Monthly Archives: December 2009

Everybody loves a good car, not a good filter

The announcement of the launch of Tata Nano, the small car produced by the Tatas, saw the media falling over itself heralding the arrival of the “People’s Car”.

The fact that the car was priced at Rs 100,000 was enough to result in long front-page stories; glowing feature articles on Indian engineering and enterprise; breathless test drives; and fawning editorials and interviews with the man behind the car, Ratan Tata.

So, how does the same media treat the launch of Tata Swach, the water filter/ purifier that is priced at Rs 749 and Rs 999, and in a country like India is likely to reach more people and change more lives, and launched by the same man.

In alphabetical order:

AFP (news agency): 540 words

Associated Press:  772 words

BBC: 245 words

Business Standard: 381 words

DNA: 308 words

Press Trust of India: 477 words

Economic Times: 400 words

Indian Express: 415 words

Hindu Businessline: 461 words

Hindustan Times: 162 words on the filter, 333 words of an interview

The Times of India: 202 words

Copenhagen, anybody?

Carbon intensity?

Photograph: courtesy Paul Noronha/ The Hindu Businessline

Also read: And Ratan Tata sang, PR kiya tho darna kya?

If we can get a car for Rs 1 lakh, why can’t we…?

There’s nothing lost if the Nano isn’t produced

‘What Henry Ford did then, Ratan Tata has now’

Can India survive the Nano?

Tata, turtles and corporate social responsibility

CHURUMURI POLL: Should Tatas scrap the Nano?

Has DNA got rid of a ‘pesky’ film reviewer?

The film critic turned film maker Khalid Mohamed throws light on some unsavoury developments involving a member of his fraternity in the Bombay newspaper, DNA:

On Wednesday afternoon, critic Udita Jhunjhunwala (in picture), was missing from the press screening of Himesh Reshammiya’s Radio. She did not go to the next day’s show of Paa either.

“The last review she did for DNA, the daily newspaper, was for Kurbaan.

“This is not to suggest that the less-than-enthusiastic review of Kurbaan had anything to do with the exit of Udita from DNA. The reasons can only be explained by the newspaper. The upright, well-reasoned Udita has in the last seven years I have known her done her job with more than diligence. Before that she was with Hindustan Times and earlier at Mid-Day where she first made her mark as a forthright reviewer.

“Last week, she had phoned up the DNA desk to inform them of the number of reviews she would be mailing in. She was merely told her that her services were no longer needed. In her place Taran Adarsh would be doing the Hindi film reviews, presumably because he also does the TV shows for ETC channel, a subsidiary of Zee which has major stakes in the DNA newspaper.”

For the record, Khalid Mohamed, longtime film critic of The Times of India, was a member of the editorial board of DNA before leaving it to join Hindustan Times.

Photograph: courtesy Screen Daily

Read the full post: Praise or be damned

Follow Udita Jhunjhunwala on Twitter

‘The Week’ journalists win IPI, ICRC awards

The Week‘s senior correspondent Bidisha Ghosal and senior correspondent Kavitha Muralidharan have been honoured with prizes from the International Press Institute and Press Institute of India for their work—along with a full-page announcement in the latest issue of the magazine.

Gandhian activism, fiery journalism & cocktails!

If Medha Patkar was the “box item” girl of the Narmada anti-dam saga, Himanshu Kumar is fast emerging as the poster boy in the Maoism story.

No newspaper, magazine or television article on “the gravest threat to internal security” is complete without a mention of (or quote from) Kumar, whose non-governmental organisation Vanvasi Chetna Ashram in “ground zero” of Maoist activities, Dantewada, was torched in May this year.

In Delhi recently, the “Gandhian human rights activist from Dantewada” was the cynosure of the swish set at the fifth anniversary celebrations of Tarun J. Tejpal‘s e-zine turned magazine, Tehelka*.

After holding forth eloquently for 30 minutes on tribals, poverty, disease, despair, neglect, pro-people this, anti-people that, surely Himanshubhai‘s heart should have skipped a beat, as he slung his jhola over his shoulder, to hear the emcee—Tehelka executive editor Shoma Chaudhury—announce that cocktails would be served on the on the other lawn?

Whyte & Mackay was one of the sponsors of the evening.

Champagne socialism?

Cognac communism?

Perrier proletarianism?

Evian egalitarianism?


Link via Nikhil Moro in Dallas, Texas

* Disclosures apply


Watch the first three parts here: One, two, three

Also read: Campaign to free Laxman Choudhury

BBC journalists secure abducted cop’s release

There’s a new ism in town, Arnab-ism

How well do you know your alphabets?

‘Indian media doesn’t value factual reporting’

Of all the documentaries built around the November 26, 2008 siege of Bombay, none has quite matched the buzz created by Dan Reed for Channel 4.

Partly because it was the first of the lot; largely because it contained eyepopping footage including of the lone surviving terrorist Ajmal Kasab (in picture) being interrogated.

In an discussion held in Delhi, reproduced by MOB (Milk our Bovines), Reed, 47, modestly shines the light:

Question: You managed access to some highly classified data that no one in India had access to. How come no Indian media got their hands on it?

Answer: Over the years I have found that being an outsider confers a strange advantage when approaching a seemingly impenetrable story….

The key was just persistence, an open mind, making friends with the right people, and above all believing (cheesy though it sounds) that you can do it – because as we all know if you believe it strongly enough, others will too.

I certainly don’t think the Indian media was incompetent, but very, very few journalists I met had the rigorous high standards, the passion and the persistence necessary to do first-class work. I believe this situation has arisen because many newspapers and TV stations in India simply do not prioritise factual reporting and rigorous research.

