Monthly Archives: May 2007

How a giant pig fooled the American media

When Associated Press put out a story that an 11-year-old boy, Jamison Stone, had shot dead a monster pig weighing 1,051 pounds in Alabama, television stations in the United States jumped at the news. NBC booked the boy for a slot. Except that it was a camera trick and good photoshop work at work, and it took Stinky Journalism to expose the hoax.

Read the full story here: Hog washed!

Is media outsourcing biting the hand that feeds?

Outsourcing “journalism” backend work to India is the flavour of the season. Some British newspapers get their race cards and television schedules done by a Press Association-Mphasis outfit in Mangalore. Reuters covers US small businesses, compiles earnings tables for large companies, conducts polling, and gets press releases rewritten in Bangalore. NDTV digitizes archives, moves content from one format to another, does closed-captioning, craft-editing, graphics and set design for western clients.

Edward Wasserman, a Knight professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University, writes:

“It’s ironic that an industry that frets endlessly about its estrangement from the public, that claims to want its workings made transparent, accessible and accountable, would seize on a strategy that makes everything it does more remote, more cumbersome, more unintelligible.

“It’s even more ironic that a profession that’s dedicated to producing work that’s richly reported and thoroughly knowledgeable would annihilate whole tiers of support staff that in a traditional newsroom are trusted sources of background, context, taste and memory.”

Read the full article: Outsourcing the news business overseas

Rajeev Chandrashekhar eyeing Deccan Herald

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Rajeev Chandrashekhar, who launched himself into India’s bulging billionaire club by selling his 67% stake in BPL Mobile, and became a Rajya Sabha member of the ruling JD(S) in Karnataka, is reportedly eyeing a stake in a Bangalore-based newspaper group that publishes Deccan Herald and Praja Vani.

Chandrashekhar, 43, currently chairman and managing director of Jupiter Capital, a firm with a focus on media, entertainment and technology ventures, already has a presence in radio and television. He owns Indigo Radio, an FM channel, and recently acquired the Malayalam television channel, Asianet. A Kannada channel is in the pipeline.

The erstwhile BPL scion, who is sitting on a cash pile of anywhere between Rs 1,400 crore and Rs 1,600 crore, wants to complete his media bouquet by getting into the print medium by picking up a slice of The Printers (Mysore) Private Limited, the publishers of Deccan Herald, Praja Vani, Sudha and Mayura.


Except that the family-owned media house is not for sale. Sure, it is cash-strapped. Sure, there is an internecine war that recently saw a change in the editorship of the publications. And twice in the last three years, there have been rumours that one of the three brothers, a different one each time, wanted to sell out; but they were hotly denied.

Therefore, Chandrashekhar, who himself was at the centre of a family squabble involving his father-in-law T.P.G. Nambiar over BPL mobile, is said to be using a backdoor route to gain entry into 75, M.G. Road.

Sources say Chandrashekhar is said to be interested in picking up the holdings of non-family members. As per the Form IV declaration of February 25, 2007, besides the three brothers, there are 12 shareholders—29 individuals in all—holding more than one per cent of the total capital of the company.

At least one of them is said to have evinced keen interest in Chandrashekhar’s offer. But there is a hitch. The change of editorship issue is before the Company Law Board. Till that is resolved, the shares cannot change hands. And even if the shareholder wants to divest, the first offer has to be made to the family. Will the family spurn the silver?

Moreover, will picking up these small holdings give Chandrashekhar controlling power, which is his ultimate gameplan? Maybe not, but media analysts say at least it will give him a foot in the door in Bangalore, where the newspaper market has been red-hot for over a decade now and market leader Deccan Herald has been caught napping time and time again.

Cross-posted on churumuri

Illustration courtesy: The Telegraph, Calcutta

Do weekly newsmagazines have a future?

A curious thing is happening with news. The news headlines are delivered instantly, as they happen, by the internet and 24×7 television. Therefore newspapers have to provide context and colour and background and analysis to the news that has already been reported hours ago. This used to be the job the newsweekly magazines not too long ago.

So what can magazines now do to stay in the running?

“I would argue that the information explosion now is so tumultuous and so varied, that people actually need a guide, they need a trusted guide, someone to help sort out the wheat from the chaff,” says Time magazine editor Richard Stengel. “We need to do it in new ways, and we need to do it with a point of view and great reporting and great writing.”

Read the full article: Finding a niche

‘If you aren’t having fun, it isn’t worth it’

T.J.S. George, the founder-editor of Asiaweek magazine, once autographed a book with this sign-off line, “If you aren’t having fun, it isn’t worth it.”

