Monthly Archives: December 2010

China-India Friendship Award for Pallavi Aiyar

Pallavi Aiyar, the former Beijing correspondent of The Hindu, has been awarded the China-India Friendship Award by the Chinese government along with eight others.

One another awardee, Karan Singh, declined to accept the award because as a parliamentarian, he “did not want to be seen as favouring any particular nation“.

Pallavi, daughter of the veteran economist and journalist Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, is also the author of Smoke and Mirrors, on her experiences in the middle kingdom, a book ironically panned by The Hindu‘s reviewer.

She now works out of Brussels as the European correspondent of Business Standard.

Photograph: courtesy pallaviaiyar.com

‘ET Wealth’ skirts ethical rekha from issue one

After bundling The Speaking Tree with The Times of India, the country’s biggest newspaper group has unveiled a new product that comes bundled with The Economic TimesET Wealth.

The 48-page personal finance newspaper, in a Berliner format a la Bombay Mirror, is issued with ET on Mondays. It will be supplied free in the first two weeks, but will be prized at Rs 5 each week after that.

In other words, the onus is on the subscriber to let the hawker/ vendor know if she does not want ET Wealth with his paper every Monday. Or else, the monthly ET bill surreptitiously swells by Rs 20 or 25.

Edited by former Business Today editor Rohit Saran, ET Wealth skirts with the non-existent ethical lakshman rekha from issue no. 1.

The only advertiser in the launch issue is Nirmal Jain-owned private wealth management firm, India Infoline.

There are six strip ads, eight quarter-page ads, nine half-page ads, and three full-page ads, all of IIFL, without disclosing even once that IIFL is a Times Private Treaties partner. Which means that the Times group is invested in the advertising company that is selling its wares to readers.

Also, the real estate pages in ET Wealth have been compiled with magicbricks.com, again without revealing that the online realty firm is a Times of India property.

Journalist’s house raided in 2G spectrum scam

Journalistic tongues in Delhi have wagged unabashedly after finding the voices of Vir Sanghvi, Barkha Dutt and Prabhu Chawla in the Niira Radia tapes in the 2G spectrum allocation scam, but the first big piece of action seems to have come from Tamil Nadu in the deep south.

The residence of A. Kamaraj, the associate editor of the Tamil bi-weekly Nakkheeran that shot to fame during the reign of the forest brigand Veerappan, has been raided in Madras’s tony Besant Nagar locality.

Kamaraj is said to be a close friend of A. Raja, the disgraced telecom minister who is alleged to be at the centre of the Rs 173,000 crore scam.

Kamaraj first hit the headlines in 1993 after he accused the English newsweekly India Today of infringing on its copyright, by carrying an interview with Veerappan, which had actually been conducted by its correspondent Shiva Subramaniam. That interview appeared in IT with the joint byline of Raj Chengappa, now editor of The Tribune in Chandigarh.

Kamaraj has often found himself in the middle of defamation cases.

In 2003, his house raided was in a prevention of terrorism act (POTA) case for supporting banned pro-LTTE groups.

Ironically, last year, Kamraj, along with his editor R.R. Gopal, had been sentenced to two years in jail in a defamation case involving then Union minister A. Raja.

Should Prabhu Chawla edit New Indian Express?

Editors, anchors, columnists, correspondents… tens of media personnel have been badly mauled in the eyes of news consumers, in the Niira Radia scandal.

But do the proprietors and managers really care?

Vir Sanghvi has suspended his weekly column in the Hindustan Times while merrily writing on food. The buck still stops at Barkha Dutt‘s table at 10 pm on NDTV while she fights a lonely battle from the trenches of Twitter.

Now, Manoj Kumar Sonthalia, grandson of the mighty Ramnath Goenka who is in charge of the southern editions of the paper, has reportedly decided to hire former India Today editor Prabhu Chawla, as the new editor of  The New Indian Express (TNIE), despite the thick smog of scandal hanging over the latter’s underprotected head.

