Monthly Archives: October 2012

Salman Khurshid, India Today & Sunday Guardian

Salman Khurshid, the Oxford-educated Union law minister, has taken the India Today group to court in Delhi, Bombay, Lucknow and London claiming damages of Rs 243 crore following Aaj Tak‘s sting operation that accused the trust run by his wife, former Sunday magazine journalist Louise Khurshid nee Fernandes, of a discrepancy of Rs 71 lakh.

But ranting on TV against pesky reporters or the threat to meet his detractors with “blood” are not only the excesses of the smooth-talking Khurshid. His supporters are no better.

In The Sunday Guardian edited by M.J. Akbar (who also wears the hat of editorial director of India Today), reporter Abhinandan Mishra writes of the reception he got in Khurshid’s constituency Farukhabad, when he had gone to investigate the truth behind the camps organised by Zakir Hussain memorial trust.

“Once done with our investigation, we moved toward our car to discover that a small group of men had gathered. One of them asked me the purpose of my visit. When I realised that I was verifying the credentials of the disabled, the mob got agitated and asked me to leave.

“They were shouting that I was wasting my time and was trying to malign “SalmanSahab“.

“I understood the gravity of the situation and did not wish to get into further arguments with the men and decided to leave Pithora. But a well built man in his early 30s started following us on a Bullet motorcycle. He started banging the passenger window asking my companion to roll down the glass.

“When we ignored him, he signalled to the driver to roll down the window. I obliged.

“What followed was a string of abuses and threats at me: “Tu nikal yahaan se. Tu Salman Sahab ka kuch nahi bigaad paayege. Farrukhabad se bahar niklo, batate hain tujhe (Get out of this place. You will not be able to do anything to Salman Sahab. I will deal with you once you step out of Farrukhabad).”

“We asked the driver to speed up.

“The next stop was Kaimganj. As I finished with the investigation and was about to exit the city, the second attack happened, much more ferocious and well planned. I heard a loud thud on the window and saw a man who appeared to be in his 40s attempting to break the glass.

“Threatening me, he shouted, “Kar li tehkikat? **&*&* kuch nahee kar paayega tu, kitna bhee likh le Salman ke khilaaf. (Are you done with your investigation? You cannot harm Salman no matter how much you write).” He then asked the driver to stop the car.

“I asked the driver to accelerate the car. However, the attacker caught up with us and shouted, “Bahar nikal tujhey batata hun. Tu yahaan se zinda nahi jaayega. (Get out of the car. You will not return alive from here).” He then raced ahead and parked his bike. We saw three people joining him and then starting to pelt stones and bricks at our car. They missed us narrowly because of the speed at which our driver was driving the car. They followed us till the time we entered the main city of Farrukhabad.

“I called up the superintendent of police, but the number was switched off. I then called up the assistant SP of the district, O.P. Singh, who said to my shock that I should have informed the police before going to these areas.”

In the Hindustan Times, the Cambridge-educated television anchor and interviewer Karan Thapar gives Khurshid a clean chit:

“There’s one question that’s dominated the last week. It’s been asked again and again. Equally significantly, it’s been put by a wide range of people. “Do you believe Salman Khurshid?” My answer is simple and blunt: yes….

“I have three deeper reasons for believing Salman. First, I’ve known him since I was 21 and cannot believe he would forge letters or pilfer money meant for the handicapped. Second, I admire his willingness to subject himself to a rigorous interview less than two hours after returning from London. A man with a guilty conscious would have ducked for cover instead. Third, he wouldn’t sue for defamation if he did not have a credible and convincing defence. Oscar Wilde did that and look where he ended up!”

Cartoon: courtesy R. Prasad/ Mail Today

Thankfully, TOI calls S.M.A Kazmi a journalist

S. M. A. Kazmi, the Urdu and Persian language journalist arrested in March this year for his alleged involvement in the attack on the car of an Israeli embassy official in New Delhi in February, has been ordered by the Supreme Court of India to be released after seven long months in custody.

