Tag Archives: Impact

Arnab Goswami has done a fab job: Vineet Jain

vineet

From left, Raj Nayak, Kapil Sibal, Vineet Jain, and Anurag Batra at the Impact person of the year event, in Bombay

Times group managing director Vineet Jain has been named person of the year by the industry journal Impact, from the exchange4media group.

In an accompanying interview, Jain junior answers a couple of key questions.

Talking to Ken Auletta of The New Yorker [last year], you said, “We are not in the newspaper business, we are in the advertising business… If you are editorially minded, you will make all the wrong decisions.” Do you think advertising carries the Times Group’s media products or content?

I wish to reiterate that we are in the advertising business and not in the business of selling news – and I’ll explain why. If we were in the business of selling news, then the cover price we charge readers should have made us profitable. Fact is, subscription price does not come even close to covering the cost of newsprint. As much as 90% of our revenues comes from advertising; effectively, therefore, our advertisers are cross-subsidizing our readers. Which is why I say advertising is at the core of our business model.

There is a whole debate about Arnab Goswami being a brand by himself, overpowering Times Now. Is that good or bad for the channel?

Times Now has dominant leadership now for over six years. Arnab Goswami has done an incredible job for Times Now, which has established itself as the ‘go-to-TV-channel’ for breaking news, big news and significant views. He is a courageous journalist and respected by viewers of Times Now. Further, the Times brand is what gives viewers the trust and belief in what he and his able team deliver 24 x7.

Photograph: courtesy The Times of India

Read the full interview: Vineet Jain

External reading: Why Uday Shankar should have won

Also read: An editor explains Arnab Goswami to an NRI

Has a ‘desperate party’ paid huge sums to TV?

The Indian Express television critic Shailaja Bajpai recently mooted the idea of “equal coverage” (a la the United States) to remove the growing distortion of news TV coverage of contemporary politics.

The veteran broadcaster Ravi M. Khanna (formerly of the Voice of America) adds his weight to the proposal in his column in the industry journal, Impact:

“Indian media especially TV channels, will have to behave more responsibly in its coverage of the 2014 parliamentary elections, because the race this time is becoming more ‘leader-based’ rather than based on political parties.

“The channels will have to be careful and work harder in order to keep the campaign story balanced and objective and avoid showing their bias towards one leader or the other.

“This becomes even more crucial amid rumours that a particular desperate party has already paid huge sums of money to cash-strapped TV channels to twist the coverage in its own favour….

“I was appalled to see that when Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi were addressing their rallies at different locations but at the same time some of the channels were either covering only the Modi rally or covering both rallies on a split screen, the audio of the Gandhi rally was switched off.”

Read the full column: Media and fast-changing politics

Also read: ‘Media’s Modi-fixation needs medical attention’

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

Not just a newspaper, a no-paid-news newspaper!

Shekhar Gupta gives up charge as Express CEO

Below is the full text of the “global” email shot off by Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta on Monday, August 26, in which he formally announces his decision to relinquish his managerial functions at the newspaper group.

***

Dear All,

Looking at the flurry of communication from me over the past few weeks, mainly on corporate and business issues, some of you may have wondered what was going on. This is particularly because it hasn’t been my method to write “dear all” mails often.

Or, more likely, that I am too lazy to be doing so.

Those of you in the New Delhi newsroom know this well, since you see me pacing up and down every Friday evening, wrestling with those 1200 words for National Interest, and in the dread of delaying City-I once again.

So here is the story.

This series of mails was by way of completing a great deal of unfinished business. All of you know what a procrastinator I am. So everything that can be put off till the last moment, is put off. Or, as we like to say in cliched journalism, put on the backburner. Until a deadline takes away the excuses.

The deadline we had given ourselves was end of August (and on a personal note, August 26, my 56th birthday). And both ways we are getting there now. Hence, this note.

***

As you may have seen from my earlier communication, as also the buzz in the market, our company is now in an unprecedentedly robust shape.

