Monthly Archives: May 2009

Will journalism soon be Twitterature in a hurry?

Monica Hesse of The Washington Post has gleaned some advice from authors of forthcoming books on Twitter how to get the best out of 140 characters allowed in each Tweet:

# Make It Participatory: Use discussion and self-reflecting, philosophical questions, rather than simple questions like “What are you doing?”

# Make it Art: Each Tweet should contain personality, creating a Twitter persona that people want to follow.

# Make It Universal: Avoid using Tweets with specific contexts, because they will be vague to users who do not have personal knowledge about you.

Link via Knight Center at the University of Texas at Austin

Shankar Vedantam named Nieman fellow


Shankar Vedantam, a national science reporter at The Washington Post, has been named among 24 American and international journalists to join the 72nd class of Nieman fellows at Harvard.

Bangalore-born Shankar will “study solutions to collective action problems and explore how online social networks might solve public policy challenges. He also will study how perceptions of intraracial differences influence education, politics and the criminal justice system.”

Photograph: courtesy American Psychological Assocation

When an Indian journo shouted at Prabhakaran

Dozens of journalists have written on the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Velupillai Prabhakaran, whose death was announced to the world by Sri Lanka on Tuesday, May 18.

On, Athimuthu Ganesh Nadar writes of his encounter with Prabhakaran seven years ago when he was among 350 international journalists who attended a press conference in Killinochi.

“I and several others had their hands raised for the entire hour. Nothing happened! Only the BBC, CNN, and The New York Times took turns asking questions.

“”I lost my head, I jumped up and screamed in Tamil, “Ungalukku vellaikaran rombu pedichirndal engalaya yen kuptinga, nangallum kadalay thandi, naady thandi vandu erukkirom. (You like only white people, why did you invite us? We too have crossed the ocean, crossed borders to meet you).”

“Luckily I screamed in Tamil. I believe that is the only reason the LTTE did not shoot me.

“Prabhakaran did not react. [LTTE ideologue] Anton Balasingham came to his feet, “Sorry, sorry please don’t be upset, please ask your question.”

“I forgot to introduce myself, I forgot to tell them my organisation’s name. I managed to ask in a faltering voice, “There are 240 countries in the world, why Norway?””

Read the full article: The day I met Prabhakaran

Never let facts come in the way of a good story


The general elections in India might have thrown up a clear winner, but the general elections on TV continue to throw up a fractured mandate. Nothing illustrates this better than the claims and counter-claims of the TV stations on who captured more eyeballs on counting day, May 16.

Times Now poll coverge tops viewership ratings,” reads the headline of a news story in The Times of India which owns the channel.

Times Now wins the election,” screams an advertisement in the same paper.

“According to viewership data compiled by Audience Measurement and Analytics Ltd, Times Now was ahead on counting day, May 16, with 8.05 GRPs, followed by NDTV 24×7 with 5.84 GRPs and CNN-IBN with 3.77 GRPs,” reads The Times story.

(GRPs is short for gross rating points, the currency used by advertisers to measure the popularity or reach of a TV channel. The higher it is, the larger its viewership is supposed to be.)

However, according to a report in Business Standard, among the English news channels, NDTV 24×7 had the highest GRP of 3.7 on counting day May 16, followed by Times Now (3.6) and CNN-IBN (2.7). In other words, Times Now was second, not first in the ratings.

Times Now claims it has been number one for 26 weeks since its coverage of the November 26 terror attack on Bombay and that the channel’s lead grew in the pre-poll period. But another rival, CNN-IBN, has claimed it was No.1 on at least three of the five polling days, quoting TAM (Television Audience Measurement) ratings.

For its part, NDTV 24×7 claims that a 13-city opinion poll (sample size 5,240) shows it was the most watched of the news channels during the election results coverage, with more viewership than all the other four channels put together.

“These viewership figures are in many ways more accurate than TAM ratings, which can easily be fiddled with and have increasingly become synonymous with corruption and money power,” says NDTV.


As if to underline the gap between English media and language media, BS says Aaj Tak clocked GRPs of 20.2, followed by Star News 17.2 and India TV 13.1. English news channels usually get an average GRP of around 1 or less on an average day.

Aaj Tak was No. 1 on polling day,” reads the headline of a story in the tabloid Mail Today, both of which are owned by the India Today group. “Aaj Tak was the most searched news source on Google India on May 16… In the 100 key words for the day, variants of Aaj Tak featured four times.”

If journalism, old or new, is about the truth, Indian television stations seem to be stumbling at the first post.

Cross-posted on churumuri

Economic & Political Weekly wants a web editor

The Economic & Political Weekly is looking for a web editor who will be in charge of its online edition. The duties of the web editor would be to commission contemporary commentaries, invite blogs, moderate discussions and work towards developing a distinct identity for the online edition.

The web editor would work with the editorial team and should also be expected to suggest and operationalise new “online publishing”-related ideas on a continuing basis. The web editor should have an interest in current affairs and the social sciences, and also in online publishing.