Not surprisingly, there is great cheer in the Kazmi family.

His son Turab, is quoted by the Hindustan Times as saying:

“The first call I made was to my mother who started crying over the phone when I gave her the good news. We are very happy because the truth is out and justice has been finally done. We want to thank the Almighty for giving us power to fight for injustice.”

Kazmi’s wife, Jahan Ara, is quoted by the Indian Express as saying:

Ibadat mein hi time guzra hai in saat mahino mein. Humare liye aaj hi eid hai (These seven months have been spent in prayers. Today is Eid for us).”

***

However, behind the good news are signs of a sad and devious police plot.

Initially, many in the media merely doubted the police version of Kazmi’s alleged role in the attack. Now, it appears as if sections of the media are parroting the Delhi police version which doubts his very credentials as a journalist.

Kazmi read news for state-owned Doordarshan Urdu and did work for Radio Teheran  and covered the Gulf War. But news reports carrying the SC order, citing the Delhi police, are revealing.

Press Trust of India (PTI):

“Kazmi, who claims to have been writing for an Iranian publication, was picked up after a probe showed that he had been in touch with the suspect who is believed to have stuck the magnetic bomb on Israeli diplomat Tal Yehoshua’s car on February 13, according to the police.”

Hindustan Times correspondent:

“Kazmi, who claims to have been writing for an Iranian publication before his arrest in the case, was picked up after Delhi police investigation showed he had been in touch with the suspect who is believed to have stuck the magnetic bomb on Israeli diplomat Tal Yehoshua‘s car on February 13 this year, police said.”

The Indian Express quotes the court:

“The court said Kazmi, who claims to have been writing for an Iranian publication, has acquired his statutory right to bail on July 17.”

Thankfully, The Times of India bucks the trend:

“The Supreme Court on Friday granted bail to Syed Mohammad Ahmed Kazmi, a journalist who has been behind bars since March 6 in the Israeli diplomat car attack case.”

Image: courtesy Hindustan Times

Also read: Let the record show, Kazmi is not forgotten

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External reading: Eid comes early for Kazmi family: The Indian Express

Tehelka: Is there a case against Kazmi?

Mamata Banerjee’s 9 commandments for journos

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, that great upholder of freedom of expression—think of cartoonists, college students, farmers and others who have been called “Maoists”—has some words of advice for journalists.

Media creates “news pollution“, according to her; media spreads “canards and exaggerates negative news“; media “glorifies rape“. Therefore it should do the nine things that Mail Today lists.

Image: courtesy Mail Today

Ramachandra Guha: 12 and a half rules to be a good journalist

‘Every big story in last 3 years broken by TOI’

The front-page of the launch edition of Ei Samay, the new Bengali newspaper launched by The Times of India group, in Calcutta, on Mahalaya, the first day of Dasara 2012.

The first day’s issue comprises a 32-page main broadsheet section, a 32-page supplement, and an 8-page tabloid section titled O Samay.

The main section has an eight-page wrapper before the actual newspaper (above) begins. The front page of the paper carries the tagline “Dugga, Dugga” (colloquial for ‘Durga, Durga’, a traditional invocation when embarking on a new endeavour) with the kicker at the bottom reading: opening the window to a new world.

Pages 2 and 3 carry an introduction by Ei Samay editor Suman Chattapodhyay, against the backdrop of a giant cartoon. Chhattopadhyay’s interview with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee gets crossmedia play in The Times of India.

TOI’s Calcutta edition has an introduction titled ‘A Second Homecoming” penned by its editorial director, Jaideep Bose:

Ei Samay will open the windows to brave new thoughts and trends from around the globe even as it celebrates the best of Bengal. It will be intelligent, enlightened and insightful without being dense or inaccessible. It will probe beyond the pedestrian ‘when’, ‘where’ and ‘what’ to ask ‘why’ and ‘how’. It will bring alive the drama and excitement of social, economic and political life by providing context and perspective, nuance and texture. It will track a society in transition and anticipate critical inflection points so that its readers are better prepared for tomorrow’s world today.

