Posts Tagged ‘Tina Brown’

NYT, WSJ weigh in on Tehelka’s Goa controversy

11 November 2011

The controversy surrounding Tehelka magazine’s Goa conference, ThinkFest, had so far been largely confined to sections of blogosphere, which used an editorial page piece in Hindustan Times by the theatreperson Hartman de Souza, and Tehelka editor Tarun J. Tejpal‘s response to it, as a trigger.

Only Deccan Herald among the large English dailies gave any play to the kerfuffle kicked up by remarks reportedly made by Tejpal at the end of the first day of the conference, that since they were in Goa, they could eat, drink, be merry and “sleep with whomever you want.” (Also see “Crusader turns Collector“)

Possibly because Tehelka‘s conference had international backers in Tina Brown‘s Newsweek and its sister website, The Daily Beast, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have both found the controversy over the location and sponsorship juicy enough to put out stories today.

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Lydia Polgreen in NYT:

The slick and well-attended conference led some in the Twitterverse and blogosphere to wonder: had Tehelka sold out to India’s mining barons and real estate tycoons?

The festival was sponsored by some of India’s top corporations and held at a hotel allegedly owned by men in jail awaiting charges involving the 2G telecommunications scam.

Potentially even more damaging, Tehelka faced accusations that it withheld an investigative story about illegal mining in Goa in exchange for the Goa state government’s support for the festival, an allegation the magazine’s editors strenuously deny. A version of the article was later published by Firstpost, a news Web site….

Tarun J. Tejpal, Tehelka’s editor, said that he was unaware of who owned the hotel or any environmental violations in its construction when his staff scouted the location months ago.

“When we looked for a hotel that could accommodate the scale we wanted, we couldn’t find a single hotel that could find a hall that could accommodate 600 to 700 people,” until they found the Grand Hyatt, which was still under construction. “Much later on the virtual eve of the fest we began to hear of these other issues.”

By then it was too late to shift to another location, he said.

Essar, one of the corporations sponsoring the festival, runs huge mines in Chhatisgarh and elsewhere, and some press critics have accused Tehelka of softening its criticism of the mining giant in exchange for sponsorship.

Tejpal flatly denied this, and said it was spurious to claim that his magazine’s journalism was somehow suspect, arguing that no publication has done more to highlight the plight of India’s dispossessed than Tehelkha, which frequently runs exposés of corporate and political misdeeds.

“There is a kind of absurdity for these arguments,” Tejpal fumed. “At the end of the day, by that count, virtually everything in India is suspect.”

Lucy Archibald in the WSJ:

However, some of the controversy merits a closer look. Most contentiously, writing in the Hindustan Times, Hartman De Souza, the sexagenarian theatre veteran and activist, accused the Tehelka editor of compromising a story about Goa’s illegal mining in order to get a green light for the festival.

According to De Souza, Tehelka reporter Raman Kirpal visited the state in March and discovered the illegal mining of iron ore at several times the environmentally cleared rate. This allegedly amounted to an illegal profit of Rs 8 billion ($163.5 million). Subsequently, the state-appointed Public Accounts Committee reportedly put the figure lost by the state exchequer closer to Rs 3,000 crore.

De Souza contends that Tejpal delayed the publication of the story just when he was in talks with Goa’s Chief Minister Digambar Kamat about approval and sponsorship for the event. And so far no such story on Goa’s illegal mining has run in Tehelka.

The reporter has since left the magazine and published his story on Firstpost.com, where he has now taken up a staff position. Coverage of the mining scandal followed in various local media outlets.

Several Goan government officials, including Kamat, were allegedly castigated in the committee’s report…. As a result of all this, De Souza objects to the inclusion of the Goan government as a sponsor of the ThinkFest event.

Tejpal published a strong riposte pointing out that the reporter in question was fired by Tehelka “on account of poor performance.” He strongly rejected De Souza’s version of events, calling his article “bizarre and baseless” and its author “full of rage at the world, but no facts.”

