Posts Tagged ‘Udayavani’

Vishweshwar Bhat, new editor of Kannada Prabha

7 February 2011

Vishweshwar Bhat, the former editor of the mass-circulation Vijaya Karnataka belonging to The Times of India group, has joined the State’s fourth largest paper, Kannada Prabha, as editor-in-chief, in a move that is likely to shake up the Kannada newspaper market in more ways than one.

Bhat was introduced to the editorial staff and management team of Kannada Prabha by Manoj Kumar Sonthalia, chairman and managing director of The New Indian Express group which owns Kannada Prabha, in Bangalore this evening.

On his newly launched blog, Bhat called the shift to Kannada Prabha a “homecoming”, having served it for four years as sub-editor in the initial stages of his career and then having done another four years at the Asian Schoool of Journalism when it was launched by the Express group.

Bhat confirmed the shift to sans serif. (An announcement of the appointment was made on the front page of Kannada Prabha on Tuesday, February 8)

The popular yet controversial Bhat quit Vijaya Karnataka on 8 December 2010, and the market had since been abuzz about his next port of call. Bhat himself wrote on his blog that he briefly considered launching a new newspaper but had to abandon the idea of a startup because of the constraints of printing presses.

There were also rumours that Bhat was headed towards Udayavani, the Kannada newspaper published by the Pais of Manipal, but clearly Kannada Prabha‘s reach and reputation—not to mention the deep pockets (and ambitions) of its owner in waiting, phone baron-turned-parliamentarian, Rajeev Chandrasekhar—tilted the balance.

Both Bhat and Chandrasekhar appear to be similarly politically aligned.

Bhat served as an officer on special duty to the former Union minister Ananth Kumar of the BJP, and Chandrasekhar, an independent MP elected with BJP support, has been seen with both Ananth Kumar and the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, on a “Friends of BJP” platform.

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Bhat’s decision to join Kannada Prabha, however, shows that an official Times VPL internal circular, issued in the name of CEO Sunil Rajshekhar that said he was leaving Vijaya Karnataka to pursue “higher studies“, was merely for public consumption.

Kannada Prabha, which currently belongs to The New Indian Express group of Sonthalia, is set to come into the control of Rajeev Chandrasekhar by June this year.

Chandrasekhar had entered into a “strategic partnership alliance” with Express publications in March 2009, and picked up a minority stake. His stake in Kannada Prabha Publications (valued at Rs 250 crore) currently stands at 48%. The grapevine has it that he will obtain a majority controlling stake of 76% by June.

So far, the fight for the Kannada advertising pie has been between Vijaya Karnataka (average issue readership 34.25 lakh readers, IRS round 3) and No.2 Praja Vani (29.10 lakh readers) belonging to the Deccan Herald group. But the Bhat-Chandrasekhar combination at Kannada Prabha (11.15 lakh readers) is likely to muddy the scene.

Vijaya Karnataka is said to be mulling the launch of a Bangalore Mirror-style Kannada tabloid to be issued free with Vijaya Karnataka to blunt the Bhat effect at Kannada Prabha, and also to overcome recent circulation and readership losses to Praja Vani.

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Bhat’s entry into Kannada Prabha is also poised create a ripple in Rajeev Chandrasekhar’s media stable.

Chandrasekhar already has a sizeable media presence in Karnataka through his Suvarna and Suvarna News channels. He had successfully wooed Kannada Prabha editor H.R. Ranganath to the Suvarna News camp at the expense of incumbent Shashidhar Bhat two years ago.

Ranganath came to Suvarna News with his band of print journalists under the belief that Rajeev Chandrasekhar would start his own newspaper. That plan first came unstuck with his purchase of a minority stake in KP.

Now, with the arrival of Vishweshwar Bhat and his own band of print journalists from VK, the former Kannada Prabha journalists in the Suvarna stable are in a dilemma about their future course of action. One of them, Ravi Hegde, is reported to have left Suvarna News and joined Udayavani as editor.

