Monthly Archives: January 2010

What Kerala journos do at Arundhati Roy presser

“God’s Own Country”—copywriters’ Kerala—has become out of bounds for lovers at the hands of stentorian moral policemen. Rightwing mobs prevent (adult) Hindu women from going out with (adult) Muslim men. Leftwing mobs pull out (adult) Congress men having a good time with (adult) women.

Paul Zacharia who has written and spoken against those he considers communal, regressive or reactionary was recently attacked by activists of the communist Democratic Youth Federation of India. In an interview with Shobha Warrier of, Zacharia holds the troika of Hindu feudalism, sinful Christianity, and Left conservatism for the love jihad.

That, and the media.

Do you consider the media also as intellectual dwarfs?

The media is mediocrity! The best example for mediocrity is the media in Kerala now. It is the media that promoted this new conservatism that is based on sexual jealousy, as if it is the right thing to do. This is what is happening in the last 25-30 years. Most of the newspapers grew in circulation by blowing up the sex stories of many men and women, out of proportion. It was all because of the segregation and sex starvation in society.

On the one side, the media constantly showcased man-woman relationship as prostitution and now, the pseudo-morality of the media is being shared by Left youth organisations like the DYFI, Kerala Students Union… by everybody in Kerala. I am not exaggerating. It is the media that made people look at man-woman relationship with jealousy and perversion.

It was written in a Malayalam magazine that when Arundhati Roy [ Images ] came to Kerala, she refused to attend a press conference. It seems she said, ‘The journalists don’t look at my face but look at my breasts…’

It is very true. She expressed the truth very bluntly. The Kerala society has become very unhealthy in this matter. I don’t know when the people of this state will get sexual maturity.

Read the full interview: ‘There’s a lot of sex starvation in Kerala’

A ‘relook’ at relooking at Jyoti Basu’s Bengal?

Amid the torrent of unctuous praise raining on the communist leader Jyoti Basu, Business Standard had a sharp piece by the former Pioneer journalist Kanchan Gupta on Saturday, 16 January, on its op-ed pages.

“Had it been Jyoti Banerjee lying unattended in a filthy general ward of SSKM Hospital in Kolkata and not Jyoti Basu in the state-of-the-art ICCU of AMRI Hospital, among the swankiest and most expensive super-speciality healthcare facilities in West Bengal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would not have bothered to arrange for a video-conference for top doctors at AIIMS to compare notes with those attending to the former chief minister of West Bengal,” wrote Gupta, who did a brief spell in prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee‘s office.

“The fulsome praise that is heaped on Jyoti Basu today—he is variously described by party loyalists and those enamoured of bhadralok Marxists as a “humane administrator” and “far-sighted leader”—is entirely misleading if not undeserving…. As a Bengali, I grieve for the wasted decades but for which West Bengal, with its huge pool of talent, could have led India from the front. I feel nothing for Jyoti Basu.”

But, post Basu’s death on Sunday afternoon, the piece has disappeared off the Business Standard website. A Google cache exists.

(Update: The same piece had been published on Gupta’s blog on 9 January and by The Pioneer on 10 January.)

For the record, Business Standard is now edited by Sanjaya Baru, former media advisor to prime minister Manmohan Singh in his first term.

Screenshot: courtesy Google cache

Read the original article: Relooking West Bengal

Link via A.R. Hemant


Also read: T.J.S. George: When editor makes way for editor, gracefully

It’s all official about the return of Sanjaya Baru

Sauce for a paper ain’t sauce for a TV station?

Conflict of interest and an interest in conflict

How Jyoti Basu saved a journalist’s job

The veteran Indian communist leader Jyoti Basu has passed away at the age of 95.

In The Telegraph, Calcutta, special correspondent Barun Ghosh recounts how India’s longest serving chief minister helped him keep his job at the newspaper, 25 years ago.

“The rain hadn’t stopped falling that July ’84 morning and I reached Writers’ Buildings a little late. It was past 1pm and I was in a hurry—Jyoti Basu was to hold a news conference. When I reached the secretariat to cover the conference for The Telegraph, I got a shock. It was over.

