Posts Tagged ‘Walk the Talk’

Karan Thapar takes on Shekhar Gupta on credit

15 September 2013

Even after a quarter-century or thereabouts of television interviewing, Karan Thapar‘s competitive edge has far from dimmed.

In his weekly column in the Hindustan Times (whose failed TV venture Home TV he helped set up in the 1990s), Thapar takes offence at the Indian Express and Mail Today for not crediting him for an interview with Union minister Kamal Nath; in fact going so far as to accuse them of “unethical practices”.

Briefly, Nath told Thapar for his CNN-IBN show Devil’s Advocate on September 7 that the CBI was well within its rights to question the PM in the coal scam if need be.

The interview, he says was recorded at 1 pm on Saturday; by 3 pm CNN-IBN began running news clips; by 3:15 pm excerpts were placed on IBN Live, the channel’s website; and by 5 pm emailed to the press, including Express and Mail Today.

Thapar writes:

“Imagine my surprise when on Sunday (September 8) I discovered that the Express and Mail Today had done identical interviews, with Kamal Nath making exactly the same point.

“Was this a coincidence? Or was it just conceivable they had seen the news clips and the excerpts and decided to put the same question to Kamal Nath so they could claim he had given the same answer to them as well?

“In other words, had they cleverly converted our interview into their own?

“Curious but also upset, I telephoned the minister. He confirmed my suspicions. Shortly after CNN-IBN began running news clips, the papers contacted him and asked the same questions about the PM and the CBI….

“I felt this was unethical. In fact, to be honest, it felt like ‘theft’. So I smsed a complaint to Shekhar Gupta, the editor of the Express, and Sandeep Bamzai, the editor of Mail Today.

“Shekhar didn’t respond. Sandeep did. He accepted what had happened was “bad form” and promised a clarification on Monday (September 9). It appeared on page 24. If I hadn’t known it was coming, I would have missed it….

“But these days honesty, it seems, is a diminishing virtue. On that count, sadly, journalists can’t claim to be very different from politicians.”

For the record, Thapar acknowledges that Press Trust of India, Business Standard and The Hindu carried Thapar’s interview, duly crediting CNN-IBN.

Also, for the record, Shekhar Gupta hosts the Walk the Talk interview show on NDTV that competes with Thapar’s Devil Advocate.

But the questions are obvious: can a TV interviewer who sends out a press release before an interview is aired claim exclusivity if a newspaper approaches the same interviewee with the same questions? Are Union ministers like Nath really “exclusive” material?

Read the full column: Honesty is a diminishing virtue

When ‘Indian Express’ gave ‘The Hindu’ a story

18 June 2013

N. Ram (left) with Shekhar Gupta at a meeting in 2011 with Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan (right)

In October 1989, when The Hindu‘s then associate editor, N. Ram, was stopped in his tracks by his uncle and editor, G. Kasturi, from publishing the third part of an investigation into the Bofors gun deal, Ram found a novel method of getting the story out.

He called a press conference and handed out the story—done in collaboration with the paper’s Geneva correspondent Chitra Subramaniam—to any newspaper interested in carrying it.

In much the same manner, Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta has revealed how, in 2006, he found a way of getting out a story related to the elevation of a Delhi high court to the Punjab and Haryana high court, by giving the third part of the story to The Hindu.

***

In a Walk the Talk interview with Gupta on NDTV 24×7 last week, the serial letter-writer Subhash Agarwal revealed how a family dispute led to his becoming a right to information (RTI) activist.

Agarwal’s uncle, Hari Ram, had filed a case against his father in 1991.

Hari Ram’s son-in-law was, at the time, a judge in the Delhi High Court (Justice Arun Kumar). The case was heard by Justice Vijendra Jain. The two judges knew each other well enough for Justice Jain to lend his official residence to be used by the petitioner Hari Ram, for his grand-daughter’s wedding.

This was in violation of one of the elements of the Code of Conduct or “Restatement of Judicial Values”, adopted by the Full court in 1997 which said no judge shall hear and decide a case of his relative or friend.

The wedding invitation card, with the judge’s residence printed on it, became the evidence for Subash Agarwal to approach both the Supreme Court and the President of India in 2005.  The chief information commissioner’s verdict showed the power of RTI.

Justice Vijendra Jain was later made chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana high court, but his elevation to the Supreme Court as a judge was stalled, despite the then chief justice Y.K. Sabharwal reportedly overruling the recommendation of the President of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Shekhar Gupta: So you discovered then the power of RTI which nobody had figured until then?

Subash Agarwal: Yes. The media made me strong. The media highlighted the CIC verdict and that shook the whole of the judiciary.

What happened to these judges then?

After the CIC verdict was published in the media, there was pressure on my uncle from his son-in-law and his associates in the higher judiciary, which also included the Chief Justice of India. And then he had to compromise though we had to pay a price much higher than the value of (the disputed) property at that time.

