Monthly Archives: December 2014

A legend who told MLAs where to get off: RIP

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sans serif records the demise of S. Balasubramanian, the chairman of the Tamil weekly Ananda Vikatan—who also served as its editor, managing director and publisher for 50 years—in Madras on Friday, December 19. He was 78.

Mr Balasubramanian hit the national headlines in 1987 when he was sentenced, arrested and jailed for refusing to apologise for a cartoon published on the cover of the magazine, which Tamil Nadu’s legislators deemed a “breach of privilege“.

“He was released in two days after protests erupted all over the country but our editor was not satisfied with that. He filed a lawsuit against his wrongful arrest, asked for token compensation and won his case,” cartoonist Madhan, who served as joint editor of the Vikatan group, said.

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A photo frame featuring the scanned image of a cheque for the compensation amount, two 500-rupee notes and two paper cuttings hung like a trophy on a wall behind his chair.

Pioneer of a student-journalism programme long before “newspapers in education” became famous, Mr Balasubramanian also was famous for not allowing tobacco advertisements in his mass-circulation publications.

Ananda Vikatan was founded by Mr Balasubramanian’s father, S.S. Vasan, who founded Gemini studios. Although arrested under the M.G. Ramachandran regime, Mr Balasubramanian had produced an MGR film called Sirithu Vazha Vendum (live life smiling).

Photographs: courtesy The Hindu

‘Deccan Chronicle’ says TOI is stealing its ads!

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Nothing is impossible in the merry world of Indian journalism.

Big newspapers (and magazines) flick stories from small ones without as much as acknowledgement. Big TV stations conduct whole debates on issues first flagged by newspapers (and magazines) without so much as a by-your-leave.

But at least there’s a word for it: plagiarism. What’s the equivalent in advertising?

In a first, the embattled Hyderabad newspaper Deccan Chronicle has accused The Times of India of stealing its “classified advertisements” and passing them off as its own.

Deccan Chronicle says between January 2013 and June 2013, nearly 1,000 such classifieds which first appeared in DC also appeared in ToI.

DC now has filed a criminal complaint against ToI.

For the record, Deccan Chronicle has been under attack from ToI in the Hyderabad market for the financial sins of its promoter, T. Venkatram Reddy.

Also, for the record, Hyderabad is the one city where ToI has not managed to make great headway. After 14 years of publication, one recent issue of the newspaper in September had 16 in-house advertisements.

Read the full story: TOI-ing with readers

When salary isn’t commensurate with circulation

The latest issue of Caravan magazine has more than just the story of former Indian Express editor-in-chief, Shekhar Gupta.

There is a fine profile of Eenadu bossman Ramoji Rao, and there are interesting numbers in a data analysis of the big newspapers by howindialives.com.

One of the charts (above) in the latter story is how the country’s biggest, most profitable media house—Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd—pays its staff.

The numbers show how, of the 81 employees whose 2014 salaries were disclosed to the ministry of corporate affairs by BCCL, only nine of them were of editorial staffers, all the rest being on the business side of the group.

“Even without including the salaries of the group’s proprietors, the Jain family—Samir Jain and Vineet Jain, their mother Indu Jain, Samir’s daughter Trishla Jain and her husband Satyan Gajwani—business salaries still constituted 89.5 per cent of this part of the payroll.”

Through the Shekhar Gupta profile, we learn that The Times of India‘s editorial director JaideepJojoBose earns under Rs 2 crore a year and the paper’s outgoing CEO Ravi Dhariwal earns about Rs 6 crore.

Shekhar Gupta as the CEO and editor-in-chief of The Indian Express earned more than JoJo and Dhariwal put together: over Rs 9 crore per annum.

Asked by Krishn Kaushik, the author of the Caravan profile, Shekhar Gupta says:

“Maybe you have to blame my employers for being too generous. [I decide the salaries of my subordinates] but someone else decides my salary. I work on that basis. And whoever decides has to make a calculation on what he’s getting, and if he’s being overly generous then it’s a question for him, not me. My job is to earn money, work as hard as I can and pay taxes.”

For the record, The Indian Express claimed a 2013 circulation of 400,000 copies before the Registrar of Newspapers in India (RNI) and TOI declared over 4,700,000 copies.

Also read: 18 factoids from Caravan profile of Shekhar Gupta

18 factoids in ‘Caravan’ profile of Shekhar Gupta

shekhar The December “media issue” of Caravan magazine has a 20-page profile of former Indian Express editor-in-chief and shortlived India Today editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta.

