Monthly Archives: January 2012

Are journalism’s best practices in your DNA?

On the eve of the nation’s 63rd Republic Day, the Bombay newspaper DNA, from the Dainik Bhaskar and Zee groups, devotes its front page to publicising its code of ethics.

Before laying out its key principles—responsibility, freedom, independence, truth and accuracy, impartiality, fair play—the code reads:

“Our Constitution, protecting freedom of expression, guarantees to the people through our press a constitutional right, and places on journalists, like us, a particular responsibility. Journalism demands of its practictioners not only industry knowledge but also the pursuit of a standard of integrity proportionate to the journalist’s singular obligation.”

Link via M.V. J. Kar

Image: courtesy DNA

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Also read: Good morning, your paper is free of paid news

ET: It’s never too late to get yourself a code of ethics

IRS sparks TOI-Mumbai vs DNA-HT battle

Is it all over for DNA in the Mumbai market?

External reading: The Mint code of ethics

Times group, Hindustan Lever & Shrijeet Mishra

On Saturday, The Times of India carried on its business pages (top) news of a senior Hindustan Lever executive leaving the company, the second in a year. On Tuesday, The Economic Times followed suit on the front page of the third major exit from HUL in the last 18 months.

Fact: Shrijeet Mishra, one of the HUL worthies mentioned in both stories, joined The Times group as chief operating officer in July last year.

Just.

Images: courtesy The Times of India, The Economic Times

Why Prabhu Chawla didn’t become media advisor

Prabhu Chawla, editorial director of The New Indian Express and Sunday Standard:

“Personally, I’m against the idea of journalists associating with the government in a formal advisory capacity without joining the ruling party. When former Prime Minister V.P. Singh offered me his media advisor’s job in 1990, I reluctantly declined. I suggested Singh not to hire any journalist, as he would only be adding to his already very long list of foes.

“At the age of 44, I couldn’t risk my journalistic career for a lackey’s loft, and make the prime minister the target of my own numerous enemies, also from within my profession.

“I hate to admit there isn’t much love lost between most senior journalists. Over the years, journalism has become divided along ideological lines. Like most humans, journalists also carry their predilections, preferences and biases around. In spite of our best efforts, we try to impose our choices on political leaders.(And imagine we succeed.)

“In the process, the leader ends up facing the ire of other journalists who end up targeting him, thanks to the one in his service. Many journalists have visible or invisible political ambitions. It is more honest to join a political party than masquerading as a self-proclaimed professional while accepting a job from the ruling party.”

Read the full article: A lose-lose situation

Also read: At 7, Race Course Road, this is Pankaj Pachauri

Why the PM is hopelessly wrong about the media

How well is the PM’s media advisor advising him?

Because when dog bites dog, it’s news—I

Because when dog bites dog, it’s news—II

Never believe anything until it’s officially denied

Did Chidambaram walk out of Express awards?

The grapevine is that some ministers boycotted events in which media houses had chosen members of Team Anna for awards last year. Now, this item appears in the gossip columns of The Sunday Guardian.

Apparently home minister P. Chidambaram vamoosed from the Ramnath Goenka excellence in journalism awards function organised by The Indian Express after he found that 2G scam-buster J. Gopikrishnan of The Pioneer had been picked for the best print journalist f the year.

Orders have been reserved for February 4 on Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy‘s plea seeking to make Chidambaram a party in the 2G scam, alongside A. Raja, who was felled by Gopikrishnan.

Image: courtesy The Sunday Guardian

Also read: The Pioneer journo who brought A. Raja to book

Everybody loves (to claim credit for) an expose

SMS IPUB4 TO 51818 for journalist of the year

ET joins Mint, has questions on RIL-TV18 deal

Two days after Mint front-paged a story that SEBI was looking into the Reliance-Network18/TV18-ETV deal, the country’s biggest business newspaper, The Economic Times has joined force.

A story on page 9 of ET, headlined “Will the RIL-TV18 deal trigger takeover code?“, says SEBI “may ask for details” about  Reliance funding Network18/TV18 to help it purchase RIL’s stake in ETV, “if there’s any change in control” [of ownership of Network18/TV18].

“The deal between Reliance Industries and Network18 Group has put the spotlight on the elusive concept of control as some analysts speculate whether the energy-to-education conglomerate’s investment in the media firm could potentially place RIL in effective charge of the Raghav Bahl controlled entity.”

On paper, Reliance will route its investment in Network18 through “Independent Media Trust”. The trust will subscribe to the optionally convertible debentures (OCDs) issued by the holding company of the Network18 group. This money will then be used by the promoters of Network18/TV18 to invest in the rights issues of its two listed companies, purchase RIL’s stake in ETV and repay debts.

The catch is, Reliance can convert its OCDs into equity as some later stage.

