Tag Archives: M.J. Akbar

Will M.J. Akbar recreate The Telegraph magic?

New Delhi has a new Sunday paper, The Sunday Guardian, edited by the veteran editor, author and columnist M.J. Akbar. The 40-page weekly, priced at Rs 3, hit the stands on 31 January with the renowned lawyer Ram Jethmalani as chairman of the board of MJP Media Pvt Ltd.

This is the second weekend paper to be launched in recent weeks after the Crest edition of The Times of India, which is priced at Rs 6 and is published on Saturdays.

The 20-page main section of The Sunday Guardian has one page of city news, two pages of [covert] investigations, three pages of national news, one page of the week in review, a two-page picture essay, four pages of comment and analyses, two pages of business, one page of south Asia, one page of world news,  and one page of offbeat news.

The masthead of the 20-page supplement, Guardian20, is larger than the main masthead. The design, layout and mix of both the main paper and the supplement remind the reader of The Asian Age, the paper Akbar launched after leaving The Telegraph; some of the typography and notches have shades of The Guardian, London.

“Delhi has never had a newspaper created specifially for Sunday,” claims the inaugural editorial, forgetting the existence of The Sunday Mail (which had Sunil Sethi, Coomi Kapoor, et al on the staff) and the Delhi edition of The Sunday Observer of Vinod Mehta more than 15 years ago.

“Creating a newspaper is tricky. The Indian reader is both savvy and demanding. As the tightrope walker says, balane is essential. Sunday is a day of repose and reflection, with time to delve into matters missed in the mad rush of the six working days. Our first rule was simple: a newspaper is news printed on apper. But the horizon of news cannot be limited to the familiar, and must stretch concerns of governance, social change, business to the exciting aesthetic of the unqiue visual and many-coloured kaleidoscope of life outside politics. Lesire is too precious to be downgraded into frivolous.”

Also read: ‘Never let your head stoop as a journalist’

Editor charges prime minister of sabotage

‘Media can’t be in a state of perpetual war’

The difference between 386 and 23 is 363 words

How does the mainstream English media in India report the alleged transgressions of one of its own?

S.N.M. Abdi, the Calcutta-based journalist who broke the “Bhagalpur Blindings” story in 1979-80 (in which police blinded 31 undertrials by pouring acid into their eyes) for M.J. Akbar‘s Sunday magazine, and now works for the Rupert Murdoch-owned Hong Kong daily South China Morning Post, was arrested on Thursday on rape charges.

The incident got the most coverage in the Calcutta edition of The Times of India, and barely merited a paragraph in the eastern city’s older English dailies, The Telegraph and The Statesman.

Abdi, incidentally, was Calcutta bureau chief of  the now-defunct The Illustrated Weekly of India, the features magazine owned by The Times group, and was at the centre of the infamous J.B. Patnaik case in 1986 under the editorship of Pritish Nandy. “Shocking: The strange escapades of J.B. Patnaik,” the Weekly‘s cover story dealt with the deviant sexual life of the then Orissa chief minister. After a protracted legal battle, the Weekly apologised.

The Telegraph, Calcutta: 23 words; headline: “Rape arrest”

Deccan Herald, Bangalore: 49 words; “Journo held on rape charge”

The Hindu, Madras: 61 words; “Journalist held”

The Statesman, Calcutta: 67 words; “Journalist held”

The Hindustan Times, Delhi: 97 words; “Journalist arrested on rape charges”

DNA, Bombay: 231 words; “Senior journalist held for rape”

Indian Express, New Delhi: 346 words; “Senior scribe held for rape”

The Times of India, Calcutta: 386 words; headline: “Housewife lured with railway job, raped”

Newspaper facsimile: courtesy The Indian Express

Pranay Gupte on S.N.M. Abdi: ‘Marvelous young journalist’

A businessman behind an iconic common man

KPN photo

India’s greatest cartoonist, Rasipuram Krishnaswamy Laxman aka R.K. Laxman, inaugurates an exhibition of his work at the Indian Institute of Cartoonists in Bangalore on Friday.

