Monthly Archives: July 2007

‘Poshto, the Indian media’s priorities is all bull’

“‘Bipasha Basu says her chihuahua is like her son. Poshto, as she calls him, was gifted to her by beau John Abraham. The relationship, as per latest reports, is over and Bipasha is single after ten years. But Poshto surely is keeping her good company.’

“This sort of ‘news’ is so popular that it is now accepted in media circles that without the daily recounting of Bollywood’s love affairs and celebrity parties it would not be possible to increase circulation. So we have a situation in which just the leftovers from Bombay’s parties and weddings could give the children of Aarey Milk Colony four square meals a day, but nobody makes the effort because everyone is too busy reading about last night’s big party to bother.”

Tavleen Singh on the shameful condition of children in India’s richest city, Bombay, and the questionable priorities of the media, which disturbingly only has time for the likes of Poshto—or Shambu, the “sacred” bull.

Read the full story: We simply do not care

Is free-market capitalism good for newspapers?

Time was when newspapers—and newspapermen—were the toast of the town. Feared, quoted, wooed and emulated, plays and movies were made of them. It wasn’t an idyll, of course, but there was a nobility of purpose. They were the eyes and ears of the voiceless, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

Suddenly, newspapers worldwide seem to have all pressed the self-destruct button at the same time.

Costs are being cut, jobs are being cut, news coverage is being cut. The traditional mandate of public service “by supplying the information the citizenry needs for democracy to work” has been subjugated. As maximising profit for shareholders and promoters becomes the leit motif, dumbing down and trivialisation have taken root.

Russell Baker takes a look the rapidly diminishing role of newspapers in the New York Review of Books. He quotes John S. Caroll, former editor of the Los Angeles Times, who delivered a landmark speech “What will become of newspapers” at the American Society of Newspaper Editors last year.

There is a “breakdown of understanding between owners and working journalists… a loss of common purpose that once united them.”

“Under the old local owners, a newspaper’s capacity for making money was only part of its value. Today, it is everything. Gone is the notion that a newspaper should lead, that it has an obligation to its community, that it is beholden to the public….

“Someday, I suspect, we will wonder how we allowed the public good to be so deeply subordinated to private gain…. What do the current owners want from their newspapers? The answer could not be simpler: Money. That’s it.”

Read the full article: Goodbye to newspapers?

10 fellowships on offer for development journos

PRESS RELEASE: The National Foundation for India (NFI), an autonomous, professionally managed grantmaking organisation, has announced 10 fellowships to facilitate a more informed development policy dialogue, and to encourage publication of well researched articles on development issues.

Eight fellowships are in the print media category and two in the photojournalist category. The fellowships amount to Rs 1 lakh each.

The themes for the fellowship include a wide range of issues of importance to ordinary Indians, their battle for a better life and development related issues including community health, elementary education, livelihood security, local governance, peace and justice, and gender equity.

NFI’s mission is to help create a just and equitable society by enabling marginalised communities to improve the quality of their own lives, and by improving public understanding. NFI’s thematic programme areas are community health, elementary ducation, livelihood security, local governance, peace and justice, citizens and society, and development journalism.

The last date for receipt of applications is August 30 2007. The details of the fellowship programme can be obtained from:

Sentimongla Kechüchar,
Programme Officer,
National Foundation for India
Core 4A, Upper Ground Floor
India Habitat Centre
Lodi Road
New Delhi-110 003

Telephone: 011-24641864/8465/8490/8491/8492,
Fax: 011-24641867
email: sentimong[at] / info[a]

The application guidelines can be downloaded from the NFI website:

A pioneering cartoonist passes away. RIP.

Harishchandra Lachke, the first cartoonist to have his work featured on the front page of The Times of India during British rule, has passed away in Poona at the age of 88.

A Press Trust of India obituary says Lachke’s cartoon juxtaposing a pigeon and a nuclear bomb in the wake of the dropping of the first atomic bomb by America on Japan in the Second World War, was published by the Times on August 17, 1945, underlining the need for peace co-existence of nations.

Lachke, who became one of the most popular cartoonists in Marathi, had drawn over 1,000 cartoons for various publications between 1934 and 2000.

“The themes of his cartoons that tickled readers for over five decades, mainly revolved around inconsistencies in political and social life, naughty children, modern fashions, doctor-patient relations, professors suffering from amnesia and clever traders.” 

Kate-Duplicate? Kabhi kushi-Kabhi glum?

Say what you will, but the British papers are markedly more alive and refreshing than their American counterparts (as Tunku Varadarajan said here, and Matthew Engel said here). Have been and will probably always be.

Surely, they are heavily opinionated “feral beasts“, but the British papers take themselves less seriously, are better written, more irreverent, and have that one quality that signifies life: breathing.