But the fact also is that one particular judge who later rose to be Chief Justice in a High Court could not ultimately come to the Supreme Court because of your activism.

Right. Mr Kalam held the file of promotion of that judge for elevation to the Supreme Court.

Even though the Chief Justice nearly overruled [the then President], Dr A.P.J. Kalam.

Yes.

You remember that The Indian Express was in the forefront of following that story from Rashtrapati Bhavan. It’s a story I cannot yet tell on camera but we paid gravely for that, but we were willing to pay.

Yes. Your paper has always been the pioneer in highlighting such malpractices.

I made this disclosure public that our third story on that issue, I had to then, with great respect and understanding, give to The Hindu, to Mr N Ram, who played a great editor and published it instead because circumstances were such that the Express could not have carried it…So, this was the first time that an RTI activist actually prevented a judge who had risen to the level of High Court Chief Justice from coming to the Supreme Court.

He had almost reached the Supreme Court.

Coincidentally, in November 2006, the Indian Express‘ new editorial headquarters in the Qutub institutional area was “sealed”  following a Supreme Court judgement.

Ironically, in 2011, The Indian Express and The Hindu were involved in a noisy battle, after N. Ram threatened “defamation proceedings” against the Express for reporting on the internecine war within the Hindu family.

Photograph: courtesy in.com

Read the full interview: Jan Andolan activism has failed’

Also read: Letter-writer secures win against top judge

Shekhar Gupta on journalists in Radia tapes

6 May 2011

The May issue of the men’s fashion magazine, GQ (for Gentleman’s Quarterly), has a six-page interview with Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of The Indian Express and host of the NDTV 24×7 interview programme Walk the Talk.

In a cover-mention titled “Is the Indian Express running out of steam?”, Gupta takes questions from the adman-columnist Anil Thakraney over oranges fresh from his farm in Haryana.

Shekhar Gupta reveals that Sonia Gandhi is the most interesting interview guest he has had, and that he passed along a story on the President blocking a Supreme Court judge’s promotion to a rival newspaper because the judge had ordered the sealing of the building from where the Express operated.

He also says journalists caught on the Niira Radia tapes “definitely” crossed the line:

Anil Thakraney: Niira Radia didn’t call you?

Shekhar Gupta: I’m sure she must have.

You think the journos caught speaking to her were guilty of a breach of ethics?

SG: Of the 100-odd people she may have spoken to in that period in the media, about five or six have got caught in varying degreees of indiscretion. It’s OK to string along a source; journalists are SOBs (sons of bitches), so that’s fine. The worst indiscretion would be quid pro quo. That has not been established in anybody’s case.

Do you think these journalsits crossed the line or not?

SG: Oh, yes, they definitely did.

***

Gupta also says:

#Am I happier compared to where we were three or even 10 years back? Yes. Am I happy, satisfied and in a lean-back state of mind? No. The potential of the Express is still unrealised….

# I don’t think any editor can say, “I have got it right”. The beauty of journalism is that it brings you surprises and challenges every day.

# Oh yes, we do (make money). Our balance sheet is in the public domain. All of us get our salaries paid, and we get paid very decent salaries.

# The Express is a top-of-the-mind paper…. It must go to every Indian who matters. While we want to improve our numbers, we don’t want to flood the market with cheap copies.

# There are a lot of young Indians who want their newspaper to be stimulating, intelligent and empowering. Only two papers in India fulfil that role: the Hindu and the Express.

# I always carried two visiting cards: one of “Editor-in-Chief” and the other of “Group CEO”. I said to myself, as long as I am using them in the ratio of 10:1, I am doing fine.

# I find the Times of India (Bombay edition) a comprehensive newspaper; it’s very good. I have great respect for that organisation because they change with the times.

# The qualities a good journalist must possess: Knowledge, language, enterprise, contacts… all that you can develop with time. The most important attribute has to be curiosity.

# Journalism means that when you get a piece of information, you verify it. Even if a reporter has seen someone steal something, she should still ask the person before publishing. The new definition of courageous journalism seems to be: You have the information, you publish it. You don’t check with the other guy. That’s the question I would raise about the Radia tapes as well. This is hit-and-run.

Also read: Is The Indian Express now a pro-establishment paper?

Indian Express, NDTV & the scoop that wasn’t

The Ratan Tata-Shekhar Gupta mutual admiration club

The curious case of Zakir Naik and Shekhar Gupta

‘Editors and senior journos must declare their assets’

Everybody loves a nice mutual admiration club

30 November 2010

Ratan Tata, the bossman of Tata Sons in the middle of the 2G spectrum allocation scam following the outing of the tapes of the conversations of his chief lobbyist Niira Radia, has given an interview to Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of The Indian Express and host of NDTV’s interview programme, Walk the Talk.

