Monthly Archives: May 2010

Gulf News staffer among Mangalore crash victims

The background of all those who perished in Saturday’s air crash in Mangalore is still unclear. But among those killed are a staffer of the Dubai newspaper, Gulf News, and her husband and their daughter who was probably headed for a career in journalism.

Manirekha Poonja worked in the finance department of the newspaper, and her family was on a short visit to Mangalore for a wedding. None of the three survived, according to a report on the paper’s website.

Manirekha’s daughter, Harshini Poonja, was a student of media and communication. Harshini tweeted before she boarded the illfated Dubai-Mangalore plane last night.

The profile on her blog, last updated yesterday, reads:

I am not done becoming me yet.

Her location on Twitter reads, “Infinite Universe”.

Death of a Foreign Correspondent Foretold

Death scribbled an ugly autograph today, but the book of life is really about life.

Tens of men and women who shackled their seatbelts in Dubai after dinner last night, with their children in tow, hoping to have breakfast with their near and dear ones in Mangalore, didn’t get to see them although they were waiting just a few minutes away; although they whizzed past where they were waiting.

So, who is to say what tomorrow holds when we don’t know what the next minute does?


Tiziano Terzani was an Italian foreign correspondent based in New Delhi for several decades. In 1976, a Chinese fortune teller, whom he had come across by sheer chance in Hong Kong, warned Terzani against flying.

Not in 1976 or 1977, but precisely in the year of the lord, 1993.

Beware! You run a grave risk of dying in 1993. You mustn’t fly that year. Don’t fly, not even once.”

Terzani, a correspondent for the German weekly Der Spiegel, was a un-believer. He admitted he was momentarily taken aback by the fortune-teller’s prediction but not deeply disturbed. But by 1992, he had grown tired of his job and was beginning to question the value of his work.

He saw the 1993 prophesy as a chance to see the world through new eyes.

So, when the fateful year dawned, Terzani submitted to the warning despite the nature of his job. All that year and a month more, he travelled, sometimes with wife Angela Staude in tow, by ship, car, bus and train through 11 countries, including Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Mongolia.

The result was a 13,000 miles of journeys, and a book called A fortune-teller told me.

“The prophecy lent me a sort of a third eye with which I saw things, people and places I would not have otherwise seen. It gave me an unforgettable year.

“It also saved my life.

“On March 20, 1993, a UN helicopter in Cambodia went down, with 15 journalists on board. Among them was the German colleague who had taken my place.”

Terzani passed away in 2004.

Image: courtesy

Read The Guardian obituary: Tiziano Terzani


And the VIPs said: ‘Issue a condolence message’

Harshi wasn’t done becoming Harshi yet, won’t

Mangalore air crash: pictures that tell the tale

CHURUMURI POLL: Plane trouble or human error?

When journo bites journo, it’s a ‘Super Exclusive’

Journalism is somewhat pompously described by its practitioners as a dog-eat-dog business. In reality, dog never eats dog; it just comes close to smelling its backside.

At least in India, where media tigers are ever so ready to reveal the ugly innards of government, bureaucracy, police, cinema, business, sport, etc, but not rival media tigers.

Take the recent case of you-know-who!

On the other hand, take the case of Hamid Mir, the hotshot executive editor of the Pakistani television station, Geo (of the Jang group), whose reported 13-minute conversation with a Taliban spokesman on a hostage being held by them was revealed by the rival Daily Times with unreserved glee.

In the conversation, Mir describes the hostage as a CIA collaborator, questions his Islamic credentials, and accuses him of playing a treacherous role in the 2007 Red Mosque siege in which over 100 people were killed. After Mir delays the hostage’s release, the bullet-marked body of the hostage is found on a roadside with a warning note to other “American spies”.”

In other words, Pakistan’s most famous anchor stands instigated the murder of a kidnapee.

There are plenty of question marks of course, starting with the timing and motive of the leak.