Knowledge of open source content management systems and their architecture would be a bonus but can be acquired on the job. The web editor would initially (for at least six months) be based in Bombay. Thereafter she can choose to work out of either Bombay or Hyderabad.

Salary would initially be equivalent to that of an assistant editor in EPW. If you have a background in the social sciences and possess the above interests/qualifications please write to before June 15.

Lifetime awards for a lifetime of funny lines

KPN photo

Seven veteran Indian cartoonists were honoured with lifetime achievement awards by the Indian Institute of Cartoonists in Bangalore on Monday.

In the front row are the cartoonists (from left): E.P. Unny (The Indian Express), Vasant Sarvate (Lalit), Madhan (Ananda Vikatan and Junior Vikatan), Kaak (Hindustan), Thomas alias Toms (Malayala Manorama), Prabhakar Raobail and T. Venkat Rao.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Martha Gellhorn Prize open to Indian journos


The Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, considered to be one of the most prestigious in the world of journalism, is open to candidates from English-speaking countries outside the UK and USA from this year.

In other words, Indian journalists can apply.

The winner of the prize, awarded annually by the Martha Gellhorn Trust to “a journalist whose work has penetrated the established version of events and told an unpalatable truth, validated by powerful facts, that exposes establishment propaganda, or ‘official drivel’,” receives £5,000.

A minimum of two long articles (1,500 words or more) and a maximum of three articles of any length may be submitted, provided that they appeared in print or a reputable internet publication between 30 January 2009 and 30 January 2010. Entrants must include six copies of each piece submitted.

Visit the website for further details:

Link courtesy JOHN PILGER

It is their opinion they have done an exit poll

Exit polls are said to be more reliable than opinion polls in gauging the mood of the electorate since pollsters catch respondents immediately after they have cast their ballot.

But for the second successive time in five years, mainstream Indian media organisations have fallen flat on their faces in their “exit poll” projections, throwing a big question mark over the authenticity of their claims, the reliability of the pollster’s methods, and their use as a media device.

Obviously, the size of the country, the size of the electorate, the multiple parties and issues involved, etc, making prediction an immeasurably difficult task, but the consistency with which polls are getting it wrong throw a big question mark over the role the media is performing in our democracy: do they have their ear to the ground, catching the pulse of the people whose eyes and ears they are supposed to be.

Or have they become a megaphone for uninformed news, views and gossip, no different from a roadside tea shop.


In 2004, all the exit polls predicted a return to power for the NDA giving the ruling alliance a lead of 40-90 seats and more; in the end, the BJP-led alliance fell 32 seats below the predictions and was routed by the UPA.

In 2009, all the exit polls predicted a thin lead for the ruling UPA; some predictions sighted a single-digit margin between the two alliances. In the end, the Congress-led UPA ended up almost 100 seats ahead of the NDA.


2004 Elections

NDTVIndian Express: NDA 230-250, Congress + allies 190-205,

Aaj Tak/ Headlines Today: NDA 248, Congress + allies 189

Zee News: NDA 249, Congress + allies 176

Star News: NDA 263-275, Congress + allies 174-186

Actual tally: NDA 187, Congress + allies 219


2009 Elections

NDTV: UPA 216, NDA 177, Third Front 15

Star News-AC Neilsen: UPA 199, NDA 196

CNN-IBN-CSDS: UPA 185-205, NDA 145-160

India TV-C Voter: UPA 189-201, NDA 183-195

Headlines Today: UPA 191, NDA 180

The Times of India: UPA 198, NDA 183

Actual tally: UPA 256, NDA 164

Times Private Treaties: the full list of ‘partners’

The following is the full and unexpurgated portfolio of Times Private Treaties, the equity-for-ads investment arm of The Times of India group as on 11 May 2009.

The list of clients as per industry has had disappeared from the Times Private Treaties website following the recent media scrutiny, and the Google cache has had also been cleared [before it was recently restored].


Also read: Times Private Treaties gets a very public airing

SUCHETA DALAL: Forget the news, you can’t believe the ads either

SALIL TRIPATHI: The first casualty of a cosy deal is credibility

PAUL BECKETT: Indian media holding Indian democracy ransom

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA: ‘Indian media in deeply murky ethical territory’

The scoreline: Different strokes for different folks

Sucheta Dalal in public row on private treaties

Every journalist’s essential guide to Twitter

Twitter, twitter everywhere.

Journalists are signing up to the micro-blog site. News organisations are launching Twitter feeds. Events are being covered live on Twitter.

But what precisely can journalists achieve with Twitter?

What are other journalists reading, writing and following on Twitter? Who are the journalists who are using Twitter around the world? How can you hook up with them? Need some help with a story? How can you keep track of the torrent of Tweets? Can you receive an alert if something of your liking is Twittered?

And WTF is hastag?

Read The journalist’s guide to Twitter