Monthly Archives: April 2013

2,450 journos lost jobs in Chitty Chitty Bong Bong

Mail Today, the tabloid daily owned by the India Today group, reports that an astonishing 2,450 journalists (including non-editorial staff) may have lost their jobs after the meltdown of Bengal’s chitfund driven, politically backed newspapers and TV stations.

Employees of Saradha group owned 24-hour TV news station, Channel 10, are reported to have filed a complaint against the Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha member andSaradha group media cell CEO Kunal Ghosh and the chairman Sudipta Sen for not paying salaries and depositing contributions to the provident fund.

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In the Indian Express, editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta writes:

“But why are we complaining? Why are we being so protective of what only we see as our turf? There is nothing in the law to stop anybody from owning media. And sure enough, the biggest business houses in India have tried their hand with the media and retreated with burnt fingers and singed balance sheets.

“The Ambanis (Observer Group), Vijaypat Singhania (The Indian Post), L.M. Thapar (The Pioneer), Sanjay Dalmia (Sunday Mail), Lalit Suri (Delhi Midday), are like a rollcall of the captains of Indian industry who failed in the media business.

“They failed, you’d say, because they did not, deep down, respect the media, or journalists. Many of them saw themselves as victims of poorly paid, dimwit journalists employed by people who called themselves media barons but were barons of what was a boutique business compared to theirs.

“But there is a difference between then and now, and between them and the state-level businessmen investing in the media now. They failed because they did not respect journalism. The current lot are setting up or buying up media mainly because they do not respect journalism, because they think all journalists are available, if not for sale then for hire, as lawfully paid employees.

“If you have a couple of news channels and newspapers, a few well known (and well connected) journalists as your employees, give them a fat pay cheque, a Merc, and they solve your problem of access and power. They also get you respect, as you get to speak to, and rub shoulders with top politicians, even intellectuals, at awards and events organised by your media group.

“It is the cheapest ticket to clout, protection and a competitive edge.

“A bit like, to steal the immortal line Shashi Kapoor spoke to his wayward “brother” Amitabh Bachchan in Yash Chopra‘s Deewar (mere paas maa hai), tere paas police, SEBI, RBI, CBI, kuchch bhi ho, mere paas media hai.

“Remember how Gopal Kanda defied Delhi Police to arrest him rather than have him present himself grandly for surrender? The police put up scores of checkpoints to look for him, but he arrived in style, riding an OB van of STV, a channel known to be “close” to him. Which cop would dare to look inside an OB van?”

Infographic: courtesy Mail Today

Also read: How Bengal’s chit fund crooks exposed the media

How Bengal’s chit fund crooks exposed the media

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Anchors and presenters of Tara Muzik, which shut down recently, console each other on live TV (courtesy The Indian Express)

The 16th week of the year of the lord 2013 has been a gruesome one for Indian journalism in general and Bengali journalism in particular.

In the space of just a few hours every conceivable cliche and charge about modern media folk—that we are corrupt; that we can be bought over; that we have become extortionists; that we have become partners, even abettors, in crime of politicians and corporates; that the interests of the common man and woman is last on our radar; that the media is now a shield for wrong-doing—came true as an 18-page “suicide” note of a chit fund operator became public.

Willy-nilly, Sudipta Sen‘s letter to CBI also revealed how gullible we are, for all the gratuitous advice we dish out on how the world should be run.

Tens of journalists, even some stellar names from the past, joined the newspapers and TV stations started by the crooked and corrupt of Bengal, many of which have now shut shop.

In The Telegraph, Calcutta, Sajeda Momin, who covered the Babri masjid demolition for the paper, who returned from London to be the features editor of The Bengal Post, a paper which Sen started with his funny money, recounts the experience:

It was May 2010 when I received a phone call in London from a former Statesman colleague that he was helping launch a new English newspaper in Calcutta and would like me on board. I asked the normal question all journalists ask when it is a new paper: “Who is funding it?”

His reply was very reassuring. He is a Bengali businessman who has a variety of business interests in land, agro-products, travel, etc, and wants to venture into the media.

“Does he have enough money to sustain a newspaper?” was my next question as we know that keeping a daily newspaper going is a costly business with no hope of seeing any returns for a few years.

““Oh yes, he has mines in Australia, land and business interests in West Bengal and Odisha, and is looking to expand in the Northeast and has promised that he has enough money put aside to run the newspaper for the next five years,” came the reply. So I took the plunge and landed in Calcutta the following month.

