Tag Archives: The Times

Why Jug Suraiya doesn’t buy Hindustan Times

There are many reasons why people buy newspapers (and inshallah, newsmagazines).

To be part of the shared conversation; to get an organised view of the world; to keep up with the Joneses; to get news and views and ads; to be educated and engaged and entertained.

Jug Suraiya throws light on another reason in The Times of India:

“After subscribing to it, along with the TOI, for many years, I recently stopped getting the HT newspaper. While it’s a good enough paper otherwise, the main reason I used to get the HT was for its cryptic crossword.

Bunny and I have been crossword addicts for many years, and we got the HT for its cryptic puzzle – a feature which for reasons best known to itself the TOI lacks.

“When HT stopped carrying its cryptic crossword – which it took from The Times, London – Bunny and I stopped taking the paper. We now print out the online Guardian puzzle every day.

“But the discontinuation of the HT has left a small gap, an absence, in my mornings. While before I had two papers to read in the mornings, now I have just the TOI.”

Read the full article: Used to it

Advertisements

And, so, the ‘best journalist in India’ is…

Tunku Varadarajan, former editor of Newsweek International, on his thambi (younger brother), Siddharth Varadarajan, editor of The Hindu, in the September issue of The Indian Quarterly:

“I think he’s the best journalist in India. He’s serious, he’s knowledgeable, he writes wonderfully. But what drives him is the urge to educate people, to edify. What he wants to get out of a piece is to improve somebody; what I want is a good read.

“I’m not a mindless provocateur, but I do believe that, if an issue raises hard questions, journalists ought not to play the ball safe with a dead bat; they out to try and square the ball to the boundary.”

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Also read: India’s three best cartoonists are…

India’s best editors? Just press ‘click’

‘A cricket writer as loved as any great cricketer’

In The Telegraph, Calcutta, Amit Roy reports on the funeral for the Bombay-born cricket and squash writer Dicky Rutnagur who passed away last month at the age of 82.

After the funeral, Rutnagur’s friends, colleagues and relatives proceeded to the Writing Room at the Lord’s, where John Woodcock, the legendary cricket correspondent of The Times, London, paid tribute to his former press box colleague.

Amit Roy writes that turning to the casket, Woodcock, 86, “who had made the effort to come up from his country residence in Hampshire, struck an informal, conversational tone as though he was chatting with Rutnagur,” his colleague from The Daily Telegraph, in the press box.

“Well, Dicky, I hope you know the affection in which you are held — and I use the present tense intentionally — not only by all of us here today, but by so many who are already with you in the great pavilion in the sky, and others who would be here now but for the Test match at Trent Bridge. It is a great privilege for me to have the chance to say so.

 “To have covered over 300 Test matches in the days when there were many fewer of them was a remarkable tally, and when it fitted, you were in the top flight of writers on squash and badminton.

“Thank you, Dicky, from all of us, for many years of warmth and humour, for becoming one of us as naturally as you did and for keeping our friendship in repair.

“It is a very considerable thing to be able to say, without any exaggeration, that of all those brought to this country through cricket, many great players among them, you, a journalist, has been as well-loved and respected as any. What an achievement! Our gratitude to you for many fond memories. Peace be with you, Dicky.”

Photograph: courtesy The Daily Telegraph, London

Read the full report: An English farewell for Dicky Rutnagur

Also read: Dicky Rutnagur, an ek dum first-class dikra, RIP

EPW, the ‘Economist’ of emerging countries?

The former West Bengal finance minister, economist and left ideologue, Ashok Mitra, in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“Gentlemen do not engage in public brawl; if they have a grievance to air, they write to the London Times. That was the British code…. The Indian gentry, as could only be expected, inherited the code of the ruling nation….  For all of them, the British convention of unburdening one’s point of view in letters to newspaper editors became the accepted mode.

