Monthly Archives: October 2010

How to write an editorial when not “jet-lagged”

If “jetlag” can prevent a mighty editor from noticing that a tiger has slept with a tornado and their baby has married an earthquake in the “Indian State of Tamil Nadu”, what must it be for lesser editors* in other Indian states?

Pradyuman Maheshwari, the group chief editor of the industry journal Impact (owned by the exchange4media group), describes a day in the life of an editor in Bombay on the day he has to, well, write an editorial:

“A typical Friday: an early-morning alarm to ensure that the daughter gets up on time. Boil the milk, get her dabba ready, drop her off to school, return, look up the notice board in the building to see if there are any important notices, read the papers, see if there have been any misses, check mail, make a few calls, go for a walk, some stretches and crunches, chat with editor over a painful exchange of messages with a media biggie, shower, 90 minutes in traffic, get to work, some people not in, a colleague down with malaria so a story can’t go this week, several calls, pesky PR executives, some friendly ones too, credit-card DSAs, more DSAs, car loan, property sale, meetings, brief colleague on a story, send off important mails, plan Diwali chhutti, make an important call, push a meeting by a day, check on content for a feature… the day goes on.

“And in the midst of all of this, write the edit.

“Wish I could have it ghostwriten… can I get the able assistant editor to do it for me this week? Can I just get something interesting written somewhere, copy-paste here and just add a comment or two? Can I pull out my book of quotes and pepper the edit with these? Or just look at my ten best quotes for the day?

“Life’s a bitch. Home-traffic-meetings-office-meetings-calls-traffic-office-meetings-lunch-coffee-meetings-traffic-dinner-traffic-home-homework-TV-sleep. Well, it’s quite a jetlagged existence to borrow from something I read in another edit recently.

“So how do I write the Impact editorial for this week? Do I pick up stuff about a subject that’s been written about from another source? Well, as the editor of this publication, the least I must do is spend a few minutes and connect with you via a few hundred-odd words. If I had wanted to, I could’ve asked for an edit not to be part of the magazine grid with an excuse of ‘who reads them anyway’ or whatever.

“But no way will my edit be ghostwritten, and if it is written by someone else, then it will bear his or her name….”

*Disclosures apply!

Also read: The editorial

The original

The scandal

The non-apologetic apology

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The ‘Lone Hindu’ gets it from M.J. Akbar’s paper

Dileep Padgaonkar, The Times of India’s former editor who once said he held the second-most important job in the country, has been named one of three interlocutors in Kashmir by the UPA government.

However, the usually softspoken Francophile has been hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons in his new job, even as he offers a quote to anybody who sticks out a mike before him.

And in M.J. Akbar‘s Sunday Guardian, diarist Nora Chopra sticks it in:

“Dileep Padgaonkar, a non-working journalist, is [J&K chief minister] Omar Abdullah‘s choice. He was a part of prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee‘s Kashmir committee, which was a non-starter. Omar was with the NDA at the time. After the UPA came to power, Padgaonkar became the lone Hindu member in the National Minority Commission (sic) with a  salary of around Rs 2 lakh per month.”

For the record, Padgaonkar is not a non-working journalist; he returned to the Times as editor of the edit page after the exit of another Times‘ loyalist, Gautam Adhikari. And at Akbar’s former abode, The Asian Age, Padgaonkar, an acknowledged foodie, most famously wrote a letter to the editor on the recipe for Egg Benedict.

Also read: How Padgaonkar christened a Pierre Cardin model

How the Sakaal Times dream became a nightmare

And thus spake the Editor-in-Chief of ‘Harijan’

The veteran editor, columnist, author and activist, Kuldip Nayar, recounting a seminar held recently in Thiruvananthapuram by the Malayalam daily Mathrubhumi, in The Sunday Guardian:

Mahatma Gandhi‘s is an example which every journalist must emulate. He tells us journalists that the sole aim of journalism should be service.

“In his autobiography, he says: ‘The newspaper is a great power, but just as an unchained torrent of water submerges the countryside and devastates crops, even so an uncontrolled pen serves but to destroy. If control is from without, it proves more poisonous than want of control. It can be profitable only when exercised from within.’

If this line of reasoning is correct—and there is no reason to challenge it—how many papers in the country would stand the test? But who would stop the useless? And should be the judge? I think that the useful and the useless must, like good and evil, go on together. The reader must make the choice. Any interference by the government would make a mockery of the freedom of the press.

“Today when editorial space is sold and where ‘paid news’ conceals falsehood and propagand, Gandhi’s advice that a newspaper is not meant to make money but is an insturment to serve the public, cannot be to the liking of those who have an eye on the balancesheet. They are not bothered with the indignation of people over the projection of celebrities and models as icons of society.

“Writing on the role of newspapers, Gandhiji said: ‘In my humble opinion, it is wrong to use a newspaper as a means of earning a living. There are certain spheres of work which are of consequence and have such bearing on public weflare that to undertake them for earning one’s livelihood would defeat the primary aim behind them.’

“When a newspaper is treated as a means of making profit, the result is likely tobe serious malpractice. It is not necessary to prove to those who have some experience in journalism that such malpractices prevail on a large scale.”

A blank editorial, a black editorial & a footnote

When Indira Gandhi introduced media censorship as part of the Emergency in 1975, Indian newspapers ran blank editorials as a form of protest.

The Kannada newspaper Vijaya Karnataka, belonging to The Times of India group, runs a blank (and black) editorial today, in protest against what happened in the State legislative assembly on Monday, during the trust vote moved by the chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa.

And in white type set on 60% black, editor Vishweshwar Bhat writes this small footnote at the bottom:

“The unseemly occurrences in the assembly on Monday should make every citizen bow his head in shame. The manner in which our elected representatives behaved is unpardonable. They have dealt a deadly blow to democracy. While criticising this, we symbolically represent the silent outrage of the people in this form.”

Also read: B.G. Verghese on the introduction of Emergency

Kuldeep Nayar: Hindu, HT were the worst offenders in 1975

H.Y. Sharada Prasad: Middle-class won’t understand Indira

People, not the press, are the real fourth estate in India

Survival of tallest when politics hits a new low

Initially barred from entering the Karnataka legislative assembly to cover proceedings on the day the trust motion moved by the BJP government of B.S. Yediyurappa was coming up, television cameramen compete with each other to capture the chaotic (and shameful) scenes in Bangalore on Monday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News