Monthly Archives: June 2007

BBC contest for photographer of the year

BBC News is conducting its annual summer photography competition with six specific themes: blue, hidden, concentration, look down, heritage, and time. Each participant can submit upto three entries per category. The two photographers who get the most reader votes will go forward to the final and one of them will be awarded the title of the BBC news website Photographer of the Year. The overall winner will get a Nikon D40X camera and lens.

Further details can be had from the BBC website: Photographer of the Year 2007


‘Despite boom, Indian journalism is shrinking’

The Indian media is getting bigger, fatter, richer, but is it getting any better? More importantly, does it have any possibility of getting better? These are evergreen questions. They have been asked before (recently by Martha Nussbaum) and will doubtless be asked again and again.

In the Columbia Journalism Review, Basharat Peer, a former and Tehelka staffer and currently a fellow at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, weighs in with a scathing piece on the state of the media in India titled “Style over substance”.

And the ills he lists are all too familiar.

# The lack of space and resources for serious, well-researched long-form reportage

# The hollowness of the television bulletins with their anchors’ faux American accents

# The newspapers’ growing fixation with all things sexy, frivolous and glamourous

There aren’t too many to cover the grim suicides of farmers. But, says Peer, even the stuff that occupies the attention of Indian newspapers—the billionaires, the girls who win big at global pageants, the software success stories—they don’t do it well.

“It is no coincidence that foreign journalists produce much of the best journalism about the difficult issues facing India… Indian writers who are serious about doing in-depth journalism also must look to foreign venues to find a home for their work.”

Read the full article here: Style over substance

Cross-posted on churumuri

Malayala Manorama is read by people who think…

GIRISH NIKAM forwards the suspected reader profile of Indian newspapers. It’s an old list, sure, but still an interesting one if only because it shows how much some of the papers have changed—and how much some of our expectations from newspapers have changed—since the definitions were first thought up.

Please add new names and definitions to the list, especially of the language papers.


The Times of India is read by people who run the country.

The Statesman is read by the people who think they run the country.

The Hindu is read by the people who think they ought to run the country.

The Indian Express is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country.

The Telegraph is read by people who do not know who runs the country but are sure they are doing it wrong.

The Economic Times is read by the people who own the country.

The Tribune is read by the people who think the country ought to be run as it used to be run.

The Hindustan Times is read by the people who still think it is their country.

The Asian Age is read by the people who would rather be in another country.

Mid-Day is read by the wives of the people who run the country.

“Surely, you must be joking, Mr President?”

The outgoing Indian head of state, Avul Pakir Jainulbdeen Abdul Kalam, has been a darling of the media. His hair, his “repeat-after-me” routine, his air and submarine rides, his telegenic effervescence, and not least the relatively easier access journalists have had to his little hut on top of Raisina Hill have endeared the cameras, in particular, to the People’s President.

It’s now the turn of Kalam to return the favour. In an interaction with editors and journalists of the newsagency Press Trust of India, the missile technologist has sought to convey that journalism is no rocket science by suggesting that the rapidly vanishing pocket cartoon be put back on the front pages of our newspapers.

“On the first page, when you see a cartoon, it puts a smile on your face. The rest of the news is about things like rape, theft and killing. The man or the child or the woman is happy to see the cartoon. You must bring back the cartoon on the first page,” Kalam said.

“A man or a woman should smile in the morning. Don’t make him or her unhappy.”

No one will grudge the Commander-in-Chief batting for the “Man from Matunga” epitomised by R.K. Laxman‘s pocket cartoon. At least we don’t. But notice that Kalam’s accent is not on the hard-hitting barbs of political cartoonists like Unny (The Indian Express) or Keshav (The Hindu) that takes the pants out of those making a monkey of us, but on the juvenile jokes that so many illustrators have been reduced to churning out at the behest of weak-kneed editors and publishers.

No one will find fault, either, with some of the other eminently logical and reasonable points he makes. That the media should not think that the world begins and ends at the geographical borders of Delhi, that more stories should be reported from the rural areas, that politics is not the be-all and end-all of journalism, that there should be greater accuracy. Etcetera.

