Daily Archives: 11 May 2008

Wife-beater? Freeloader? Menace to society?

Restaurants are now suing newspapers for bad reviews claiming “defamation” and loss of business. But how should authors respond to bad reviews? Should they just be thankful for the publicity? Should they get into a slanging match with the reviewer and hope for the best?

Should they, as Shobhaa De, the author of “Superstar India” has done, get personal?

De’s latest book has got a poor review in India’s leading English magazines, India Today and Outlook. India Today‘s reviewer tore into the book calling it “the worst thing she has written” and said its subtitle “From Incredible to Unstoppable” made him wonder if it was commissioned by the ministry of tourism. Outlook‘s reviewer called it “quite mediocre” and said it read like a “teenager’s diary”. Etcetera.

But De, former editor of the film magazine Stardust (and the shortlived Celebrity), and the woman who has worn titles such as Sultana of Scuttlebutt and “Maharani of Muck” with aplomb, goes below the belt in response.

In an interview with Arathi Menon of Deccan Herald today, De is asked of the unkind reviews that have greeted the book in India. Her response?

“The particular review you are referring to (in a leading magazine) is a personal attack on me. The person who wrote it is a wife-beater; a freeloader; a frustrated has-been and a menace to society. There are other ratings that have already put the book on the best-seller list. So do I really care about that interview?”

As the pioneer of bitchy page 3 journalism, Shobhaa De of course doesn’t name the reviewer or the publication, but if the reviewer/s had given a good review of the book, would De have been enlightening the world with such vengeance in public?

Is the reviewer’s past or present relevant to the debate at all? Or should she be answering the criticism of the reviewer?

Photograph: courtesy Newsline, Pakistan

Read the India Today review here: De turns into night

Read Shobhaa De’s interview here: 60 years young

Also read: Singer Sonu Nigam accuses reviewer Subhash K. Jha of “sexual assault”


Lelyveld: The war between TV and papers is over

Joseph Lelyveld, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning former executive editor of The New York Times, has been visiting India. Lelyveld, who served as the paper’s India correspondent between 1966-69, spoke to staffers of The Indian Express in Delhi as part of the paper’s Idea Exchange programme:

# On his return to NYT after the Jayson Blair controversy: “It was a funny occasion in my life because a lot of people who were not particularly distressed to see me leave, welcomed me back like some kind of reborn saint.”

# On the fight between television and newspapers: “Television is sort of over. It’s between the Internet and newspapers now. Only newspapers still maintain large reporting organisations… The new media draws on the content of the old media and if the old media fade away, the new media will not have the robustness to maintain that kind of reporting.”

# On giving the reader what he wants: “I think you should give the reader a fresh and original paper that’s very well-written and covers all sorts of things —social trends, fashion, the works but I think you are at your best when you give the reader something the reader wants that the reader didn’t know he or she wanted it till you gave it to her.”

# On what advice he would give young reporters: “Don’t get beaten. Figure out what really matters on the beat. Think independently about what’s in front of you. The trouble with editors is that they are influenced in what they demand from reporters by what they read. You have the opportunity to give them something they’ve never read before and another name for that is news.

# On Rupert Murdoch: “Murdoch is a very smart man but… I can’t think of any publication he’s made better. He’s made a lot of publications more profitable but a number of his papers also lose money. The Times in London loses money, the New York Post loses huge amounts of money. It doesn’t bother him because he likes the prestige of owning those papers.

“I think his plan for the WSJ is unfortunate and in some ways good. He’s going to change the paper and he sees it as a competitor to NYT. In that sense, I welcome it. But if he moves WSJ more towards becoming a general interest paper, it will obviously be less of a financial paper and less of a concentration of talent, knowledge and experience in that area…. He is a clever newspaperman and he’s a brilliant entrepreneur but he does tend to cheapen what he owns.”

Read the entire transcript here: ‘New media doesn’t break stories’

Illustration: courtesy E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express