The text of the interview—played endlessly on the weekend by NDTV channels in the run-up to Tata moving the Supreme Court pleading for a gag order on the media, citing his privacy—has been carried on three broadsheet pages on two consecutive days by the Express.

It concludes in the paper today with these paragraphs:

Shekhar Gupta:  Having this conversation with you is always such a privilege because besides everything else one learns so much.

Ratan Tata: Thank you.

SG: Always inspirational talking to you.

RT: Let me just tell you that you come to be somebody that I really respect because of the fact that you stand for, what you believe in and I have enjoyed every moment we have been able to share together, I hope that friendship will grow as we go forward.

SG: Insha’allah. Thank you so much.

RT: It’s something I’ll cherish. Thank you.

Cartoon: courtesy Mail Today

Also read: How to get tomorrow’s news today. An example.

Arun Shourie: ‘Intolerant. Abusive. Dictatorial.’

7 September 2009

Shoma Chaudhury, the executive editor of Tehelka, does a much-required re-examination of Arun Shourie, the former editor of the Indian Express, who occupies an “adumbral position between liberal knight, self-righteous crusader and unselfconscious fascist”, in the context of a recent interview with his protege, Shekhar Gupta.

“Shourie joined the Indian Express as executive editor in January 1979 and over four blistering years of journalism, passed into media legend. Shourie rarely did the groundwork himself; his gift lay in creating moral frameworks and meticulous backgrounds–building stories into campaigns.

“The infamous Bhagalpur blinding case; the advocacy for the rights of undertrials; the buying of Kamala; the Antulay cement scam; the infamous Gundu Rao interview; the defeat of the Defamation Bill; and finally, the Kuo Oil scam. The Congress had come to symbolise corruption and anti-democratic practices: The Indian Express—and its most public face, the Goenka- Shourie duo—became the epitome of the fight against these mutilations.

“In 1982, with hundreds of cases against the paper, and allegedly under severe pressure from Indira Gandhi, Ramnath Goenka suddenly sacked Shourie. In 1987, with all his old warhorses gone or fading, he suddenly wanted him back and used Suman Dubey, Shourie’s brother-in-law, then editor of the paper and a friend of Rajiv Gandhi, to woo him back. A few months later, the Bofors scandal broke.

“More actinic years of journalism followed: the Bofors campaign and the campaign against Dhirubhai Ambani’s corruptions being the most high-profile. In 1990, Shourie was sacked again – unceremoniously, via teleprinter. There were cascading reasons: disagreements on reservations, the Mandal Commission, V.P. Singh’s handling of the Ayodhya movement and Goenka’s sense that Shourie was no longer in his control.

“At any rate, Shourie’s years as an editor shone with inspiration: he was a lighthouse in a dark time. As his Magasaysay Award citation says, “He used his pen as an effective adversary of corruption, inequality and injustice.” He fought for civil liberties and the rule of law; he had an appetite for the big battles.

“Yet, even at the height of his defence of liberal values in public life, disappointingly, Shourie’s professional peers and juniors say that in person, he was an intolerant, abusive and dictatorial man, incapable of democratic dialogue. The archetypal god with clay feet. Stories—unfortunately all of them off-the-record—abound: how he fought and slighted co-editors, S. Mulgaonkar, B.G. Verghese, Nihal Singh, Kuldip Nayar; how he ousted Suman Dubey; how he ravaged juniors.

“The ill-will is disconcerting. Yet, urged to come on record, all his detractors refuse: “He’s dynamite”; “He’s vicious”; “He’s paranoid.” These allegations can perhaps be discounted – temperamental shortcomings that pale before the staggering body of work. Personal animosities that cannot be substantiated.”

Photograph: courtesy Outlook

Read the full article: Acid dreams on dharma nights

Also read: The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

Arun Shourie: autocratic, time-server, climber’

Who are the journalists running and ruining the BJP?

Who are the journos ‘running & ruining’ the BJP?

25 August 2009

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Former Indian Express editor Arun Shourie‘s explosive interview with the paper’s current editor, Shekhar Gupta, while revealing the deep schisms within India’s principal oppostion party, the BJP, has also once again thrown light on the less-than-professional role political journalists have been playing.

For the second time in two months, Shourie targetted “The Gang of Six”—a pack of half-of-dozen journalists who, says the Magsaysay Award winning investigative journalist, have been used (abused? misused?) by various different sections of the BJP.

On Gupta’s Walk the Talk interview for NDTV on Monday, Shourie said his letter to the BJP president Rajnath Singh demanding accountability in running the party had been dubbed as an act of indiscipline even though that letter had remained confidential.

There were leaders, he says:

“…who had been planting stories against L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh and others through six journalists (and yet it’s not called indiscipline)”.

