Monthly Archives: May 2007

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’

Seven reasons why you should start a blog

We have dealt with this earlier, but there is no harm in overstating the point: Every journalist should start a blog. Why? Scott Karp (link via Howard Owens) has a post which tells you why and, more importantly, tells you how to go about it so that you don’t have an excuse not to.

# Creating an independent publishing platform—blogging software makes this easy

# Creating a platform for journalism that isn’t dependent on a corporate entity’s financial fortunes

# Embracing the power and accepting the responsibility of being a publisher

# Learning how to use the technologies that are transforming media

# Putting your career on a growth track by not defining yourself as a print journalist

# Creating an online resume that shows you can do new media

# Becoming a node on the new media network—journalism will be networked

Read the full article here: Every newspaper journalist should start a blog

Also read: Why all journalists must blog

What employers (should) look for in fresh recruits

How to start a blog and influence visitors

No news is good news in the editor’s family?

Should a newspaper editor or owner not publish the achievements or news of his or her family at all costs in his or her publication? Is publishing such news always a sign of “nepotism”?

Should India Today proprietor Aroon Purie‘s publications refrain from mentioning Koel even if her films become blockbusters? Should Anil Dharker not mention his daughter Ayesha‘s name in a review even if she wins the Oscar? Should M.J. Akbar‘s Asian Age not carry the news if his son Prayag tops the London School of Economics?

It’s an interesting topic for debate, and it comes to the fore courtesy Vidya Ram, the daughter of The Hindu‘s N. Ram. Vidya topped the Columbia School of Journalism Class of 2007, and it was a piece of news that was duly noted on the back page of most editions of the newspaper along with a picture of the girl, who bears a remarkable facial similarity to her father.

But, it was on the front page of the Madras edition!

The publication of the news item, which was not on any agency ticker, first got blogosphere all hot and het up. “Nepotism in Chindu,” screamed “The Chindu” which parodies what it calls CB-CNN, aka the “Chennai-based Chinese National Newspaper”.

It now turns out that several readers of The Hindu too were miffed to write to the Readers’ Editor, K. Narayanan, on the issue. “Shocking, blatant nepotism, parochial behaviour, out of character, dynastic politics—these were some of the epithets in the messages I received from readers,” writes Narayanan in his fortnightly column today.

“Would the daughter of an ordinary employee have got the same coverage, asked one reader. She would, and should, for any similar achievement or distinction. The Civil Services examination topper from Tamil Nadu this year (K. Nandakumar, all-India 30th rank and State first) was a lorry driver’s son and his feat received due notice.”

But no other Indian newspaper has reported Vidya’s feat? Is that because they did not receive the news, or is it because it isn’t news?

Read the full article: Sense of propriety in news and design

A short quiz for reporters and sub-editors

The following is a brief quiz on language and style for reporters, sub-editors, and those who are applied for those jobs. Each question carries one mark.

a) What does it mean when a student is said to achieve “negative deficiency”?

b) What happens when you reach a “suboptimal outcome”?

c) What is a “hull loss”?

d) Who is an “access controller” and who is the “director of first impressions”?

e) What is a “thermal therapy unit”?

Write a short note on:

“The move from a structuralist account . . . marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony…”

Answers available from John Leo: Some thoughts on writing well

Additional thoughts on the subject from George Orwell