Monthly Archives: July 2010

Yet, they won’t print pix of dead US soldiers

The cover of the 9 August 2010 issue of Time magazine. For a change, all four editions—US, Europe, Asia and South Pacific—have the same cover story.

Time‘s choice is doubtless provocative, one reason journalism exists.

Yet, such eagerness and such a desire to provoke isn’t visible on home turf, where a quixotic self-censorship kicks into play each time news organisations ponder the possibility of printing the pictures of US marines killed in the line of duty or the bodies of victims of 11 September 2001 attack on New York City.

Photo portfolio: The Big Picture

When nothing’s sacred, everything’s suspect

In the cynicism that now envelopes modern Indian journalism, even the Ramnath Goenka awards for excellence in journalism awarded by the Indian Express are not beyond ideologically motivated barbs.

This letter to the editor of The Pioneer was published by the right-wing daily on Wednesday, 28 July, and it leaves no room for doubt about the writer’s (or the paper’s) political persuasion.

Doubtful excellence

This refers to awards for excellence in journalism that have now become fashionable.

When the ethics of journalism have reached rock bottom, do such awards make any sense?

It seems that fabrication and sensationalism have become the motto of this new age ournalism. The reporting style of Jason Blair (sic) of The New York Times is a good case in point here. The media tends to sit in judgement and tries to wrongly mplicate a particular organisation or a person, especially in cases of communal violence.

Like in the Jhabua nun’s rape in 1998, Hindu organisations were initially blamed for the incident, which turned out to be false later.

Similarly, in the Sohrabuddin `fake’ encounter case and related events, a section of people is of the view that some information, as it suits the designs of the powers that be, is being withheld from the public. It is unfair that fake encounter cases that happened during the Congress regime are not being talked about at all.

Sunil Kumar, New Delhi

Also read: The K-word, the G-word, the P-word and the A-word

How Chandan Mitra has his halwa and hogs it too

The best editor The Pioneer never had?

Why (perhaps) the BJP sent Chandan Mitra to Rajya Sabha

The newspaper cartoon that offended Christians

On Sunday, The Times of India carried this 8-column illustration by Neelabh to highlight the travails of R.K. Laxman‘s common man at a time of galloping food prices.

Titled “The Lost Supper” and bearing a likeness to Leonardo da Vinci‘s Last Supper, the illustration conveyed the helplessness of the aam admi at the hands of politicians.

On Wednesday, the paper carried the following apology.


An illustration resembling The Last Supper, which appeared in the Sunday edition of the paper, has hurt the sentiments of a number of our readers. We sincerely apologise for the anguish it has inadvertantly caused. This paper is truly respectful of all faiths. It is one of the cornerstones of our editorial philosophy.

Also read: Cartoon that’s offending Israelis

Cartoon that’s offending Aussies

External reading: The size of the serving at The Last Supper

Prabha Dutt fellowship for women journalists

The Sanskriti Foundation in collaboration with the Prabha Dutt memorial foundation is inviting applications from Indian women journalists in the 25-40 age group for the Prabha Dutt fellowship for excellence in journalist, in memory of the pioneering Hindustan Times journalist.

The fellowship covering a period of 10 months offers Rs 100,000 for women journalists to pursue a research project or a book in English, Hindi or a regional language.

Mail a CV with a short synopsis of 250-300 words of the project proposal with the names of two referees. The last date for receipt of applications is 31 August 2010.

For further information, write to Sanskriti Pratisthan, C-11, Qutub institutional area, New Delhi 110016.


Yes, Arnab Goswami is TV journalist of the year

The full list of the winners of the Ramnath Goenka excellence in journalism awards for 2008-09.

Print journalist of the year: Siddharth Varadarajan of The Hindu

Broadcast journalist of the year: Arnab Goswami of Times Now

After presenting the awards, the President of India, Pratibha Patil, outlined “crisis of content and triumph of the trivial” as the two challenges facing journalism.

“…On the one hand, newspapers have to offer readers much more than what were the headlines on the TV screens yesterday. On the other hand, television channels have to constantly find ways of filling up 24 hours. Sometimes, this can lead to a crisis of content. Issues can be trivialised while trivial issues can become headlines.”


Image and photograph: courtesy The Indian Express

The arrival of a television anchor foretold

Kanchan Gupta in The Pioneer:

“Interviewing prospective students for a media school can be a useful experience. It provides you with an insight into how media is perceived among the young who shall inherit the world from us.

“I usually begin by asking the applicants whether they want to pursue a career in print journalism or in the audio-visual media.

