Monthly Archives: July 2009

It happened one night on the day of the eclipse

250px-Arnab-new roy

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Chalk and cheese can never taste the same. Bill O’Reilly can never be confused for Walter Cronkite. But, on the night of the longest solar eclipse in the 21st century, probably because of it, something close happened on Indian TV.

Prannoy Roy (right), the calm and cultivated voice of assurance of India’s original private broadcaster New Delhi Television (NDTV), was confused by a talking head for Arnab Goswami, the shrieking, shouting, hectoring, haranguing face of its competitor, Times Now.

Not on a rival channel but on Roy’s own NDTV, the channel where Goswami cut his television teeth before jumping ship to launch the news channel for The Times of India group as its “Howard Beale“.

On “India Decides @ 9”, NDTV’s primetime show which now sees Roy making an increasing number of appearances, possibly to counter Goswami’s 9 pm appearance on the Newshour, the BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad was asked a question on the topic of the day: the government’s alleged capitulation to the United States on the nuclear deal.

Little realising which channel he was on, Prasad proceeded to deliver his setpiece answer:

“Let me tell you, Arnab Goswami….”

“Arnab Goswami?” Roy tried to intervene.

But Prasad went on merrily as Roy, 60, buried his face on screen. After Prasad finished, Roy said it was in the fitness of things that he read out his bio-data—that he was Prannoy Roy, not Arnab Goswami.

When Prasad tried to apologise for the goof-up, Roy was graciousness personified.

“It’s OK if you call me Arnab Goswami. He’s part of the NDTV family. He’s one of us. He was born and brought up here.”

The confusion was probably caused because the Outdoor Broadcasting (OB) vans of different channels line up before the offices and residences of the spokesmen of the various political parties, who appear on different stations one after the other, with barely enough time to catch their breath.

Doubtless, Ravi Shankar Prasad was on Times Now immediately after his NDTV appearance, where, mercifully, he did not confuse Arnab Goswami for his bete noire Rajdeep Sardesai, who co-hosts “India at Nine”. Sardesai, like Goswami, left Roy’s NDTV to launch CNN-IBN.

Roy can only hope that, like the solar eclipse, this eclipse will only last a short while, and that not many may have seen it due to the inclement weather.

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What if nobody wants the serious stuff?

Ted Turner who created CNN and invented the 24-hour news cycle, on celebrity journalism, in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“The greatest fear we could possibly have today is an uninformed electorate. That is what really scares me.”

Read the full article: 70 years of Ted Turner

25 years moved so quickly; it seems like just 12

The Bangalore edition of The Times of India turns 25 years old today. But the joy of a great journey from being No.4 to No.1—from climbing from a circulation of 20,000 copies to “over 500,000,” in the words of resident editor H.S. Balram—is slightly marred by a photograph on the front page of the “special report” marking the occasion.

The picture, shot by T.L. Ramaswamy, captures Bangalore’s most famous thoroughfare, Mahatma Gandhi Road, then and now. Then being 1984. Among the hoardings dotting the buildings is a hoarding for the Korean company, Lucky Goldstar alias LG.

LG, for the record, was launched in India in 1997.

Photographs: courtesy The Times of India

Hat tip: Satish Patel

Daniel Pearl Awards for investigative journalism

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) is inviting entries for the Daniel Pearl Awards, named for the Wall Street Journal reporter killed in 2002 in Pakistan.

The Awards recognize and promote cross-border investigations that involve reporting in at least two countries on a topic of world importance.

The competition is open to professional journalists of any nationality, working individually or in teams, in any medium. The awards criteria require the work to have been first published or broadcast between 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2009.

Two $5,000 first prizes and five $1,000 finalist awards will be made. One of the first prizes will go to a US-based reporter or news organization, and the other will be awarded to a journalist or entity outside the United States.
The judges may also award a special citation for work that is unusually enterprising or conducted under especially difficult circumstances.

Winners will be announced at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, in April 2010.

Visit the ICIJ website: publicintegrity.org

Download the application form

Link via Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas

Also read: “I don’t think this is the business of a journalist”

Less is better for the new, redesigned rediff.com

India’s pioneering news, views and e-commerce portal, rediff.com, has unveiled a brand-new, minimalist home page that is a far removed from its earlier “busy” homepage (screenshot below), and is almost a replica of the beta version of its world homepage.

The NASDAQ-listed site, founded in 1996 by adman and entrepreneur Ajit Balakrishnan, is edited by Nikhil Lakshman, the former editor of The Sunday Observer, The Indian Post, Mid-Day and Sunday Mid-Day, and a top editor at The Illustrated Weekly of India.

