Monthly Archives: May 2008

‘American media misleading the American public’

A journalist’s twin points of references should be the real and the important. But, for months, the focus of the coverage of the presidential elections in the United States has been on trivia, writes Gabor Steingart in Der Spiegel, thus misleading the American public.

Instead of addressing important issues of war and peace, health and globalisation that stares Americans in the eye, the American media, writes Steingart, has been dishing up the dirt on Barack Obama‘s lapel pins and pastor, John McCain‘s mistress, Hillary Clinton‘s Bosnia trip goofup.

“One cannot blame the journalists alone for the decline of journalism. Their importance has diminished more than in any other previous election. They now share newspaper pages and TV broadcasting time with people who call themselves strategists or consultants and who are either in the pay of a party now, or have been in the past….

“Style triumphs over substance, which in the end reflects back on the journalists themselves. Reporters who claim that the decisive criterion of an election is whether the candidate is able to “inspire the American people” should not be surprised if similarly stiff demands are placed on them. That may not be nice, but it’s fair.”

Read the full article: The media’s mini-truths

Even Al Qaida can’t stand frivolous journalism

Al Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri has kindly “answered” web questions in The New Yorker through the good offices of Andy Borowitz.

A magazine journalist in Manhattan is among those who get lucky.

Stacy in Manhattan asks: I am a journalist for the US publication Tiger Beat. When I heard you would be taking Web questions, I was like OMG, I have totes to write to him!!! Here are three questions we’re asking celebrities this month:

    1. If you could be any character on “Gossip Girl,” who would you be?
    2. Who would be a better friend, Lauren on “The Hills” or Ashley Tisdale in “High School Musical”?
    3. Who is hotter, Zac Efron or Joe Jonas? (LOL)

      Ayman al-Zawahiri writes: “May you and everyone at your magazine burn in Hell.”

      Read the other questions and answers: Ask the Jihadist

      NBA workshop on media and development

      PRESS RELEASE: Sarvodaya Press Service, Indore, Vikas Samwad, Bhopal, and the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) have jointly organised the “Sanjay Sangvai Memorial Consultation on Media and Development” at Badwani, Madhya Pradesh, from May 21-23.

      The tentative outline of the programme includes:

      1) Current Paradigm of Development: Issues relating to big dams and water management; land acquisition and displacement.

      2) Media and People’s Movements: Political role and space.

      3) Media and Development: In the context of neo-liberal policies.

      The workshop, which will be followed by a visit to the Narmada valley, will bring together veteran and eminent journalists of the print and electronic media from all over the country.

      Further details from

      When the OB vans came rolling in

      At the shootout at Virginia Tech last year, there were 130 satellite vans on campus, roughly translating to one van for each of the 33 students killed.

      It wasn’t as bad in Bellary in Karnataka today, but outside broadcasting vans lined up by the horde for the elections to the Karnataka legislative assembly. Polling in the iron-ore rich constituency was expected to be violent given the high stakes but turned out to be largely peaceful.

      Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

      ‘ToI more known for marketing than journalism’

      In a very candid interview with B. Judy Franko of Exchange4Media, N. Murali, the managing director of The Hindu, talks of the Madras market, post the entry of The Times of India:

      # On rumours that The Hindu is talking to Fairfax of Australia for a possible minority stake sale: “The reports are baseless.”

      # On The Times success in other cities: “The Telegraph in Calcutta and Deccan Chronicle in Hyderabad dropped their cover price [when Times entered their markets], but are still holding on to the lead. In Bangalore, however, Deccan Herald did not respond to counter ToI and, therefore, surrendered the lead to the Times long ago.”

      # On the difficulties of retaining staff when The Times came in: “We had to increase the compensation to the journalists and the marketing team. ToI was able to offer any price for people. We have not lost any talent to ToI except a legal reporter and a sub-editor and hardly anybody from the marketing department.”

      # On The Times as competition: “Times is known more for marketing than journalism. However, it can always step up on the journalism front as well…. A newspaper like ToI will not take strong views on issues, whether it is social, democratic or political, but what they have been able to do best is to create a connect with the local people wherever they are present. Times has always reflected the flavour of the city and different editions of Times are local. However, it lacked the commonality. Apart from the entertainment and lifestyle aspect, creating a connect with the local people has been their plus point.”

      # On who will be affected more in Madras: “Times has also been realistic in stating that their idea is not to supplant the market leader, though that could be their wish…. My hunch is that Times, apart from expanding, will eat into the circulation of Deccan Chronicle and New Indian Express. Chronicle, I am told, is already feeling the impact. Express, which does not have a big base, will also be affected. But I think it is Chronicle that will be affected more.”

      Read the full interview here: The N. Murali dialogue

      Also read: The greatgrandmother of all newspaper battles

      Look, who’s protesting offshoring of journalism!

      “Outsourcing” of jobs from first-world nations to third-world countries usually has politicians and trade union leaders up in arms. But what happens when the first-world organisations manned by thrid-world employees decide to outsource from their mother-countries?

      The BBC World Service, which also broadcasts in Hindi, Tamil, Urdu, Bengali and Sinhala, has decided to relocate upto 50 per cent of its overall “language staff” closer to their audience. South Asian journalists by the Beeb have been told to relocate to their countries of origin or face redundancy.

      Result: South Asians in the BBC are protesting the offshoring of their jobs to South Asia!

      Read the full article: BBC journos oppose offshoring

      ‘Indian print media outshining other media’

      All the news from the western front may be dark and depressing. Plunging readerships, falling circulations, falling advertising revenues, cost-cutting, job losses, the works.

      It’s the exact opposite scenario in India, at least among the big, listed media companies, reports Sruthijith K.K. in the Mint.

      Media and entertainment companies in India are twice as profitable as their global peers. Between 2003-07, print media in India enjoyed a compounded 61 per cent growth in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amoritisation (EBITDA), far more than other media forms.

      An analysis of 37 listed companies showed that gross profits from Indian media and entertainment companies was 11 per cent higher than the benchmark index on the nation’s two biggest stock exchanges.

      # TV 18 posted the highest compounded growth in Ebidta of 183.26% between 2003-07.

      # TV Today Network Ltd, broadcaster of channels such as Aaj Tak and Headlines Today, was the poorest performer, with a corresponding figure of 4.89%.

      # In 2007, Sun TV Network Ltd, the Madras-based conglomerate with a strong southern footprint, led with an Ebidta margin of 65%.

      Read the full article: Media firms outperform global peers

      ‘Indian MSM preoccupied with urban issues’

      “Today’s media, especially the mainstream media, are preoccupied with urban issues and the lifestyles of the rich and the affluent. This urban bias manifests itself in varied ways, whether it is in the print or in the electronic media, depending on their owners and managers.

      “For such a market-driven media, the problems of the common man or of the rural poor are not matters of serious concern. It is said that the marketing managers, and not the Editors, decide the policy of many newspapers today. This is a matter of concern.”

      Somnath Chatterjee, speaker of the lower house of India’s parliament, at a speech in Hyderabad on 11 May 2008

      Read the extended text: For a new deal to the rural poor

      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