Monthly Archives: January 2014

Ex-journo who lords over a Rs 3,000 crore empire

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Mail Today, the tabloid daily from the India Today group, reports today on Ravindra Kishore Sinha, the Patna businessman worth Rs 3,000 crore who is about to gain entry into India’s most exclusive club, the Rajya Sabha, courtesy the BJP.

Sinha, who runs a security firm called SIS, has declared his net assets at Rs 564 crore, while his spouse has declared Rs 230 crore.

“A self-made man, the 62-year-old leader started his career as a trainee journalist with The Searchlight and Pradeep (now defunct) dailies in Patna in 1971. He quit his job in 1974.

“In the course of his job, he was assigned to cover the Bangladesh war, where he came in contact with some army men who inspired him to set up his maiden entrepreneurial venture, SIS, for the ex-servicemen.

“With a paltry sum of Rs 250, Sinha launched his business and went on to script the proverbial rags-to-riches tale with his sharp business acumen.”

For the record, The Searchlight, which was launched by a group of luminaries led by Syed Hasan Imam, built its reputation as an “anti-colonial newspaper“.

Its first editor was a Muslim, Syed Haidar Husain, and its rolls later boasted of such stellar names as T.J.S. George, who later founded Asiaweek magazine in Hong Kong.

The paper was published from 1918 to 1986, before it was subsumed by the Birla-owned Hindustan Times. India’s first President, Dr Rajendra Prasad, was a founder-director of The Searchlight.

Photograph: courtesy Mail Today

Read the full report: India’s richest MP

Also read: Forbes can now name India’s second richest woman

12 media barons worth Rs 2,962, 530,000,000

Is ‘corrupt, corporate media’ scared of AAP?

After hailing the Aam Aadmi Party’s breathtaking rise to power, in fact after paving the way for it with its somewhat uncritical coverage in its Team Anna avatar, much of the mainstream turned against Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal after he sat on a protest at a public square this week.

In fact, The Times of India, which led the wide-eyed gee-whiz coverage initially, felt duty-bound to run a comically self-important front-page clarification, explaining the sudden change in the tone, tenor and texture of its coverage.

Why, asks Vikram Muthanna, managing editor of the evening newspaper Star of Mysore. Is it because the media has too many skeletons to hide?

“The details of the Delhi incident of course were made murkier and louder by now what seems like an anti-AAP media.

“The same media which went hyper and showed us doctored tapes of AAP reportedly accepting cash, which some say cost Shazia Ilmi of AAP her seat, who lost by just 326 votes. But then once it was proved the tapes were doctored the raw footage was never shown.

“The man who made it, earlier was given ample screen, but was never brought back to be grilled. In the Delhi incident a media that gets a sound byte from all and sundry did not get too many residents’ opinions. There was also no clarity and consistency in reports, why?

“So while the media says the AAP Minister Somnath Bharti has brought bad name to India internationally, maybe selective journalism did too?

“The same media just before the elections said AAP will not get more than 6 to 10 seats, in a way encouraging voters not to waste their vote and stick with the winning horse, the BJP, only to be proved wrong.

“Is the Corporate owned media with other varied interests suddenly scared that too much anti-corruption may come knocking on their own doors or are they trying to play ball with BJP who is sure to win many more seats than any other party right now?”

Read the full piece: If AAP is anarchist, how about BJP?

Also read: How The Times of India pumped up Team Anna

Mukesh Ambani ‘sues’ TV channels on Kejriwal

Arvind Kejriwal taunts Mukesh Ambani on sue threat

Should the media too come under Lok Pal?

Is The Indian Express now a pro-establishment newspaper?

Hindu Business Line redesigned by Aurobind Patel

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In its 20th year of publication, Business Line, the business daily from The Hindu stable, has gone in for a relaunch, accompanied by a redesign.

In the image above are the front pages of the paper the day before (left) the new design (right) was unveiled on Thursday, January 23.

Writes BL editor Mukund Padmanabhan in the first issue of the relaunched paper:

“The new look, created by one of the country’s finest designers, Aurobind Patel, achieves the extremely difficult task of showcasing content without screaming or attention-grabbing gimmickry.

“Starting with the careful selection of fonts and the colour palette, attention has been paid to the smallest detail to give you a design that is exquisite in its simplicity and its elegance. The effort has been to resolve the traditional conflict between content and design by fusing them into an integrated and harmonious whole.”

For the record, Aurobind Patel designed the original India Today and was design director of The Economist, London, before returning to India. He redesigned the Economic & Political Weekly (EPW) two years ago.

The earlier Business Line was designed by Mario Garcia.

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Also readAnother 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 redesign was a mishmash, an eyesore’

When a mainstream newspaper debates ‘caste’

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Do caste experiences and untouchability really exist in India, particularly in urban and middle-class India?

The answer depends on who you ask although the usual newsroom tendency is to turn the nose away.

So, how do we find out beyond what we think we know?

In the first half of 2013, the mass-circulated Kannada newspaper Praja Vani, from the Bangalore-based Deccan Herald group, devoted its op-ed page to address the issue.

