Tag Archives: Prabhu Chawla

Are journalists already poised to ride Modi wave?

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M.J. Akbar (extreme left) and Swapan Dasgupta (second from right) at the release of the book on Moditva

As the 2014 general election campaign gathers steam, the masks are beginning to come off, as journalists who make no pretence of their political and ideological inclinations (without disclosing it publicly) walk over to the other side, just as they did in previous elections.

Ashutosh of IBN-7 is officially the Aam Aadmi Party’s candidate from Chandni Chowk; Manish Sisodia of ex-Zee News has already done a stint as Delhi education minister; Shazia Ilmi of ex-Star News could stand against one or the other Congress or BJP heavyweight.

The buzz is a number of scribes are being tapped by AAP to make the switch.

Both in the 2004 and 2009 elections the BJP had no shortage of journalists, columnists and editors advising it from inside and outside. And 2013 is proving to be no different.

At a recent event in New Delhi to release a book titled Moditva, former Telegraph editor M.J. Akbar and former India Today managing editor Swapan Dasgupta  (both columnists for The Sunday Times of India) were helpfully at hand, making no bones about where they stand.

The Telegraph, Calcutta, reported the BJP president Rajnath Singh‘s address thus:

“When I first heard of the book, I was certain it was authored by a politician or someone wanting to get to the Rajya Sabha or acquire a post when our government is formed….

“I was amazed to know that this young man [Siddharth Mazumdar of Columbia] was not a politician or a political aspirant” added Rajnath, before looking long and hard at a group of panellists who had taken their seats for a discussion.

For the record, the other members at the book-release panel were economist Bibek Debroy, former Delhi police chief Kiran Bedi (a likely BJP Lok Sabha candidate), the BJP’s stormy petrel Subramanian Swamy, and BJP treasurer Piyush Goyal (who is already a Rajya sabha member).

Also for the record, M.J. Akbar is a former Congress member of Parliament from Kishanganj, Bihar. His name was mentioned in 2008 as a potential BJP member of the upper house along with former India Today editor Prabhu Chawla.

Photograph: courtesy The Pioneer

Also read: Who are the journalists running, ruining BJP?

Don’t laugh, do journalists make good politicians?

Why the BJP (perhaps) sent Chandan Mitra to RS

Kanchan Gupta versus Swapan Dasgupta on Twitter

For the BJP, is the pen mightier than the trishul?

Ex-Star News, TOI journalists behind ‘Arnab Spring’

When the gang of four meets at IIC, it’s news

A new paper in India’s most crowded market

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With the South-based New Indian Express group of Manoj Kumar Sonthalia entering the Delhi market with the Sunday Standard, the North-based Indian Express group of Viveck Goenka has returned the favour by entering the Bangalore market with the National Standard.

The 20-page daily, priced at Rs 4, has been launched on Independence Day with a near identical pagination as the main paper in Delhi, but with a strong component of national news, a key blank in the existing newspapers in Bangalore.

Writes Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta in the launch issue of National Standard:

“We will work to translate the news—and noise—of New Delhi to help you understand how it affects life in the city…. As a newspaper, National Standard will strive to be as complete as Bangalore’s bisi bele baath, that delicious mix of rice, lentils and vegetables.”

After the split in the Indian Express group following Ramnath Goenka‘s demise in the mid-1990s, his adopted son Viveck Goenka got the Express editions in the North, West and East, and Financial Express, which had no geographical boundaries.

The southern editions went to Manoj Sonthalia, who relaunched the publications in the South and Orissa as The New Indian Express. (Manoj Sonthalia’s mother and Viveck Goenka’s mother are sisters.)

(Ramnath Goenka’s daughter-in-law Saroj Goenka (Goenka’s biological son B.D. Goenka had predeceased him), got the lion’s share of the group’s real estate, including the Express building on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg and Express estate in Madras, on a portion of which she has built that city’s biggest mall, Express Avenue.)

The Manoj Sonthalia and Viveck Goenka groups had an agreement not to step on each other’s turfs, which was broken with the launch of Sunday Standard under Prabhu Chawla. The northern group took the matter to court but in vain.

For the record, The Times of India is the market leader in India’s most crowded English newspaper market, Bangalore, with a circulation said to be at least two times more than no.2 placed Deccan Herald .