Authored by Krishn Kaushik, the profile is titled “Capital Reporter”, with the strapline “How profit and principle shaped the journalism of Shekhar Gupta”.

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# The son of a minor bureaucrat from Haryana, Shekhar Gupta‘s annual salary at The Indian Express sometimes exceeded Rs 10 crore ($1.6 million) per year. Current chief editor Raj Kamal Jha got Rs 1.25 crore, Jaideep “Jojo” Bose of The Times of India was paid under Rs 2 crore.

# Shekhar Gupta made Rs 36.67 crore in “capital gains” in 2009-10, through the demerger of the Indian Express‘s real estate wing and the newspapers, which resulted in the sale of the iconic Express Towers at Nariman Point in Bombay.

# Gupta is not too bothered with his exit from The Indian Express or his even hurried exit from India Today: “Look, I am a bit of a big fish right now for these factors to bother me now.”

# A senior television journalist is quoted as saying: “He is a social terrorist. He will look at you for five seconds, then look at the next person coming in.” Congressman Mani Shankar Aiyar says Gupta once “cut me dead and walked away” at a party.

# Paranjoy Guha Thakurta: “He looks down upon you [if you are unable to make use of the opportunities the free market throws up, work hard and make it to the top].”

# After interviewing over 50 people, the reporter Krishn Kaushik writes that “detractors of the ‘Shekhar Gupta phenomenon’ contended that Gupta’s wealth compromised the “Journalism of Courage” he promoted at the Indian Express.

# Gupta categorically says: “Nobody can ever find a paisa which will be a surprise to my taxman or to any of my employers.”

# Fallen Tehelka editor Tarun J. Tejpal who is quoted several times in the story, says: “If in reviving the Express he made money, not just the lala, I don’t know what the problem is.”

# When an Indian Express report on the alleged violations in the acqusition of land for Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani‘s Antilla tower was to appear in the Bombay edition, he called resident editor Samar Halarnkar “from a train in Italy” although in fairness, he did not block the story.

# Krishn Kaushik writes that at least half-a-dozen current and former members of the Express news team gave the reporter “specific instances” of stories being killed, allegedly without discussion with those reporting them—stories that went against a top industrialist, a cabinet minister, a real-estate group.

# One journalist described how Gupta once had him debrief a foreign government agency, which seemed irrelevant to any of the stories he was working on.

# Former Union home and finance minister P. Chidambaram was the ‘holy cow’ in the Express newsroom. “You could not criticise him.” The Express staff “sort of had the feeling that the Ambanis were untouchable.”

# Around the time Shekhar Gupta became CEO of Express, a gentleman called B.S. Raman would come to Express Towers in Bombay for a few hours every day from the nearby Reliance Industries’ office at Maker Chambers. Raman tells the reporter he was asked by his office to help Viveck Goenka‘s company.

# A Express staffer told the reporter that the C-story  “The January night Raisina Hill was spooked” had been pushed by P. Chidambaram, who was then the home minister, and Nehchal Sandhu, then the director of the intelligence bureau.

# Kaushik writes that Chidambaram pushed for Shekhar Gupta to be nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 2009, which was eventually given to former Tribune, Express, TOI and Hindustan Tims editor, H.K. Dua. However, both Gupta and Chidambaram deny the claim.

# “Ashutosh Rais” was the pen name of former Business Standard editor T.N. Ninan, for pieces which he wrote for Democratic World, where Shekhar Gupta held his first formal journalism job as an assistant editor.

# Shekhar Gupta had been in touch with Aroon Purie of India Today from around the time he relinquished the CEO role at The Indian Express in August 2013.

# Gupta’s mentor Arun Shourie said the jump to India Today as vice-chairman and editor-in-chief was a mismatch: “Yeh shaadi galat ho gayi hai.”

Anant Goenka, the son of Viveck Goenka who heads Express‘ online push and whose arrival in 2010 is widely seen as propelling Shekhar Gupta’s exit, did not speak to the Caravan reporter, saying he did not want to discuss an “ex-employee.”

Also read: Shekhar Gupta gives up his managerial role

To all Express employees. From: Shekhar Gupta

From Viveck Goenka. To: Indian Express employees

The Indian Express, Shekhar Gupta, Gen V.K. Singh

The Indian Express, Reliance and Shekhar Gupta