Monthly Archives: October 2013

‘Media’s Modi-fixation needs medical attention’

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The relationship between Gujarat chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi and the media, especially “English maedia” as he puts it, has followed two distinct trends over the last ten years.

The first trend was of unbridled distrust on either side. Modi had nothing but contempt for those who sought to buttonhole him on the ghastly incidents of 2002. He walked out of TV interviews or stared blankly at interviewers who reminded him of his role, if any. Ours was not to question.

The media, not surprisingly, responded with circumspection bordering on suspicion.

The second trend emerged in the run-up to the 2012 assembly elections in Gujarat, which Modi used as his launchpad, first to become the chairman of the BJP campaign committee and thereafter as the BJP’s self-proclaimed “prime ministerial candidate”. Suddenly, influential sections of the media were eating out of his hands.

International news agencies were getting soft-ball interviews, top journalists were asking if there was a middle-ground; media groups with corporate backing host tailor-made conferences; friendly newspapers were getting 16-page advertising supplements; “bureau chiefs” were finding stories that showed Modi’s detractors in poor light.

Why, the coverage of Modi seems to have been a key editorial driver in the recent change of guard at The Hindu, and—pinch yourself—Modi was launching an edition of Hindu Business Line.

The key player in the turnaround of the Modi-media relationship, however, has been television, which has unabashedly been used and turned into a soapbox for advertising the latest detergent from the land of Nirma that promises to wipe Indian democracy clean.

To the exclusion of all else.

As Modi—decidedly more macho, muscular, articulate and telegenic than the Congress’s Rahul Gandhi—drives his brandwagon around the country, most news TV channels have dropped any pretence of trying to stay non-partisan, covering every speech or parts of it, conducting opinion polls, setting up nightly contests, etc, as if the end of the world is nigh.

All this, of course, is before the Election Commission’s model code kicks in.

In the Indian Express, Shailaja Bajpai asks an important question: has the time has come to consider “equal coverage”—where all players, not just Modi and Rahul but even leaders of smaller parties get equal space and time—so that the field is not unduly distorted?

“Countries such as the United States try to follow the idea of equal coverage especially in the run-up to an election — and especially after a politician is declared as the official candidate, as Modi has been.

“Recently, the Republicans threatened that TV channels, NBC and CNN, would not be allowed to telecast the party’s next presidential debates because NBC had planned a TV series and CNN a documentary about Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“Indian news channels don’t let minor matters like equality trouble them. They’re obsessed with the man, to the point that Modi-fixation has become a clinical condition which may soon require treatment.”

Read the full story: The chosen one

Photograph: courtesy NewsX

Also read: Is Modi media biased against Rahul Gandhi?

How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feast, a promo’

For cash-struck TV, Modi is effective  TRP

”The Hindu’ situation had become irremediable’

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The “professional” editor may have been eased out by redesignating him; the services of the “professional” CEO may have been summarily terminated; and the front page of the paper may have returned to its past.

But The Hindu saga is not over yet.

After six board members on the 11-member board of Kasturi & Sons (K. Balaji, K. Venugopal, Ramesh Rangarajan, Lakshmi Srinath, Vijaya Arun and Akhila Vijay Iyengar) wrote to the other five against the removal of Siddharth Varadarajan and Arun Anant, the chairman of the board N. Ram has responded in kind through a seven-page response, with the operative paragraphs on pages 3 and 4.

“The discussions on the performance of Mr Siddharth Varadarajan as Editor of The Hindu was in fact a continuation of the discussions in the Board meeting held on August 20, 2013 as reflected clearly in the minutes of the meeting approved unanimously at the meeting on October 21, 2013. Not a single Director had any words of praise for or defence of his performance. Mr Siddharth Varadarajan had been informed in detail by me as Chairman of the previous meeting Board meeting of the view of the Board and some Directors had raised such issues with him periodically. Mr N. Murali, Mr. N. Ravi, Ms Malini Parthasarathy, and I referred to many instances of gross and continued violation of the binding Code of Editorial Values in terms of editorialising in the guise of news coverage, unfair and exaggerated reporting, banning or downplaying coverage of certain personalities with personal preference and prejudice, overriding professional news judgement, unsatisfactory coverage in the in main Chennai market, frequent absences from Chennai, and inadequate time and commitment to the overall task of editing the newspaper. Some of you wanted these issues address with Mr Siddharth Varadarajan. I pointed out that these issues had been taken up with him repeatedly to no effect and Mr. N Ravi expressed the view that the situation had become irremediable.