But it is Kalam’s key point—made at other gatherings too in the past to the usual starry-eyed applause—that somehow the media is intentionally, deliberately, obsessively, subversively negative, and that it has to play the role of a rocket booster in making the reader feel good every morning that makes you wonder if what he is advocating isn’t a wee bit naive if not downright dangerous.

Something that could propel the rest of the media in the same, unfortunate direction of some newspapers that have made the gung-ho, India Shining, India Rising story their editorial policy, turned their publications into advertising tipsheets, and squandered the mandate and power to make a difference that their reach brings.

The PTI story of the interaction with the President quotes Kalam as saying success stories and positive news should be highlighted and that the media should act as a a motivator for people, particularly those hailing from rural areas.

“When atrocities, problems or misgovernance are reported, efforts also may be made in larger public interest to provide positive direction for improvement,” he said.

Sure, the President isn’t saying we should ignore death, disease, despair, corruption, crime, ineffiency and incompetence. But he is also saying that we should consciously make an effort at making the reader feel nice and good and happy.

Surely, that’s entertainment, not journalism?

And surely, that’s the job of advertising, not journalism?

No editor wants to turn his paper into a boring, “bad news” paper. No journalist ignores happy, unusual things—if and when they happen. And, truth to tell, the evidence of newspapers and journalists deliberately ignoring “good news” is thin, if not non-existent.

Indeed, on current evidence, can anybody argue that our papers are getting hopelessly frivolous?

Given such a situation, should we all be consciously, purposefully splattering sweetness, and an all-is-well-with-the-world view on our front pages every night just so that the reader wakes up nice and early and manages a smile, howsoever artificial, ephemeral and manufactured it may be?

Surely, the President of India knows better?

As it is the embrace of market-friendly, feel-good news has turned some of India’s biggest newspapers into an effete bubble in which venal politicians, bureaucrats, policemen, businessmen and other crooks and criminals eating into the vitals of our country safely, happily and incestuously cohabit.

Should the rest take Kalam’s advice seriously and turn their publications newspapers into entertainment? And at what cost to our democracy?

If anything, Kalam should be directly his barb at the party of the second part—namely, the politicians, bureaucrats, policemen, businessmen and other crooks and criminals eating into the vitals of our country. He should be exhorting them to do their job properly.

Then, maybe then, the media will have no incentive to highlight their graft and sleaze, their inefficiency and incompetence. And then, maybe then, there is a case for spreading some cheer. Till such time, Mr President—repeat after us—the Indian media is doing fine, thank you.

If anything, we should be doing more of what we are doing, not less.

Also read: ‘Why is Indian media so negative?’

Cross-posted on churumuri

‘It didn’t work for us. But maybe it will for you’

“Experiential Journalism” is a word that trips off many editorial and managerial tongues these days. Instead of just saying how things work, show the reader/ viewer/ listener what it does, and he or she will be infinitely more interested in your output.

A Fuji TV journalist in Japan did just that yesterday to show how an emergency device works. You can see what happened on this YouTube video, but let’s just say she had only one functional hip after providing a “360-degree experience” for her audience.

Read My Bips: ‘Our miseries sell newspapers’

“I’ve purposely ignored all the speculations about my relationship with John Abraham all this while. Too paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, reports of its demise are vastly exaggerated. I have avoided commenting on this, despite a variety of insulting, ridiculous and downright laughable suggestions.

“If the media is to be believed, John apparently has no consistent taste in women, so he chases every woman that the media finds available. If half of their insecurities for me were true, I would be a nervous wreck. I’m also aware that our continued togetherness doesn’t sell newspapers. Our real and imagined miseries do.”

A few words from Bipasha (“Bips“) Basu—and then some more—on her “supposed miseries” from her official website.

Full disclosure: The reporters, editors, and production staff of sans serif realise there is nothing new in what Bips is saying, but  our response team insists we should run this item to see if her miseries helps sell websites, too.

All the questions you didn’t know who to ask

What is news?

How is the digital age influencing newspapers?

Can free papers be quality newspapers?

Will a freebie a day keep other papers at bay?

What print can learn from web design?

How should newsrooms be designed for the digital age?

Questions (and answers) from the 14th World Editors’ Forum.