ET quotes a Morgan Stanley report of January 6 that the country’s biggest business house may ultimately end up as the single largest shareholder of Network18 Group’s two listed entities.

“Assuming the debentures are converted and that RIL will be the ultimate beneficiary of the promoter’s part of the rights issues, the RIL trust would be the beneficiary of 44% stake in Network18 and 28.5% stake in TV18,” the Morgan Stanley report said.

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The latest issue of Outlook Business too has a story on the RIL-TV18-ETV deal.

Headlined “Networking a way out”, the intro to the piece reads “The absurd valuation that Network18 is paying for buying a piece in Eenadu defies economic rationale.”

The piece quotes Star India CEO Peter Mukherjea, who calls the deal a marriage of convenience between an ugly bride and a physically challenged groom.

“One was deep in debt and needed to get cash into the business quickly, and the other was sitting on an asset they purchased some years ago but were not able to monetise. Structuring the deal this way provides an escape hatch for both. I guess they both will live happily ever after—or will they?”

Infographic: courtesy The Economic Times

Also read: Mint says SEBI looking into RIL-Network18/TV18-ETV deal

Rajya Sabha TV tears into RIL-Network18-ETV deal

Will RIL-TV18-ETV deal win SEBI, CCI approval?

The sudden rise of Mukesh Ambani, media mogul

The Indian Express, Reliance & Shekhar Gupta

Niira Radia, Mukesh Ambani, Prannoy Roy & NDTV

At 7, Race Course Road, this is Pankaj Pachauri

In what is perhaps the first acknowledgement of the fact that the UPA government could do with slightly better media schmoozing, Pankaj Pachauri, the host of NDTV Profit’s magazine show, Money Mantra, has been roped in as communications advisor at the prime minister’s office.

Pachauri, 48, has previously worked at The Sunday Observer, India Today and the BBC Hindi service in London. He will report to the PM’s principal secretary Pulok Chatterji.

An official press release reads:

“Pachauri, who will report to the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, will advise on communicating the Governments programmes, policies and achievements to the media and the public at large, particularly using the electronic, print and new and social media.”

Pachauri’s first two tweets to his nearly 26,500 followers since taking over reads:

# “Prime minister starts discussions on skill development with a dozen cabinet colleagues. Most important issue for this decade.”

# “Adviser to PM on skill development S. Ramadorai presenting roadmap to train and skill millions of youth in India.”

The PM’s media advisor Harish Khare, who has resigned in the wake of Pachauri’s appointment, has been quoted by PTI as saying: “I want to rediscover the joys of being a reporter.”

Image: courtesy Mail Today

Also read: Why the PM is hopelessly wrong about the media

How well is the PM’s media advisor advising him?

Because when dog bites dog, it’s news—I

Because when dog bites dog, it’s news—II

Never believe anything until it’s officially denied

N. Ram’s farewell letter to The Hindu staff

The following is the full text of the letter sent off by Narasimhan Ram, editor-in-chief of The Hindu group of publications, to his colleagues on Wednesday, 18 January 2012, on the eve of his relinquishment of office.

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January 18, 2012

Dear colleagues

Today I step down as editor-in-chief and publisher of our publications, The Hindu, Business Line, Frontline, and Sportstar, and also as printer as applicable.

In consequence, Siddharth Varadarajan, D. Sampathkumar, R. Vijayasankar, and Nirmal Shekhar, all editors, take over, with effect from January 19, 2012, as editors of The Hindu, Business Line, Frontline, and Sportstar respectively responsible for the selection of news under the Press and Registration of Books (PRB) Act of 1867. And K. Balaji, managing director of Kasturi & Sons Ltd., takes over, under the same Act, as publisher of all our publications and also as Printer as applicable.

I will continue to be a wholetime Director of Kasturi & Sons Ltd.

These changes on the editorial side are significant, indeed milestones in our progress as a newspaper-publishing company.

On the one hand, they represent a conscious and well-prepared induction of fresh and younger blood at the top levels of our editorial operations, not of course as one-person shows but as captains of teams of talented professionals who work on the basis of collegiality, mutual respect, trust, professional discipline, and cooperation.

On the other hand, these editorial changes are a vital part of the process of professionalization and contemporization under way in all the company’s operations. I am clear that this is the only way to face the future – the opportunities as well as the challenges.

The Hindu is, way and ahead, India’s most respected newspaper – about that there can be little question.

Founded on September 20, 1878, we are the oldest living daily newspaper in the freedom movement tradition. Our strengths are drawn from our rich history, and equally from the way our organization has contemporized, transformed itself continuously and pro-actively in content, in mode of presentation, in style, in engaging the reader, and of course technologically, over 133 years in keeping with the enormous changes that have taken place in India and the world.

Generations of editors, managing directors, and other business and professional leaders at various levels, but above all many thousands of our hard-working and dedicated journalistic and non-journalistic employees have made us what we
are today. About us it will certainly be no cliché to say: individuals come and go, the institution goes on.

