Monthly Archives: October 2007

‘Too much interactivity is not such a good thing’

STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania: As online media vehicles rev up and vroom off on the infobahn, traditional media slowcoaches seem to have hit upon “interactivity” as the magic device to slow down the upstarts. But too much interactivity can be a bad thing, especially if the content is not good enough, says S. SHYAM SUNDAR.

Professor of communications at Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania, and founder and co-director of PSU’s Media Effects Research Laboratory, Dr Shyam Sundar says moderate interactivity—through hyperlinks, dialogues with editors and reporters, devices to enable interaction with other readers—is in general a better option.

“If you are not too much interested in content, interactivity helps to draw you in. However, too much interactivity serves to distract you from the content.

“Politically apathetic users are bowled over by interactive features, but politically involved readers of news like moderate interactivity over high or low inactivity. It is cognitively overloaded and they get turned off by the bells and whistles that interactivity brings in.

“We do find that interactivity brings in engagement or involvement with content. So higher the interactivity it draws people in, it brings you face to face with content. But if the content is not good at that point, then people get disappointed. So you have to be careful how you deploy your interactive resources. If the content is mediocre, it might not be such a great idea to bring people face to face. If it is good, it’s your benefit to build as many interactive features.”


Magazine stories in 100 words or less. Or else.

If there can be a book titled How to talk about books you haven’t read, surely somebody should do the donkey’s job of wading through thick, fat, heavy magazines, and telling you what you need to read in a television soundbite-sized capsule?

Wait no further.

In a seriously time and attention challenged world, bent double under the weight of thicker and heavier magazines, Jeremy Brosowsky has created just that with, a website that creates 100-word abstracts of articles from dozens of magazines and rates them.

Link via Jim Romenesko

What it takes to be a good television journo

NDTV’s Barkha Dutt may be the first name on most aspiring journalists’ lips, but the real star of Indian television in many ways is Shereen Bhan. Smart, sharp and with a face to match, the CNBC anchor is frighteningly versatile, flipping from show to show, showering her broad smile on a a variety of subjects.

In an interview with Shifra Menezes of, the 30-year-old air force officer’s daughter talks about life in the fast lane to stardom—and drops a few pearls of wisdom.


That one needs to be outgoing for a career in television goes without saying. What are the other personality traits you think an aspiring TV journalist needs?

The ability to handle pressure is a must. It is a tough job, both physically and mentally taxing. You have to be on your feet for long hours and mentally alert every second. Operating in a live environment means reacting to news as it breaks, making sense of it in a few seconds and adding value in a couple of minutes.

Good communication skills, comprehensive knowledge of current affairs, writing are important as well.

What advice would you have for aspiring TV journalists?

Don’t do it for the glamour. There is nothing glamorous about it. A large chunk of a TV journalist’s job is donkey’s work. Standing around for hours to get a 20-second sound bite is about perseverance not glamour.

Be prepared to say goodbye to your social life and get ready to be on call 24×7. Ignite a fire inside you, not just to do big stories and interviews but also to do good quality work, that’s fair and honest consistently.

What do you think is the most common mistake newcomers make? What advice do you have to give them in this regard?

Wanting to taste success without doing the time — you have to be patient. You have to get your hands dirty. Don’t box yourself into roles and responsibilities. Learn to multi-task. Learn to work in a team. TV is all about teamwork.

Read the full interview: ‘TV is all about teamwork

Picture courtesy:

‘Sadly, lensmen are just a cog, never the wheel’

The well-known photojournalist T.S. SATYAN was conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award for Freelance Photojournalism instituted by the Essel Group and the Zee Network, in Bangalore on Sunday. Another Mysorean, former Praja Vani editor M.B. SINGH, was also honoured similarly.

This is the full text of Satyan’s acceptance speech.


“Thank you for the honour done to me. I accept this award with great pleasure and much humility. It is very special for me because it is not a government award. It is an award conferred on a freelance photojournalist.

“I have worked for nearly sixty years and enjoyed both the ecstasy and agony of freelance photojournalism. In my own humble way, I have attempted to visually enrich the pages of many newspapers and magazines around the world, shunning the more profitable sector of commercial photography.