He also pointed out that they “actively refused sponsorship from all the Goan mining companies.” The festival was partly sponsored by companies including Aircel, Essar and Tata Steel.

Photograph: courtesy Newsweek

Also read: A magazine, a scam, an owner and his Goan house

Tarun J. Tejpal: “We haven’t bent or violated any rule”

Shoma Chaudhury in ‘150 most powerful’ list

9 March 2011

Shoma Chaudhury, managing editor and one of the promoters of the weekly magazine Tehelka, has been named among the “150 Women Who Shake the World” in the re-launch issue of the American newsweekly, Newsweek.

“Champions women in India’s celebrated newsmagazine Tehelka,” is the seven-word caption for Chaudhury.

Newsweek has been relaunched this week under Tina Brown, former editor of Tatler,  Vanity Fair, New Yorker and Talk, who currently runs the webzine The Daily Beast.

Chaudhury had interviewed Brown during her 2007 India visit and written for The Daily Beast founded by her in 2009. Tehelka editor Tarun J. Tejpal interviewed Tina Brown during the Jaipur literature festival in 2009, was crowned muckraker-in-chief by the webzine earlier this year.

Tina Brown has been quoted as saying that “Tehelka is one of the most exciting news magazines in the world. Its probing in public interest, its vitality, enterprise and tenacity give it influence beyond the subcontinent.”

Also read: Arun Shourie: ‘Intolerant, abusive, dictatorial’

Newsweek: Who, why, when, how, where, what, what the…

Sudip Mazumdar: How a slumdweller became a Newsweek reporter

Second editor of Indian origin for ‘Newsweek’

10 December 2010

Tunku Varadarajan, the Indian-born, US-based writer-educator, has been named the new editor of Newsweek international, becoming the second journalist of Indian origin after Fareed Zakaria to hold the reins at the American magazine.

Tunku broke the news through a tweet on Wednesday: “My news: Looks like I’ll be editing Newsweek International”.

Born Patanjali Varadarajan, 48-year-old Tunku—named after the father of Malyasia’s independence—is currently writer-at-large at The Daily Beast, the online magazine floated by legendary British editor Tina Brown. His appointment comes as part of the revamp of the struggling magazine, after the Washington Post company sold it to stereo tycoon Sidney Harman for one dollar (Rs 45) earlier this year.

Tunku, whose brother Siddharth Varadarajan works for The Hindu in New Delhi, has served as the correspondent of The Times, London, in Madrid and New York; worked at the editorial and op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal; and taught business at New York University and journalism at Stanford.

When his old boss Rupert Murdoch (who owns The Times) bought the WSJ, Tunku left to join Forbes.com.

In 1997, the 50th anniversary of India’s independence,  a  New Yorker item listed the nattily dressed Tunku, then 34, as one of New York City’s “most in-demand bachelors”.

“‘At the Times, we used to have a rule. Always dress as if you might have to go to a funeral or interview a Cabinet minister’…

“How often is he invited out? ‘Every day, I fear. A lot of these calls I take completely blind,’ he says, sipping a Scotch-and-soda. ‘If the person’s voice sounds nice, I tend to say yes. I suppose this could get me into a lot of trouble.’

Cricket-mad Tunku, a firm believer in the gung-ho vivacity of British newspapers as opposed to the deadly dull objectivity of their American counterparts, called Pakistan a “State of nothing” on that midnight child’s 50th anniversary.

Photograph: Tunku Varadarajan with wife Amy Finerty. The couple have a son, Satya (via Facebook)

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Also read: Who, when, how, why, where, what and WTF

How a slumdweller became a Newsweek reporter

‘Magazines, like mushrooms, should grow in the dark’

The grass is always greener on the other side

10 September 2010

Former New Yorker and Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown:

“Young journalists [should] go work in India. There are so many great newspapers in India. I go quite a lot, actually. It has a very vibrant newspaper and magazine culture. There’s a lot of energy in Delhi, a lot of newsmagazines. It’s a very literary culture, it’s great.”