At the BJP’s national executive meeting in mid-June, shortly after the party suffered a “nasty jolt” in the general elections, Shourie had gone so far as to say that “the BJP was being run by six journalists” who were “damaging the party interest“.

On both occasions, Shourie hasn’t named “The Gang of Six”, but by repeatedly talking about them has set tongues wagging.

However, the questions remain: is the BJP so feeble a party to be felled by  mere pen-pushers? If BJP leaders are using them to “plant” stories against one another, are the journalists exceeding their brief by allowing themselves to be used?

Is ex-editor Shourie sanctimoniously crying wolf or is this par for the course in other parties too? Are editors and publishers of the publications where the “Gang of Six” work aware of their journalists being so used?

And if so, is it OK?

Photograph: courtesy IBN Live

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

The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

Shekhar Gupta: No better time to enter journalism than now

Business journalism or the journalism of business?

17 February 2008

The quality of Indian journalism has been under question for as long as Indian journalism has been around, especially by those who found the news and views contrary to their own closely-held beliefs, assumptions and ideologies.

Quibbles like the agendas of publishers and editors; the bias and prejudice of journalists; the unethical trade and professional practices; the growth of monopolies, have been around for ages. In recent times they have been joined by complaints of corruption, commodification, dumbing down, trivialisation, and celebrity culture. At the end of the day, though, there was little that the reader/viewer/listener lost in material terms from such news and views.

But what when she does?

As the stock market culture has taken root, the business channels on television have become the primary source of information, advice and guidance for investors. But how much of what they put out as “expert opinion” is the result of adequate inhouse research, and how much of it is hype and advertising? And how can we be sure that the channels, anchors and reporters are not susceptible to “market pressures”, to put it mildly?

The outgoing chairman of the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) M. Damodaran has spoken with characteristic candour in an interview with Shekhar Gupta of the Indian Express for NDTV’s Walk the Talk. Presumably referring to the debacle of the Anil Ambani-promoted Reliance Power IPO, Damodaran said he had received a copy of a letter from an aggrieved investor on his penultimate day in office:

“In a letter sent to a TV person along with a few media houses and a copy endorsed to me, the investor asked, ‘I saw you guys saying everything was good about a particular issue till it listed below the issue price. And now I find you saying everything is wrong and talking it down. What happened to you guys?’

“I think there’s considerable merit in it (the letter)…. How is it that suddenly on listing, all the virtues that you thought resided in some particular issue disappeared? I think the media has a very large role to play and I am afraid that that role is not being played to the best of its ability�”

Business channels, anchors and reporters can go wrong with stocks, shares and companies, just like news channels, anchors and reporters can go wrong with elections, opinion polls, exit polls. It cannot be the rule, of course, but it is a occupational hazard. But with business journalism, the news consumer puts his hard-earned money on the line. Surely, he is entitled to receive news and views unsullied by corporate or personal motives and motivations?

Rumours of business channels having conflicts of interest, and rumours of business anchors and “experts” playing the market with insider information, and “talking up” or “talking down” the market, have been in the air for nearly five years now. On the overcrowded business TV screens, the distinction between news and advertising has all but disappeared. But Damodaran is the first to point this all out in so many words.

“When we heard the term anchor-investors first, I thought an anchor investor was the guy that brings in a lot of money initially into a project around whose reputation others invest. I am beginning to believe at the end of my three-year tenure that an anchor investor is one who is an anchor and an investor put together. I am worried that (they are) those who are responsible… who take the message to a billion plus people who will hopefully, one day be interested in the market. If that message gets distorted, what happens?

“There are people who make statements that are very clear indications of talking up or talking down stocks. And what do we have by way of investor protection? A disclosure that says, is this person having a position in that stock? Earlier, we had statements like “not really”, “maybe”, “it’s likely that my clients have”. Today, you get a broad spectrum such as “It is entirely possible that I have this.”

“Is this disclosure? It is clearly not. I would want to know before someone gives me advice whether you are giving me that advice because you will benefit. Current disclosures are far too routine. In fact, people have been saying things like “We are running out of time, can you make the disclosure to us. Disclosure is complete if you make it to the right audience, not to a television anchor. It is to the investor who is going to put his money. Filing disclosures is not good enough.”

Obviously, with million making decisions on the basis of the business channels, there is a need for a code of conduct. Damodaran says both his predecessors made moves in that direction. The first time, SEBI was told that the channels would draft one themselves, but there was no motion. The second time, SEBI said it would come up with a code, but there were no takers. Damodaran says SEBI has also tried to individually engage people, but he says a lot more needs to be done.

Also read: Ethical journalism is a bad word at CNBC-TV18

MTV isn’t the only channel making a bakra out of you

The media and the stock market collapse

Cross-posted on churumuri

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