The New Indian Express, The Hindu, Deccan Chronicle, DNA, are all also-rans. The National Standard is printed at the DNA‘s press in Bangalore.

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Is the PM’s media advisor Missing in Action?

Former NDTV Hindi anchor Pankaj Pachauri took over from Harish Khare as prime minister Manmohan Singh‘s media Man Friday barely six months ago. It was seen as a scam- and scandal-tainted UPA’s desperate attempt to reshape the prime minister’s image in the eyes of the media and its consumers.

Now, as the economy goes into a tailspin and the PM himself gets sucked into the turbulence of “Coal Gate”, the following item appears in Glass House, the gossip column of India Today magazine in its upcoming issue.

***

OFF THE AIR

The prime minister’s communications adviser, Pankaj Pachauri, chose to remain, quote inexplicably, incommuncado for the press delegation accompanying Manmohan Singh on his historic trip to Myanmar capital Nay Pyi Taw, the first visit by the Indian prime minister in 25 years.

Pachauri did not intereact with the media on the PM’s special flight. He missed the foreign secretary’s press conference at the conclusion of the prime minister’s talks with his Myanmarese counterpart. He was not even seen in the hotel at which the media was staying.

Little wonder that the Prime Minister’s media image is taking a battering.

Photograph: courtesy India Today

Also read: At 7, Race Course Road, this is Pankaj Pachauri

Why Prabhu Chawla did not become media advisor

PM goes to Press Club without his media advisor

Why Prabhu Chawla didn’t become media advisor

Prabhu Chawla, editorial director of The New Indian Express and Sunday Standard:

“Personally, I’m against the idea of journalists associating with the government in a formal advisory capacity without joining the ruling party. When former Prime Minister V.P. Singh offered me his media advisor’s job in 1990, I reluctantly declined. I suggested Singh not to hire any journalist, as he would only be adding to his already very long list of foes.

“At the age of 44, I couldn’t risk my journalistic career for a lackey’s loft, and make the prime minister the target of my own numerous enemies, also from within my profession.

“I hate to admit there isn’t much love lost between most senior journalists. Over the years, journalism has become divided along ideological lines. Like most humans, journalists also carry their predilections, preferences and biases around. In spite of our best efforts, we try to impose our choices on political leaders.(And imagine we succeed.)

“In the process, the leader ends up facing the ire of other journalists who end up targeting him, thanks to the one in his service. Many journalists have visible or invisible political ambitions. It is more honest to join a political party than masquerading as a self-proclaimed professional while accepting a job from the ruling party.”

Read the full article: A lose-lose situation

Also read: At 7, Race Course Road, this is Pankaj Pachauri

Why the PM is hopelessly wrong about the media

How well is the PM’s media advisor advising him?

Because when dog bites dog, it’s news—I

Because when dog bites dog, it’s news—II

Never believe anything until it’s officially denied

Should ‘media corruption’ come under Lokpal?

The more-than-just-a-neutral-observer position taken by sections of the media on the Anna Hazare agitation has clearly begun to rile politicians, and at least two of them cutting across party lines have argued in the last couple of days that the media too must be brought under the purview of the proposed anti-corruption legislation.

Exhibit A: Union minister for law and social justice, Salman Khurshid.

According to a report in The Hindu, Khurshid asked Headlines Today executive editor Rahul Kanwal as to why media corruption should not be investigated under the Team Anna version of the Lokpal bill.

“Do I need to go back to the Niira Radia tapes? Now you are asking why the government has not investigated. If we go ahead with the investigation, we would be accused of being insensitive. If we do, there would be a mass moment for the media.”

Exhibit B: Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Again, according to a report in The Hindu, Mulayam’s demand that the media also be brought under the Lokpal was met with thumping of desks by his colleagues.

“We [Samajwadi Party] suffered in the hands of media [during the polls],” he said during a debate on corruption. Even as a section of the treasury and opposition benche demanding that “media corruption” be also inquired into by Lokpal, Mulayam went on to state that it had become a practice for electronic channels to collect money during polls and air views in support of one party.

Also read: POLL: How has the media covered Anna movement?

