Monthly Archives: August 2009

Did media overreact to SRK? Press QOTD ‘Y’

“Film maker, TV producer, businesswoman, writer, blogger, teacher and the main slave to an imperious hound”, Harini Calamur on the Indian media’s reaction to the detention of movie star Shah Rukh Khan by officials at Newark airport:

“At first, when my nani called me up to tell me that SRK was arrested in the USA, I thought that they had sent him to Gitmo! Then I realised it was a 2-hour stop at the airport. I wonder how much airtime was spent on this—and to the exclusion of what?—and how much money did the “news” channels make….

“On the day SRK got detained for two hours, 21 farmers committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh because they can’t pay off their debt. But, farmers committing suicide cannot be sponsored, it does not drive up TRP’s and it definitely is not conducive for off the cuff ranting by our esteemed ‘journalists’.

With the kind of issues occupying television airtime, Calamur goes on to suggest that it is probably time to rename 24-hour news channels.

“24 hour blogs—one can say—but that too,would be unkind. There a whole bunch of bloggers whom I follow and whose integrity and intent I respect—even if I differ with them on their views. There isn’t a single TV journalist I can put in the same category.”

By the way, CNN-IBN has a half-hour show tonight, hosted by Sagarika Ghose.

The question of the day: “Are we over-reacting to SRK’s detention?”

Read the full article: 24-hour infomercials

Also read: ‘Where was the media’s outrage when Narendra Modi was denied a visa?’

Good heavens, yet another Mario Garcia redesign


In a nation of a billion (plus a few hundred million) people, in the outsourcing capital of the world, Indian publishers continue to face enormous trouble in finding a designer with a pulse on local tastes to redesign their products.

And the only name on the speeddial of otherwise extremely stingy proprietors—be it in the north or south of India, be it in English or the languages, be it newspapers or magazines—is Mario Garcia.

After having redesigned every print publication in The Hindu group over the last few years (The Hindu, Business Line, Sportstar, Frontline); after having redesigned Hindustan Times; after having redesigned Sakaal Times; after having redesigned The Week; after having designed Sakshi—and heaven knows what else in this wide and wonderful country—Mario Garcia Jr has redesigned the website of The Hindu.

Above is the beta version of the new page, below is the old version.

Future contestants of Mastermind might like to consider “Indian Newspaper Design” for their specialist round. The answer for all 10 questions is Mario Garcia.


Also read: Yet another paper redesigned by Mario Garcia

Finally, a redesign not done by Mario Garcia

Move over Irving Wallace. Wallace Souza is here.

In Irving Wallace‘s 1982 thriller The Almighty, the protagonist Edward Armstead inherits from his father a newspaper called the New York Record (and his mistress). But the former comes with a rider: the Record will become his if and only if he can overtake the circulation of the New York Times in a certain timeframe.

To achieve that objective, Armstead sets about manufacturing news and events over which he has proprietory control. He hires a gang to kick off unlikely accidents and assassinations to cover which he has presciently despatched two reporters well in advance.

But even before their stories can reach New York, the paper would have already carried stories under the fictitious byline “Mark Bradshaw“. Thus, The Inheritor overtakes NYT and secures his inheritance. But the scam is uncovered when he seeks to bump off the Pope.

Move over, Irving Wallace.

Wallace Souza is here.

The Brazilian crime show host has been accused of a series of at least five murders to boost the popularity of his show Canal Livre. Police say the orders to execute came directly from Souza and his son Rafael, and that TV crews from the show, now off the air, were alerted so they could get to the scene first.

Wallace Souza says he is the target of his rivals’ smears. He remains free because of immunity he enjoys as a legislator but surely life imitates art?


Irving Wallace’s story was successfully adapted into a Malayalam film starring Mammootty called New Delhi, which was later remade in  several Indian languages (starring Jeetendra in Hindi, Ambarish in Kannada, and so on).

Also read: ‘The media shapes, sexes up, manipulates, distorts’

Don’t ask me, ask her. Don’t ask me, ask him.

How differently can two journalists of the same house and the same media house think on the same issue at the same time, said issue being West Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi‘s stand on violence in the State?

Exhibit A is Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN, seven hours ago from the web.

Exhibit B is Sagarika Ghose, senior editor of CNN-IBN, seven hours ago from the web.

For sceptics of the media who suspect a grand liberal conspiracy behind everything that English language media houses do, M/s Sardesai & Ghose are husband and wife.

Sundeep Dougal*, who follows the couple on Twitter and sent us these links, says the two Tweets landed exactly one after the other on his Twitter feed, with not a single twit in between!

Also read: Should journalists be on Twitter? No, say NYT readers

Will journalism soon be Twitterature in a hurry?

Every journalist’s essential guide to Twitter

* Disclosures apply

An example to emulate for Indian journalists


Not too many working Indian journalists are in the book-writing habit. At least not in English. Pesky bosses who don’t give leave from work, the effort involved in finding a publisher, the commitment entailed in pursuing a different form of writing, not to speak of the fear of failure, etc, all play a contributing part.