Apart from Ranabir Raychoudhury, the editor of The Bengal Post, as the English paper was to be called, none among the editorial staff had met this elusive Mr Sen. Ironically, even friends in the business community knew very little about Sudipta Sen and his companies, despite his having so much money that he could fund not one but two newspapers.”

Congratulations. We have the worst job on Earth.

Worse than a lumberjack, if you know what it means.

Worse than a dishwasher.

Worse than a garbage collector.

Worse than a dairy farmer.

That’s the job of a news reporter.

The worst job on earth.

That’s the finding, if you believe that kind of thing, of Career Cast, an American human resource consultancy firm. On its website, the researcher lists low pay, stress, etc as the causes.

The study said:

“…(News reporting) has lost its lustre dramatically over the past five years and is expected to plummet even further by 2020.”

News reporters are ranked at No. 200, photojournalists are only slightly better at 188. But look at the bright side: none of the other 199 “better” professions than ours can report this piece of news.

Image: courtesy Hindustan Times

Also read: A happy new year to all you psychopaths!

Also read: The ten worst jobs on earth

Eight reasons journalism is best profession

External reading: Ten worst jobs of 2012

Ten worst jobs of 2013

POLL: The biggest news story of last 175 years?

The Times of India, formerly known as The Bombay Times and Journal of Commerce, has kickstarted its 175th anniversary—its dodransbicentennial—celebrations.

Under the rubric “Leading change for 175 years”, R.K. Laxman‘s iconic dhoti-clad Man from Matunga under goes a partial makeover, with one half wearing jeans and goggles.

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On its website, ToI has launched a microsite and there is even a poll on the biggest news story of the last 175 years.

Editorial director Jaideep Bose aka JoJo has a signed piece in the paper, and there will be a full page of archival material in the paper each week for the next one year.

Writes JoJo:

“The fact that this paper has grown from a single edition of a few thousand copies to some 50 editions with a circulation of close to five million — the largest in the world for any English newspaper by a long margin — speaks of its ability to divine the ever-changing mood of this chaotic, contradictory and creative superpower-in-waiting, which lives in many centuries all at once.

“Which big brand in India (and how many globally) can claim to have been around 175 years ago and grown the way The Times of India has? We are often asked, how do you do it?

“The secret, we believe, lies in being contemporary and relevant — the “Old Lady of Boribunder” remains young at heart, nimble on her feet, and razor-sharp up there. Incredibly proud though we are of our heritage, we don’t sail solely on it, but work continually to leave behind a legacy even more iconic than the one we’ve inherited.”

ET Now anchor to wed ex-cricketer’s son

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From the gossip columns of Pune Mirror, glad tidings on former CNBC TV18 and current ET Now anchor, Ayesha Faridi:

“Marriage bells are ringing for Dilip and Manali Vengsarkar’s son Nakul. Your diarist has learnt that the 31-year-old architect and interior designer will be tying the knot with TV anchor Ayesha Faridi on April 27.

“The cricket legend’s only son had earlier been engaged to marry Swapnali, daughter of real estate baron Avinash Bhosle, but the alliance was called off in circumstances that remain shrouded in mystery to this day….

“However, we gather that Nakul secretly started dating Ayesha around two years ago when she was working in Mumbai and the relationship went from strength to strength even after she relocated to Delhi to take up a fresh assignment.

“The engagement, which took place some months ago with the blessings of their families, was a low key affair. Though the marriage will be solemnised in Delhi, the Vengsarkars are gearing up to host a grand reception in Mumbai.”

Also read: When a politician weds a journo, it’s news

When a filmstar weds a journalist, it’s news

Another (woman) journalist bites stardust

When a magazine editor marries a starlet, it’s news

When a politician’s wife goes to college, it’s news

The BJP leader Arun Jaitley is widely speculated to contest the next general elections from Amritsar, causing much grief to the three-time sitting BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu. And as naturally as night follows day, newspapers and news agencies show that the schmoozing has begun in right earnest.

Learning photography 10,000 feet above sea

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What can two photojournalists with enviable CVs do when the bug to do something away from the straight and narrow of daily and weekly deadlines, bites them?

T. Narayan and Sanjay Sharma provide some inspiration to their kinsmen with a photography workshop 10,122 feet above sea level.

The first batch will be held from April 25-28, the second from May 16-19. For further details, call Narayan on 08826212122 or Sanjay on 09811083888. Email: tnssphotography@gmail.com

When an owner passes, nothing else is news

The front page of the Tamil newspaper, Dina Thanthi (The Daily Telegraph), once India’s largest-read newspaper, the day after its proprietor, B. Sivanthi Adithyan, passed away in Madras at the age of 76.

On the bottom-half of the page is a picture of Adithyan being decorated by the then President of India, Pratibha Patil. with the Padma Sri in 2008.

Like so many compatriot-South Indian newspaper owners of his generation (think S. Rangarajan of The Hindu, think K.A. Nettakallappa of Deccan Herald), Adithyan was a passionate sports enthusiast and a major domo in sports administration.

Friends say Adithyan, a longtime functionary of the Indian Olympic Association, was a no mean trap-shooter himself.

Adithyan’s family sold the Dinakaran newspaper title to the Marans of the Sun TV group.

Also the owner of a paper mill and an evening newspaper (Malai Malar), Adithyan had recently acquired NDTV-Hindu, the hyper-local newschannel started by NDTV and The Hindu, and turned it into Thanthi TV.

On Thanthi TV (channel no. 723 on Tata Sky), the funeral procession had near-blanket coverage, in the way, say, Doordarshan covered the deaths of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi in the pre-satellite TV era.

The cortege was followed live by Thanthi TV cameras all the way to the crematorium, while every visitor was accommodated on the screen through multiple windows.

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Shekhar Gupta storms into India Today powerlist

Thirteen out of India Today magazine’s 2013 ranking of the 50 most powerful people in India have interests in the media, but only two of them (former Indian Express editor Arun Shourie, Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta) are pure-play journalists.

The chairman of the press council of India, Justice Markandey Katju, is a new entry at No. 50, just as Gupta is at No. 45, Hindustan Times bosswoman Shobhana Bhartia at No. 39 and Star India CEO Uday Shankar at No. 26.

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No. 1: Mukesh Ambani, chairman, Reliance Industries and “virtual owner” of TV18 (up from No. 3 in 2012)

No. 4: Kumaramangalam Birla, chairman Aditya Birla group, and 27.5% stake holder in Living Media (up from No. 5): “sings Hindi film songs, although only in close family circles”

No. 7: Samir Jain and Vineet Jain, The Times of India, down from No.6 last year

No. 26: Uday Shankar, CEO, Star India (new entry)

No. 28: Kalanidhi Maran, chairman and MD of Sun Group (up from 49 last year)

No. 31: Mahendra Mohan Gupta and Sanjay Gupta, chairman and CEO, Dainik Jagran (No. 31 last year)

No. 35: Subhash Chandra, chairman, Zee television and DNA (No. 35 last year)

No. 39: Shobhana Bhartia, chairman and editorial director, HT Media (new entry): Her home in Friends Colony (West) in Delhi was acquired from the erstwhile royal family of Jind.

No. 36: Raghav Bahl, MD, Network 18 (up from No. 44)

No. 38: Arun Shourie (new entry): His dictum: “We must learn to be satisfied with enough and enough is what we have at the moment.”

No. 41: Arnab Goswami (up from 46): “Plays loud music on his iPod before every show to unwind.”

No. 45: Shekhar Gupta (new entry)

No. 50: Justice Markandey Katju, chairman, press council of India (new entry): The Ph.D. in Sanskrit asked Lucknow lawyer S.K. Kalia who entred his court, ‘Ab tera kya hoga Kalia‘?

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Photograph: courtesy Indian Express

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Also read: 12 media barons worth 2,962, 530,000,000

10 media barons in India Today 2010 power list

26% of India’s most powerful are media barons

An A-list most A-listers don’t want to be a part of

Blogger breaks into Businessweek most powerful list

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The Indian Express power list

2012: N. Ram, Arnab Goswami crash out of power list

2011: Arnab Goswami edges out Barkha Dutt

2010: Arun Shourie more powerful than media pros

2009: 11 habits of highly successful media people

Will Indian readers pay to keep their money safe?

For all the talk about the future being digital, the truth is no Indian newspaper or magazine (or website) is making money at the speed and in the quantum that publishers and promoters feel they are entitled to.

Worse, no Indian newspaper or magazine (or website) has been able to generate the kind of content that readers won’t find elsewhere and will therefore pay to read.

Publishers are still groping around for a revenue model for charging online content. The Times of India is apparently inclined to but will only do so with Hindustan Times also on board.

Notwithstanding all this, Money Life, the personal finance magazine launched by the journalists Sucheta Dalal and Debashis Basu has gone full steam ahead.

A Rs 780 annual subscription gives copies of the print magazine, access to the website and web content, including the archives from 2006,  daily and weekly newsletters of news and views, and membership of the magazines initiatives. There is also a monthly pass for Rs 99.

External reading: Why Money Life went behind a paywall