Archive for the 'Newspapers' Category

When a veteran reporter heard he had the big ‘C’

22 January 2015

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Journalists see plenty of disease, despair and death in the line of duty. Even if we do not entertain prospects of immortality, our near-constant exposure to the dark and grim side of life somewhat inures us to its only certainty.

But what when it hits home?

Krishna Vattam, for 40 years the Mysore correspondent of the Bangalore-based dailies Deccan Herald and Praja Vani, has been there, done that—and survived to tell the tale.

In a new book, Joy of Conquering Cancer: A Spiritual Dimension, to mark the silver jubilee of his triumph, cancer-survivor Vattam describes how he heard the bad news 25 years ago, and what happened thereafter.

***

By KRISHNA VATTAM

It was a hot day in the summer of 1990. A professional errand to a cancer detection camp, a chance stroke of luck, which brought unexpected and ever unsuspected developments, led me and my family to live through nearby a three-year period of agony, trauma, anxiety and uncertainty.

Call it a freak incident, an ordain of God or the graciousness of the Almighty – if I had skipped this visit to attend a far more important engagement, important from a journalist’s perspective, I wonder what would have happened and whether I would have been able to catch cancer in time and outwit the disease before those deadly cells had grown up to trip me into the abyss of no control, giving me no opportunity to look back and share my experiences with you today.

When I stepped out of my house on that sunny morning in the first week of April 1990 to attend the cancer detection camp, I least suspected that I was going there with the disease in my being.

The Bangalore–based Kidwai Memorial Cancer Hospital, in an outreach programme, had organized the camp in Mysore in the expansive Nanjaraja Bahadur Choultry and it was the first of its kind in this city.

Bharath Cancer Hospital, which owes its existence to the vision of B.S. Ajai Kumar, an NRI Doctor, was opened in Mysore a few months after the Camp was conducted.

The local Jain community had sponsored the medical camp and medical practitioner Dr. Prasanna Kumar, an assistant professor at the JSS Medical College, who was a leading member of the community and my close friend, came to my residence and invited me to give the inaugural function of the camp.

He requested me to give a good coverage of it in the Deccan Herald, the leading English daily in Karnataka, which I was privileged to represent as its Mysore Correspondent.

A good number of people from the city and surrounding villages had registered their names at the Camp for getting examined, and it turned out to be that the ailments many of them were suffering from were unrelated to cancer.

There was a formal inaugural function of the Camp for about 45 minutes and after that the doctors dispersed to examine the registered camp attendees.

I do not call them patients, as in the strict sense of the word they were not. They had come to consult, since such free health check camps were rare in those days. It mattered little to them, whether the consultants they were seeing were oncologists or general practitioners, but, in their opinion, they were all doctors who could attend to any kind of ailment. I spent some time in the examination rooms.

I saw my friend Nissar Ahmed Shariff, a very good footballer, coming out with his mother from one such room, looking very depressed. As he saw me, he could not control his emotions and with tears rolling down his cheeks, he told me that the doctors suspected that his mother had cancer.

I was also moved and placed my right hand on his shoulder and comforted him saying “Don’t worry, God is with you”. Then he stepped forward and addressing his mother, who was standing behind him, with folded hands, said “Maaji, Ooperwala hai.”

It was easy to console and comfort others but when it comes to oneself, how helpless and distraught one could be, I realized very shortly thereafter.

A big printed pamphlet hung around the huge column of the Choultry building, caught my attention. This poster, which was printed both Kannada and English was one such public information in nature, asking people having those symptoms to get examined in the camp.

One such symptoms was “difficulty in swallowing”, I noticed.

It nearly shook me off the ground.

Yes, I had been experiencing this problem for some time now.

***

It was around November 1989, about six months before this camp, I was attending the South Zonal Conference of the INTACH Conveners at Cochin, Kerala, as the Convener of the Mysore Chapter of the Indian National Trust Fort Art and Cultural Heritage.

As I was having lunch, I found it difficult to swallow the cooked rice. I stopped eating and set aside my plate in the basket meant for used dishes.

This did not worry me for after my return to Mysore. I felt normal and was able to eat without any difficulty.

But in February 1990, I experienced a similar problem while I was returning from Varanasi after participating in the National Conference of INTACH Conveners, I bought some oranges at the Varanasi Railway Station.

Once seated in a compartment I leisurely peeled an orange and put a small piece into my mouth and found I could not swallow the chewed orange. I went into the toilet compartment, thrust two fingers in my mouth and forcibly vomited the orange stuck in my gullet.

I felt relieved physically but I was worried. On my return to Mysore, I consulted a few ENT specialists and x-ray was also taken during the course of their examinations. None of them could detect anything abnormal. I felt reassured.

***

When I noticed “difficulty in swallowing” on the pamphlet at the cancer detection camp at the Nanjaraj Bahadur Choultry at Mysore on that day, as one of the symptoms of cancer, I began worrying.

Just a few minutes before, I had infused a sense of confidence in Nissar Ahmed and his mother I found myself in a state of shock now.