But it’s changing.

The former Indian Express reporter S. Hussain Zaidi wrote Black Friday on the 1993 Bombay blasts; Srinjoy Chowdhury, then of The Telegraph, wrote Flight into Fear on the IC-814 hijacking; The Times of India‘s Manoj Mitta brought home the horrors of 1984 with When a tree shook Delhi.

More recently, Harinder Baweja compiled a volume on the 26/11 seige on Bombay, and so on.

And there is the odd biography like Alam Srinivas‘s Storms in the Sea Wind on the Ambanis.

The former and Tehelka journalist Basharat Peer, who did a scathing critique of Indian journalism’s allergy for “serious, well-researched, long-form reportage” for Columba Journalism Review in 2007, has written a book on his home-state, Kashmir.

Shivanand Kanavi, former executive editor of Business India, who wrote Sand to Silicon on India’s digital rise, reviews Peer’s attempt to fill a vital hole in Indian journalism—and finds three gaping holes.




Basharat Peer’s “Curfewed Night” is a welcome first-person account of Kashmir of the last two decades. Peer’s book is lyrical, intense, partisan and cynical in varied proportions at the same time.

A simple linear narrative of events since the 1980s as seen by a Kashmiri boy (the author), Curfewed Night will help in educating the vast mass of Indian people who are distant from Kashmir in every way, who are not activists of the human rights movement, and who are the chief target of the Indian State’s one-sided propaganda about what’s been happening in Kashmir in the last two decades.

The book begins at the beginning that is the author’s childhood. This part is lyrical and at times cute. It could have been the retold story of any articulate, sensitive boy from any Indian village to any urban or exotic audience. Then comes teenage and the romance of the Azadi movement; the blind fury and brutality of the security forces clearly reflecting their hate and an occupationist attitude towards the Kashmiris.

Peer tells the story of the emergence of the struggle of Kashmiri youth, armed and trained across the Line of Control (LoC) by our friendly neighbours and the impact of all this on their friends and families. The author’s own brief inner turmoil to cross or not to cross the LoC, the romance of a sexy AK-47, and the pressure from the family to follow a more traditional middle-class road and, above all, a concern for self-preservation, are all conveyed very convincingly.

Then comes the life of a self-exiled student and later of a young journalist in the 1990s, with a longing to tell the “untold story of Kashmir”; the evolution of the author with exposure to a normal life and ‘freedom from searches’; exhaustion setting in about indigenous militancy with no hope of a quick victory and so on, seems a little rushed.

Peer then gives us an invaluable, authentic picture of the emergence of jihadis from Pakistan equipped with laptops and satellite phones ready to unleash terror, where the random victims are not necessarily military targets, while a hapless population caught in the cross fire continues to grieve over the loss of a generation.

Peer excels when he brings out journalistic gems like the story of the ikhwanis, turncoat militants who became a part of Indian counter-insurgency; chameleon-like careerists who smoothly switch roles between militant, reformed militant and politician, a cryptic hint of the alienation of separatist politicians from the ordinary aggrieved Kashmiris; or the schizophrenia of a swaggering para-military officer who unexpectedly melts in a media room when Peer starts  recalling the life he spent in Delhi.

Despite these excellent points, however, there are some rough edges and glaring lacunae as well.

Peer’s style is very uneven and varies between the raw and the sophisticated. It is possible that the account has been written over a long period of time during which the writer himself has evolved. However, that does not absolve the responsibility of the publisher’s editorial team to play their role, which is more than spell checking.

Peer completely omits the Kargil war and is similarly silent about the Indo-Pak peace yatra that started with the Lahore bus trip by Atal Behari Vajpayee and has gone through its yo-yo moments.

These are glaring blemishes to ignore, especially from a trained journalist.

Peer stumbles often in maintaining distance and some circumspection regarding his own emotions and concerns. For example, there is too much shock expressed when a youth who is dandily throwing grenades and sniping armymen gets killed in an encounter.

Surely, Peer did not expect such elements to be given a medal by the army?

I am sure the militant himself was mentally ready for “shahadat”, even though youth are prone to feel temporarily invincible in the early stages of any insurgency. The fact of the matter is in such armed insurgencies there are very few armed men surviving till the end game (say in PLO or IRA).

Peer also exhibits a casual disdain for the changes that are occurring in India in the last two decades and rubbishes them with the label of a discredited “India Shining”, an affliction of many a blinkered anti-establishment writer.

In fact there is every reason to believe that these changes are also occurring at least in Srinagar and Jammu if not in rural J&K, albeit in a small way, and that is affecting the attitude of a section of Kashmiri youth (mostly born post-Gawakadal) who want to move on.