Rediff also publishes the New York weekly newspaper, India Abroad.

Also read: ‘Indian journalists take themselves too seriously’

Fellowship for radio and television broadcasters

One World Media, a UK-based organisation which aims to increase global understanding through effective use of the media, is offering a two-week fellowship for senior radio and television broadcasters from developing countries.

The 2009 fellowship scheme runs from 19 to 30 October. The last date to apply is 21 August.

Download the application form here

Visit the official website: How to apply

Link courtesy Follow the Media

When a music magazine takes on Goldman Sachs

It is probably applicable to other spheres of journalism as well, but it is surely no exaggeration to state that business journalism has completely lost the ability to tell it like it is.

Unless, it is some small, worthless, unimportant target.

Reporters, writers and editors, fearful of losing “access”, are held hostage by PR, freebies, and worse. Publishers and proprietors, trying to squeeze every dollar, are indebted to advertising. Etc.

Result: readers, viewers, listeners, surfers are served up numbers and theories held up by hope.

Little wonder it took a comedian (Jon Stewart) to buttonhole a “mad” CNBC anchor (Jim Cramer).

Little wonder it has taken a music magazine to throw light on the “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

Take a bow, Matt Taibbi (in picture).

The Rolling Stone columnist, who has been compared to Hunter S. Thompson, sticks a long, sharp knife into the investment bank in the latest issue of the magazine, calling it a “planet-eating Death Star of political influence”, accusing it of engineering every major market manipulation since the Great Depression of 1929.

The internet bubble, the housing bubble, the oil-price bubble, and the coming “carbon-credit” bubble (hello, Jairam Ramesh) are all the handiwork of Goldman Sachs, writes Taibbi, accusing the company of an incestuous old boy network to shut out competitors, prevent regulation, and stay out of trouble in perpetuity.

“They achieve this using the same playbook over and over again. The formula is relatively simple: Goldman positions itself in the middle of a speculative bubble, selling investments they know are crap. Then they hoover up vast sums from the middle and lower floors of society with the aid of a crippled and corrupt state that allows it to rewrite the rules in exchange for the relative pennies the bank throws at political patronage. Finally, when it all goes bust, leaving millions of ordinary citizens broke and starving, they begin the entire process over again, riding in to rescue us all by lending us back our own money at interest, selling themselves as men above greed, just a bunch of really smart guys keeping the wheels greased.”

Goldman Sachs responded to Taibbi’s article through Reuters blogger Felix Salmon, calling the Rolling Stone piece “hysterical”; “a compilation of every conspiracy theory ever dreamed up about Goldman Sachs”.

“We reject the assertion that we are inflators of bubbles and profiteers in busts, and we are painfully conscious of the importance of being a force for good,” Lucan Van Praag, Goldman Sachs’ top flack, writes.

Matt Taibbi responds in kind, answering every spineless reporter/editor’s feeble excuse about “giving the other side a chance”, about being “balanced” and “objective”.

“My feeling is that companies like Goldman Sachs have a virtual monopoly on mainstream-news public relations; for every one reporter like me, or like far more knowledgeable critics like Tyler Durden, there are a thousand hacks out there willing to pimp Goldman’s viewpoint on things in the front pages and ledes of the major news organizations. And there are probably another thousand poor working stiffs who are nudged into pushing the Goldman party line by their editors and superiors….

“Goldman has its alumni pushing its views from the pulpit of the U.S. Treasury, the NYSE, the World Bank, and numerous other important posts; it also has former players fronting major TV shows. They have the ear of the president if they want it. Given all of this, I personally think it’s absurd to talk about the need for “balance” in every single magazine and news article. I understand that some people feel differently, but that’s my take on things.”

There have been even wild accusations of “anti-Semitism” in Taibbi’s piece (he is Arab-American) against “the most prototypically Jewish firm around.”

Taibbi has also been accused of picking on Goldman Sachs when there were plenty of other bandicoots with their hands in the loot, like, say, Morgan Stanley.

“Why didn’t we write about Morgan? Because we didn’t. Because it’s your turn, you assholes. Maybe later someone will tell the story of the other banks, but for now, while most ordinary people are only just learning about the workings of the financial innovation era that blew up in their faces last year, the top dog in that universe is going to be first in line to get the special treatment.”

Read the Rolling Stone article: The great American bubble machine

Read Matt Taibbi’s blog: Taibblog

Read an interview with Matt Taibbi

Visit Goldman Sachs’ unofficial blog