K. Shiva Subramanya, who took over from Ranganath as editor of Kannada Prabha, is reported to have indiciated his decision to leave Kannada Prabha, with the entry of Vishweshwar Bhat, even as Vijaya Karnataka looks around for a full-time Kannada editor.

Whether Bhat will also have a say in Suvarna News or not will be clear in June when both the channel and the newspaper come under a common owner, but it is more likely than not that Bhat will be projected as a face on Suvarna News, both to push Kannada Prabha as a paper and to lend the channel more journalistic gravitas.

The editorial-musical chairs in Bangalore had set the Kannada tabloids and blogs on fire over the last couple of months, with allegations, counter-allegations, innuendos and insinuations, all showing Kannada journalistic egos in very poor light.

Bhat’s resignation also resulted in an ugly war of words with his longtime friend, Ravi Belagere, editor of the popular Hi! Bangalore tabloid. Till recently fought from the shoulders of the former Vijaya Karnataka columnist Pratap Simha, the squabble has increasingly become personal, with Bhat reportedly even sending off a legal notice.

Pratap Simha welcomed Bhat’s decision on his blog thus:

“Our dear editor VISHWESHWAR BHAT has joined “KANNADA PRABHA” just now!! He is the man who gave different dimension to Kannada Journalism, he is the man who captured the imagination of us through his journalistic skills, he is the man who changed the way v all used to think, he is the man who made stars out of writers, he is the man who gave forum to nationalistic views which were unheard until his arrival. I have reason to believe that, his new innings will set new standards and new parameters in Kannada Journalism. Just WATCH OUT…”

Also read: ToI group editor in a flap over honorary doctorate

A blank editorial, a black editorial & a footnote

Is the management responsible for content too?

Is Vijaya Karnataka ready for a Dalit editor?

In a democracy, prince and pauper beg together

6 June 2009

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Given the kind of space, importance and attention newspapers, magazines and websites give photographs these days, it would not be unfair to say that the just-concluded general elections was visually below-par. There was no stellar frame, no standout picture, no large canvas frame that sticks in the mind’s eye.

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‘Astro’ Mohan (in picture, left) of the Kannada daily Udayavani was one of the few to buck the trend. In Udupi, Mohan managed to capture the Karnataka BJP president D.V. Sadananda Gowda “begging” for votes in a commuter bus, while a real beggar was begging for alms alongside.

The picture has won the first prize in the Shooter photo competition organised by the online photo community, Fotoflock. The well-known photographer Fawzan Husain chose the winners.

“It’s a very timely shot where the photographer has been able to shoot people from two different walks of life doing the same thing in a bus. Very rarely does one come across this kind of a situation,” reads the citation.

For his rigours, Mohan has won the Epson Stylus Photo TX700W.

For the record, Sadananda Gowda won the elections; the fate of the beggar is not known.

Photographs: courtesy Karnataka Photo News

Also read: The only difference is a heart that doesn’t beat

Who will book the offender on the wrong side of the road?

Also view: The big picture: India’s massive general elections

How media went overboard in Padmapriya case

20 June 2008

A. NARAYANA writes from London: Enough and more has been said about the media’s overzealousness in the Padmapriya Bhat case.(The wife of a law-maker in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, Padmapriya went missing for three days and was later found dead in the national capital, New Delhi, 2500 km away.)

More than the overreach what also stood exposed was the regressive thinking—and the immaturity of men and women in the media—in their understanding of human lives and relationships.

In some cases, it was not just the media’s drive to sell more copies or clock up more TRPs which seemed to have prompted them to put out what they did.

In question is their very motive.

Consider these:

# “He has got an MA in sociology but what has he chosen to do?” questioned a headline in the Manipal edition of Udayavani, referring to Atul Rao, the aide of Udupi MLA Raghupati Bhat, even when no one knew the facts behind his role in her death.

And Udayavani wrote as if it was an established case of ‘Kidnap’ even after home minister V.S. Acharya‘s own admission that it was a ‘half-kidnap’ case. He is yet to clarify what that ‘half’ really is. What was Udayavani‘s source or motive in pronouncing prematurely that it was a case of kidnap?

