Monthly Archives: November 2007

Tina Brown: I would redesign The New Yorker

Tina Brown, the former New Yorker, Tatler and Talk editor who made “buzz” the buzzword of her newsroom, has given an interview to Mini Kapoor of The Indian Express.

Ten years later, what would you do at The New Yorker?

I would probably redesign it again. I might make a shorter front of the book section. I’m an admirer of the Spectator magazine in London. It does a very good job of a front that’s interesting, voices that you come to every week.

So, in the midst of TV and the Web, the ideal print content?

I would like the newsmagazines to do a longer, a much more contextual piece. They should not be just reactive. There are three kinds of pieces which interest me. One is to introduce something completely new into the dialogue. Secondly to provide some really good context. And thirdly to provide a pleasure principle — voice, attitude, irreverence are very important to create reader loyalty. And visual excitement. We have great photography out there which gets very little play.

Read the full interview: ‘I still haven’t read the definitive piece on Musharraf’s coup’

‘Families are the best custodians of newspapers’

Sir Harold Evans, the legendary (former) editor of The Sunday Times, London, is in India.

Delivering the K.C. Mammen Mappillai Memorial Lecture on “The Freedom of the Press in an Age of Violence”, organised by the Malayala Manorama group in New Delhi on Thursday, Sir Harold dropped these pearls in the company of his celebrated wife, Tina Brown:

# Foreign ownership of newspapers and television channels in a complex society like India is not desirable: “I do not want to sound xenophobic—there should be no custom barrier for ideas and information. But I’d suggest newspapers and broadcasting media in complex, sensitive societies like India, in particular, would not be well served by foreign ownership that is blind to the tradition and subtleties. In fact, these foreign owners see culture only as a marketplace and inevitably become a focus of resentment.

# “Government is not the only constraint to free and responsible press. Much greater challenges to the freedom of the press comes from business conglomerates.”

# “Ownership of media by conglomerates—bundles of different businesses in which the press is but one—has yet to prove a blessing to journalism anywhere. My experience and observation is that conglomerates hate the risk, expense and discord inevitable in investigations of any kind, of which the investigation of corruption and violence are the riskiest… The risk to loss of advertising, disfavour with the authorities or with associated businesses, and of course any businesses in which the conglomerate is itself involved. Conglomerates hate the risk, expense and discord inevitable in investigations of any kind of which the investigation of corruption and violence is the riskiest.”

# “Most of the best newspapers in the world are not owned or managed by conglomerates but by families who regard them as public trust.”

# “If you publish the hideous videos of beheading jihadists, circulate or display the image of a hooded hostage, are you doing exactly as the killers wish— creating terror by becoming a tool of terror? Or are you exposing the jaws of the beast? Are you exercising freedom or are you indulging in the pornography of violence?”

# “Freedom of the press is a moral concept or it is nothing. Speaking personally of challenges to human rights, I would rather be photographed by a hidden surveillance camera than travel on a train or bus with men carrying bombs in their backpacks. I would regard being blown to bits on the street as less of an intrusion on privacy than having an identity card.”

# “The snare of token patriotism should be avoided. When emotions run high, the press is all too often “tempted” to follow the official line out of a mistaken sense of patriotism.”

# “When a newspaper or TV station is under attack for doing its job—as The Hindu has been in the Tamil Nadu State [in 2003]—its competitors, once satisfied of the accuracy of the reporting, should not hesitate to cover the case, and, on its merits come to its support. We must not get hung up on competitive jealousies.”

# “News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress. Everything else is advertising… There is no use printing the story once. A running sore in a society requires more than a one-time Band-Aid”.

Also read: What ails media? My wife says, a panic of seriousness’

File photograph courtesy The Associated Press/ Outlook

‘Chhuncho mere haath gondho korte chaina’

The first target of a military coup is said to be a television station. The first thought of a democratically elected leader is a newspaper. West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, facing mounting criticism of his handling of the Nandigram issue, has come down on the Bengali daily Bartaman for its “provocative reports”.

He has asserted that he was not acting against it because chhuncho mere haath gondho korte chaina (I don’t want to sully my hands by killing a mole)”.