Christopher Howse who writes on language for The Daily Telegraph, London, recently invited suggestions for the “scientifically enhanced twin peaks” of the model Jordan alias Katie Prince even as he commented on the strange name she had chosen for her daughter.

Howse writes he has been inundated with entries. These are the top-20 according to the language guru.

1 Pinky and Perky
2 Hindenburg and R101
3 Gee and Gigi
4 Gilbert and George
5 Dumb and Dumber
6 Scylla and Charybdis
7 Trident and Polaris
8 Romulus and Remus
9 Duncan and Smith
10 Two new Munros
11 Bristol and City
12 Tweedledum and Tweedledee
13 Fyling and Dales
14 Slazenger and Maxfli
15 Yul and Telly
16 Raspberrry and Ripple
17 Swell and Sweller
18 Knock and Knock-Knock
19 Buster and Booster
20 Bubble and Squeak

Read the full blog here: Name Jordan’s famous twins

Photo courtesy: Shanghai List

Tide against trivia turning one anchor at a time

Another silly American story and another silly American anchor in another silly piece of posturing.  Last month it was Paris Hilton, this month it is Lindsay Lohan. Last month it was an MSNBC anchor (Mika Brzezinski) who refused to read news about her, this month it is a CNN anchor (John Cafferty).

For a media that is accused (rightly) of putting trivial celebrity news on air, come hell or high water, standing your ground on air is a nice position to take to sound more credible. But aren’t these anchors aware of what’s coming up, what they are going to read? Don’t they take part in meetings where they can put their point across?

Do they have to indulge in “live” theatrics?

Be your own boss. Be greedy. And never retire.

At an interview several years ago, Rahul Bajaj, the  energetic bossman of Bajaj Auto, was asked when he planned to retire from his job. “Retire? Who retires?” shot back the acid-tongued man. “Only fools retire.”

A similar lesson in life comes courtesy of The Economist this week. It looks at Rupert Murdoch, 76, trying to gain charge of the Wall Street Journal. And it looks at Summer Redstone, 86, trying to keep control of Viacom.

“What lessons can ordinary mortals learn from these very old media titans? First, be your own boss—then nobody can sack you or force you to retire. Also, greed—the pursuit of wealth—is obviously good for you: keeping at it is helping to keep these men young. The money, evidently, is not the point. The bottomline? Never retire—it rots the brain.”

Read the full article here: Very old media

Link via I want media

Does print still break more stories than TV?

Outlook magazine editor Vinod Mehta has this item in his Delhi Diary this week:

David Lean when he was casting for Lawrence of Arabia approached the great theatre actor Albert Finney and offered him the role of Lawrence (which eventually went to Peter O’Toole). The actor declined. “Don’t you know I’ll make you a star,” said Lean. “That’s what I am afraid of,” replied Finney. Surveying the Ramnath Goenka awards for excellence in journalism, I notice TV journalists (all fine professionals) have swept the honours, which just goes to show that India’s love affair with TV continues. Print journalists, on the other hand, get very little or no recognition, even though most of the serious and solid work in journalism is done in print publications. I am not unmindful of the draw of TV as a “glamour medium”—a charm to which our netas are irresistibly attracted.

“I may be biased, but I’ve always regarded current affairs television as a fundamentally unserious brand of our trade, where style wins over substance and which finally is a performer’s art. It is not what you say but how you say it which counts. TV journalism occasionally produces good work, but where would TV channels be without newspapers and magazines? Ninety per cent of the stories on television are picked up from print.

“I have made a few foolish decisions in my professional career, but thank god I’ve stuck to being a print hack.”

Holes in the veil and fear in the hearts

Shortly after 9/11, America invaded Afghanistan in 2001 citing the plight of women in that country under the Taliban. But in the six years since, how the lot of the Hidden Half improved under the benign gaze of The Great Liberator?

The July/August issue of Mother Jones is featuring a photo essay by Canadian photojournalist Lana Slezic on women in that country. It shows that the burqa is more common than before, that domestic violence is growing, maternal mortality rate is the second highest in the world, and the reality has been hidden from the world with aplomb.

View the photo essay here: The Hidden Half

Photograph courtesy: Lana Slezic/ Mother Jones

What’s your grammar quotient, Ms Grundy?

When the reporter promises to keep a secret (“Don’t worry. That will be just between you and I”); when the industry leader paints a rosy picture (“The future of this technology is obvious although you and me may not be around to see it”); when HR sends a stern memo on expenses (“in the future, clearance for lunches over $100 must be obtained from Max or I”), it gets Stanley Bing all irritated.


If you really have to know, there may be a problem, Sriharikota.

Read here: When smart people have bad grammar

Hear, hear: Grammar girl’s quick and dirty tips for better writing