Wheeling the legendary Times of India linesman, at right, is ‘Master’ Manjunath, the boy who played “Swami” in the television show Malgudi Days, based on Laxman’s brother, R.K. Narayan‘s famous work and directed by the late Shankar Nag. Behind Laxman is Ashok Kheny, the controversial businessman whose strange benevolence helped in the creation of the Indian Institute of Cartoonists.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Making all of us smile can make one of us cry

M.J. Akbar: Look, who inspired R.K. Laxman’s common man!

The slow but sure death of editorial cartoonists

Pseudonymous author spells finis to Mint editor?

avataraspxPRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Journalists at Mint, the business daily launched by the Hindustan Times group as “an unbiased and clear-minded chronicler of the Indian dream”, are in a state of shock after the dramatic weekend announcement of the resignation of its founding editor, Raju Narisetti (in picture), less than two years after its February 2007 launch.

For the record, the well-regarded Narisetti, 42, maintains there is nothing more to the move than what an internal HT memo stated last week: that it is part of a “leadership transition that is aimed at leading the next phase of Mint” (which has an ongoing editorial arrangement with The Wall Street Journal).

Rajiv Verma, the CEO of HT Media, which publishes Mint, and in whose name the HT internal memo went out, told the media website, exchange4media:

“Raju had come from the US and he has been here with us ever since the paper was announced in 2006. He now wants to move back. However, as Advisory Editorial Director, his association with HT Media would continue.”

Senior HT staffers too claim that Narisetti was on “exit mode” for a while now, and Ranganathan Sukumar had been named as his deputy some months ago with precisely this possibility in mind. (The buzz is Narisetti is headed back to The Wall Street Journal, where he worked in its pre-Rupert Murdoch days, serving as its editorial head in Europe.)

However, the suddenness of the announcement has set journalistic tongues wagging, and there are quite a few within and outside the organisation who believe the exit may have had something to do with the publication of an opinion page article 19 days ago, by a serving IAS officer writing under the pseudonym Athreya (an inference subsequently refuted by Raju Narisetti on 4 January 2009, and termed as “irresponsible…lies”.)

***

In the article “An open letter to the PM,” published on December 10, the pseudonymous IAS officer wrote, among other things:

# “Mr Prime Minister, you were selected, not elected by the people, for just one reason, that you posed no threat to anyone in the Congress party. You were not selected for your excellent PhD or for your integrity; not even for your competence as a civil servant. You were considered the least of all evils…”

# “[Y]our government has lost all credibility with the people, and the buck stops with you…. at least now, when India is under attack on its own soil, please act. And if you can’t act, please get out of the way and allow someone more effective to run the country.”

# “As PM, can you not sack or transfer your national security adviser, the Intelligence Bureau chief, the Coast Guard director general, the navy chief—can you or can you not get rid of your entire top brass and send a signal down the line?”

# “Are you telling us you don’t know that your telecom, environment and shipping ministries are the home of organized mafias looting the exchequer?”

Eight days later, the tone and tenor of the article clearly proved juicy enough for the BJP’s member of Parliament from Bangalore South, H.N. Ananth Kumar, to raise it in a Lok Sabha discussion on the economic slowdown to needle the government.

In response, the new Union home minister P. Chidambaram, went for the jugular:

“He (Kumar) cited an article allegedly written by an IAS officer. I have read the article. I do not know whether the name of that author given in that article is a true name or a pseudo name. I do not know whether he is an IAS officer.

“All I know is either he is a disloyal officer or a coward or both. If he had the courage, he should write the letter, sign in his own name and send it to the Prime Minister. But I hope they (BJP) do not encourage such officers; they did not encourage them when they were in power. So what is the point of citing a pseudonymous or anonymous author’s article taking shelter under it and running away when the reply is to be delivered?”