Read The Hoot editorial: Buddha, moles and the press

$3,000 award for print and web reporting on TB

A new prize that recognises reporting and commentary in print and on the web about tuberculosis and resistant strains of the disease in developing countries, has been announced at the world conference of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease by being held in Cape Town, South Africa.

The award, courtesy the Stop TB and Lilly MDR partnerships, carries a cash prize of $3,000 (approximately Rs 1.2 lakh). Entires may be subnmitted in English or Hindi (with an English translation). The winners will be announced at the next IUALTD conference in November 2008. Articles must be published between 1 March 2007 and 31 March 2008. The entry deadline is April 30, 2008.

Link via The Hindu

Should news agencies pay for news and pictures?

The greed of cash-rich sports organisations in bottomless. In September, the International Rugby Board sought to impose restrictions on media coverage of the World Cup, limiting photos and video on the internet, claiming intellectual property rights.

Now, cricket has followed suit. Cricket Australia, cricket’s governing body down under, has said it owns the IPR to all text, data and photographs taken inside “their venues” and wants news agencies to pay a licence fee to be able to distribute news photographs to their client newspapers and other news media.

The news agencies declined stating that they did not pay for news coverage.

Result: the first Test match between Australia and Sri Lanka went unreported by news agencies and many Sri Lankan newspapers. With India’s cricket board backing Cricket Australia, a messy battle looms.

“From what I understand, Cricket Australia is not charging private newspapers if they send their representatives and use photographs. They are only charging the agencies which are doing a business of selling pictures and data to client media organisations,” Indian cricket board secretary Niranjan Shah said.

The question at this rate is, can news agencies cover anything?

Illustration by M. Munaf, courtesy: The Sunday Times/ Colombo

Also read: Getting the message across

Norman Mailer is dead. Long live Norman Mailer

Sans Serif” records with regret the passing away of Norman Mailer, the eternal enfant terrible of literature and one of the founding fathers of “New Journalism“, in New York on Saturday. He was 84.

Born Nachem Malek, he published more than 30 books, including novels, biographies and works of nonfiction, and twice won the Pulitzer Prize: for The Armies of the Night (1968) and The Executioner’s Song (1979).

The New York Times notes in an obituary:

“At different points in his life Mr. Mailer was a prodigious drinker and drug taker, a womanizer, a devoted family man, a would-be politician who ran for mayor of New York, a hipster existentialist, an antiwar protester, an opponent of women’s liberation and an all-purpose feuder and short-fused brawler, who with the slightest provocation would happily engage in head-butting, arm-wrestling and random punch-throwing. Boxing obsessed him and inspired some of his best writing. Any time he met a critic or a reviewer, even a friendly one, he would put up his fists and drop into a crouch.”

Three years ago, Margo Hammond, books editor of The St. Petersburg Times, spoke to Mailer on the phone:

In “The Spooky Art” you refer to the need for young writers to pick themselves clean of the bad prose in bad books and in newspapers, and, of course, there are scads of examples of both. But what about the novelists who worked as journalists when they were young — Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Ernest Hemingway, for example. Was there anything about their journalism training that helped them write better novels?

Mailer: Every piece of literary advice ends up to be a generalization. Hemingway got something wonderful out of journalism and it shows in his novels. Yes, one of the greatest American novelists of all time was, indeed, a journalist. But generally speaking journalism is sloppy writing, and unless you have a real talent, it can injure you to write too quickly, come to too many conclusions. It’s frantic and hysterical.

By the way, newsrooms these days all sound like you’re in a monastery. All the computers are so silent. I miss the old days. Lots of journalism writing is bad because the pressure of being a good writer is not the first talent you need to be a good journalist. The first talent you need is the emotional readiness to introduce yourself to strangers and pick their brains.

But is there anything about journalism that helps the novelist?

The thing about journalists is that they learn about a lot of people in a hurry. Less good is that the experience is very rarely existential. By existential I mean that you don’t know how it’s going to turn out. If you’re doing it on spec, then it’s very existential. But if you’re working for a newspaper and you know it’ll be printed no matter what, then you learn a lot, but it doesn’t bite deep. Experiences you can’t control teach you a lot — the others just skim the top.

Link via Poynter

Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, shot in 1948, courtesy Wikipedia

Also read: Michiko Kakutani on Mailer

MUST READ: The dissenting view on Mailer