Monthly Archives: March 2008

‘Like a pineapple you have to have a 100 eyes’

Dith Pran, who served as interpreter to the New York TimesSydney Schanberg during the Cambodian genocide under Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, has passed away in New Jersey at the age of 65.

Dith’s relationship with Schanberg, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting, formed the basis for the Rolland Joffe film The Killing Fields, on the mass graves in the countryside where Pol Pot‘s men disposed of the bodies. In the movie, Haing S. Ngor, a Cambodian doctor-turned-doctor, played Dith Pran and won the Academy Award for his supporting role.

“Dith was a true reporter, a fighter for the truth and for his people,” Schanberg told the Associated Press when announcing his death. “When cancer struck, he fought for his life again. And he did it with the same Buddhist calm and courage and positive spirit that made my brother so special.”

Dith Pran served as a photojournalist for the New York Times upon his entry into the United States, and his theory of photojournalism was: “You have to be a pineapple. You have to have a hundred eyes.”

Read the full obituary: Killing Fields’ survivor Dith Pran dies

New York Times‘ obituary: Killing Fields‘ photographer dies

Can a boy-actor hold a candle to an editor?

Tongue firmly in both cheeks, Sans Serif is pleased to announce a global campaign for Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter (top, right) to be drafted to play Tintin.

Reports in the British papers suggest that Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson have zeroed in on 17-year-old Thomas Sangster (top, left) to play the boy-reporter who (sigh!) never has to sit down to type out a story of his adventures, face heartless bosses, or fill up a travel voucher.

Sangster is the veteran of movies such as Love Actually, etc, but—sacrilege!—claims he had never Herge‘s 23 books till recently because he wasn’t that “big” on reading.

Continuing coverage: If Steven Spielberg has a casting problem…

All fun and no work makes Tintin a good boy

Tintin publisher Raymond Leblanc passes away

‘The TV satellite is mightier than the ICBM’

From The Economist obituary of Sir Arthur C. Clarke:

“In 1962, at the chilliest part of the cold war and just after the launch of Sputnik had heralded the space age, he discussed in ‘Profiles of the Future‘ the implications of transatlantic satellite radio and television broadcasts, with information raining down on previously isolated parts of the world.

“‘Men will become neighbours,’ he wrote. ‘Whether they like it or not…The TV satellite is mightier than the ICBM (inter-continental ballistic missile)‘.”

‘Indian media doesn’t cover 70% of population’

The Magsaysay Award-winning rural affairs editor of The Hindu, Palagummi Sainath, continues his one-man crusade against the growing disconnect between mass media and mass reality.

At the launch of the website of Janashakthi, a Kannada weekly, in Bangalore on Thursday, Sainath said:

# Media is disconnected with 70 per cent of the population and is not talking to them. During elections, it is these 70 per cent who make news. During such time, all the opinion polls will be washed away due to huge under current of these voters.

# Except one TV channel and one newspaper in the whole country, not one media organisation thought Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar admission in Parliament that about 1.6 lakh farmers committed suicide between 1997 and 2007, was news.

# Mass media even failed to report the outcome of a house-to-house survey of farmers, conducted by the Maharashtra government, which revealed that 2 million farming families were in a highly distressed state

# Indian media is giving importance only for the “elite” section of society. 512 media representatives cover a week-long fashion show held every year in Bombay, while six representatives of the national media do not wish to stay in villages to study and report the causes of farmers’ suicide in the Vidharabha region.

# Budget announcement of waiving of farm loans of over Rs. 50,000 crore has been described as “unprecedented” in the mass media, when such concessions were being given to the corporate sector every year.

# While the media spoke about the farmers and there were panel discussion on television channels, there were no farmers or somebody who knew about farming on the panel.

Read the full stories: ‘Farmers’ crisis not represented in media’

‘Media is away from reality’

Also read: ‘A media politically free but chained by profits’

‘Take big steps, urgent steps, fast-paced steps’

‘Conventional journalism serves the powerful’

All in a day’s work for our valiant lensmen

The life of photographers and videographers in India has become hell thanks to the relentless media boom, with dozens of them jostling for space, nudging each other, often coming to blows with each other, all to capture a frame which the reader may not notice, and sometimes not even care.

The problem multiplies manifold when top Indian leaders with their tight security requirements are around.

When police denied access to lensmen at Pompai church in the coastal town of Mangalore, during Congress member of Parliament Rahul Gandhi‘s visit on Wednesday, they went on a flash strike to draw attention to their woes.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

How many magazines can one man publish?

He is 39 years old. He looks frail, anaemic, infirm. He cycles 50 kilometres a day. He has already edited and published children’s magazines in 50 Indian languages and dialects over the last 18 years. He has earned the label patrika premi (magazine lover).