We have already had six stellar quarters and, on all evidence as I track revenue figures for this month and the projections for September, are heading for an even better seventh. Businesses have to now work in this brutal QSQT (Quarter-se-Quarter-Tak) environment. And it is a truly brilliant achievement on the part of our various teams given the mayhem in media markets.

We are today acknowledged to be one of the soundest news media companies within-our-size category. And no, we never do paid news, or stretch any of the First Principles of Journalism.

Never.

The truth is, it is overly simplistic to say, that we have a Chinese wall between marketing and editorial. We have never needed one. Because it is our colleagues in sales and marketing who have protected our editorial integrity with as much zeal and commitment as us journalists.

And yet, we have built such a fine company. It vindicates our belief, our founder’s and our CMD Viveck Goenka‘s, that there is no contradiction between good journalism and the market.

This is why, I believe, and can say with great satisfaction, that my job on the corporate side is now done.

***

It was in an unusual set of circumstances, and at a critical juncture in the history of our company, that Viveck had asked me to take over the additional responsibility of overseeing the management.

Those unusual circumstances, or any sense of imminent crisis, no longer exist.

From those perilous years, the company has now been nursed into great health.

Credit for this goes to all of you, but most of all to Viveck.

My profound gratitude is also owed to him for placing his trust in me to handle a responsibility I had no skills or training for. It is a perfect time, therefore, for me, to hand over a flourishing company back to Viveck, now that he has the time to take over the management.

And since you can always trust him to pick the most auspicious day in the calendar, he has chosen, for the new arrangement, August 28, Janmashtami.

***

We will share more details with you in the course of time. I am pleased to also inform you, meanwhile, about the return of another Express Group veteran, George Varghese, as the Company’s CEO, to assist Viveck who will be fully hands-on.

Given where the company has reached now, I believe that we need a more structured and formally organized corporate leadership to build on the wonderful platform all of you have created. That is precisely what we will get now. George is a wonderful professional and old-timers among us remember him fondly.

Please join me in wishing him, and Viveck well.

Since I am a story-teller by profession, though, I can’t help but tell you one here. When Viveck asked me to take over this additional charge one winter afternoon, I was petrified. I did not even know debit from credit and thought an RO, our daily bread-giving advertisement Release Order, was some water purifying system.

So I excused myself for a minute, went outside, and called T.N. Ninan, my friend and former editor whose counsel I have sometimes sought with such dilemmas and who has himself done a fine job of balancing edit and business leadership.

He gave me a bunch of quick suggestions and then concluded, in his usual grave tone: but be careful so-and-so…people should not say that a journalist took over a publishing business and made a mess of it.

If I have no such concerns now, it is entirely because of the motivation, talent, commitment and trust that all of you have shown, often surprising even the thick-skinned me with your resilience and optimism.

***

A couple more thoughts. Besides a consistently decent bottomline, we had also set ourselves stiff targets on improving our working conditions, technologies and, of course, compensations. All of you have contributed to turning into reality what had then looked like an impossibility.

We routinely have media websites wondering how we manage to have such nice offices and pay ourselves so well.

Our answer: go check our balance sheets. So thank you all once again for so energetically putting your shoulder to the wheel, even overlooking the unusual fact that I was such a novice to business. And nor did I carry a corporate title, or any title other than the old-fashioned Group Editor-In-Chief.

Which is how I will be working full-time henceforth. Besides all editorial teams (except Loksatta), our tiny but super-productive brand, innovation, archive and CSR teams will continue working with me. I also hope to be able to find more time to build EXIMS, our media school, which is a labour of love.

I will soon be speaking with the team heads individually and answering any questions they might have. I will be fully helping out with transition on the corporate side. Meanwhile, please make sure nothing falls between the cracks. We must maintain total continuity.

If confused, send communication, clearances etc to me with copy to Kumar Gyanam and we will either give you the answers, or be good postmen and redirect you to the correct addressees.