Christened Jathi Samvada, every Monday the op-ed page was anchored by two scholars: Prof Gopal Guru of the centre for political studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, and Prof Sundar Sarukkai of the Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities.

Every week, for 24 weeks, the professors wrote and edited articles on caste and posed questions on various themes for public responses. The two scholars report their findings in the latest issue of Economic & Political Weekly (EPW) and why they took up the project:

“One, we felt that there was a continued disconnect between academic writing on caste and society, and popular narratives around it.

“Reading news reports on caste or watching the news reportage on issues related to caste might make one believe that there has really been no serious intellectual reflection on the dynamics of caste.

“The public discourse on caste in these mediums ignores the rich sociological literature on this topic.

“An objective was to bring this sociological literature to the attention of the readers, thereby doing two things: one, expose the readers to these theories and empirical results which might then have some impact on the naïve beliefs about caste and, two, make the readers challenge these theories about caste from the perspective of their own caste experiences.”

For the record, on the birthday of the Constitution maker B.R. Ambedkar in April 2012, the entire issue of Praja Vani was guest-edited by the noted Dalit poet Devanoor Mahadeva.

Read the full article: Publicly talking about caste

Visit the Praja Vani archives: Jathi Samvada

Image: courtesy Barefoot Philosophers

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Also read: Loksatta‘s ad without SRK, MSD or AB

Anybody here who’s Dalit and speaks English?

6 pages for Ambedkar; 393 pages for the family

‘Our media only bothers about elite, middle-class’

Do we need quotas in the media?

Is Vijaya Karnataka ready for a Dalit editor?

When a fine magazine shuts down, it is news

After 15 years of publication, Housecalls, the first-class bimonthly magazine published by the Hyderabad-based Dr Reddy‘s Laboratories, is shutting shop this year.

In her editorial in the penultimate January-February issue, its editor pens a touching lament for the printed word—and the sanity that comes with it.

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By RATNA RAO SHEKAR

Increasingly these days, we are surrounded by a cacophony of soundbites and instant news.

It is not just I, but several people I know who cannot bear to watch prime time news. And this is mostly because well known anchors by the sheer force of their voice not only thrust their judgements on us but kill every other opinion ruthlessly, even if they come from respected citizens.

Our print media is no better in its over-indulgence of socialites and celebrities who air their views on everything from fiscal deficit to fashion trends (with the same élan), which are carried along with photographs that are bigger than their opinions.

Gone are the days of independent journalism when we opened the day’s papers to read the sane and sober reflections of a Chalapati Rau, a C.R. Irani or a Kuldip Nayar.

These days, when media ownership itself is suspect, funded as it is either by a business or a political group, we do not get the kind of objective and unbiased views we could fall back on in the past.

Sadly, as many of us have come to realise, even news can be bought, and you can get column inch space in proportion to the cheques you are willing to write for the media house.

How skewed the vision of both television and print media are, can be seen from the way they have recently been going on ad nauseam about celebrity sexual assaults, a high profile murder and the retirement of a cricketer.

This in the election year, when they ought to be focusing on the other India where there are rapes and murders of young girls on a routine basis! But these are not sensational enough for the mainstream media to take up so these stories are not discussed or dissected.

Added to this cacophony of half truths and dishonest opinions, we have the unrestrained chatter on the social media.

In the absence of any self-censorship, or editors who are in effect gatekeepers (and not just people who draw big salaries), the social media for all its freedom is a far from perfect way of receiving news.

In fact, there is such a slew of one-sided opinions, even hatred by certain right wing groups, that many want to shut their Twitter and Facebook accounts and move on.

More than ever in these times we need unbiased and nuanced writing that helps us in formulating independent opinions.

We need the resurrection of the common sense gene.

For this, certainly, we don’t need television news that numbs our senses so hopelessly that we begin to believe in a truth as given to us by CNN-IBN, or NDTV. We are ready to lynch or take out a candlelight march all based on the opinions of newscasters.

I have pointless arguments with people who believe that books, magazines and in fact writers themselves are dead, or should be dead. I say pointless, because in this intolerant world where there’s both sound and fury, we need the insight and wisdom offered to us in a good book or in a good essay.

We need the repose of the printed word.

We need to feel the heart of writers, and beauty of their ideas.

We need time to sit back and reflect.

Now, more than ever, we need the independent voice of a magazine like Housecalls which despite being supported by a pharma company was never about the sponsor or their viewpoints.

Nor were the articles Googled as is common nowadays.

Rather they were  written with integrity by writers who travelled the breadth of this country, often at a risk to their lives, looking for the good story to tell.

Since the last issue, we have been deluged by letters from distressed doctors and readers asking us why Housecalls is closing down, and if there was any way they could contribute.

I am not sure how they can help us, but am touched by the letters and feel vindicated that we were on the right track with the magazine – that what we had to say mattered and made a difference.

Now more than ever I believe in Housecalls.

Just as I do of the printed word.

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The loud and noisy Punjab-ification of India