“It will not sugarcoat the truth, however bitter – almost every big story that has grabbed national headlines in the last three years has been broken by The Times of India. But it will also shine the light on tales of hope and heroism, because there is an army of remarkable people out there doing wonderful deeds to change the lives of the less-privileged, often without any expectation of gain or recognition.”

The launch of a Bengali paper pits the Times group in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with market-leader, Ananda Bazaar Patrika, which recently launched a tabloid newspaper titled Ei Bela to protect the flagship newspaper. The two groups are already engaged in a battle for the English market through ToI and The Telegraph.

Images: courtesy The Times of India

Read the full introduction: A second homecoming

Also read: The grandmother of all newspaper battles

Buy our newpaper: get a Harley-Davidson free!

Times, Telegraph and the Bengali paper wars

The new kid on the block announces an eclipse

V.N. Subba Rao: a ‘shishya’ remembers his Guru

There are few more misleading terms in Indian journalism than the phrase “national media”.

Only those who flit around in the rarefied circles of Delhi and Bombay, rubbing shoulders with the high and mighty, qualify; everyone else is “upcountry”. Only the bold-faced names from big English media houses are supposed to be national; everyone else is smalltime, moffusil—even “downmarket”.

In reality, our media is richer because of the sweat and toil of hundreds of fine journalists in far corners, who carry on manfully for years, if not decades, without reward or recognition and often times without the expectation of both. Here, a veteran  journalist remembers his first “Chief” who hired him 41 years ago; a guru who would have been a “national” name if only he didn’t suffer from the fear of flying.

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By A. SURYA PRAKASH

Indian journalism lost a giant earlier this week with the passing of V.N. Subba Rao, a top-notch political analyst, a prolific writer and a guru who trained hundreds of journalists in a career that spanned six decades.

Subba Rao’s interests were catholic.

He was arguably the best-informed political journalist in Karnataka in his hey day; a lover of cinema with an authoritative grip on the history and art of film making and a film critic of repute; a lover of art and culture; and an authority on Kannada literature.

VNSR, as he was affectionately known, also had other qualities which put him way ahead of his peers in the world of journalism. He was a brilliant teacher and a builder of teams and, given his varied interests, a man who could boast of friends in every walk of life.

***

VNSR was also a lover of words and produced eminently readable copy at a pace unmatched by anyone in his time. His day would begin early and he would walk into the office of the Indian Express on Queen’s Road, Bangalore, around 9 pm with more than a couple of news stories under his belt.

He would order some tea, set paper to typewriter and get down to doing the story of the day. From then on, all one heard was the clatter of the typewriter, with the peon walking in every ten minutes to take the typed sheet, which VNSR would yank out of the machine, to the desk, which would be waiting anxiously for what would invariably be the lead story in the paper next morning.

But, VNSR’s output for the day would not end with this important political copy.

He would have other things to write about—a film review, an interview, or even a routine announcement of a theatre or film festival from a press conference he had attended.

He was equally prolific in Kannada.

So, after a hard day’s work, VNSR and many of us who were just hanging around, waiting for “The Chief” to finish, would hop into what we called “the sheep van” or “the dog van” – those rowdy, robust mid-sized trucks in which newspapers were dispatched past midnight to various destinations in the state – and get dropped at our homes.

Given this routine, some of us were late risers, but for VNSR, his phone would start ringing from seven in the morning. Often the first caller would be the Chief Minister of the day: D. Devaraj Urs, R. Gundu Rao, Ramakrishna Hegde et al.

The caller would invariably praise VNSR for his deep insight into the political games the ministers were playing behind his back. This would be followed by phone calls from ministers offering fresh inputs or from the director and the stars of the movie which he had reviewed.

