Category Archives: Google Videos

Making all of us smile can make one of us cry

The “Indian of the Year” shows of the various television channels, that has comfortably stretched into the first month of the new year, has largely been a case of much of the same. So similar were the “brand” objectives; the award categories;  the selection methodology; the “beautiful people”; and the target audiences that had the shows mistakenly appeared on a rival station, nobody would have noticed. Not that anybody would have cared.

Except for a flash of inspiration that struck the head honchos of CNN-IBN.

At a time when the political class was falling over each other putting in applications for the Bharat Ratna, the channel conferred a “Lifetime Achievement Award” on  a real jewel: Rasipuram Krishnaswamy Laxman, the Mysore-born cartoonist whose common man has held a mirror to the birth, rise and growth of a nation on the front page of The Times of India for well over 50 years now through “You Said It“.

The adjectives flowed freely, and for once unquestionably justly, as Laxman, now bound to a wheelchair after a paralytic stroke three years ago, was ushered in on stage.”For a lifetime of contributions to society, for a lifetime of achievements,” said anchors Vidya Shankar Aiyar and Suhasini Haider. “For having done the nation proud, for having been a part of our lives,” said Rajdeep Sardesai.

But when the citation was read, the 84-year-old Laxman bawled like a baby as former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and vice-president Hamid Ansari joined the audience in standing and saluting a common man who has become uncommon in modern India:

“For being one of the most incisive observers of post-independence India; for making millions of Indians smile every single morning for over 60 years; and for giving the common man of this country, a face, a voice, an identity and a consistent presence and importance in every aspect of our lives.”

Also read: How one family produced two geniuses

The world’s most famous Mysoreans

Cross-posted on churumuri


‘Too much interactivity is not such a good thing’

STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania: As online media vehicles rev up and vroom off on the infobahn, traditional media slowcoaches seem to have hit upon “interactivity” as the magic device to slow down the upstarts. But too much interactivity can be a bad thing, especially if the content is not good enough, says S. SHYAM SUNDAR.

Professor of communications at Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania, and founder and co-director of PSU’s Media Effects Research Laboratory, Dr Shyam Sundar says moderate interactivity—through hyperlinks, dialogues with editors and reporters, devices to enable interaction with other readers—is in general a better option.

“If you are not too much interested in content, interactivity helps to draw you in. However, too much interactivity serves to distract you from the content.

“Politically apathetic users are bowled over by interactive features, but politically involved readers of news like moderate interactivity over high or low inactivity. It is cognitively overloaded and they get turned off by the bells and whistles that interactivity brings in.

“We do find that interactivity brings in engagement or involvement with content. So higher the interactivity it draws people in, it brings you face to face with content. But if the content is not good at that point, then people get disappointed. So you have to be careful how you deploy your interactive resources. If the content is mediocre, it might not be such a great idea to bring people face to face. If it is good, it’s your benefit to build as many interactive features.”

DAVID SUMNER: ‘Magazines will survive, thrive’

MUNCIE, Indiana: Yes, the internet is hurting magazines, but for the large part, magazines are adapting and changing much faster and better than newspapers in meeting the threat.

That is the verdict of Prof David E. Sumner, the head of the nationally recognised magazine program at Ball State University, and the co-author with Shirrel Rhoades of Magazine: A Complete Guide to the Industry (Peter Lang, 2006).

The inherent elasticity of magazines to shift content, to shift audiences, and to even shift geographical locations enables them to come up with new business models to counter any threat, says Prof Sumner. And a small but significant proportion of new magazine readers are those who stumbled upon the internet sites of the magazines.

“Magazines are amazingly resilient in the face of changing social, economic and technological circumstances. But content is still king, content still reigns. The internet is just a medium, to deliver content. This business is about finding stories and reporting and writing them well. As long as we do that, magazines will have audiences both in print and online.”

Also view: ‘Will magazines die? Not any time soon’

Also read: The Husni-Sacks magazine future debate

MUST-WATCH: Getting a press pass is very easy

There are others, of course, but journalists should surely rank very high on the totempole of the most grumbling professionals. Grumbling about our bosses, grumbling about our pay, grumbling about the way our organisations are run, we quickly lose sight of what we are here for, and quietly of all our energy.

How can we recharge our batteries? Here’s one way:

Randy Pausch, a 46-year-old top computer-science professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, has been diagnosed with 10 tumours in his liver and has just a few months of good health left. Last week, he said goodbye to his students and the Pittsburgh college with one last lecture called “How to Live Your Childhood Dreams“.

Those dreams range from the sublime (floating in zero gravity, writing an entry in the World Book Encyclopaedia,) to the ridiculous (playing in the national football league, being Captain Kirk, winning big stuffed animals at amusement parks, and being an imagineer at Disney).

But they were his dreams, and as he puts it, “I was there”. Pausch goes on to talk about them with verve, humour and panache. He staves off pity by demonstrating how fit he is. He reveals that he has had a deathbed conversion. And he talks of how easy it is to get a Press pass.