Illustration: courtesy E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express

Read the full article: Young journalists should go work in India

Also read: ‘Magazines, like mushrooms, should grow in the dark

‘I would redesign the New Yorker

The Daily Beast prize for South Asian journos

3 August 2010

PRESS RELEASE: Tina Brown‘s portal, The Daily Beast, and the US-based non-profit organisation Open Hands Initiative have announced a new prize for South Asian journalists and writers covering the region. The aim of this prize is to promote and support the work of an individual who has contributed thoughtful, important, and engaging commentary on the great social, political, and cultural issues of their region.

Prize: The winner will receive a $25,000 cash prize, a one-month residency at the Norman Mailer center and writers colony in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and a biweekly column for a year on The Daily Beast. The two finalists will also be invited to contribute commentary to The Daily Beast.

Structure: Editors and publishers across South Asia will be asked to nominate their best English-language columnists and writers by sending us three to five examples of their work and writing a brief letter explaining why that particular individual deserves this recognition. To submit a nomination, email commentaryprize@thedailybeast.com

Eligibility: Any nominated columnist, journalist, or writer based in and writing about South Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh) is eligible to participate. Only commentary written between October 1, 2009, and October 1, 2010, will be considered for the prize.

Deadline: The prize will be awarded at the Jaipur Literature Festival in January 2011. Finalists will be announced in December. All nominations must be submitted by October 1, 2010.

Also read: ‘Magazines, like mushrooms, must grow in the dark

Sir Harold Evans: Families are the best custodians of newspapers

‘Magazines, like mushrooms, should grow in dark’

26 November 2007

It’s raining Tina Brown in New Delhi. Newspapers, magazines, television programmes are all full of the better half of Sir Harold Evans, explaining why she won’t blog, how the famous Demi Moore cover for Vanity Fair came about, how she was expelled from school for describing her teacher’s bosom as an unidentified flying object, and how the Clintons are approaching JFK, Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana in their iconic status.

On NDTV’s Walk the Talk programme, Tina spoke to Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta:

# “I think editing has never been more complex than it is now. I think it is a very hard thing for editors today to keep their focus because they are being assailed from every direction by this ambient news everywhere they go and to keep that focus and to keep yourself aware of what the priorities are.

# “The problem today, with so much media, is that everybody’s famous but nobody’s interesting. We all know too much about everybody. How do you distinguish yourself from the crowd apart from being assassinated?

# “An editor has to find the very best talent that you can… and then listen to what they want to write, but sometimes also guide them to what they don’t want to write. I find that often journalists are great writers but they don’t necessarily have great ideas. The important thing is to notice that gleam in their eyes.

# “Magazines are like mushrooms; they should grow in the dark without being vegetative… one must never forget that magazines are leisure things. If you are going to be serious and edifying, you must find a way to do it in a dramatic, even theatrical, way to make people read it.”

In an interview with Shoma Chaudhury of the newsweekly, Tehelka:

# “The challenge is not to stop doing 12,000 word stories on crop rotation, but to make them sexy to make people read. Find the angle, the headline, the presentation that will compel people to read.

# “Corporatisation is the biggest challenge facing media. The sophistry of the big conglomerate guys is to say there’s never been more plurality of outlet. Sure. We have a thousand and one outlets now, but their circulation is zip. There isn’t a place to have any meaningful public discourse. You’re just talking to yourself. Most publications and networks don’t have the critical mass. And the major networks and newspaper don’t want to do the work.

# “The worst reverberation of saturation journalism is that we actually don’t end up knowing anything about anybody.

# “Magazines have a limited role to play. There’s no use covering basic news, but people still want context, want perspective. These readers need to be nurtured and cultivated. You need committed, visionary managements for that.

# “People keep asking me to blog, but I’m not going to lower my standards, and why should I write for nothing? Haven’t done that since childhood.”