“Some reporters still around told me Basu had already held a lengthy news conference and was about to leave Writers’ for lunch. Seldom had Basu held a news conference so early in the day, but I couldn’t obviously tell that to my boss. For a minute I stood cursing myself for starting late.

“Then I decided.

“There wasn’t much security those days in the secretariat and I barged into Basu’s chamber. His private secretary tried to stop me, but didn’t seem to mind the intrusion all that much as mine was a familiar face at Writers’. But once inside Basu’s chamber, my courage ran out as the chief minister looked straight at me and asked what I was doing there after the news conference was over.

“I stammered something and then almost broke down at his feet. I would be pulled up, I pleaded, if I didn’t get the details of the news conference.

“Basu looked at me, paused for a moment, then asked me to take a seat.

“I sat on a chair and was about to take out my reporter’s notebook when I heard Basu tell someone to get a cup of tea for me with cashew nuts. ‘I know your editor,’ he smiled at me. ‘Aage ek cup ga-ram cha khao tarpor tomake shob bole debo (First have a cup of hot tea, then I’ll tell you everything).’

“As I sat sipping tea, I saw him go through files lying on his large table. I asked him if I was making him late for lunch, but he just smiled. A while later he asked me to note down the details of the news conference. After I had jotted them down, he asked me to read out what I had written. I was allowed to leave after he was satisfied that there had been no distortion of facts.”

Read the full account: How Jyoti Basu saved my job

A garland and a platter of fruits on turning 90

The veteran Kannada journalist Patil Puttappa is felicitated by Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa on turning 90, in his hometown, Hubli, on Sunday, 17 January 2010.

For a language whose journalism only goes back to 1840, Dr Puttappa is a pioneer and still a rare one at that. “PaaPu”, as he is more affectionately known, studied journalism in California in the late 1940s, and was founder-editor of the now-defunct Kannada weekly Prapancha and the daily Vishwavani.

Like many language journalists, Dr Puttappa’s chose to play a role beyond what went into his publications. He was elected to the upper house of Parliament, Rajya Sabha; became a strong votary of the Kannada language; and headed the north Karnataka development authority.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Hit and Rann: ‘I want to expose the media’

A television promo for the next Amitabh Bachchan starrer Rann, a movie “about the highly competitive world of television news reporting in India“.

Directed by the maverick Ram Gopal Varma, Rann is reportedly an insider’s account of how TRP-thirsty news channels manipulate and sensationalise stories.

“I am going to expose the media in this film and that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Varma says. “A lot of times democracy is controlled by forces that are not always visible to us.”

Bachchan plays a media Vijay Harsh Vardhan who is forced to compromise on his principles for the sake of ratings. Rann hits the screens later this month.

Also read: Look, who wants to be a journo (after rebirth)

Sting camera that Amitabh Bachchan didn’t see

The story of 3,285 days in 2 min and 92 covers

The American Society of Magazine Editors and the Magazine Publishers of America video of the “first decade” of the 21st century—through magazine covers. Sadly, the last year of the decade isn’t counted, since the first decade formally ends on 31 December 2010.

Link courtesy Jim Romenesko

Letter-writer secures win against top judge

Forty-two years ago, textile trader Subhash Chandra Agarwal, then an  engineering student, was miffed with a Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) bus conductor who refused to give him a ticket for a 20 paise journey.

So, he shot off a letter to the editor of the Hindi daily Dainik Hindustan complaining about the misconduct.

“When the letter was published, a DTC van arrived at the college campus. I hid somewhere in the college, fearing the worst. But friends later pulled me out and said the DTC conductor had come to apologise for his misconduct. That’s when I realised the power of taking the initiative and writing.”

That kicked off a habit of writing letters to newspapers—3,699 at last count—and eventually got him into the Guiness Book of Records. When India’s landmark Right to Information (RTI) Act, was passed, Agarwal graduated into filing petitions for records to be made public.

On Tuesday, 12 January 2010, Agarwal’s achieved his biggest victory, when the Delhi High Court ruled that the office of chief justice of the Supreme Court of India came under the purview of RTI, a contention that had been controversially contested by incumbent, K.G. Balakrishnan.