“Mr. K. Venugopal made the suggestion at the meeting that the Board should vote on reposing confidence in the then CEO and the erstwhile business and editorial arrangement. I then put the following resolution to vote: “Resolved that the present structure be retained”. Mr K. Venugopal declared that he was voting for his resolution and five others voted in favour. As rightly noted in your letter, six Directors opposed the resolution and the motion consequently failed in the absence of a sufficient majority. It was therefore evident that the erstwhile management structure had become untenable and the Company could not continue to repose trust and confidence in the then Editor and the then CEO. Of necessity and solely with a view to preventing the newspaper’s activities from coming to a grinding half, the managerial supervision of the business and editorial affairs of the Company had perforce to be reorganised.

“It was in this vacuum that I circulated the draft of a resolution of the new structure and allowed the Directors time to go through it before starting discussions on it. The main elements of the proposed structure had been discussed repeatedly in Board meetings as well as outside. Thereafter, discussions on the proposed structure followed with some Directors expressing support and others expressing opposition to it. When the draft resolution assigning that I, in my capacity as Chairman, out of necessity and in the interest of the Company, exercised my casting vote to approve the resolution. Failing this, not only would an unacceptable crisis have arisen in leadership but the very citadel of the newspaper built over more than a century would have been grievously threatened. Such a situation would certainly have been exploited by the Company’s competitors to the obvious disadvantage of the newspaper’s loyal readers. Consequently, the management of the Company who undoubtedly have tremendous experience and credentials in this regard….”

Also read: In family-owned paper, only furniture is fixed

The Hindu issue is more complex than you think’

Hindu‘ family chucks out ‘professional’ redesign

‘Anchoring news is easier than acting in a movie’

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A number of male news journalists (Sashi Kumar, Prakash Belawadi, Dibang, Ravi Belagere) have slapped on greasepaint for roles in front of the camera in recent times.

At least one Telugu anchor (Udaya Bhanu) has starred in an item number.

Now, Sheethal Shetty, the peppy newsreader and presenter on the Kannada news channel TV9, is featuring in a lead role in a “Sandalwood” movie titled Ulidavaru Kandante (Kannada for, as viewed by survivors/witnesses).

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Shetty who has a sizeable following on Facebook, plays the role of a journalist who convinces her boss to do a story involving her childhood friends who are upto no good.

She talks to That’s Kannada.com on the difference between her two worlds.

“Anchoring is easier than acting. Everything is “live” in a news environment—the bulletins, breaking news. You adapt to the developing situation and generally find your way. In a movie, on the other hand you have to do just what the director says. We need to meld ourselves with the role….

“I used to spend 10-11 hours a day in a news studio. Food, sleep were secondary. I used to wonder what was the road ahead. I wouldn’t get time for anything. Now having stepped out, I want to learn some music and pay some attention to my health and fitness. I have even started a blog to do some writing.”

Shetty is the second TV9 Kannada anchor to step into cinema. Ranganath Bharadwaj had preceded her before he returned to news at Suvarna News 24×7.

Also read: Prakash Belawadi: Bangalore reporter who became ‘RAW agent’

For Sashi Kumar, acting is second string in bow

Karnataka gets an acting chief minister in Ravi Belagere

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

Why do academics look down on journalists?

Renuka Narayanan makes a case for journalism in the Hindustan Times:

“There is that palpable feeling that the profession of journalism is not always given its due by academics, administrators and those with professional degrees, as though their jobs are more foundational to the race.

“Is it not correct however that many tenets and rules of the law spring from religion, which itself springs from story – call it journalism or fiction, according to your view – from the fact that ‘once upon a time’ somebody or the other said “It happened this way…”?

“Communities, societies and nations, the quotidian lives of millions and the politics of any number of countries are based on and governed by what those long-ago journalists, writers, editors, compilers, translators and pamphleteers put out in their time into the public domain.”

Read the full story: Possibly the strongest relationship on earth

Also read: Congratulations, we have the worst job on earth

A happy new year to all you psychopaths!

The ten worst jobs on earth

Eight reasons journalism is best profession

TOI impact? HT restores cryptic crossword!

When The Times of India took the long ladder down in the late 1990s, among the things its brand managers knocked out was the cryptic crossword with barely a squeak from readers, editors (and TOI receptionists!) who had grown up on it.

No such luck with the Hindustan Times.

The paper may have long buried its reputation as “the only English newspaper written in Punjabi”, but its decision to do away with the cryptic crossword that it reprinted from The Times, London, as part of a redesign, was met with a volley of criticism, including from TOI‘s non-resident jughead.

And, presto, about the only activity that (thankfully) can’t be crowd-sourced is back—with a front-page announcement of its return.