With a daily net-paid circulation close to 1.5 million, The Hindu is today one of India’s three largest circulated English language newspapers. The latest round of the Indian Readership Survey confirms our position as South India’s No. 1 English language daily in terms of readership. Our other publications, Business Line, Frontline, and Sportstar, have also developed well, winning a reputation for independence, integrity, reliability, relevance, and quality.

For complex reasons, the main news media – the print press as well as broadcast television – are in crisis across the developed world; this phenomenon is well known and well documented.

Summing up the evidence, Christoph Riess, chief executive officer of the world association of newspapers, told those assembled at the world newspaper congress and world editors forum in Vienna in October 2011: ‘Circulation is like the sun. It continues to rise in the East and decline in the West.’

And it is not just circulation; Riess’s observation applies to readership and, in varying measure and with some qualifications, to revenues as well.

We can easily see how fortunate we, and our counterparts publishing in English and various other languages in India and across the developing world, are to be located in another media world. The chief differentiating characteristic of this media world is that printed newspapers (and also broadcast television) are in growth mode, some of us in buoyant  growth mode.

How long this duality will endure is a matter of conjecture. But there are exciting opportunities out there in our media world and they must be seized strategically and with deft footwork. Digital journalism – good journalism on the existing and emerging digital platforms – is an exciting domain where a combination of quality, reliability, interactivity, creative  ways to engage the reader, and growth with commercial viability will be key.

There are, equally, tough challenges – especially a hardening business environment and rising commercial pressure on editorial values and on the independence and integrity of editorial content, seen, for example, in the recently exposed notorious practices of paid news and private treaties.

The negative tendencies that have surfaced in the Indian news media have been sharply criticized by the Press Council of India Chairman, Justice Markandey Katju; and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has reflected on the problem in a rather different way. I have discussed the opportunities as well as the challenges in some detail in a recent address I gave at the Indian History Congress in Patiala on ‘The Changing Role of the News Media in Contemporary India’.

The last thing we need is complacency.

In my understanding, the two central functions of a trustworthy and relevant press (and news media) are (a) the credible-informational and (b) the critical-investigative-adversarial.

A third is the pastime function, which is important, especially for engaging the reader in a wholesome way; but it must be constantly kept in perspective and proportion and must not, in my view, be allowed to outweigh, not to mention squash, the two central functions. There are also valuable derivatives of the two central functions: public education; serving as a forum for analysis, disputation, criticism, and comment; and agenda building on issues that matter.

It is to maintain and strengthen our vantage position as India’s most respected newspaper in an increasingly challenging professional and business environment that the Board of Directors of Kasturi & Sons Ltd. adopted ‘Living our Values: Code of Editorial Values’ on April 18, 2011.

‘The greatest asset of The Hindu, founded in September 1878,’ the Code begins, ‘is trust. Everything we do as a company revolves, and should continue to revolve, round this hard-earned and inestimable long-term asset. The objective of codification of editorial values is to protect and foster the bond of trust between our newspapers and their readers.’

The Code emphasizes the imperative need for the Company to protect the integrity of the newspapers it publishes, their editorial content, and the business operations that sustain and help grow the newspapers.

It commits our newspapers as well as the Company to uncompromising fealty to the values that are set out in the Code.

It underlines the importance of the business and editorial departments ‘working together closely on the basis of mutual respect and cooperation and in the spirit of living these values in a contemporary sense.’

It mandates ‘transparency and disclosure in accordance with the best contemporary norms and practices in the field’ and also avoidance of conflict of interest, keeping in mind the codified values.

Finally, the Code lays down this mandate for contemporization of all our operations: ‘There is no wall but there is a firm line between the business operations of the Company and editorial operations and content. Pursuant to the above-mentioned values and objectives, it is necessary to create a professionalism in the editorial functioning independent of shareholder interference so as to maintain an impartiality, fairness, and objectivity in editorial and journalistic functioning.’

As I step down from my editorial positions with a decent measure of satisfaction over our collective achievement, at an age that is close enough to 67, I warmly thank all our journalists and non-journalist colleagues for the trust, hard work, and cooperation they have invested in The Hindu group of publications and the Company during my editorship.

I can assure you that with this completion of the process of editorial succession, our publications will be in able and trustworthy hands and our values as strong as ever.

N. Ram

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Also read: N. Ram to quit as The Hindu editor-in-chief on Jan 19

N.Ram: caustic, opinionated, sensitive and humane

Why N. Ravi quit The Hindu after 20 years as editor

Nirmala Lakshman: I didn’t step down; I resigned

Malini Parthasarathy quits as Hindu‘s executive editor

The four great wars of N. Ram on The Hindu soil

N. Murali: The Hindu is run like a banana republic