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Read Agarwal’s story here: Indian Express; The Times of India; The Hindu; CNN-IBN;

When editor makes way for editor, gracefully

The change of editorship at Indian publications is (usually) a graceless cloak-and-dagger affair, done in the dead of night after the janitors have left the building. Media consumers are rarely ever told why the helmsman has left or why a new one has come in, especially when there is a cloud shrouding the midnight operation.

At the crack of the new year, however, the business daily Business Standard had a more civilised change of captaincy. Here, the veteran editor and wordsmith T.J.S. George, founder-editor of Asiaweek magazine and a longtime editorial advisor of The Indian Express group, offers his salute.



Appointments inside a newspaper are usually of no concern to the general public. But what happened in Business Standard last week should interest every citizen.

For it was a re-assertion of values we all hold dear and yet are vanishing almost unnoticed by us.

Outwardly it was a simple matter of re-styling. The editor of the paper was made chairman of the company and a new editor appointed in his place. But the significance of the move is wide-ranging for a variety of reasons—its rarity, the quality of the players involved, the importance of the values they represent, and the universality of stake-holders in this field.

Editor turning chairman is a rare phenomenon anywhere in the world. In India it has never happened before outside family-run newspapers.

In Britain it happened when Denis Hamilton, editor-in-chief of The Times was made chairman as well. In the US, Peter Kann who was covering Asia for the Wall Street Journal from Hong Kong was recalled and made publisher  in 1988 and, four years later, chairman of the Dow Jones Company.

What is noteworthy here is that only papers that had achieved high public confidence through their editorial excellence entrusted the company itself to the editors who had helped attain that excellence.

In the news business there is no greater asset than credibility.

In many other cases also credibility was gained when the owner/chairman allowed the editor to rule unfettered. The Washington Post and The Guardian are examples. In the latter case, owner John Taylor willed that the paper be sold to editor C.P.Scott.

That’s where the quality of players, both owner and editor, comes in.

Hamilton, the most innovative editor in England at the time, became chairman when the owner was Roy Thomson, a man of inherent  virtue who respected the high traditions of The Times. When the company was sold to Rupert Murdoch, a man of inherent faith in his own virtues, Hamilton left and became chairman of Reuters.

T.N. Ninan became editor of Economic Times (1988) when it was a staid, uninteresting paper. He completely re-invented it, gave it variety, liveliness and freshness. This approach of comprehensiveness was to become the template for other financial dailies.

In that sense, Ninan can be called the Father of Business Journalism in India.

He is effective because of his non-projection of himself, his habit of delegating powers and his knack of picking top-notch team mates. His choice for the chair he vacated at BS was Sanjaya Baru, perhaps the most accomplished scholar-academic-administrator-analyst in the newspaper business.

Unfortunately for Ninan, there was no Roy Thomson in Economic Times. Worse, the ghost of Rupert Murdoch lurked in every corridor. Ninan moved to Business Standard where owner Aveek Sarkar was conducting the Ananda Bazaar Patrika group rather like the Sulzburger family was conducting the New York Times company. He revamped BS on Ninan’s advice, but eventually sold the title.

Uday Kotak, the new majority shareholder, is said to have decided on investing only after getting an assurance from Ninan that he would mind the company as well. The chairmanship now conferred on Ninan is thus the culmination of  a philosophy already in place.

It is important that this philosophy  succeeds. Journalism has already sunk to unacceptable levels in our country.

How unethical this socially responsible profession has become  was demonstrated last year when the greatest newspaper scandal in the democratic world hit India. Several leading newspapers took money from politicians to publish reports praising them at election time. This was disguised as news—a clear case of cheating readers.

Is that the journalism India wants?

BS has progressed from  8000 copies to 185,000. But it is said to be facing problems typical of these uncertain times. In publications where values are upheld even when times are hard, every citizen is a stake-holder.

If honourable publications suffer, we all suffer.

If they succeed, we all succeed.

Photographs: courtesy Business Standard

Also read: It’s all official about the return of Sanjaya Baru

Sauce for a paper ain’t sauce for a TV station?

Conflict of interest and an interest in conflict

When a newspaper is not a free supplement

A front-page notice appearing on page one of the latest issue of the 32-page Crest edition of The Times of India in New Delhi.

Also read: Old wine is very old wine in a new bottle

A week is a long time for a 40-page daily