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Quiz question: Who was the editor who set the crossword for the now-defunct The Illustrated Weekly of India?

Hint: He is also a cricket buff and a music buff.

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Also read: Why Jug Suraiya doesn’t buy Hindustan Times

Manu Joseph: magazine editor once set crossword puzzles

‘Hindu family’ chucks out ‘professional’ redesign

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Four days after The Hindu board summarily decided to pause its ongoing “professionalisation” process, the Mount Road Mahavishnu has reverted to its previous design, as promised by chairman N. Ram in a tweet (below).

On the left (top) is the October 21 issue, the last with Varadarajan at the helm, and on the right is the October 24 issue with editor-in-chief N. Ravi back in the editorial saddle.

Very little of Deepak Harichandan‘s “chic new design” is left in the new “old” paper, which was designed by India’s favourite Spanish designer, Mario Garcia after Ram’s return as editor.

The banner-panels are gone; the story slugs are gone; the “Short Takes” on the left have shifted to the right as “Briefly”; the font of the lead story is back to the past; the emblematic blue colour for story jumps gives way to beige, etc.

Only the tagline “India’s National Newspaper since 1878” remains, although its colour too has changed from blue to red.

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deepak Like all redesigns, Harichandan’s visualisation for The Hindu—a “pastiche‘ of The Times of India and The New Indian Express, where he had worked—had its fans and foes, amongst journalists within The Hindu and, more importantly, readers.

While the younger lot said it was the way to go if it had to catch up with the times, the “old school” squirmed at design taking precedence over text, while older readers complained of how difficult it was to navigate through the paper and virtually impossible to read the graphics.

Photograph: courtesy newspaper design

Also read: The great grandmother of all newspaper battles

Another boiler-plate redesign from Mario Garcia

Good heavens, another Mario Garcia redesign

Yet another paper redesigned by Mario Garcia

How come Mario Garcia didn’t redesign this one?

Finally, a redesign not done by Mario Garcia

‘The Hindu’ issue more complex than you think’

Predictably, the “private” TV news channels do not have too much on the resignation of Siddharth Varadarajan as editor and removal of Arun Anant as CEO of The Hindu after the family-owned newspaper decided to restore status quo ante on Monday.

Newspaper reports have been sketchy and superficial, and web interviews and Twitter feeds of the various players involved have only given a one-sided, black or white view of the Mount Road Mahavishnu‘s brief flirtation with professionals.

A Rajya Sabha Television (RSTV) panel discussion, featuring S. Nihal Singh, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Rahul Dev and Dilip Cherian suggests the “family vs professionals” issue is more complex and layered than we think.

Also read: In a family-owned paper, only furniture is fixed

In a family-owned paper, only furniture is fixed

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Nothing is what it appears to be in the thicker-than-water but funnier-than-fill-your-metaphor-here world of family-owned newspapers.

Siddharth Varadarajan, installed as editor of The Hindu in a G.Kasturi-N.Ram putsch in 2011, ostensibly to professionalise the paper but allegedly to prevent Malini Parthasarathy from ascending the throne, has resigned dramatically via a Twitter announcement.

“With The Hindu‘s owners deciding to revert to being a family run and edited newspaper, I am resigning from The Hindu with immediate effect.”

The resignation came after a meeting of the board of Kasturi & Sons removed Arun Anant as CEO, and redesignated editor Varadarajan as “Contributing Editor and Senior Columnist”.

Only two days ago, on 19 October 2013, the well-regarded Varadarajan had posted a picture of his renovated office in Madras, in what seemed likely a preparation for the long haul.

At 3.40 pm, roughly two hours before Varadarajan announced his decision to quit, the Janata Party-turned-BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, whose petition on Varadarajan, an American passport holder, helming a newspaper is hanging fire, tweeted:

“Will US citizen turned Naxal survive as editor. Just read Company law which states even NRI editor is FDI for a newspaper.”

The reactions were mixed.

Siddharth’s elder brother, former Newsweek International editor Tunku Varadarajan, who called thambithe best journalist in India” in a recent magazine interview, tweeted on his brother’s exit:

“The only decent editor The Hindu has had in nearly a decade has been ousted in a squalid boardroom putsch. Hey Ram!”

In contrast, Anant Goenka, the scion of the family-owned Indian Express, tweeted:

“Happy the family seems to be sorting their issues out—stability at The Hindu, especially before elections, will benefit India.”