“Why let the truth get in the way of a good story?” is an attitude by no means confined to the Indian media, but it is certainly prevalent there. The majority of the 26/11 stories I checked out in the Indian press contained major inaccuracies or errors. But then there were a few journalists whose work was nothing short of brilliant and who helped me a great deal.

S. Hussain Zaidi (in picture), the brilliant and fearless Asian Age bureau chief in Mumbai (and author of the outstanding Black Friday book), became a close associate of mine on this project and his shrewd assistance, inside knowledge and encouragement were vital to its success.”

Photograph: courtesy Dan Reed/ Channel 4

Read the full interview here: The truth behind the Mumbai attacks

One paper’s 40% threat is another’s 60% dud

The relationship between India and China has in recent months become, as the cliche goes, the cynosure of all eyes. Border roads and dams; military incursions; a row over the Dalai Lama; illegal Chinese workers on Indian soil, Google™ maps, all have become milestones in the steady escalation of tensions.

The media has been at the centre of the dispute, and there is a feeling that “sections of the Indian media” (in other words, “anti-China media”) have been inclined to ratchet up the volume, ostensibly at the nod of their American, capitalist masters.

But could the opposite also be equally true? That “sections of the Indian media” (in other words, “pro-China media”) have been inclined to play down the tensions, ostensibly at the nod of their Chinese, communist masters?

Some proof comes from the manner in which the Lowy Institute for International Policy‘s survey of Chinese attitudes about their country and its place in the world is being reported.

# Exhibit A, above, is from the December 2 edition of The Indian Express, New Delhi, whose Delhi-based correspondent avers that 40 per cent of Chinese think India is their country’s biggest threat “after the United States”.

# Exhibit B, below, is from the December 4 edition of The Hindu, Madras, whose Beijing correspondent reports that environmental issues are perceived to be the biggest challenges facing their country. “60 per cent of Chinese did not view India as a threat…, only 34% viewed India as a threat an the rest were non-committal.”

For the record, prime minister Manmohan Singh said during his recent State visit to the United States that he could not understand the reasons for China’s recent “assertiveness”.

Newspaper facsimiles: courtesy The Indian Express and The Hindu

Also read: Is India right in barring foreign media?

Censorship in the name of “national interest”?

“Accused” Chawla is now “Investigator” Chawla

Ankur Chawla, the son of India Today editor Prabhu Chawla*, who was named in a bribery case concerning the Hindi newspaper Amar Ujala 10 days ago, has had a “status update”.

Chawla junior, a Supreme Court advocate, has now been inducted into the CBI team probing the bribery case involving the acting head of the company law board (CLB).

In other words, the accused has turned approver, with a difference—he will now probe the very case he was a part of.

Chawla had been named as a “middleman” in the CBI first information report (FIR) after the CLB chief R. Vasudevan was caught on the night of November 23 while allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 7 lakh from Manoj Banthia, a company secretary of Amar Ujala, to settle a dispute in the family running the regional daily.

Ankur Chawla feigned innocence claiming he was “out of the country” but his house in New Delhi’s Defence Colony was raided and a file relating to the case was recovered “establishing his links with the case“.

Chawla’s name was also missing from the CBI press release.

The Hindu reported that CBI had registered a case against Vasudevan, Banthia and Ankur Chawla under 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 7 (public servant taking bribe other than legal remuneration in respect of an official act), 8 (taking bribe, in order, by corrupt or illegal means, to influence public servant) and other sections of the prevention of corruption Act.

Although The Times of India reports that Banthia “has all along maintained that it was Ankur Chawla who had allegedly handed over the cash to him asking him to further hand it over to Vasudevan,” a Delhi court was told a different story on November 30.

# “It is submitted that accused Ankur Chawla (the lawyer) joined investigation today,” additional sessions judge O.P. Saini noted, while entertaining a petition seeking policy remand of another accused Manoj Banthia for one more day, reports The Times of India.

# Press Trust of India reports that CBI wanted to quiz Ankur Chawla with the statements made by Banthia during his custodial interrogation but the judge allowed CBI to interrogate Banthia for one more day on the ground that Ankur Chawla had “joined the probe“.

* Disclosures apply

Also read: Prabhu Chawla‘s son named in bribery case

Jailed journalist (finally) ordered to be freed

Laxman Choudhury, the Orissa journalist accused of Maoist links because the police recovered a letter addressed him from a bus conductor and jailed for two and a half months ago, has been ordered to be set free by the Orissa High Court.

Justice C.R. Das in his order:

“If he had any nexus with the Maoists, then he would not have opened the envelope before the police. There is no incriminating evidence on record to suggest that he has any nexus with Maoists.”

Also read: Campaign to free Laxman Choudhury

BBC journalists secure abducted cop’s release

There’s a new ism in town, Arnab-ism

The ‘troubling nexus’ doesn’t trouble too many

Several Indian newspapers which have tie-ups with the New York Times have re-run Heather Timmons‘ piece on people of Indian origin returning to the United States because they find it difficult to work in the motherland.

Surprise, surprise—or perhaps no surprise, no surprise—almost all of them have excised former Mint editor, currently Washington Post managing editor, Raju Narisetti‘s damning quote on “the troubling nexus of business, politics and publishing“.

No mention of Narisetti or the “troubling nexus” in 624 words of The Economic Times re-run.

No mention of Narisetti or the “troubling nexus” in 306 words of The Indian Express re-run.

No mention of Narisetti or the “troubling nexus” in 821 words of The Telegraph, re-run.

There is a mention of Narisetti and the “troubling nexus” in 1,293 words in the online edition of The Times of India, but not the print edition.

One of the few newspapers that does carry Narisetti on the “troubling nexus” is the Bangalore-based Deccan Herald.