Chawla, who got a most perplexing certificate of merit from The Hindu‘s editor-in-chief N. Ram, on the India Today-owned TV station Headlines Today, however, has had a slightly inauspicious entry. The outgoing TNIE team of Aditya Sinha has carried this brief excerpt involving Chawla from the second tranche of the Radia tapes.

Listen: Prabhu Chawla in conversation with Niira Radia

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

“Accused” Ankur Chawla is now “investigator” Chawla

In the New Indian Express, old hands get the sack

Barkha Dutt tarred by pure malice: Khushwant

Battered by one and all but one, Barkha Dutt, the NDTV anchor caught on tape in l’affaire Niira Radia, gets some much-needed support, but from the dirty old man of Indian journalism, her Hindustan Times co-columnist Khushwant Singh.

But unlike the editors guild president Rajdeep Sardesai who blamed it on “envy”, Singh attributes it to “malice”:

“Two leading lights in Indian journalism, one in the print media, the other a top TV star who has the widest viewership and is known for her guts and integrity, are being maligned for listening to a woman in public relations representing some big industrial houses.

“I went through all that passed between them on telephones but failed to figure out anything unethical in their dialogue. The public relations lady pleaded the cause of the firms that she was representing. The journalist heard what she had to say as every good journalist is expected to do and make his own assessment before he wrote on the subject.

“The lady in India’s leading channel was asked to do sifarish (recommend) on behalf of an ambitious politician. The story sounds totally fatuous: a sifarish by a mediaperson carries no weight whatsoever. What the libelers and slanderers have to prove is that money was given to the two for doing their bidding. There is not even a remote suggestion that this was so. It was done out of pure malice to tar the images of two much respected mediapersons. “

Illustration: courtesy Sorit Gupto/ Outlook

Read the full column: Ethics of journalism

Second editor of Indian origin for ‘Newsweek’

Tunku Varadarajan, the Indian-born, US-based writer-educator, has been named the new editor of Newsweek international, becoming the second journalist of Indian origin after Fareed Zakaria to hold the reins at the American magazine.

Tunku broke the news through a tweet on Wednesday: “My news: Looks like I’ll be editing Newsweek International”.

Born Patanjali Varadarajan, 48-year-old Tunku—named after the father of Malyasia’s independence—is currently writer-at-large at The Daily Beast, the online magazine floated by legendary British editor Tina Brown. His appointment comes as part of the revamp of the struggling magazine, after the Washington Post company sold it to stereo tycoon Sidney Harman for one dollar (Rs 45) earlier this year.

Tunku, whose brother Siddharth Varadarajan works for The Hindu in New Delhi, has served as the correspondent of The Times, London, in Madrid and New York; worked at the editorial and op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal; and taught business at New York University and journalism at Stanford.

When his old boss Rupert Murdoch (who owns The Times) bought the WSJ, Tunku left to join Forbes.com.

In 1997, the 50th anniversary of India’s independence,  a  New Yorker item listed the nattily dressed Tunku, then 34, as one of New York City’s “most in-demand bachelors”.

“‘At the Times, we used to have a rule. Always dress as if you might have to go to a funeral or interview a Cabinet minister’…

“How often is he invited out? ‘Every day, I fear. A lot of these calls I take completely blind,’ he says, sipping a Scotch-and-soda. ‘If the person’s voice sounds nice, I tend to say yes. I suppose this could get me into a lot of trouble.’

Cricket-mad Tunku, a firm believer in the gung-ho vivacity of British newspapers as opposed to the deadly dull objectivity of their American counterparts, called Pakistan a “State of nothing” on that midnight child’s 50th anniversary.

Photograph: Tunku Varadarajan with wife Amy Finerty. The couple have a son, Satya (via Facebook)

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Also read: Who, when, how, why, where, what and WTF

How a slumdweller became a Newsweek reporter

‘Magazines, like mushrooms, should grow in the dark’