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A statement put out by N. Ram, who was appointed chairman of Kasturi & Sons Limited at Monday’s board meeting, read:

N. Ravi has taken over as Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, and Malini Parthasarathy as Editor of The Hindu. Arun Anant is no longer the Chief Executive Officer of Kasturi & Sons Limited, the company that owns and publishes The Hindu Group of publications. N. Ram has become Chairman of KSL and Publisher of The Hindu and Group publications; and N. Murali, Co-Chairman of the company. These decisions were taken by the Board of Directors of the Company at its meeting on Monday.

“In consequence, Siddharth Varadarajan, who was made Contributing Editor and Senior Columnist, The Hindu, has submitted his resignation.

“The Board also decided to allocate specific responsibilities to other Directors.

“The decision to make deep-going changes was made chiefly on the ground that there were recurrent violations and defiance of the framework of the institution’s longstanding values on the business side, and recurrent violations and defiance of ‘Living Our Values’, the mandatory Code of Editorial Values applicable to The Hindu. The whole effort is to restore employee morale, good industrial relations, and the trust of this newspaper’s more than two million readers.

“The existing editorial arrangements for Business Line, Frontline, Sportstar, and The Hindu (Tamil) will continue unchanged and the process of professionalisation, now involving a mix of shareholder-Directors and other professionals, will continue.

“The 135-year-old institution reaffirms its commitment to its core editorial and business values, and excellence in journalism.”

Below are the facsimiles of the board resolution:

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For the record, G. Kasturi, who played a pivotal role in the last round of blood-letting in the paper (several members of the family including N. Ram’s brothers N. Murali and N. Ravi, and cousins Malini Parathasarathy and Nirmala Lakshman resigned at Varadarajan’s appointment), passed away in September 2012.

At the time of quitting, Malini Parathasarathy (who now runs The Hindu centre for policy and public policy) had tweeted:

Siddharth [Varadarajan] far junior to me appointed as Editor makes it untenable to continue“… “Tremendous family jealousy and misogyny

Kasturi’s sons—K. Balaji and K. Venugopal—have, among others, reportedly put on record their opposition to the latest changes.

Also, for the record, the Bangalore-based family-owned newspapers Deccan Herald and Praja Vani have seen a similar rearrangement of the editor, depending on board-room dynamics, but all within the family.

First, the eldest of the three brothers K.N. Hari Kumar was ousted as editor after his younger brothers K.N. Tilak Kumar and K.N. Shanth Kumar joined hands. Then the first and second joined hands to remove the third. Eventually, the second and the third joined hands to restore status quo ante.

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Photograph: via Facebook

Also read: N. Murali: Hindu is run like a banana republic

N. Ravi: Why I quit The Hindu

Malini Parathsarathy: Why I quit The Hindu

Nirmala Lakshman: Why I quit The Hindu

The ex-journo who cast ‘Shah Rukh’ in a film

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Former print and TV journalist Janaki Vishwanathan, whose first Hindi film Bakrapur has a goat named Shah Rukh, in an interview to Tehelka magazine:

What draws you to your topics — child labour and devdasis?

My training as a journalist made me pick on something that has a basis in reality. Also, I ceased to see cinema as just entertainment. It’s more than that. It can entertain but also inform. Even in mainstream cinema, the issues that these films talk about come from society. It’s the treatment that dilutes the issues for entertainment.

Photograph: via Twitter

Read the full interview: Janaki Vishwanathan

Also read: How a BVB course shaped writr Shashi Deshpande

How journalism helped cartoonist Manjula Padmanabhan

Prakash Belawadi: Bangalore reporter who became ‘RAW agent’

For Sashi Kumar, acting is second string in bow

Karnataka gets an acting chief minister in Ravi Belagere

Why Jug Suraiya doesn’t buy Hindustan Times

There are many reasons why people buy newspapers (and inshallah, newsmagazines).

To be part of the shared conversation; to get an organised view of the world; to keep up with the Joneses; to get news and views and ads; to be educated and engaged and entertained.

Jug Suraiya throws light on another reason in The Times of India:

“After subscribing to it, along with the TOI, for many years, I recently stopped getting the HT newspaper. While it’s a good enough paper otherwise, the main reason I used to get the HT was for its cryptic crossword.

Bunny and I have been crossword addicts for many years, and we got the HT for its cryptic puzzle – a feature which for reasons best known to itself the TOI lacks.

“When HT stopped carrying its cryptic crossword – which it took from The Times, London – Bunny and I stopped taking the paper. We now print out the online Guardian puzzle every day.

“But the discontinuation of the HT has left a small gap, an absence, in my mornings. While before I had two papers to read in the mornings, now I have just the TOI.”

Read the full article: Used to it