The Wall Street Journal has called it “the lecture of a lifetime”.


# We can’t change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.

# It’s all about the fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. Otherwise the fancy stuff won’t work.

# When you are screwing up and nobody’s saying anything to you any more, then it means they have given up.

# Life’s a gift. If you wait long enough, other people will show you their good side.

# In the face of adversity, don’t complain, just work harder. Your patience will eventually be rewarded.

# Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.

# Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls aren’t there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to show us how badly we want things.

Watch the lecture: Dying professor’s lecture of a lifetime

Send him a question: Dear Professor Randy Pausch

When journalists begin asking the right questions

# Did Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose really die in an air crash in 1945?

# Did Neil Armstrong really land on the moon in 1969, or was it all staged on the deserts of Nevada?

# Did Elvis Presley really die in 1976, or is he still around ducking the cameras and living a life of anonymity?

Conspiracy theories of events that took place in the pre-satellite television era have an existence all their own, but nothing come close to the 9/11 conspiracy theories. Pictures of planes flying into the towers of the World Trade Centre may have been telecast around the world, but six years later, the conspiracy theories still abound.

Not over whether Jews were forewarned not to report for work that morning but over other, more troubling questions: how it happened and who did it, who knew how much before it happened and who benefitted from it all.

Was Osama bin Laden behind the attack? Were the planes powerful enough to bring down buildings designed to withstand airplanes? Were bombs used to trigger off the collapse of the World Trade Center towers? Did the Bush administration know of the impending attack? How did the WTC ownership change hands just days before the buildings came down? Who were the mysterious investors who had presciently “put” options on the airline companies before 9/11? Who had moved the gold worth nearly a billion dollars from the vaults underneath the buildings?

Al Jazeera English, the Qatar-based Arabic news channel’s English version, looked at some of the theories recently.

But it is Loose Change (1 hour, 29 minutes) that you must view.

Not to give the conspiracy theories some more oxygen but to see how good journalism can punch holes in the official and media versions of what we saw (or of we thought we saw) with our own eyes on the morning of 9 September 2001. And demand the answers “We, the People” are entitled to receive.

Written and directed by Dylan Avery, and produced by Korey Rowe, the powerful documentary concludes, among other things, that the Pentagon was not the target of a plane but a missile; that the “heroism” on board Flight 93 was staged; and that the WTC towers were brought down by carefully planned, controlled demolitions.

“It was a psychological attack on the American people and it was pulled off with military precision.

“It’s time for Americans to accept 9/11 for what it was: a lie which killed thousands of people only in turn killing hundreds of thousands more, to make billions upon trillions of dollars.”

Cross-posted on churumuri

How good is for you—and democracy?

WASHINGTON, DC: If the world wide web was seen as the harbinger of the “global village”, customisation and personalisation of internet content have inverted the premise and reduced users to “an audience of one”. This may be good for e-commerce outlets, advertisers, marketeers seeking to deliver targetted information.

But how good is tailoring of news delivery and consumption? Could it limit our worldview? Could we end up only reading what reassures us? Will it make us narrowminded in the long run?

SriramSriKalayanaraman, PhD, assistant professor at the school of journalism and mass communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been studying all the many strands of the issue.

“We have a potential problem because the type, quality and quantity of information that we are going to be exposed to (as a result of customisation) is going to be extremely limited. Our worldview is going to be restricted to very narrow spheres of influence. This actually has implications for the entire process of democracy.”

HUSNI: Will magazines die? Not any time soon

WASHINGTON, DC: In a journalism ocean full of gloom and impending doom—full of pornographic navel-gazing over its current state—Professor Samir Afif Husni comes across like an isle of hope that American publishers, investors, and editors either can’t see or are trying desperately to swim away from.

Not only does the chair of the department of journalism at the University of Mississippi believe that news of the death of newspapers is vastly exaggerated, the man trademarked as “Mr Magazine” believes—pinch yourself—that magazines will not only survive but thrive.

That optimism may seem natural for a “minority among the minorities”, a Presbyterian among the Lebanese, who seen far worse. But that optimism is also a reflection of the passion for a genre of journalism that has captivated America’s “leading magazine expert” since he was eight.

Dr Husni, who holds a doctorate in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas, has over 24,000 magazines in his private collection—and over 800 neckties in his wardrobe.

And when he is not in his office reading magazines, he is at the newsstands buying magazines, as he was in Washington, DC, while attending the annual conference of the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEJMC) last week.

In this sans serif exclusive video, shot against the backdrop of the Washington Public Library, Dr Husni explains why magazines will always be around—and just what they will need to do so as not to be overwhelmed by the surging waters of pessimism that has very nearly consumed American newspapers.


postscript: As acting chair of the department of journalism, Dr Husni waited on tables at a Lebanese restaurant on his wife’s rest: “We used to say the food is so good it takes a PhD to serve it!” Next month, his wife opens her own Lebanese restaurant: “Now we say the food is so good, it takes a PhD to make it!”