So, are you having fun doing whatever you are doing? Writing, editing, photographing, designing, whatever? Do you wake up in the morning itching to go to work?

Check out the Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun

Link via India Uncut

VINOD MEHTA on what to read, how to write

Vinod Mehta is India’s Last Great Editor.

As puppy publishers, egged on by tobacco peddlers, softdrinks salesmen, and milkpowder accountants with calculators, strip Indian journalism of its relevance and conscience with a vengeance, the editor-in-chief of Outlook holds a mirror to what could have been.

And as puppet editors sway with the wind and sidle up to the powers-that-be for Rajya Sabha seats, ambassadorships, advisory posts, and the other loaves of office that politicians dangle before salivating journalists, Mehta’s fierce independence is an object lesson of what should be.

Former editor of the men’s magazine Debonair; founder-editor of India’s original weekly newspaper, The Sunday Observer; and editor of The Independent and The Pioneer dailies, Mehta is a master brewer who, over 30 years, has perfected the art of making the important interesting, and shown that good journalism needn’t be bad business.

Alive and articulate, quirky and contrarian, and never boring, Mehta can also write. In this 12-minute churumuri video, the 63-year-old editor talks on the critical reading journalists and journalism students should do; and on how they should approach the craft of writing.

Cross-posted on churumuri

A pro is one who doesn’t get bogged down

Admit it. There are times when you are struck by a writer’s block, and stuck for ideas, stuck for motivation. How do you get around it? Either you can sit around moaning hoping for things to improve, or you can click your mouse and pursue your muse.

A group writing project came up with 37 sources of inspiration. Here are a few that apply to our profession, such as it is.

Brian Auer: Inspiration for photography

Ronald Huereca: Inspiration for blogging

Tara: Inspiration for design and advertising

Marcia: Inspiration to write

Yvonne Russell: Inspiration to write

Also read the 32 other sources of inspiration

The New York Times has left the building

Chronicling history—and chronicling history in the making—is a vital function of the media. But it is not adequately done in Indian media, where the accent, partly dictated by manpower, partly by finances, and mostly by lack of vision, is on the here and now.

The New York Times is soon to decamp from its Times Square offices to a new tower at Eighth Avenue between 40th and 41st Streets. The legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz follows in the footsteps of other pioneering photographers like Margaret Bourke-White to document “the interplay of men, beams and dreams.”

View the full slideshow here: Men, beams and dreams

A farmer’s widow turns the trend upside down

For all their protestations to be the objective eyes, ears and voice of the people, newspapers in India are generally released by politicians in power. At media anniversaries and other events, too, the men in khadi are invited and allowed to rule the roost in blindingly shameless displays of chamchagiri.

The charitable explanation is that politicians are the elected representatives of the people. The less charitable explanation is that this is just a smooth way of sidling up to the powers that be, to line up government advertisements, residential and commercial plots, and to extract other benefits emanating from such proximity.

How lovely, therefore, to see a newspaper being released by Huchchanna, a chemical factory worker who was thrown out of his job after losing his finger while on duty. By Gangulappa, a prime lower-caste witness in a caste conflagration who saw his relatives being burnt alive. By Savitri Bai, a woman who was liberated from the clutches of prostitution. By Rahima Tej, a beedi worker who is fighting to organise together her fellow beedi workers. And by Sharadamma, the widow of a farmer who committed suicide.

Indeed, at the launch of Jana Shakti, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), in Bangalore on Sunday, the farmer’s widow could not even read the name of the newspaper she released. In fact, she held the newspaper upside down while posing for the photographers after releasing its first issue.

Read the full story here:  It’s for the voiceless

‘In India, we realise nothing ever dies finally’

Sir Mark Tully, the BBC voice in India for over two decades, has a new book out, India’s Unending Journey: Finding Balance in a Time of Change. And, as the title suggests, he advocates balance and moderation—to the Indian media in particular.

In an interview to The Independent, London, Sir Mark says the Indian media must be careful to preserve its values in the rush to embrace change. One Indian journalist colleague commented to him that “there are two areas of Indian life where more money is being spent and the product is getting worse: the media and cricket.”

While talking to young Indian media workers, Sir Mark says he is often told that the radio, the medium for which he is best known, is dead.

“I say to them that that’s a very un-Indian thing to say and that in India we realise that nothing ever dies finally. One of the greatest forms of communication in India is still the bush telegraph. I always point out that the printing press didn’t kill off this form of communication, radio didn’t kill off the print media, television didn’t kill off radio and the internet isn’t going to kill off anyone. This is the balanced way and I think the Indian way to look at it.”

Read the full interview here: ‘It’s always a question of balance’