Yet again, before I sign off for the day, thanks and all the best. In any case, I am always around, and accessible and just as chaotically so — as before.

Shekhar Gupta

Editor-in-Chief

Photograph: courtesy Impact

Also read: To all Express employees, from the editor

If The Economist looks at Tamil Nadu, it’s news?

economist

In a bleak advertising scenario, Indian magazines have been pushed into running cheap and ugly advertisements, advertorials, and other intrusions dressed up as thinly disguised “innovations”, like a bit of editorial here for an ad elsewhere, to keep the ship afloat.

But The Economist, too?

The latest issue of the “newspaper” (as the magazine calls itself) has eight pages of a Tamil Nadu government ad heralding the achievements of two years of chief minister Jayalalitha‘s rule.

And, presto, there is a one-and-a-half page story on Tamil Nadu preceding it.

Headlined “A successful show begins to pall“, the Economist calls the state “one of India’s great success stories”, a “consistent economic performer” and “one of India’s most prosperous states”. An accompanying box titled “Lights, camera, election” dwells on why so many Tamil politicians are former film stars.

All very valid observations, no doubt, but all very old hat (the Economist was first published in September 1843).

Thankfully, the piece has enough caveats to blunt any accusations of doing what the adperson ordered.

It calls Jayalalitha a “Brahmin starlet turned autocrat” who has faced several corruption charges; it labels her co-star Cho Ramaswamy as one who “both seduced and murdered her on stage”; it talks of the endemic graft and Jayalalitha’s penchant for filing defamation cases against her critics.

Still, you are left wondering: would the Economist have suddenly looked at Tamil Nadu’s miracles if it weren’t for the ad?

Conversely, was The Economist correspondent doing a critical journalistic piece and the Tamil Nadu information and public relations directorate heard of it and decided to push in an ad (which was published in all newspapers on May 16)?

What Uday Shankar learnt from a Delhi widow

Star India CEO Uday Shankar, a former editor at Aaj Tak, on the defining moment of his journalistic career, from the 8th anniversary special issue of Impact.

By UDAY SHANKAR

I remember an incident almost 10 years ago, that brought home to me the power of the media and its ability to impact people’s lives.

It happened when I was the editor of Aaj Tak in 2001-2002.

India hadn’t seen live or ‘breaking news’ in its true sense until then. The channel had redefined news and TV journalism by taking the viewer to the location. We had introduced a hardcore news bulletin in the morning called ‘Subah Aaj Tak’, and I used to go office very early, at about 3.30am, for an edit meeting for that show.

One day, after I was done with my newsroom work, my secretary Shashi told me that some woman had called me. She was in the ministry of defence, she claimed.

I didn’t pay much attention in the day. Then I got busy and Shashi kept telling me the whole day that the woman had called again and again.

I got annoyed.

Shashi told me that the caller insisted on speaking to the editor of Aaj Tak. Finally, I spoke to her and what she told me that day changed my life forever.

She said, “Mr Uday Shankar, I was a very passionate viewer of Aaj Tak. Until today, it was a part of my life. But today, I want to stop watching the channel”.

It transpired that she that she was a widow and lived in Noida with two young kids. She said she watched Aaj Tak the whole day because it was her source of comfort. As long as Aaj Tak kept reporting that the world was OK, for her the world was OK.

But she was shocked that we had wrongly reported that a Delhi Public School, Noida bus had met with an accident. It was her kids’ school, and she had just put them on the bus. Back home, she had been taking shower when she heard the voice of the reporter announcing the accident.

Utter panic had made her rush out of the house in inappropriate clothing, with water streaming all over her body. She was sure that whatever happiness remained in her life too was in jeopardy. Not for a moment did she doubt that Aaj Tak’s story could be wrong.

It was actually a DPS bus from another part of the city, not Noida, and we immediately apologized for our mistake. But for the five minutes that we ran the story, we never imagined the kind of trauma we had caused. This woman had called to tell me that we had let her down. I apologized that day. She wasn’t angry at all.