Hamid Mir has questioned the authenticity of the transcript, sued the paper, charged his country’s president of trying to defame him, claimed it’s an attempt to muzzle the media, and so on and so forth. His paper has instituted a probe, while the Taliban has given him a clean chit.

Still, the chutzpah of the Pakistani media, operating under the shadow of the gun, should leave its mighty subcontinental democratic counterparts, i.e. us, wondering.

Read the full transcript here: Daily Times

Photograph: Hamid Mir (left) with Al Qaeda supremo Osama bin Laden, whom he has met three times

P. Sainath: ‘A media politically free, but chained by profit’

The Dawn editorial: Hamid Mir saga

International Press Institute Blog

China wants to be a media tiger, too. India?

The American newsmagazine Newsweek is up for sale.

C. Raja Mohan, the strategic affairs editor of The Indian Express, writes that Chinese academics are salivating over the prospect of picking it up as part of the grand media strategy the Middle Kingdom seems to have embarked upon.

Writes Raja Mohan:

Bi Yantao, director of the communications research centre at Hainan University laid out the case for China buying the American journal. He declares that China has the talent to run Newsweek on a thoroughly professional basis and make it profitable once again.

“Prof. Bi argues that “One can’t learn to swim on land. If China is going to improve its international influence, it needs to jump into the media pool.” Only by operating news outlets in foreign countries and reporting international affairs from a Chinese perspective can China master the battle of world opinion,” he concluded.”

How come Indian media majors and investors, flush with cash and entertaining visions of India as a superpower, aren’t interested in Newsweek as a property?

Or are they?

Image: courtesy The Indian Express

Also readWho, why, when, how, where, what, what the…

Newsweek‘s Fareed Zakaria gets Padma Bhushan

Can only people of Indian origin save journalism?

James Fallows, an instrument-rated pilot, onetime software programme designer, and a 25-year magazine veteran, has a important article in the June issue of The Atlantic Monthly on the efforts being made by Google™ to fix the news business after having played a stellar role in breaking it.

Google’s logic: we are all in it together. If news organisations producing great journalism wither away, the search engine will no longer have interesting stuff to link to.

In other words, Google’s initiative is part commercial, part civic.

Fallows talks to Google engineers and strategists and of the half-a-dozen people quoted in the article are three people of Indian origin: Krishna Bharat, the Bangalorean who founded Google News; Neal Mohan, who is in charge of working with publishers to develop online display ads; and Nikesh Arora, president of its global sales operations.

And to check whether Google’s efforts are beginning to pay off, Fallows troops down to The Washington Post and meets the company’s chief digital officer—Vijay Ravindran.

Read the full article: How to save the news

Also read: If we can send a man to the moon, why can’t we…?

James Fallows‘ commencement speech at Medill

Behind every news story, there is a back story

Lobbyists, who in another age would have been called brokers, fixers, middle men, etc, are the flavour of the month this summer in Delhi with the (official) tapping of phones of top lobbyist Neera Radia aka Niira Radia allegedly revealing the names of two prominent media personalities.

Ergo: a panel discussion.

Also read: The TV anchor, the ex-editor and TV personality

Background reading: Outlook: Favourite hobby horses

Tehelka: Forked tongues and artful nudges

And who’s afraid of the face-to-face powwow?

Manmohan Singh, prime minister of the world’s largest democracy, completes six years in office on May 22 without once being subjected to hard-nosed questioning by an Indian journalist—print, television, radio or internet—in a face-to-face, one-on-one, on-the-record interview.

He will, however, seek the safety of the crowd once again when he addresses the media at a conference on Monday next, May 24, his second interaction in 2,160 days.

India Today editor Prabhu Chawla goes on a short trip down memory lane in his weekly Mail Today column as Manmohan Singh’s media advisor Harish Khare prepares the talking points.

Facsimile: courtesy Mail Today

Also read: Doesn’t the Prime Minister trust the Indian media?

‘Baal ki khaal.’ ‘Dus hazaar tadtadate toofan.’