“My early years were difficult. I had to live on my wits and from money order to money order and later from cheque to cheque.  Unable to earn enough from pictures alone, I was forced to take up temporary jobs to supplement my income. Not many of you know that my first job, after graduation, was that of an engine-cleaner-cum-inspector at the Hindustan Aircraft factory in Bangalore, in 1944.   My boss, B.G. Karve, told me one day that I had a great future in the aeronautics industry! Thank God, I disproved his prophecy.

“I was greatly influenced and inspired by the pictures published in the Life magazine that was started in 1936. No other magazine at any period of time had such extraordinary impact on its readers. I had the wonderful opportunity of working for Life for some 15 long years. I was able to meet with and work alongside some great photographers of the world. I learnt a lot from them.

“Even today, for a large country like India, only a few photographers have made the grade and are big names. They are in demand. This is the tragedy of photojournalism in the country. It is confined to a limited circle of elite practitioners. This circle should expand as quickly as possible.

“There is a total absence of organized training facilities in photojournalism for those who want to specialize. Most of our successful photographers are self-made.  There are institutions for pure photography, not photography for journalism. Even here, those who teach have not had much practical experience. In a society which cries for information, there are not enough men and women trained in the visual media to rise to the occasion. Also, there is not much appreciation of the photographer and his work by those connected with the media in the government.

“The amazing part of print journalism is that while some editors become celebrities and an occasional reporter becomes a hero or a heroine for a day, the regular photographer hardly ever commands the limelight. It is rare for a photographer ever to be discussed at the breakfast table. Usually he is taken for granted. Rarely is he taken note of. He may be sought after, but not socially. He is rarely to be found at a celebrity dinner in his personal capacity. He is a cog in the wheel, but he is not the wheel.

“I feel disillusioned on one important count. Even top printed media houses in the country are continuing to illegally access photographs and publish them without a credit or a courtesy. Requests for clarification and payment are ignored. To be indifferent to authorship hurts photographers. These very media houses endlessly publish columns and editorials on copyright, intellectual property rights and ethical practices, but banish them in their own dealings. These unprofessional and unethical situations are agonizing and traumatic for photographers. I ardently say this, as a personal victim, so that we wake up to building healthy professional milieus in the future. I pray that tall professional and ethical standards become common pursuit for everyone in the media.

“It is the prerogative of the photographer to record the present as a reliable witness in the court of history. This is what is going to make photography a witness to the past as well as the future.

“I thank you once again for the honour bestowed on me.”


Also read: T.S. SATYAN

Cross-posted on churumuri

‘Modern advertising endangers media diversity’

STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania: Time was when the advertising world revolved around the simple 30-second spot. Put one out and, more likely than not, it was sure to capture everybody’s eye at some time or the other. But diminishing attention spans, a growing media clutter, and cutting edge consumer technology—through devices like personal video recorders, TiVo, etc—have made that possibility less certain.

The result, says Matt McAllister, associate professor at the college of communications at Penn State University, is that advertisers and agencies have had to scramble around for newer and more ingenious ways of drawing notice. Product placement, product integration, hybrid advertising, have all therefore become par for the course to evade “the revenge of the remote-control”.

But there is a flip side, says McAllister, author of The Commercialisation of American Culture: new Advertising, Control and Democracy (1996, Sage) and co-editor of Comics and Ideology (2001, Peter Lang):

“Large scale integrated advertising campaigns are taking away the diversity of media. Media look great, they are often spectacular. But when you really ask if we have true diversity, whether we have a lot of different choices, free from advertising, I worry some of the current trends are taking those choices away.”

Man behind ‘most important story of our time’

The magazine calls it “The Most Important Story of Our Time”. The magazine’s editor calls the reporter’s work “one of the finest in the history of Indian journalism”.The magazine is Tehelka.

The story is the sting operation of what happened in Gujarat in 2002 “in the words of the men who did it. The editor is Tarun J. Tejpal. And the reporter is Ashish Khetan.

“For six months, I remained a voyager between two worlds—my world where I was Ashish Khetan, a journalist with a Catholic wife, a daughter with a French name, and no fixed religion, and a host of Muslim and Christian friends. And then there was the other world, where I was Piyush Aggarwal, a member of the “Parivar”, a Hindu zealot, a religious fanatic, with only murders and rapists for friends.”

Read the full story here: The most important story of our time

Read Tarun Tejpal’s editorial here: Read. And be afraid.

Read Khetan’ s account here: Voyager between two worlds