His mission in life is to publish children’s magazines in 300 languages, and he has even put his ancestral property on the block to finance his dream.

Bijay Kumar Mahapatra of Pakanpur in India’s eastern state of Orissa is an unlikely magazine hero.

“Magazines for children, containing valuable writeups, can be a very effective tool in grooming them…. Many people don’t understand the importance of children’s literature. I am only a small fry,whose whole idea is to promote national integration through different languages.”

Read the full interview: Bringing out children’s magazines is his passion

Only in India: 90 per cent off for journalists!

A shower of freebies is the first sign that an election season is around the corner. Three weeks after finance minister P. Chidambaram wrote off farm loans worth Rs 60,000 crore with an eye clearly on the coming general elections, the gravy train is picking up steam across India.

In the southern State of Andhra Pradesh, look who’s at the receiving end of the largesse: Journalists.

Sandhya Ravishankar reports on CNN-IBN that the “Congress is quietly buying out the state media by giving away 70 acres of prime IT land in Gachibowli to over 1,000 journalists”. More than 2,000 journalists have applied for the land. The selected journalists will get 200 square yards for between Rs 1 and 1.5 lakh while the market value is Rs 17 lakh.

The chairman of the state’s press academy Devulapalli Amar contends that the journalists won’t write in favour of the government just because it allots them house plots. But the opposition party leader Devendra Goud pulls no punches:

“The chief minister can give away his own land to whomever he wants. How can he give away state-owned land to journalists? He doesn’t give an inch of land to the poor to build a hut but he gives land to MLAs, MPs, judges and journalists.”

Read the full story: Andhra government doles out sops to journos

Why blogging is more interesting than reporting

The jury is still out on blogging—and if left to the mainstream media, it will remain out for ever.

Is it good, is it journalism, does it have the “institutional” checks and balances, do bloggers go out and report a story… questions like these have been hurled for very nearly a decade without hurting anybody.

Now, Poynter’s Roy Peter Clark throws light on a Nieman narrative conference where reporter and Nieman fellow Josh Benton threw up an interesting theory on why blogging has come to be so interesting.

“Eyewitness reporting rendered in real time via the blog represents an interesting and worthy kissing cousin to long-form narrative journalism… in contradistinction to the kind of processed news reporting that still vanillas-up the typical newspaper.”

At its most basic, blogging represents natural reporting. It comes right after an event or an experience, when the story is hot. Through the authentic voice of the writer, it helps the reader catch the spark of the subject.

In a sense, blogging is like a conversation between friends: Fresh, unformed, unfiltered, as-is, not entirely accurate always, but fun, something that captures your attention.

Conventional reporting, on the other hand, takes more time, “neuters the point of view, neutralizes the language, and jams facts into standard suitcases.” But as more time passes, an investigative or feature writer recognizes the unrealized narrative potential of the story. Once again, “interestingness” becomes high.

Read the full piece: From blog to narrative

P. Sainath lecture on media in Bangalore

P. Sainath, the Magsaysay Award winning rural affairs editor of The Hindu, will deliver a lecture on the media in Bangalore on Thursday, 27 March 2008. The lecture has been organised by the cultural tabloid Janashakti. The venue is the Senate hall of Central College. The time is 4 pm.

Also read: ‘A media politically free but chained by profits’

‘Take big steps, urgent steps, fast-paced steps’

‘Conventional journalism serves the powerful’

24 hours, six TVs, one laptop, two radios…

This is the age of the information overload. Gone is the top-down, one-way, take-it-or-leave-it hierarchy of the past. News, views and juice now bombards the reader, listener, viewer, surfer. Scores of voices plead, rant, shout to catch your attention as the dissemination of fact and opinion no longer remains the sole province of people with the rich and powerful. “Now all is out of control. Everyone with a computer is a potential pundit; anyone with a video camera can be on a screen.”

So, how does a lay news consumer cope with all the information that now rains upon him?

Gene Weingarten, a staff writer of The Washington Post, decided to check it out.

Like his father’s friend Boris, who undertook a daily pilgrimage to the public library and read every paper from start to finis, “with ecclesiastic solemnity, a quiet, dignified homage to the majesty of knowledge,” Weingarten sat alone in a room for almost 24 hours with six televisions, a laptop and two radios, listening to only political shows, pundits and blogs, sometimes monitoring four or five of them at the same time.

He survived to tell the tale of “cruel and usual punishment”.

“I’ll tell you it can be, but I cannot tell you how horrible it is. It rattles the very center of your being. If you care about the state of humankind, it fills you with despair. We are as a people bleak and hostile and suspicious, filled with senseless partisanship and willing to believe anything and everything about anyone. We are full of ourselves and we hate. And we do it 24-7. “

Read the full saga: Cruel and usual punishment