of cricket writers

Jyoti Sanyal: The language terrorist and teacher

Russy Karanjia: The bulldog of an editor

Sabina Sehgal Saikia: The resident food writer

M.G. Moinuddin: The self-taught newspaper designer

‘The Week’ photographer bags WAN-IFRA gold

3 May 2011

Bhanu Prakash Chandra, photographer with The Week magazine, with the gold award in feature photography which he bagged at the 10th annual Asia Media awards hosted by the world association of newspapers and news publishers (WAN-IFRA) in Bangkok on Thursday, 28 April.

Chandra earned the award for his pictorial travelogue of a bike journey in the Himalayas.

External reading: My photo session (with Bhanu Prakash Chandra)

Why Aroon Purie ‘elevated’ Prabhu Chawla

7 November 2010

After being badgered left, right and centre online for his jetlag-inspired plagiarism, India Today editor-in-chief Aroon Purie finally gets some old-fashioned good press, courtesy the “dirty old man of Indian journalism”.

Khushwant Singh uses a session on the couch with Headlines Today host Koel Purie Rinchet to throw light on her father and grandfather Vidya Vikas Puri, in the Hindustan Times:

“Her grandfather Vidya Vikas Puri, migrated from Lahore after partition in 1947, and set up business as a financier in Delhi. He became a multi-millionaire. He decided to buy himself a Rolls Royce which was, and is, the ultimate status symbol of success. He went to London to get one.

“The salesman of the showroom snubbed him and told him he could not afford it and not to waste his time. He bought one, brought it to Delhi. At that time only descendants of erstwhile princely families drove in chauffeurs-driven Rolls Royces.

“Puri was the only commoner driving one on Delhi roads.

“His son Aroon added an ‘e’ to his surname and became a legend in his life time. He owns the largest chain of media consortiums in India: four TV channels, over a dozen weeklies, including India Today, Reader’s Digest, Harper Collins and The Thompson Press to print his journals and books. A new addition is the tabloid daily Mail Today.

“Aroon is as generous an employer as he is ruthless towards those who fail to deliver the goods.

“A case in point is the ‘elevation’ of Prabhu Chawla, his subjantawala [the man who knows everything] editor of India Today and get M.J. Akbar on Akbar’s terms to take and run it, as he sensed it was losing on its readability to Frontline, The Week, above all, to Outlook*.”

Khushwant’s column is the third piece in old media that has come to the rescue of Aroon Purie, after Sanjaya Baru‘s Business Standard nixed a column on the subject and DNA published a piece by its executive editor R. Jagannathan in defence of plagiarism.

* Disclosures apply

Read the full article: Falling in love with a TV show host

Also read: Prabhu Chawla out, M.J. Akbar in at India Today

How to write an editorial when not jet-lagged

‘Plagiarists speed up the spread of knowledge’

Khushwant Singh on his last day at the Illustrated Weekly

Prabhu Chawla out, M.J. Akbar in at India Today

23 September 2010

There is change at the top of the totempole of India’s largest English newsmagazine, India Today.

After several false rumours of his impending mortality as helmsman, editor Prabhu Chawla has been sent off to look after the language editions of the magazine.

Author-editor-columnist M.J. Akbar has been named editorial director of India Today and the English news channel owned by the group, Headlines Today.

The appointments were made public in an email sent by group editor-in-chief Aroon Purie to staff last night. The changes will take effect from Friday, September 24.

Below is the full text of Purie’s circular flagging the changes:

***

“It gives me great pleasure in announcing the formation of a brand new SBU (strategic business unit) within Living Media, which will become an independent company very soon, that will address the burgeoning opportunity of Indian language publishing and all related extensions in the Indian language domain. To begin with, all current India Today language brands will be assigned to this new SBU.

This new company will be placed under the leadership of Prabhu Chawla, who will be designated Editor (Languages) and CEO. Prabhu Chawla will report into a Board. Given the tremendous opportunity of this space and in view of his new responsibilities, Chawla will give up the editorship of India Today – English edition and India Today – international and all their related extensions.

“As editor of the magazine for the last 14 years he has done great work in turning it into a weekly from fortnightly and maintaining its position as India’s leading newsmagazine. He will also be consulting editor to Business Today.

“Prabhu’s new mandate will be to address the business and editorial opportunity of Indian language publishing in an aggressive and focused manner. His efforts will be directed towards growing the existing language publications and to launch many more new language publications in the future. In collaboration with ITGD (India Today Group Digital) he will be addressing digital opportunities in the language space as well.