Mint, which has made its editorial integrity its USP, did not let matters rest there. The paper carried “An open clarification on an open letter” on December 22 with the declaration “Mint does not lie to its readers or knowingly mislead them. Period.”

And then Raju Narisetti himself joined issue the following day with an item on his Mint blog “A Romantic Realist”, with a piece entitled “On open letters and media ethics“.

The essence of the clarification and the blog post was identical. That while Mint‘s code of journalistic conduct doesn’t allow the use of “pseudonyms, composite characters or fictional names…” the said piece had been discussed internally and carried “because the author’s proposed article raised significant and valid questions to spur a national debate.”

Narisetti’s clarification and blog post didn’t stop at that. They reminded Chidambaram of the long tradition of anonymous articles, including a standout one, 71 years ago.

“In November 1937, the Modern Review, then India’s most well-regarded journal of opinion, published an article on Jawaharlal Nehru written by Chanakya, an obvious pseudonym. The author hit out at Nehru’s latent dictatorial tendencies and his “intolerance for others and a certain contempt for the weak and inefficient”. Its author warned: “Jawaharlal might fancy himself as a Caesar.” There were howls of protest from loyalists until it was revealed much later that Nehru himself was the author of this piece.”

Were all members of Parliament and bureaucrats who spoke anonymously to the media “disloyal” or “cowardly”, Narisetti asked.

As news of the resignation made the headlines over the weekend, reader Ganesh posted this comment to Narisetti’s blog post:

“It came as a shock to me that Mr Narisetti is leaving. But, we, Mint readers, need a proper explanation on why Mr Narisetti is leaving? Mint has done some good reporting on other media. Now it is a test for Mint to report on itself.”

Whether Mint will treat Narisetti’s resignation in the same professional way it has employed to report the rest of the media we will soon know.

The Hindustan Times, as a group, has had a number of editorial casualties at the top in the last few years. One editor (V.N. Narayanan) left after he plagiarised 1,240 words of his 1,400-word Sunday column from a Sunday Times, London, column. And one other editor is said to have had to leave because he took on a high government functionary, who has also been mentioned in the article by the pseudonymous IAS officer. The reasons behind the resignations have never been revealed to the reading public.

(An earlier version of this piece carried inferences which have been since excised following a belated clarification from Raju Narisetti.)

Photograph: courtesy LiveMint

Also read: Raju Narisetti: ‘5 reasons to be optimistic of Indian journalism’

M.J. Akbar: ‘Never let your head stoop as a journalist’

In fractured media, the word is the common fact

M.J. Akbar in The Gazette, Montreal:

“Mass media take a superpower’s monologue into millions of homes. We think of mass media as a fractured range: oratory, print, radio, television, Internet. There is one common fact to this range, the word. The medium may be diverse but manipulation of the message is through the massage of words, and the disorientation between text and context. That is the key to mind-management.”

Read the full article: An axis of equals

Editor charges Indian Prime Minister of sabotage

M.J. Akbar, who the grapevine says was ousted from the editorship of The Asian Age due to his staunch opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal, goes for the jugular in his column in the Khaleej Times of Dubai:

“The Manmohan Singh government has been unable to bear the burden of an alliance with George W. Bush. The Congress encouraged the illusion, with the help of a cabal of analysts, publicists and lobbyists, that the Left was a lapdog rather than a watchdog, and could be either appeased by a bone or silenced with a stick. When the moment came to choose, the Congress stood with Bush instead of Prakash Karat.

“The official excuse for this decision is energy. But this is deception.

Dr Manmohan Singh deliberately sabotaged a much cheaper and more immediate source of energy for the country when he deliberately undermined the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, raising one false spectre after another to mislead the country, so that it would seem that there was no option but to go ahead with the Indo-US nuclear deal.

“We have forgotten now that the first objection he raised, three years ago, was that financing would be a problem.”

Read the full column: War and consequences

Also read: ‘Never let your head stoop as a journalist

‘Media can’t be in a state of permanent war’