The world’s most underworked, overexposed reporter with an accountant who doesn’t question his expenses and with a boss who never phones in the middle of the night—Tintin—is now reporting in Hindi.

Tehelka magazine reports that an Indian publisher “vexed by the isolation of Hindi-speaking readers from Tintin’s adventures” has obtained the rights to translate his favourite comic into Hindi.

Result: All 24 titles are now available in Hindi from Om books international. Crab with the Golden Claws is Sunehre panjon waala kekda. Black Island is Kala Dweep (in picture)

Say hello to Santu and Bantu, Thomson and Thompson. Casta Fiora Bianca is Malika.

Snowy is being introduced into the consciousness of the world’s fifth-most spoken language as “Natkhat”. Captain Haddock‘s “ten thousand thundering typhoons” are ‘dus hazaar tadtadate toofan‘.

Also read: Hero survives cost-cutting, jobs freeze, pay cuts

Can a boy-actor hold a candle to an editor?

If Steven Spielberg has a casting problem…

All fun and no work makes Tintin a good boy

Tintin publisher Raymond Leblanc passes away

‘You furnish the gossip, I will furnish the scoop’*

CNN-IBN editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai, an Oxford blue, tweets on his former employer, front-paging a story that Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni may be on his way out after India’s exit from the Twenty20 World Cup.

India’s premier cricket writer, Prem Panicker, on his blog on the games paper tigers play:

“A leading national daily once asked a Pakistani fast bowler to perform some brand endorsement functions. The player refused, claiming that he did not have the time. Two days later, the paper in question — you know who you are — front-paged a story that selectors and the establishment in Pakistan were concerned about the bowling action of the player in question, and there were some doubts whether he would be picked for an upcoming tournament.”

* ‘You furnish the pictures, I will furnish the war

What media managers can learn from this woman

The accepted wisdom that business bozos tout is that newspapers, as we knew them, have outlived their utility in the internet age. That a reader gets what she used to earlier get from a paper from a zillion different sources today. And that if a newspaper has to survive, it has to do more than what it used to do earlier.

All of which is short hand for dumb down; make the paper “more fun”.

Such dumbing down also broadly coincides with the injection of cynicism about the motives, motivations and machinations of the media that politicians, ideologues and other vested interests have successfully injected in post-liberalised India.

Well, here’s new for all of them.

Sandeep Kaur, the daughter of a peon in Punjab, has cleared the civil services examinations. And while a peon may not fall in the “demographic” that newspaper managers want to reach out to, she gratefully acknowledges the role played by The Hindu, in her quest to “degrow” out of her station in life.

Kaur’s story, in full, reported by Sarabjit Pandher:

CHANDIGARH: Overwhelmed by a deluge of accolades for clearing the civil services examinations, Sandeep Kaur, daughter of a peon, acknowledges the major role played by The Hindu in her success.

“I did not miss any article on the Edit page as well as in the Opinion section,” the civil engineering graduate from the Punjab Engineering College told this correspondent.

As her family resources were limited, Kaur never opted for any formal coaching for the civil services examinations, in which she had not succeeded in a previous attempt. She chose sociology and Punjabi literature as her subjects for the civil services examinations, in which she was ranked 138th this year.

For nearly five years, she had followed the guidelines given by her teachers, seniors and friends. “But the most important factor in my preparations was thorough reading of The Hindu, which provided a proper insight into current affairs, national and international developments.”

Kaur’s father or her cousin Jaspreet Singh would travel nearly 20 km by bus to get her a copy of the newspaper from an agent at Kharar town.

“The agent was kind enough to keep copies for a few days, in case we could not collect them,” she recalled, adding that interviews by successful candidates and advice by her teachers led her to reading The Hindu regularly.

While the Punjab government plans to use her success in its fight against female foeticide, Kaur says she is prepared to serve anywhere in the country. Poverty eradication and equal opportunities for all will remain her priorities, avers the eldest of the three siblings, whose father, Ranjit Singh, is employed in the sub-tehsil office at Morinda, about 30 km from here.

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu