Monthly Archives: August 2013

Bangalore reporter who became a ‘RAW agent’

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In Lounge, the weekend section of the business paper Mint, the columnist Aakar Patel doffs his hat to Prakash Belawadi, the Bangalore engineer who became an Indian Express reporter, who became a magazine correspondent, who became a television chat show host, who launched a journalism school, who launched a weekly newspaper…

Who made a national-award winning English film, who makes a hit TV serial—and who is winning accolades for his role as a Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) agent in the just-released Hindi film, Madras Cafe:

“Prakash Belawadi started and edited a weekly newspaper, Bangalore Bias (it shut down). He has begun so many enterprises, a media school among them, that I have lost count just of those he has been involved in since 2000, and would not be surprised if he has too.

“Belawadi began his career as a journalist and worked for Vir Sanghvi’s Sunday. He remains a columnist and a first rate one. He has the best quality a columnist can have and that, according to Graham Greene, is never to be boring.

“Belawadi has a dangerous lack of ideology that makes him an aggressive and unpredictable debater. He can casually assume a position, often contrary to one he held a couple of days ago, and unpack a ferocious argument. Like all good men, he likes a fight, and like all good men it is promptly forgotten. He has a quality that is admirable among men.

“He is restless and tireless, and totally uncaring for the middle-class ambitions that most of us cannot let go of, and few of us ever achieve.”

Read the full article: A restless Renaissance man

Also read: For some journalists, acting is second string in bow

Finally, Karnataka gets an acting chief minister

External reading: Dibang of Aaj Tak, NDTV India is ex-RAW agent

Are government ads distorting media freedom?

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Swapan Dasgupta in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“The national capital boasts a multitude of daily newspapers in different languages. On my part, I subscribe to seven dailies and one is delivered to me free of charge. This Wednesday, which happened to be a public holiday on account of Janmashtami, I perused all eight of these Delhi editions for their advertisement content — the main revenue source for the print media. Four of the eight were entirely dependent on display or tender advertisements of either the government (both Central and state) or public-sector enterprises.

“Only three of the eight dailies had a healthy contribution of private sector advertisements in addition to the ones issued by State bodies. The methodology of assessment may not be entirely scientific, but I think it indicates a growing distortion in the media: their over-dependence on subsidies from the State.

“Expressed more cynically it suggests that there is an increased willingness — perhaps involuntary and triggered by market conditions — to be more accommodative to the concerns of the government. And what is true for the print media is even more applicable to the electronic media, where news-gathering expenses are higher and the operating losses even more significant.”

Infographic: courtesy The Economic Times

Read the full article: A growing distortion

Also read: What sustains our ‘free’ media is government ads

Times, Express get most anniversary ads

How UPA is hitting back at ToI, DNA, Indai Today

Sex, godman & a very hard product placement

asaram

Long years ago, when the divide between church and state was better protected in journalism and the business side had no inkling what was happening on the other side, the editors at Time magazine ran an interview with Mother Teresa with the quote-headline, “I’m just a pencil in the hand of god.”

When the issue came out, much mirth ensued when an advertisement for pencils graced the page opposite the interview.

In the latest issue of India Today magazine, something similar happens. A story on the alleged sexual indiscretions of the godman Asumal Sirumalani alias Asaram Bapu carries an advertisement for “Vacurect“, a “US FDA-approved medical device for men who cannot enjoy with their partner”, on the opposite page.

The tagline for the ad reads: “get the power to play harder”

Also read: How NDTV gives a nice plug for Lenovo

Aaj Tak bites into a nice piece of Barfi

What happens when a monk meets a nun

From: Viveck Goenka. To: Express employees

mr-vivek-goenka-cmd-indian-express-group-with-his-1934-packard-tourer-at-cartier-travel-with-style-preview-photo-18_640x480The following is the full text of the email sent by Indian Express chairman Viveck Goenka, announcing the re-entry of George Varghese into the group as CEO, after editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta relinquished his managerial responsibilities with effect from Krishna Janmashtami:

***

Dear All,

You must have all read Shekhar’s mail of 26th August.

I have always admired Shekhar’s leadership, commitment, acumen and foresight and am proud to say that today, the Express is a lean and efficient company, thriving in a challenging environment. We have created a strong space for ourselves that I now hope to grow.

This is the first of what I hope will be many communications from me to all of you. This one is to introduce to you, George Varghese, whom some of you may remember. He joined the Express very early in his career, where he headed marketing and circulation. He then went on to do stints at Hughes Telecom, Reliance Infocomm and KEC International. I have known him for many years and have admired his energy, thoroughness and professionalism. George will be our new Chief Executive Officer.

All department heads other than editorial and the innovations team will report in to him with immediate effect.

For me, the ideal business model has always been good journalism allied with a robust top and bottom line. I take pride in the fact that this company has never declared a dividend. Whatever money we make goes back into the paper and to the cause of high-quality and empowering journalism.

All of you have worked at the Express with an admirable sense of commitment and purpose and I am sure you will continue to do so.

Consequently, the transition from Shekhar going back to an editorial role will be seamless. Shekhar will continue to shape the public discourse through the pages of The Indian Express and The Financial Express. He is, to my mind, one of the finest editors India has produced. I hired him as our Editor when he was all of 38 years of age and I am proud of the result.

News media is facing a time of enormous change but I believe that this is also a time of enormous possibility, especially with the new audiences the internet brings to our content. While the old certainties may be gone, the values of the Express—integrity, courage and the relentless pursuit of the truth—are immutable. These values and my commitment to the independence of the Express will never change.

With best wishes,

Viveck Goenka

***

Photograph: courtesy Zig Wheels

Also read: Shekhar Gupta gives up his managerial role

To all Express employees. From: Shekhar Gupta

Where was Priyanka Chopra going with Bob?*

There’s many a slip between the cup and the lip in the era of fast-breaking news and even well-equipped organisations like CNN and BBC are not immune from howlers in the “supers”.

On Tuesday, when the Congress president Sonia Gandhi was rushed to hospital, look who was momentarily accompanying her son-in-law Robert Vadra to look her up, in the eyes of Times Now.

* Shameless search engine optimisation techniques at work

Photograph: courtesy Berges, via IQ.

Also read: When AB baby’s cold became hot news

The tenth life of a cat is on the ratings’ chart

‘Media ignores rural rapes, downplays misogyny’

The Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)’s mouthpiece ML Update has an editorial on the gangrape of a young photojournalist in Bombay and the street protests in its aftermath.

According to the Indian Express, ML Update claims the existence of double standards in the media in the treatment of rape, depending on the power and clout of the accused.

“In the case of the Delhi and Mumbai rapes, the accused, based on identification by the survivor, were arrested and charged with rape. But godman Asaram, charged by a minor girl with sexual assault in the custody of his ashram in Jodhpur, is yet to be arrested, 10 days after the complaint…

“The media largely ignores rapes happening in rural India, rapes accompanying caste atrocities and communal violence; or those committed by security forces. The media focuses almost exclusively on some gangrapes, also downplays and even questions the veracity of the daily misogyny and violence faced by women in their ‘normal’ lives…”

Also read: Correction: Indian Army didn’t rape 200,000

How seven cartoonists drew one TOI cartoon

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As part of its dodransbicentennial celebrations, The Times of India has published “a cavalcade of cartoons over 175 years”. Titled “Jest in Time“, it is put together by Ajit Ninan, Neelabh Banerjee and Jug Suraiya.

At its launch in New Delhi on Monday, seven well-known cartoonists—Sudhir Tailang from Deccan Chronicle, Manjul from Daily News and Analysis, Keshav from The Hindu, Jayanto from Hindustan Times and R. Prasad from Mail Today—joined hands to produce a cartoon (in picture, above) on the spot.

Saira Kurup reports on the jugal bandi:

“Keshav set the tone by drawing the new common man forced to tighten his belt in difficult times. Tailang followed with an illustration showing P.V. Narasimha Rao giving his ‘student’ PM Manmohan Singh a poor report card. Manjul’s version of the common man was one who doesn’t speak but tweets instead!

“Jayanta then drew the laughs by drawing a neta with a loudspeaker as his head “because netas are not doing what they are supposed to; they just keep shouting!” To audience applause, Ninan put the artwork in context by sketching Parliament, and Banerjee gave the final touch by showing the common man holding up the House on his shoulders.”

Image: courtesy The Times of India

Shekhar Gupta gives up charge as Express CEO

Below is the full text of the “global” email shot off by Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta on Monday, August 26, in which he formally announces his decision to relinquish his managerial functions at the newspaper group.

***

Dear All,

Looking at the flurry of communication from me over the past few weeks, mainly on corporate and business issues, some of you may have wondered what was going on. This is particularly because it hasn’t been my method to write “dear all” mails often.

Or, more likely, that I am too lazy to be doing so.

Those of you in the New Delhi newsroom know this well, since you see me pacing up and down every Friday evening, wrestling with those 1200 words for National Interest, and in the dread of delaying City-I once again.

So here is the story.

This series of mails was by way of completing a great deal of unfinished business. All of you know what a procrastinator I am. So everything that can be put off till the last moment, is put off. Or, as we like to say in cliched journalism, put on the backburner. Until a deadline takes away the excuses.

The deadline we had given ourselves was end of August (and on a personal note, August 26, my 56th birthday). And both ways we are getting there now. Hence, this note.

***

As you may have seen from my earlier communication, as also the buzz in the market, our company is now in an unprecedentedly robust shape.

We have already had six stellar quarters and, on all evidence as I track revenue figures for this month and the projections for September, are heading for an even better seventh. Businesses have to now work in this brutal QSQT (Quarter-se-Quarter-Tak) environment. And it is a truly brilliant achievement on the part of our various teams given the mayhem in media markets.

We are today acknowledged to be one of the soundest news media companies within-our-size category. And no, we never do paid news, or stretch any of the First Principles of Journalism.

Never.

The truth is, it is overly simplistic to say, that we have a Chinese wall between marketing and editorial. We have never needed one. Because it is our colleagues in sales and marketing who have protected our editorial integrity with as much zeal and commitment as us journalists.

And yet, we have built such a fine company. It vindicates our belief, our founder’s and our CMD Viveck Goenka‘s, that there is no contradiction between good journalism and the market.

This is why, I believe, and can say with great satisfaction, that my job on the corporate side is now done.

***

It was in an unusual set of circumstances, and at a critical juncture in the history of our company, that Viveck had asked me to take over the additional responsibility of overseeing the management.

Those unusual circumstances, or any sense of imminent crisis, no longer exist.

From those perilous years, the company has now been nursed into great health.

Credit for this goes to all of you, but most of all to Viveck.

My profound gratitude is also owed to him for placing his trust in me to handle a responsibility I had no skills or training for. It is a perfect time, therefore, for me, to hand over a flourishing company back to Viveck, now that he has the time to take over the management.

And since you can always trust him to pick the most auspicious day in the calendar, he has chosen, for the new arrangement, August 28, Janmashtami.

***

We will share more details with you in the course of time. I am pleased to also inform you, meanwhile, about the return of another Express Group veteran, George Varghese, as the Company’s CEO, to assist Viveck who will be fully hands-on.

Given where the company has reached now, I believe that we need a more structured and formally organized corporate leadership to build on the wonderful platform all of you have created. That is precisely what we will get now. George is a wonderful professional and old-timers among us remember him fondly.

Please join me in wishing him, and Viveck well.

Since I am a story-teller by profession, though, I can’t help but tell you one here. When Viveck asked me to take over this additional charge one winter afternoon, I was petrified. I did not even know debit from credit and thought an RO, our daily bread-giving advertisement Release Order, was some water purifying system.

So I excused myself for a minute, went outside, and called T.N. Ninan, my friend and former editor whose counsel I have sometimes sought with such dilemmas and who has himself done a fine job of balancing edit and business leadership.

He gave me a bunch of quick suggestions and then concluded, in his usual grave tone: but be careful so-and-so…people should not say that a journalist took over a publishing business and made a mess of it.

If I have no such concerns now, it is entirely because of the motivation, talent, commitment and trust that all of you have shown, often surprising even the thick-skinned me with your resilience and optimism.

***

A couple more thoughts. Besides a consistently decent bottomline, we had also set ourselves stiff targets on improving our working conditions, technologies and, of course, compensations. All of you have contributed to turning into reality what had then looked like an impossibility.

We routinely have media websites wondering how we manage to have such nice offices and pay ourselves so well.

Our answer: go check our balance sheets. So thank you all once again for so energetically putting your shoulder to the wheel, even overlooking the unusual fact that I was such a novice to business. And nor did I carry a corporate title, or any title other than the old-fashioned Group Editor-In-Chief.

Which is how I will be working full-time henceforth. Besides all editorial teams (except Loksatta), our tiny but super-productive brand, innovation, archive and CSR teams will continue working with me. I also hope to be able to find more time to build EXIMS, our media school, which is a labour of love.

I will soon be speaking with the team heads individually and answering any questions they might have. I will be fully helping out with transition on the corporate side. Meanwhile, please make sure nothing falls between the cracks. We must maintain total continuity.

If confused, send communication, clearances etc to me with copy to Kumar Gyanam and we will either give you the answers, or be good postmen and redirect you to the correct addressees.

Yet again, before I sign off for the day, thanks and all the best. In any case, I am always around, and accessible and just as chaotically so — as before.

Shekhar Gupta

Editor-in-Chief

Photograph: courtesy Impact

Also read: To all Express employees, from the editor

How journalism helped a cartoonist as author

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Author and playwright Manjula Padmanabhan, who created Suki, a female cartoon character for the now-defunct Sunday Observer, has a new book out, Three Virgins and Other Stories.

In an interview in Mint, she is asked:

What effect has your life as a journalist had on your fiction?

My early training to be a journalist powerfully shaped the way I look at reality and then bend it towards an idea I want to follow. I know what it’s like to write a news story—presenting facts in a coherent and readable manner—but I far prefer to open up existing boxes of facts to speculations about their contents. Does that make sense? Being a journalist gave me the tools with which to write fiction more effectively (or so I imagine) than I felt I could write non-fiction.

Among the stories in Padmanabhan’s book is on a TV journalist “Basra Dott” who vows to fight for her cause before matters take a deadly turn.

Read the full interview:

If the Press Trust of India (PTI) had a newspaper

All manner of media enterprises take flight in the run-up to an election and this, here, is the front page of volume 1, issue 1 of Dynamic Times, “India’s national weekly newspaper” as its tagline affirms.

All 132 stories in the 24-page broadsheet published from New Delhi are sourced from the news agency Press Trust of India (PTI). The editor is F. Sameudeen.