# A Kannada Prabha report summarily suggested that it was a murder. On what basis?

#Vijaya Karnataka‘s reporter questioned Padmapriya’s decision to discard “a life in which she had wealth and prestige”. “Idella bekitte (was all this required?)” he asks. How did the reporter know that the woman was happy in her marriage?

# The Hindu, of all the newspapers, found it fit to publish every word that Padmapriya’s mother uttered while grieving in front of her young daughter’s body, that too with the wrong translation from Tulu. These are the words every bereaved parent in such a situation would utter. Should they be published verbatim? Et tu, Hindu?

# Deccan Herald and Praja Vani are sister publications produced in the same building but while the English paper said Atul was an engineering diploma holder who resigned from his government job and did civil contracts, the Kannada paper report said Atul did his MA, continued in his government job and did contracts in his wife’s name. (However, it is also a fact the best matter-of-fact reports were filed by the Delhi bureau of these two newspapers.)

# All Kannada newspapers in their esteemed judgment started addressing Atul in the singular from day one while the police still maintained that he was only a witness and not an accused.

There are many more things that could be said about the media coverage of Padmapriya, its ethics, its calibre and its self-righteousness. But, more importantly, there is something to be said about the role of the State.

From the statements of the police and the home minister, it becomes amply clear that they came to know from the second day, if not the first day itself, that it was a case of strained personal relationships and Padmapriya chose to go to Delhi on her on volition.

If this was the case (and there is nothing on record to suggest otherwise so far), the State had absolutely no role to play except making it clear to the public what it came to know.

Going by the facts of the case known as of today, it is also a case of the State exceeding its limits to save an MLA of the ruling party from what would have been considered in our society a loss of face for him.

(A. Narayana is a scholar at the Institute of Development Studies, UK)

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: 20 unanswered questions in l’affaire Padmapriya

Cross-posted on churumuri

How media demonises Muslims in war on terror

28 February 2008

GAURI LANKESH writes from Bangalore: Recently, three young men were arrested in Hubli and Honnali towns in the southern Indian state of Karnataka on charges of vehicle theft. Since all of them happened to belong to the Muslim community, within a day of their arrests, police sources leaked to the media that they suspected the trio might be involved in planning terrorist attacks all over the country.

This was enough to trigger a series of speculative stories in the State’s media. Every publication and television channel, without exception, went into a competitive frenzy, all of them clamouring for a first shot at the most ‘horrifying’ story about the ‘terrorist trio’.

Almost every reporter with imaginative talent wrote reams of articles quoting unnamed ‘reliable police sources’ or ‘police sources who did not want to be named’ and narrated how the three young men were planning to blow to smithereens most of Karnataka’s key buildings, such as the Vidhana Soudha, place bombs on (predictably) the premises of IT giants Infosys and IBM, detonate bombs in public places, destroy Hindu places of worship and so on.

What was remarkable about these reports was their contention that the three young men had links right up to Osama bin Laden and down to the local ’sleeper cells’ of various outfits such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). The men were also suspected of conducting arms training in nearby forests, of flying the Pakistani flag, of possessing RDX, of having already distributed arms and weapons to various ‘sleeper cells’ across the state, of recruiting hundreds of youth to terrorist organisations, of possessing AK-47s, of having procured Israeli manufactured arms, etc, etc, etc.

But how much of the content of these reports, well laced with the terms ’suspected’ and ‘alleged’, had unsubstantiated and un-sourced ‘facts’ attributed to ‘reliable sources’?

As citizens and discerning readers, can we merely accept in good faith that these reports were genuine?

How much of the information carried (leaked) in these reports was a product of the imaginative powers of local reporters? How much was fed by our increasingly inefficient police force? How much was ’spiced’ up by senior journalists who are forever looking to increase their TRP ratings or circulation figures?