“During one such interview recently, a young woman told me, “I want to join a news channel.” And do what? “I want to become an anchor.” Why? “I have many things to say and as an anchor I can say anything I want.”

“What makes you think so? “I watch television regularly. I know.” And why do you think you can actually say whatever you want? That left her slightly flustered. “But we have freedom of expression, right? And media is free in our country, right?”

Read the full article: ‘Free’ media tars RSS with fiction

Tarun J. Tejpal on the five facets of his life

Tarun J. Tejpal, editor of Tehelka, in Hi! Blitz, the in-flight journal of Kingfisher airlines:

On his father, an army officer: “He gave us an idea of the big world. It was a routine to discuss world history and affairs at the dinner table. When I was seven, I knew the names of secretary-generals of the United Nations. My father talked about these, so it became part of my metabolism.”

On how he parcels his time: “Fifty per cent of my time has gone in finding funds in the last seven years. It’s getting better just by surviving. Today, there are investors all over the world who would love to have a piece of Tehelka.”

On India: “Very often people criticise me for being tough about India, but toughness arises out of great love. I am not one of those who believes India is a great country. I think we have a lot of hard work to do to get there. Gandhi, Nehru, Azad… came from elite backgrounds but they understood that the soul of India was a deeply damaged and impoverished soul. That’s something I try to convey through journalism and writing to my own class—that no matter how elite you are, you are tied to a very deep social contract. The more elite you are, the more responsibility you have to give back for the greater good, but that also doesn’t mean that we don’t lead a good life.”

On politics: “I was offered a ticket in the 2004 elections (I will not tell which party). I thought about it for a very long time. I decided not to go for it largely because I am an extremely idiosyncratic person. I like to live life on my own terms. I am whimsical and like to answer only to myself and not to anybody else. I squared up my personality and decided I was a bad fit. Our task as journalists is to impact power and money and make them (politicans) do the right thing.”

On his essential mien: “I’m a risk taker. I think  my biggest failing and strength is that I am easily bored unless I am challenged. Whether as a writer or journalist, I try to push the boundaries. My ability to stay unafraid has somehow worked in my favour and also got me in trouble.”

Photograph: courtesy obiwi

Also read: ‘Media is now a part of the conspiracy of silence’

Gandhian activism, fiery journalism & cocktails!

How (free) India treats Foreign Correspondents

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Indian politicians and patriots have long held the belief that the “western” media only relays bad news from Bharat.

That, despite all the towering progress made by the emerging superpower, foreign correspondents based out of India only tell their news consumers about death, disease, despair and disillusionment in our glorious land.

If not snakes, sadhus and superstition.

As if to underline the point, the Indian government has reportedly refused to extend the visa of Japanese television journalist, Shogo Takahashi of NHK television, allegedly because his reports focused extensively on poverty and the caste system.

In other words, “consistently negative reporting” about India, that is “not convenient for the interest of India“.

The Times of India reports that Takahashi, 46, first earned the displeasure of Indian officials because his despatches for the TV show Indo no Shogeki (The impact of India) dwelt overtly on the caste system in the Indian electoral system during the 2009 general elections.

Word has also now been conveniently leaked by anonymous officials that Takahashi often filmed his documentaries without taking permission or misused permissions to shoot something other than what permission had been taken for, and also shot “high-security” defence installations.

The word “bias” has also been mentioned.

NHK has expressed surprise at the Indian government’s abrupt decision and has sought an appointment with Indian embassay officials in Tokyo. There is talk that the channel may approach the Japanese foreign ministry to take up the matter with New Delhi.

However, the timing of the decision—shortly after a journalist of the Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun complained at prime minister’s Manmohan Singh‘s national press conference about the difficulties in obtaining a press information bureau (PIB) accreditation—and the ostensible reasons are revealing.

On the one hand, for several months now, all the attention has been at estimating the number of poor in India (now conveniently fixed at 37% of the population). Is it so wrong if a foreign correspondent points it out? And since when did “consistently positive reporting” become a condition for visa renewal?

Does India even half-a-case to protest against anybody, Indian or foreign, dwelling on the menace of caste?

But it is the brazen manner in which a journalist has been sent out by a supposedly “liberalised” country for reporting what is not kosher that takes the breath away. That, and the silence of the Indian media lambs—the press council, the editors’ guilds, etc—at the treatment meted out to one of their own.

If Shago Takahashi had failed to convey something vital about freedom of expression in India, the faceless officials of the home and external ministries have done his job.