All she said was, “From today, your channel is like any other channel.”

I still get goosebumps whenever I recall my conversation with her. It made me realize the intensity of the relationship between media and its consumers/viewers. Since then, whenever I am in doubt, I imagine what this woman would think in the situation – would she be disappointed?

I am grateful to her for giving me such a moral lesson in media, and at every channel that I have worked, I make sure that I never disappoint my viewer.

Photograph: courtesy Indian Television

Also read: How a martyr’s wife changed Arnab‘s outlook

How a martyr’s wife changed Arnab’s outlook

The bumper 318-page eighth anniversary issue of Impact, the media magazine from Anurag Batra‘s exchange4media group, features dozens of print, electronic, digital and radio professionals recounting their personal stories.

Among them is the 2012 television editor of the year, Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of Times Now*:

By ARNAB GOSWAMI

In August 2007, Sanjay Dutt was being moved from Arthur Road jail to Yerawada jail in Poona and we were following it keenly. Everybody was in the middle of this crazy chase, looking desperately for a shot, a sound byte, a picture….

In the midst of it all, I received a phone call from a viewer in Bangalore who said that he had been following my career and Times Now for a long time, but he wouldn’t do it anymore.

I was very surprised and asked him why he felt that way.

The person said he had a friend, a colonel in the Indian Army named Vasanth Venugopal, who had died fighting on the border. His body was being brought back to Bangalore but not a single news channel was bothered, so busy they were covering Sanjay Dutt.

There wasn’t even a mention of this martyr on any channel, while Dutt was being covered like there was nothing else happening in the world.

I was very upset and felt very guilty.

I told the gentleman that we would send a cameraman and get pictures of the cremation and do a story on it. That night, after we had done the story, I requested this gentleman and come and talk about his friend.

When I started my programme, and asked the producer whether the person had come, he said, ‘She is here.’

I told him I was expecting a gentleman, not a lady.

The producer replied, “Colonel Vasanth’s wife has come.”

Subhashini Vasanth had witnessed the last rites of her husband barely four hours back, yet she came to our studio.

Nothing has ever moved me as much as what she said that day.

She spoke about her family and her husband’s martyrdom, making me realise that journalism can sometimes lose its way and that we have an obligation to our viewers that goes beyond the narrow perspective of covering a movie star.

Since then, the way we cover the armed forces, internal security, issues relating to Pakistan is far more detailed than any other channel. That incident shaped the work that we do now.

* Disclosures apply

Photograph: courtesy Apoorva Salkade/ Outlook

‘Why Barkha Dutt needn’t return her Padma Sri’

Anurag Batra, editor-in-chief of the exchange4media group, in the industry journal, Impact:

Prabhu Chawla was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2003. What’s fascinating is that between 2006 and 2009, six journalists were awarded the Padma Sri: Sucheta Dalal, Mrinal Pande, Vinod Dua, Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt and Abhay Chhajlani, and one Padma Bhushan, Shekhar Gupta in 2009.

“Three out of the six Padma Sris were awarded in 2008 itself, the penultimate year of the UPA government before the elections in 2009. I remember laughing out loud when the awards were announced, as these leading journalists held debates on their respective channels about the authenticity of these awards. Not to mention that when they got it, nobody denied them or denounced them, instead the channels hailed their achievements.

“The latest on the grapevine is that the AIADMK and a few other parties are running a campaign to get Barkha Dutt to give back her Padma Sri award because of the Niira Radia controversy. I personally don’t see the point in that as in my view, Barkha has done good work in the past and continues to do so and should be judged on that. I also feel that journalists have always been influencers so there is nothing new in that.”

Also read: Padma Shri VD, Padma Shri RDS and Padma Shri BD

2008: Why Rajdeep and Barkha must decline the Padma Sri

2009: Third highest civilian honour for Shekhar Gupta

2010: Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria gets Padma Bhushan

2011: Padma Awards for Homai Vyarawala, T.J.S. George