Having already said that all these reports on the ‘terrorist trio’, without exception, were sourced to ‘police officials who did not want to be named’, let us look at one such report to assess how genuine the overall media reports were.

The Mangalore edition of the Kannada daily Udayavani, which adopts a marked pro-Hindutva stance, carried a front-page report that read: “last December Riazuddin Ghouse, Mohammed Asif, Mohammad Abubakkar and Hafeez held a secret meeting where they condemned America’s treatment of people imprisoned at Cuba’s Montessori (!) jail. A copy of the resolutions taken at the meeting has been seized by investigating officers.”

Udayavani is a leading Kannada daily with several senior journalists on its rolls. What is surprising is that not one of them could tell the difference between the word Montessori, used to describe a system of education, and Guantánamo Bay, the name of the prison run by the American government in Cuba. Apparently, in the race for ‘exclusive’ reports, none of them could be bothered with such minor factual details.

Even if one were willing to overlook this rather glaring slip-up by the reporter who filed the story and the senior journalists who okayed it, giving it prime space on the front page, other important questions remain. For example, since when has condemning American atrocities at Guantánamo Bay become a crime? Does this assumption by the police mean that anyone who condemns the unjust imprisonment of people at Guantánamo Bay is a terror suspect?

Are such questions of no importance to the local media?

Apparently not, for instead of raising these valid and significant issues, they carried on blissfully with their ‘exclusive reportage’ based entirely on police sources.

One report, which appeared in The Hindu, can be summed up thus: The fact that one of the arrested youth claimed before the magistrate that his human rights had been violated by the police made the magistrate suspect that he was no ordinary youth. (Does this mean that knowledge of the Constitution, fundamental rights and human rights are not for ordinary Indian men and women?) On the basis of this assumption, the magistrate instructed the police to subject him to a thorough interrogation. And that was when the terrorist links were revealed.

Another report, this one in The Times of India, stated: A warden at the jail became suspicious of Riazuddin Ghouse and Mohammad Abubakkar’s behaviour in the prison where they were jailed on charges of vehicle theft. The duo spoke to each other in low voices, did namaaz five times a day, spoke to one another in English and did not seem to show respect for the national flag when it was hoisted in the morning.

The jail warden conveyed his suspicions to senior police officials and they subjected the duo to interrogation. That was when the youth spilled the beans about their terrorist plans. Had the warden not been such a keen observer of their behaviour the men could well have been let off by the police.

These reports raise a few fundamental questions. Since when has it become a crime to speak of human rights violations? Or speak in a low voice? Or communicate in English? Since when has offering namaaz five times a day become a suspect activity?

As if this were not enough, most or all of the media reported that “religious books and material” were found in the trio’s possession. The media also ‘arrested’ a number of students in its reports even when the police had not in fact done so! Reporters also labelled as “having terrorist links” people who were total strangers to the arrested trio. The list is endless. The end result of all this ‘hyperactivity’ in the media was that the three arrested men were depicted as the most dreaded terrorists this part of the world has seen in recent times.

This reportage took place even as a senior police officer, additional director-general of police Shankar Bidri, told a television channel:

“So far no proof has been unearthed to label these youths as terrorists. The media is indulging in blatant fabrication of news. What if their case too turns out to be another Dr Mohammed Haneef case? (Haneef, who worked in Australia, was mistakenly arrested by the Australian police after being wrongly accused of links to a failed UK terror plot.) Let us not turn into terrorists those who are innocent.”

Sadly, his words of caution fell on deaf ears as the media made merry about Muslim terrorists.

Surely the police need to interrogate the arrested youth and the courts have to pass their judgements before such serious conclusions are drawn? This is why such institutions exist, why the machinery exists in our democracy. It is their job to catch and punish the guilty. But the media seemed to have no time for such ‘niceties’ of democracy or its institutions. It chose to sidestep the process of law altogether and took it upon itself to ‘investigate’ the so-called crime and then pronounced ‘judgement’.

(Gauri Lankesh edits an eponymous weekly in Bangalore. A fuller version of this article appears on churumuri.com)

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