A press reporter who went to cover the inaugural function of the cancer detection camp got examined on realising that he too had one of the symptoms of Cancer. Here too the doctor who examined him assured that his difficulty in swallowing my not necessarily be related to cancer. He suggested having an x-ray taken in the mobile unit which had been brought along with the medical team from Bangalore.

The general human tendency is not to think of the worst and the words of the doctor that my problem may not be related to cancer as such, and his encouraging words, “Not to worry”, lulled me, so much so, that that I did not bother about my visit to the camp or about the x-ray in the days that followed. I was attending to my duties.

Ten days later at about 10.30pm the telephone rang at my house.

I took the receiver and heard “Is it Krishna Vattam”, a voice enquiring from the other end. “Yes, speaking”, I replied. “Vattam Saab, take it easy. From the x-ray that was taken in the camp, the doctors suspect it to be cancer. You have to go to Kidwai Hospital tomorrow,” the speaker at the other end informed me.

The word sounded like a death warrant to me. Even as he was speaking, I instantly began to experience shock waves passing through my body.

Like a paralytic, I felt that my legs were benumbed.

I could not stand and felt that I was being pushed down.

I squatted on my haunches still holding the receiver in my left hand.

I had not informed my mother or Kamala, my wife, about my visit to the cancer detection camp and the x-ray that was taken there.

I had felt that the change situation of the unintended “checkup” did not call for the family members being informed. Further I had thought that any such talk may unnecessarily lead them to worry about my health.

My mother, who was sitting on the cot next to the table on which the telephone was placed, jumped out and rushed towards me crying out, “devare” (oh God) as she saw me sink on my knees with the receiver in my hand.

Kamala, who was resting in the adjacent room, rushed to me, and I heard both of them, amma and wife, anxiously asking me over and over again, “What happened?” I babbled in a voice that faltered, “They say I have cancer.” These five words uttered by me made them feel that the world around us had collapsed.

I rested my head on the mother’s bosom just as I would have done as child after suckling, although the situation faced on that day by a 57-year-old son and his 82-year-old mother and suckling child of its young lactating young mother were of two different nature.

After all, the bond of a mother and a son in the same at all times. Kamala rested her head on my neck, and all of us were weeping. When Shyam, my son, returned home from Times of India office, where he was serving as a reporter of the paper, he found us all weeping.

Kamala was the first to break the news to him. He went out of the verandah, sat on the granite bench within our compound, and was sobbing silently.

Shortly, thereafter, amma and wife went out and began consoling him. “Our Lord Narasimha is there. Appa has done no harm to anyone. He will never let us down,” I heard my mother reassuring her grandson.

The beds for all of us to sleep on that night were spread out in the “hall”, the living room as it is known in common parlance in some parts of South India. None of us could sleep throughout the night. All of us had our eyes glued to the ceilings as we anxiously contemplated the future that had suddenly begun to look uncertain.

I held amma’s hand with an intense feeling of an assured protection and safety from her as I would have done as baby scared of ghosts.

In this confused and disturbed frame of mind, eager to avoid brooding over the call I received just an hour ago from Kidwai Hospital informing me about the suspected cancer in me, I began to reflect, as it were, on the tryst I had with destiny, the path I had followed throughout my life till then.

(Excerpted from Joy of Conquering Cancer: A Spiritual Dimension, published by Darpan, an imprint of Prism Books, Rs 125)

***

Also read: ‘You can’t be a bad person but a good journalist’

Write to Krishna Vattam: krishnavattam@gmail.com

Telephone Krishna Vattam: 094-483-42549

‘Deccan Chronicle’ says TOI is stealing its ads!

6 December 2014

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classified both2 copy

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

5 December 2014

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

1 December 2014

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”.

***

# 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

Why NaMo shouldn’t take media on foreign trips

14 August 2014

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addresses the media on the way back home from the United States in October 2013. There were 34 journalists on that junket.

As Indian journalists come to terms with a Narendra Modi dispensation that doesn’t want to court them or take them on foreign junkets, K.P. Nayar, the former Washington correspondent of The Telegraph, Calcutta, writes that the US administration is no better.

Each correspondent who accompanied US president Barack Obama on his trip to India had to shell out $8,400 (approximately Rs 500,000) in air fare, plus an additional $2,500 (Rs 150,000) for a hop-across to Amritsar, plus $1,000 (Rs 60,000) for renting the hotel hall where administration officials briefed the media, plus “filing charges”, plus coffee, plus tea, etc.

All in stark contrast to the pampering and molly-coddling of India media bigwigs by Indian administrations, who not only misuse taxpayer’s money on foreign trips but also throw their weights around in ways that embarrass the tricolour.

To illustrate the point, Nayar, quotes three incidents:

# The most appalling incident of media highhandedness that I was witness to was at Cairo airport, some 20 years ago, when a very senior journalist flung his boarding pass in the face of an Air India ground hostess because his seat had been changed for the next leg of the prime minister’s flight. He then walked off and had to be pacified by having his chosen seat restored before the Egyptian police physically restrained him for breach of security because he was on the tarmac.

The fault-lines go beyond the fourth estate and intersect the government’s media management because this gentleman is a former media adviser to a prime minister: for the record, not one of any recent appointees.