Everybody loved reading him because when VNSR had something good to say about a person or his work, the person written about would love to cut and frame Subba Rao’s piece.

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I first met VNSR in 1971 when I walked into the Express office wanting a job.

VNSR made a simple offer. He said he would give me assignments for a week. If he felt I would fit into his team, he would hire me. “I need to see if you have news sense and if you can write clean copy” he said.

A few days down the line he said “you are hired!”

That decision of VNSR changed the course of my life. Since then, it has been a roller-coaster ride for me and has taken me from print to television to media teaching and scholarship and to my current status as a columnist and author.

By the mid-1970s VSNR had a bureau in Bangalore which was the envy of every other newspaper. Since he kept a punishing 14-16 hour work schedule,that became the norm for all his “boys” and so, most of us would hang around till the late hours and plan stories and features.

VNSR hired and trained hundreds of journalists and it’s impossible to remember all of them.

K.S. Sachidananda Murthy, currently resident editor, The Week; Prakash Belawadi, national award-winning film director; Chidananda Rajghatta, foreign editor, Times of India; Anita Pratap, former South Asia bureau chief, CNN and former correspondent, Time; Ramakrishna Upadhya, political editor, Deccan Herald; E. Raghavan, former resident editor, Economic Times, Bangalore and Girish Nikam, anchor, Rajya Sabha TV are a few names that immediately come to mind.

Apart from those whom he hired and trained, he was the Guru to hundreds of journalists from other print and television establishments who sought him out each day for a better understanding of events and personalities. Among those who belonged to this extended Shisyavarga of VNSR was Kestur Vasuki, a seasoned television and print journalist, who is currently with The Pioneer and many young television journalists who would catch up with him at his favourite watering hole– The Bangalore Press Club.

He demanded nothing but complete commitment to work and had his own unobtrusive way of teaching us. That is why, on his passing the Samyukta Karnataka described him as “The Dronacharya of Journalism”.

VNSR was also a builder of teams and encouraged team work and this produced excellent results when big events happened in the state. One event that is often remembered in the Indian Express family is our coverage of the landmark Chickmagalur by-election in November 1975 1978 (in which Indira Gandhi contested against Veerendra Patil) that attracted global attention.

The Express’ coverage of Chickmagalur was unmatched.

VNSR held many senior editorial positions in several newspapers and wrote for many more. Kannada Prabha, Samyukta Karnataka, Deccan Herald, Vijaya Karnataka, Newstime, Mid-Day and the Kannada political weekly Naave Neevu and film magazine Tara Loka of which he was the founder-editor. But, he gave much of his blood and sweat to The Indian Express and was the pillar of the Bangalore Edition of that newspaper during the days when the fiery Ramnath Goenka ruled the roost.

In VNSR’s departure, I have lost my Guru and Indian media has lost a consummate journalist and a legend.

(A. Surya Prakash is former chief of bureau, Indian Express, New Delhi; former executive editor, The Pioneer, and former editor, Zee News)

External reading: Goodbye, my mentor

Also read: V.N. Subba Rao, an Express legend, is no more

An Angry Young Man gets good media @ 70

Amitabh Bachchan, the BBC’s “star of the millennium”, peers through a front-page of the Europe edition of The Wall Street Journal, in photographer Daboo Ratnani‘s calendar for October 2012.

Libran Mr Bachchan, who has had a stormy relationship with the Indian media, turns 70 today.

Also read: Amitabh Bachchan versus the Mumbai Mirror

Look, who wants to be a journo (after rebirth)

Sting camera that Amitabh Bachchan didn’t see

Jug Suraiya takes on the mighty Big Bachchan

When Prabhu Chawla called up Amar Singh

From the desk of hon’ble Member of Parliament…

In which Vijay Darda, member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and chairman of Lokmat Media Limited shoots off an appeal  to advertisers on his letterhead seeking advertisements for the special Deepotsav and Deepbhav issues of Lokmat (Marathi) and Lokmat Samachar (Hindi).