Read the Walk The Talk transcript here: I think people remember Demi Moore more for the Vanity Fair cover than any movie she did

Read the Tehelka interview here: What’s killing us is the dumbocracy of news

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Illustration: E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express

Tina Brown: I would redesign The New Yorker

16 November 2007

Tina Brown, the former New Yorker, Tatler and Talk editor who made “buzz” the buzzword of her newsroom, has given an interview to Mini Kapoor of The Indian Express.

Ten years later, what would you do at The New Yorker?

I would probably redesign it again. I might make a shorter front of the book section. I’m an admirer of the Spectator magazine in London. It does a very good job of a front that’s interesting, voices that you come to every week.

So, in the midst of TV and the Web, the ideal print content?

I would like the newsmagazines to do a longer, a much more contextual piece. They should not be just reactive. There are three kinds of pieces which interest me. One is to introduce something completely new into the dialogue. Secondly to provide some really good context. And thirdly to provide a pleasure principle — voice, attitude, irreverence are very important to create reader loyalty. And visual excitement. We have great photography out there which gets very little play.

Read the full interview: ‘I still haven’t read the definitive piece on Musharraf’s coup’

‘Families are the best custodians of newspapers’

16 November 2007

Sir Harold Evans, the legendary (former) editor of The Sunday Times, London, is in India.

Delivering the K.C. Mammen Mappillai Memorial Lecture on “The Freedom of the Press in an Age of Violence”, organised by the Malayala Manorama group in New Delhi on Thursday, Sir Harold dropped these pearls in the company of his celebrated wife, Tina Brown:

# Foreign ownership of newspapers and television channels in a complex society like India is not desirable: “I do not want to sound xenophobic—there should be no custom barrier for ideas and information. But I’d suggest newspapers and broadcasting media in complex, sensitive societies like India, in particular, would not be well served by foreign ownership that is blind to the tradition and subtleties. In fact, these foreign owners see culture only as a marketplace and inevitably become a focus of resentment.

# “Government is not the only constraint to free and responsible press. Much greater challenges to the freedom of the press comes from business conglomerates.”

# “Ownership of media by conglomerates—bundles of different businesses in which the press is but one—has yet to prove a blessing to journalism anywhere. My experience and observation is that conglomerates hate the risk, expense and discord inevitable in investigations of any kind, of which the investigation of corruption and violence are the riskiest… The risk to loss of advertising, disfavour with the authorities or with associated businesses, and of course any businesses in which the conglomerate is itself involved. Conglomerates hate the risk, expense and discord inevitable in investigations of any kind of which the investigation of corruption and violence is the riskiest.”

# “Most of the best newspapers in the world are not owned or managed by conglomerates but by families who regard them as public trust.”

# “If you publish the hideous videos of beheading jihadists, circulate or display the image of a hooded hostage, are you doing exactly as the killers wish— creating terror by becoming a tool of terror? Or are you exposing the jaws of the beast? Are you exercising freedom or are you indulging in the pornography of violence?”

# “Freedom of the press is a moral concept or it is nothing. Speaking personally of challenges to human rights, I would rather be photographed by a hidden surveillance camera than travel on a train or bus with men carrying bombs in their backpacks. I would regard being blown to bits on the street as less of an intrusion on privacy than having an identity card.”

# “The snare of token patriotism should be avoided. When emotions run high, the press is all too often “tempted” to follow the official line out of a mistaken sense of patriotism.”

# “When a newspaper or TV station is under attack for doing its job—as The Hindu has been in the Tamil Nadu State [in 2003]—its competitors, once satisfied of the accuracy of the reporting, should not hesitate to cover the case, and, on its merits come to its support. We must not get hung up on competitive jealousies.”

# “News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress. Everything else is advertising… There is no use printing the story once. A running sore in a society requires more than a one-time Band-Aid”.

Also read: What ails media? My wife says, a panic of seriousness’

File photograph courtesy The Associated Press/ Outlook

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