Photograph: Television reporters deliver their piece to camera at the Ramlila grounds in New Delhi, against the backdrop of the stage on which Anna Hazare is fasting for the Lokpal bill

When Prabhu Chawla called up Amar Singh…

The Supreme Court has lifted a five-year ban on the airing of the infamous Amar Singh CD which, along with the Niira Radia tapes, must be made required listening in journalism schools for the unvarnished view it offers of how politicians, industrialists, bureaucrats, film stars, celebrities, middlemen and journalists operate.

Among the two-dozen conversations  on the Amar Singh CD—fondly referred to in media circles as “Amar Singh ki amar kahaniyan“—is one involving Prabhu Chawla, the former editor of India Today and currently the editorial director of The New Indian Express.

The conversation is centred on a press conference Amar Singh is threatening to call to tell the world about how an Aaj Tak reporter (Prachi Jawadekar Wagh, now with NDTV) sneaked into a hospital ward in Bombay, where the film star Amitabh Bachchan was recuperating and allegedly invaded his privacy. Chawla’s call to the then Samajawadi Party leader is aimed at stalling the press meet.

For the record, Chawla also figures in the Niira Radia tapes, and Chawla himself has put up the transcript of his conversation with the lobbyist on his website to set the record straight.

Also read: ‘TV is dishing out cheap opinion’

Shekhar Gupta on journalists in Radia tapes

The May issue of the men’s fashion magazine, GQ (for Gentleman’s Quarterly), has a six-page interview with Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of The Indian Express and host of the NDTV 24×7 interview programme Walk the Talk.

In a cover-mention titled “Is the Indian Express running out of steam?”, Gupta takes questions from the adman-columnist Anil Thakraney over oranges fresh from his farm in Haryana.

Shekhar Gupta reveals that Sonia Gandhi is the most interesting interview guest he has had, and that he passed along a story on the President blocking a Supreme Court judge’s promotion to a rival newspaper because the judge had ordered the sealing of the building from where the Express operated.

He also says journalists caught on the Niira Radia tapes “definitely” crossed the line:

Anil Thakraney: Niira Radia didn’t call you?

Shekhar Gupta: I’m sure she must have.

You think the journos caught speaking to her were guilty of a breach of ethics?

SG: Of the 100-odd people she may have spoken to in that period in the media, about five or six have got caught in varying degreees of indiscretion. It’s OK to string along a source; journalists are SOBs (sons of bitches), so that’s fine. The worst indiscretion would be quid pro quo. That has not been established in anybody’s case.

Do you think these journalsits crossed the line or not?

SG: Oh, yes, they definitely did.

***

Gupta also says:

#Am I happier compared to where we were three or even 10 years back? Yes. Am I happy, satisfied and in a lean-back state of mind? No. The potential of the Express is still unrealised….

# I don’t think any editor can say, “I have got it right”. The beauty of journalism is that it brings you surprises and challenges every day.

# Oh yes, we do (make money). Our balance sheet is in the public domain. All of us get our salaries paid, and we get paid very decent salaries.

# The Express is a top-of-the-mind paper…. It must go to every Indian who matters. While we want to improve our numbers, we don’t want to flood the market with cheap copies.

# There are a lot of young Indians who want their newspaper to be stimulating, intelligent and empowering. Only two papers in India fulfil that role: the Hindu and the Express.

# I always carried two visiting cards: one of “Editor-in-Chief” and the other of “Group CEO”. I said to myself, as long as I am using them in the ratio of 10:1, I am doing fine.

# I find the Times of India (Bombay edition) a comprehensive newspaper; it’s very good. I have great respect for that organisation because they change with the times.

# The qualities a good journalist must possess: Knowledge, language, enterprise, contacts… all that you can develop with time. The most important attribute has to be curiosity.

# Journalism means that when you get a piece of information, you verify it. Even if a reporter has seen someone steal something, she should still ask the person before publishing. The new definition of courageous journalism seems to be: You have the information, you publish it. You don’t check with the other guy. That’s the question I would raise about the Radia tapes as well. This is hit-and-run.

Also read: Is The Indian Express now a pro-establishment paper?

Indian Express, NDTV & the scoop that wasn’t

The Ratan Tata-Shekhar Gupta mutual admiration club

The curious case of Zakir Naik and Shekhar Gupta

‘Editors and senior journos must declare their assets’