# Accompanying P.V. Narasimha Rao to the UN general assembly one year, we were alighting at the media hotel, the Lexington, once owned by the Tatas.

Two senior colleagues urged me to follow them if I wanted to watch some fun. An owner-editor, who was the first to reach the media centre, was already on the phone to his news desk.

Mein pahoonch gaya hoon [I have reached],” he blared into the phone, “Pradhan mantri bhi pahoonch gaya hai. Baaki sab agency lena. [The prime minister has also reached. All the rest you take from the agencies].”

He put down the phone, then called his office again as an afterthought, “Oh, mera byline dal dena [Oh, put my byline in).” That was his professional contribution for the day. He was soon out in jeans and walking shoes enjoying the Big Apple.

# Visiting Bhutan, Indira Gandhi once strolled into the quarters of the accompanying media. An agency correspondent then, the late A.N. Prabhu’s door was open and she peeped in to find a carton prominently labelled “Bhutan Rum” on the floor.

“What is it, Prabhu?” she asked. “Apples,” Prabhu replied, unfazed.

“I would like some of those apples too,” she smiled. 

Read the full article: Big egos and bylines

Also read: A mile-high experience for the hack pack

How Pakistan helped The Hindu save $800

I couldn’t go to the US, my name’s Zia Haq

Newspaper delivery boy reads papers, enters IIT

25 June 2014

toi

Last year, N. Shiva Kumar, a newspaper vendor in Bangalore—the son of an illiterate mother and a truck driver—cracked CAT 2012 and went to the Indian institute of management, Calcutta, as a student.

This year, C. Prashanth, a construction labourer’s son in Mysore, who delivered The Times of India (surely, among other papers) has obtained the 255th rank in the scheduled tribe category.

“Prashanth said he couldn’t afford to buy a newspaper but while selling them, he managed to read them and that helped him gain knowledge crack the prestigious exam,” TOI quoted him as saying.

Newspaper tear: courtesy The Times of India

Also read: How to pass IAS: read newspapers, magazines—I

How to pass IAS: read newspapers & magazines—II

So how many journalists cracked CAT 2012?

Another substandard post by unqualified journo

Yes, Kofi Annan is a dish, Teesta Setalvad is an actress

The hottest reporters covering the World Cup*

19 June 2014

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The Times of India fills a vital blank in the public discourse: the hottest reporters covering the football World Cup in Brazil— Ines Sainz and Vanessa Huppenkothen.

* Search engine optimisation techniques shamelessly at work

***

Raveen Tandon as Shobha De: Glamourous, sexy, brainy, seductive

Look, who wants to play Christiane Amanpour: Kareena Kapoor

Will the underworld a hot reporter like Gul Panag?

Anju Mahendroo plays queen bee of film journalism, Devyani

Sheethal Shetty: Anchoring news easier than acting

When a brand provides the quotes, it is news

17 June 2014

Perhaps a new first in Indian journalism. An exclusive interview in The Economic Times with Argentinian football captain Lionel Messi… with “quotes provided by Adidas”.

The scoop interview that didn’t see light of day

17 June 2014

Reporters look as if they have been stabbed in the back, as if the world as they knew it has come to an end, when their favourite stories and hobby horses are stopped in their tracks by those godawful editors who have “never been in the field” unlike the only Indian living editor who has been a reporter.

Amit Roy, the London correspondent of The Telegraph, Calcutta, and once a reporter with the Daily Telegraph, London, recounts a similar tale of woe from a long time past—concerning Anthony Howard, a former editor of the New Statesman, who died in 2010, aged 76.

“Howard was described as “one of the most acute political commentators of his generation.”

“So he was, but on Indian politics he was not infallible, even though the Left-wing New Statesman has long boasted expertise on India.

“In 1975, when I was in Calcutta on holiday, my father persuaded me to go to Bihar and see Jayaprakash Narayan—“there’s only one story in India.”

“I managed to catch up with JP in deepest Bihar. Initially, he refused to grant an interview but then relented when someone told him I was my father’s son – the two had been close friends in their Bihar days (a card I hadn’t played).

“JP affectionately put an arm round me, told me not to be cross and gave me an interview which lasted from 10 pm till dawn. Alas, the New Statesman “spiked” my long piece because the then unknown JP and his campaign against Indira Gandhi seemed like gobbledegook to Howard.

“Sorry, I was wrong,” he was gracious enough to apologise when we met at a drinks party after the declaration of the Emergency.”

Image: courtesy India Today

Also read: ‘A cricket writer as loved as any great cricketer’

Does journalism have any power any longer?

A half-century in the service of the Paper Tigers

16 June 2014

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The evening newspaper Star of Mysore profiles M.R. Subramanya, popularly called by his admirers as “Paper Subbanna“, who has just completed 50 years as a newspaper distributor in Mysore.

Subbanna entered newspaper distribution in 1963 after unsuccessfully launching Chitralaya, a tabloid devoted to the Kannada film industry in Bangalore.

“I am happy with my profession and I am contented in life. The advent of TV has led a steep fall in newspaper readership which is regrettable but reading a newspaper over a cup of tea is itself a different and a wholesome experience.”

Photograph: courtesy Star of Mysore

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