The fact that despite the hysteria of the Amarnath agitation in Jammu and Srinagar, the prime movers of the agitation on both sides viz BJP and PDP did not win either Srinagar or Jammu seats in the general election says something. There are long queues for recruitment into new BPOs opening up in Jammu and Srinagar.

Then again, the recent prolonged strikes in Srinagar post-Shopian and a suicidal destruction of the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris engaged in the tourist trade, tells us not to get carried away too much and that the old is still very much alive.

On the whole, Basharat Peer’s Curfewed Night is a welcome addition to conte3mporary history, written with passion and pathos.

It is surprising that we have so few of these in India (at least in the English language). Why don’t we have more such attempts to tell the story of Manipur, Nagaland, Narmada valley, the jungles of Orissa/ Chhattisgarh/ Jharkhand, Dharavi, Emergency, Amritsar ’84, Delhi ’84, Mumbai ’93 or Gujarat 2002 in print or in film?

Why don’t we have our Norma Rae, Erin Brokovich or My heart lies buried at Wounded Knee? An Amu (Delhi 1984) or a Parzania (Gujarat 2002) are not enough.

Hopefully, more writers will follow Peer’s lead.

Photograph: courtesy Outlook magazine

Also read: How every journalist can write that dream book

Journalism can’t be taught, but it can be learnt

The Indian Express group, which announced the setting up of a media school a few weeks ago under the aegies of Newschool Ventures Limited, has announced its first academic course: an 8-month programme beginning October 1.

Content sutra reports the course costs Rs 1.75 lakh.

Download the application form here

Also read: Those who can do, those who can’t teach?

‘The name is Gajwani. Satyan Suresh Gajwani.’

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from Delhi: Although they run India’s largest home-grown media empire, the seamer side of which unabashedly peeks into the lives of people, the Jains of The Times of India group treasure their privacy like they do, well, their marketshare.


Elder son Samir Jain, 55, rarely makes public appearances of the sort younger brother Vineet Jain, 43, does. When Forbes magazine named mother Indu Jain as India’s second richest woman, Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd (BCCL) went to court citing an invasion of her privacy. And so on.

But is a small but significant shift on?

Twice in the last three days, the media website content sutra has referred to the man said to be the fiancè of Samir Jain’s daughter Trishla Jain, the heir apparent whose reluctance to return to India after her graduation from Stanford was listed by India Today magazine as his “biggest disappointment“.

Trishla has thankfully returned, and, it seems, with her husband-to-be.

India Today reported in March this year that the soon-to-be husband was already ensconced on the fourth floor of Times House, which houses the Times of India‘s headquarters on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg in Delhi.

Now, content sutra reporter Sruthijith K.K. outs him in a manner of speaking.

Samir Jain’s son-in-law-to-be is: a) a Stanford grad Satyan Gajwani, b) taking active interest in the affairs of the company’s web portal Indiatimes, and c) is currently serving as executive assistant to group CEO Ravi Dhariwal.

A bit of googling reveals:

# That Satyan Gajwani is actually Satyan Suresh Gajwani.

# That he is the son of Suresh and Nilam Gajwani of Miami, Florida.

# Suresh Gajwani is president of Amtel Security Systems, whose home was affected by Cyclone Irene in 1999. (Water entered the Gajwanis’ home through the window and sliding glass door openings and they sued the insurance company when their claims were denied.)

# Suresh and Nilam Gajwani are listed as dharam sevaks who contributed between $10,000 and $25,000 at the South Florida Hindu temple.

# That as a student of the Miami Palmetto High School, Satyan Gajwani won the 2003 Lincoln-Douglas debate.  That there was a minor row about his win.

# That, at Stanford, he earned a minor in economics, major in mathematical and computational science, and a masters in management science and engineering in 2007.

# That he lists Vineet Jain among the four people he follows on the New York Times‘ social network, Times People.

Intrusion of privacy?

That should teach the young man at Times Internet Limited something about the digital trail!

Screenshot: courtesy content sutra

Also read: 11 habits of India’s most powerful media pros

How to wish ‘Happy Birthday’ without a script

On his 48th birthday, US President Barack Obama wishes the grande dame of the White House press corps, Helen Thomas, on her 89th.

Let history record that the Wisher-in-Chief did not use a teleprompter when he wished her Happy Birthday.

Link via Juan Antonio Giner/ Innovation in Newspapers

Also read: The fastest 100 days in 72 days

The face behind a famous byline behind an Award

Indian media advertisements are largely anonymous. When a newspaper touts its circulation or a television station toots its own horn, or a staffer wins any of the many awards, the ads are mostly built around the organisations.

If there has to be a face, it is usually of the founder or promoter or some pumped-up manager. Rarely that of a journalist.

Tehelka, the webzine turned weekly offline magazine, makes a small but welcome change by putting a face to its latest achievement, the Karpoor Chandra Kulish international award bestowed on its news and investigations editor, Harinder Baweja, for her reporting from Muridke, the headquarters of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, shortly after the 26/11 seige of Bombay.