Monthly Archives: April 2007

Provocation is in the eyes of the editor

There used to be a guy called “RegretIyer in Bangalore not too long ago, a man who had immortalised all the rejection slips he had accumulated as a writer and cartoonist, in his name. Wonder what he would make of this one.

Scott Adams, the creator of hugely syndicated Dilbert, this week had the mortification of having one of his cartoon strips rejected by United Media, the company that syndicates his work. Reason: the editors found Alice‘s pose provocative. They asked Adams to redraw the cartoon, and he did.

Moral of the story: Provocation is in the eyes of the editor, and even the best understand.

Cartoons courtesy: Scott Adams / The Dilbert Blog

Read Scott Adams’ take on the issue: Chair Butt

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Reporter who broke fake encounter deaths story

This man is Prashant Dayal. He was once an autorickshaw driver. Now he is a journalist. A senior reporter with the Gujarati daily Divya Bhaskar. He broke the story in November 2006 of the fake encounter deaths in Gujarat, which led to the unprecedented arrest of three ranking police officers on Tuesday.

Dayal who writes a column called Jivti Varta (living stories) says having a drink with police officers helped him crack the case. One evening, one of the officers involved in the murders boasted of how they had “punished” and eliminated some “anti-national” elements.

With the booze-induced clue, Dayal revisited the story and hit paydirt. Initially, his editors were reluctant to run the story, citing lack of documentation, but they were soon to be proved wrong.

In a 19-year career, Dayal has switched jobs 14 times. “I have never seen an increment or bonus in my career because I could never settle down in a newspaper. Every day, I used to have a fight with the editors over stories,” he tells rediff.com.

When in college, Dayal drove an autorickshaw at night. A journalism degree fetched him a job but without salary, a Gujarati journalism phenomenon, common to many other regional languages where proprietors believe if a journalist is “smart” he will know how to make money.

Dayal was so enthusiastic to earn a name as a reporter that he worked without a salary for more than a year, driving the autorickshaw at night after reporting stories during the day.

Photo courtesy: rediff.com

After all India’s greatest spinner was a Gandhi

Do sections of the Indian media live in their own unique world, far removed from the one its readers, listeners and viewers inhabit?

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi‘s “road-show” in the Uttar Pradesh election campaign has, by most accounts, been a rank disaster. The turnout has been so feeble that the “future of UP” has been seen berating his team of advisers in public and wagging a finger at the rows of empty seats.

But is that the view that the media is giving?

The Daily Telegraph‘s Peter Foster says the next morning’s newspapers in Lucknow painted exactly the opposite picture. One paper said Rahul had received a welcome the like of which had not been seen in ‘living memory’ except for the former Indian BJP prime minster Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lucknow’s most famous son.

It’s interesting how the Indian media has jumped onto the ‘son-rise’ bandwagon, even though Rahul is a rotten public speaker and, compared to firebrand polulist politicians of Uttar Pradesh, like Mayawati or Mulayam Singh Yadav is about as engaging as a slap on the face with a wet fish.

All of which means there are two parallel universes out there. The one in which Rahul, a product of the international educated classes, stumbles round rural India looking faintly bewildered—and the world of the newspapers where he’s the coming saviour of Congress.

Read the full article here: Fact vs media spin

Do Time magazine’s lists mean anything at all?

Time magazine is compiling its list of the 100 most influential people of the year—and it wants YOU to do all the hard work. It has ten Indians on the list. The American Idol contestant Sanjay Malakar, Manmohan Singh, social worker Anna Hazare, Sonia Gandhi, Pepsi chief Indra Nooyi, the prince who said he was gay Manvendra Singh Gohil, Aishwarya Rai, Laxmi Mittal, Nandan Nilekani and Kiran Desai. At last count, Malakar with 9,703 votes was ahead of all the rest put together.

Vote here: Time 100: Are they worthy? 

Read Gawker‘s take

Also read: Sauce for the goose isn’t sauce for the gander

Coming: Google vs The Newspapers of the World

YouTube has already got into trouble with Viacom, which owns MTV, for allowing users to put up content over which it (YouTube) has no proprietory control. Is a similar battle looming between YouTube’s owner Google and the newspapers of the world?

As things stand, the content of newspapers is freely available on Google and Google News, which then monetises it through advertising, sharing a portion of it with newspapers. But will newspaper owners, already feeling the pinch of falling circulation and advertising revenue, allow this one-way traffic to go on much longer to its detriment?

Sam Zell, the Chicago millionaire who has bought the Tribune Co which Los Angeles Times, has fired the first salvo.

“We have a situation today where effectively the content is being paid for by the newspapers and stolen by Google, etcetera. That can last for a short time, but it can’t last forever. I think Google and the boys understand that. We’re going to see new deals and new formulas in the media space that reflect the reality of cost benefit,” Zell said at a lecture at Stanford University

Read the full article: Sam Zell to turn against Google

Will this man be the next US Secretary of State?

When Indian journalists like M.J. Akbar, Arun Shourie, Chandan Mitra, Sudheendra Kulkarni et al cosy up to politicians, tout a particular ideological line, stand for elections, grab non-journalistic posts, negotiate deals, etc, we look at them with a slight degree of circumspection.

Are they, you wonder, misusing their editorial positions and platforms to advance a personal, political end?

But no such critical examination seems to be in store for Fareed Zakaria, the Indian-born editor of Newsweek International, who is once again being spoken of as a probable candidate for the post of Secretary of State in the next US administration.

The subject came up four years ago when New York magazine profiled him in a piece entitled “Man of the World.” A writer for New York erroneously quoted Zakaria as saying his friends thought he was going to be secretary of state someday. (In fact, it was the writer saying that.)

The ghee-whiz, awshucks possibility of an Indian holding the high office continues unabated four years later.

In an interview to Jon Friedman of Marketwatch, Zakaria, 43—son of the late scholar-politician Rafiq Zakaria and Illustrated Weekly journalist Fatma Zakaria—says speculation about his occupying a cabinet post is “one of the strange burdens” of having such a prestigious reputation.

“I’m flattered, I suppose. But I’m not a ‘party man,’ and you usually have to demonstrate that kind of loyalty to be chosen for government office.”

I asked him bluntly if he would go to Washington. “I won’t be coy with you. I’ll give you an honest answer,” he began. “I’d always be intrigued. But again, it’s unlikely and I’ll die happily if I never have a White House pass.”

Ultimately, Zakaria said: “If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t bet on this.”

Read the full article here: “President Obama? Meet Secretary Zakaria”

Photograph by Sigrid Estrada