Shashi Deshpande, the Bangalore-based short story writer and novelist, on how journalism shaped her writing, in the Indian Express magazine on Sundays, Eye:
Do you remember how your writing career began? And how you became a journalist?
I was working as a trainee with the Onlooker when a colleague asked me, ‘Why don’t you write a story for our annual?’ I must have said, ‘What! Me?’
But strangely, I did write a story (The Legacy) over the weekend. It was published and so it began — more stories, then novels and more novels …
I joined a journalism course [at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Bombay] because, after my children were born, I was desperate at losing out on an intellectual life, which had always mattered to me. My family life was wonderful, but it was not enough for me.
Once I got into the part-time journalism class, I found I enjoyed the writing — it felt like something I had always been doing. And when I had to do a three months’ apprenticeship, my writing was much appreciated and I was asked to join the staff. Unfortunately, my children were too little to be left on their own, so I didn’t. I stayed home and wrote.
For the record, the now-defunct Onlooker magazine was published by the Free Press Journal group, competing among others with the fortnightly India Today and weekly Sunday.
India TV founder and Aap ki Adalat host Rajat Sharma was among its editors.
Photograph: Karnataka Photo News
Read the full interview: Shashi Deshpande
Also read: How journalism helped cartoonist Manjula Padmanabhan
How to pass IAS exams: read newspapers and magazines
The Indian edition of Campaign has brought out a booklet called “The A List”, supposedly the who’s who in media, marketing and advertising, in partnership with NDTV Media.
And the sloppy, incomplete and typo-ridden effort is remarkable for how predictable and boring most A-listers are: the most-admired politician—surprise, surprise—is Mahatma Gandhi, almost everybody’s favourite device is the Blackberry™, etcetera.
Still there are a few trends to be spotted:
# Most owners have a marked inclination not to reveal more of themselves. The Times of India‘s Samir and Vineet Jain; Dainik Bhaskar‘s Sudhir Agarwal; India Today‘s Aroon Purie; Network 18’s Raghav Bahl; NDTV’s Prannoy and Radhika Roy; Sun TV’s Kalanidhi Maran; India TV’s Rajat Sharma; Hindustan Times‘ Shobhana Bharatiya et al haven’t bothered to fill up the form.
# The list is so Bombay-Delhi centric that it would seem that the South and East of India are in some other country. Result: India’s biggest publications like Malayala Manorama, Ananda Bazar Patrika, Eenadu, Dina Thanthi, have no representation in a 100-rupee booklet that claims to represent “our entire ecosystem” (editor Anant Rangaswami‘s description).
# The new media goes almost completely unrepresented but for the presence of blogger Amit Varma, and many (Mid-Day‘s Tarique Ansari, NDTV’s Raj Nayak) admit they are technologically challenged.
# In a list teeming with people born in small-town India (Meerut, Madurai, Rohtak, Ratlam, Dhanbad, Kanpur, Karur, Manipal, Varanasi), many were born elsewhere: Business India founder Ashok Advani born in Hyderabad (Sindh); Outlook editor-in-chief Vinod Mehta, Rawalpindi; India Today proprietor Aroon Purie, Lahore, and COO Mala Sekhri, London; CNBC’s Senthil Chengalvarayan, Kandy, Sri Lanka; A.P. Parigi, ex-Radio Mirchi head, Colombo; Vaishnavi Communications’ Neera Radia, Kenya; INX chief Peter Mukherjea, London.
Also read: 26% of India’s powerful are media barons
The 11 habits of India’s most powerful media pros
Did the non-stop television coverage of the terror attack on Bombay reveal operational details of the commando operations, endanger the lives of hostages, intrude into the personal lives of victims and relatives, etc?
In today’s Indian Express, the founder of India TV, Rajat Sharma, claims he tried an interesting experiment last Saturday. He invited a former army chief to address the staff “to understand, from a decorated war hero, whether news channels went overboard in their coverage”, and what precautions, if any, producers, reporters and camerapersons should have taken while showing “live” action.
“To my surprise, the former army chief was emphatic: “News channels did nothing wrong. Your coverage didn’t do any harm whatsoever to the commandos! I’ve handled action as a major, then as a full colonel, and finally as an army commander in anti-terrorist operations, and there’s nothing I could make out from the news channel about the strategy of our commandos.
“Frankly, I expected him to echo what some have been saying—how terrorists got valuable clues on the commando plan by watching our channels. But sample what he said: “Do you think that terrorists holed up in a hotel facing commando fire had time to watch TV?”
“A young reporter persisted. He reminded the general of the “widespread belief” that the terrorists were being briefed on their Blackberrys by their bosses, watching our news channels. Promptly came the angry reply. “Anyone suggesting this must be mad. (Even) I could not get an idea about the action plan. Who has the time to look at TV and Blackberrys when you are in the midst of gunfire?”
Read the full article here: Reality, not television
Read Barkha Dutt’s defence: ‘The media is not the message. The viewer is king’
Also read: ‘NDTV: Navy chief’s comment is defamatory’
Harinder Baweja of Tehelka buttonholes Rajat Sharma, the editor-in-chief of India TV that sits on top of the heap of Hindi news channels, with its mix of sleaze, superstition, and “a host of other debatable tricks” that has left its seven competitors playing catch up:
# TV viewership is like a game of cricket. There was a time when Tests were a big hit… Now it is Twenty-20. The content has to change with time, even at the risk of being criticised by other colleagues in the media industry.
# We have changed the definition of news. If people still think that politicians cutting ribbons is news, those days are behind us. And (so are) speeches made in the parliament.
# We are in the business of news and only news. But today, entertainment has become big news.
# What is the agenda of the country? Is it only to keep abusing politicians? Is it only to show long speeches and ribbon cuttings? We have set the agenda.
# At my daily meeting with the editorial team, I tell them “go for the kill”. Don’t do a story that will make me or the chief producer or you happy; do one that will make the viewers happy. This is the formula. Go for the viewer. Speak for them.
Read the full interview: ‘I’ve a channel that tops the ratings. I’m not ashamed.’
Photograph: courtesy India TV
In a moment of pure television, an Indian rationalist has challenged a black magician to kill him on live TV—and survived to tell the tale.
On March 3, Sanal Edamaruku of Rationalist International found himself opposite Pandit Surinder Sharma, a tantrik who claims to be a consultant for top Indian politicians and is a wellknown face on TV.
During a discussion on “Tantrik power versus Science” on the ultra-tabloid India TV run by Rajat Sharma, Sharma claimed he was able to kill any person he wanted within three minutes using black magic.
The rationalist challenged him. The tantrik chanted special mantras, used water, his fingers and a knife, but failed. All this, while the TV station ran the item as “Breaking News” with a super in Hindi that read, “Now Everything Will Happen Live”. Then the tantrik claimed that the technique worked only at night.
The rationalist accepted the challenge again, and the TV show spilled well over its scheduled time. This time, the tantrik used mantras, paper, butter oil, peacock feathers, mustard seed, wheat flour dough, and his finger nails. But he failed again.
Over a couple of hours, a dangerous and widespread Indian superstition had been slayed in the studios, while the channel laughed all the way to the top of the ratings’ chart.
Photographs: courtesy India TV/ Rationalist International
Read the full story: The only place black magic works is in your mind