“Prabhu will continue to be associated with Seedhi Baat in Aaj Tak and will spearhead the group’s initiative in setting up a media/journalism institute. He will also continue to lead the group’s content archival project and the library resources. This comes into effect from September 24th, 2010.

“It also gives me immense pleasure in announcing the appointment of  M. J. Akbar as editorial director of India Today (English) and India Today (international) and their related extensions.

“He will also have the additional charge as Editorial Director of Headlines Today.

“MJ, as he is popularly known in the industry needs no introduction, given his rich and long experience in launching, managing and leading several top print publications in the country. MJ comes on board effective September 24th, 2010 and will report to me.

“As you can see, these are significant changes in the editorial leadership of our group’s flagship brands, which I am sure will be transformed by them to meet the challenges of the fast changing world that we live in. They will explore new opportunities too.

“Please join me in wishing Prabhu and MJ the very best and I also seek your active support in making this a smooth and successful transition.”

***

Till The Week was launched in the early 1980s (and Outlook* in the mid-1990s), Akbar’s Sunday magazine, published by the Ananda Bazaar Patrika (ABP) group, was fortnightly India Today‘s main competitor. Akbar currently has a stake in the weekly newspaper The Sunday Guardian and writes a column for The Sunday Times of India.

Under Chawla, a former ABVP volunteer who used to cycle to the offices of India Today delivering press releases, India Today took a shine for the BJP and the magazine’s  anti-Congress vibe reportedly earned the displeasure of the ruling dispensation.

Akbar, a former Congress MP, too has been vehemently anti-Congress and anti-UPA. Dislodged in 2008 as editor-in-chief of The Asian Age which he helped found, Akbar has gone so far as to accuse prime minister Manmohan Singh of “sabotage” by signing the civilian nuclear deal with the United States.

Ironically, both Akbar and Chawla were in the running for a Rajya Sabha seat on the BJP ticket in 2008, but their ambitions were nixed with the nomination of another journalist turned politician, Balbir K. Punj. Chawla who figured in the Indian Express 2009 power list at No. 71, didn’t figure in the 2010 edition.

* Disclosures apply

***

Also read: Don’t laugh: do journalists make good politicians?

15 things you didn’t know about K.M. Mathew

2 August 2010

The passing away of the doyen of Malayalam journalism, Kandathil Mammen Mathew, better known as K.M. Mathew, on Sunday has resulted in a rare outpouring of coverage, with Indian media proprietors burying their usual pettiness about competitors to salute one of their own.

So much so that the news of the death of the chief editor of Malayala Manorama is the front-page lead in its closest competitor, Mathrubhumi, accompanied by a front-page editorial. But the English language papers have a wealth of detail on the deceased doyen, too.

# That he was the eight child of his parents, which is why he titled his memoirs Ettamathe Mothiram (eighth ring).

# That his nickname was Mathukuttichayan ; that he was a hands-on editor; that he attended office till almost the last day.

# That he had short stint in the family’s balloon business in Bombay and as a planter in Chikamagalur before taking over the reins of the paper following his brother’s death.

# That he took the circulation of Manorama from 30,000 copies in 1973 to 18 lakhs in 2010; from one printing centre to 18.

# That the Manorama group now publishes 46 publications, and has presence in radio and television.

# That he maintained a low profile despite the soaring circulation of his paper. That, “KM never shouted; he smiled. He wouldn’t say, ‘ You’re wrong, that’s a crazy idea’.  He’d say and it was sincere, ‘Very interesting, would you help me understand your thinking?’”

# That he said: “Mistakes might appear on a newspaper. I too have made mistakes. The solution is not to write a resignation letter but to ensure that such a thing does not happen in future”.

# That he kept himself abreast of even the most minute developments in the media world.

# That he introduced reader-friendly editorial packaging techniques and professional page designing, and that he got a bunch of foreigners to work on the Manorama‘s design at various stages like Edwin Taylor (The Times, London); Peter Lim, (Strait Times, Singapore);  Peter Ong (American society of newspaper design) and Mario Garcia

# That he pioneered the hyper-localisation of news before “zoning” became a trend; that he thought a newspaper should reflect even the subtle issues of a region; that he brought out local editions for two or three panchayats, with less than 50,000 population.

# That he was so close to India’s ruling Nehru-Gandhi family that one of the first condolences upon news of his death came from UPA chairperson, Sonia Gandhi.

Illustration: courtesy Sudipto Sharma/ The Indian Express

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