“A geographical distribution of the load of the letters that got written took place almost in the natural course. Gentlemen in the south — and occasionally ladies — would write to the stodgy Hindu owned by the Kasturi family. Those in the west wrote to The Times of India, managed by the Bennett Coleman group, which had already passed on to Indian hands.

“Letters from the northern region would crowd into the office of the Hindustan Times, owned by the Birlas and edited by the Mahatma’s son, Devdas Gandhi. For the East, the preferred destination was the Chowringhee Square address in Calcutta of the still-British-owned Statesman, slightly hoity-toity, but at least continuing to be jealous of the elegance of its language and grammar.

“The habitué of the writing-letters-to-the-editor club are miffed to no end by the steady plebeianization of the entire lot of what were once described as national newspapers; these look more and more tabloid with every day and have ceased to be ambassadors of daily tidings from all over the country and the world. The intellectual community, in particular, is disconcerted; it is, it feels, beneath its dignity to have its contributions besmirched by being printed next to pictures of damsels in G-strings and money-crazy cricketers caught red-handed for spot-fixing — those pearls of wisdom deserve a better receptacle for display. It is now increasingly turning to the Economic & Political Weekly. A weekly publication with its limited circulation is not quite the same thing. Even so, the EPW has at least the imprimatur of respectability; it is supposed to be the leading social science journal coming out of Asia; it is, some say, the Economist of the emerging countries.”

Read the full article: If the price is right

Also read: EPW journalist bags Appan Menon award

EPW: Top-6 dailies devote 2% coverage on rural issues

The Economist: How to get from B to A

The Economist: A newspaper that’s a genuine viewspaper

The Guardian, Nick Davies and News of the World

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from Delhi: Most journalists who succeed in bringing down a minister or a bureaucrat, or a government, wear it as a badge of honour.

How about Nick Davies, who has brought down a 138-year-old newspaper, the News of the World—and its mighty owner Rupert Murdoch—with his searing expose of the phone hacking scandal?

Ironies abound in this story, from an Indian perspective.

For starters, dog eats dog: the former being The Guardian, London, which played the lead role in nibbling away at the heels of News International. Quite unlike Indian newspapers, magazines and TV stations which refuse to go after their peers and competitors, because of a pigheaded belief that dog does not eat dog.

Because, anything goes in the name of “freedom of the press”.

Two, the response of advertisers. Starting with Ford, a number of advertisers pulled out advertising from NOTW—derisively called Screws of the World for its obsessions with matters carnal—after the full scale of the scandal became known. Unlike India, where advertisers are party if not prodders to most of the vilest transgressions in the media.

Because, anything goes in the name of “market forces”.

And three, the response of news consumers—the reading, viewing, surfing public. Murdoch shut down NOTW because the negative reaction from readers and advertisers and MPs got too hot. Unlike India, where the media’s “ethics deficit” is seen as a problem of the media alone, not of the reading public. Or the Republic.

External reading: How The Guardian broke the story

‘Indira exploited Western media outrage in ’75’

William Rees-Mogg, the former editor of The Times, London, on the Emergency of 1975 and media censorship, in his book, Memoirs, to be published by Harper Collins on July 7:

“We attacked in a Times leader Mrs Indira Gandhi‘s suspension of Indian democracy. I only saw Mrs Gandhi once. She was insufferably arrogant, and very conscious of her image in the world. Our own correspondent in India, Peter Hazelhurst, had been ordered out of the country in the early Seventies.

“Because of consistent condemnation in the Western press, Indians were able to use the sense of moral outrage that existed in Western newspapers, rather the same way as the anti-apartheid campaigners were able to use the sense of moral outrage that apartheid caused.”

Also read: B.G.Verghese on the night Emergency was declared

Kuldip Nayar: The Hindu and Hindustan Times were worst offenders

Did we fight Emergency for this kind of media?

When editor makes way for editor, gracefully

The change of editorship at Indian publications is (usually) a graceless cloak-and-dagger affair, done in the dead of night after the janitors have left the building. Media consumers are rarely ever told why the helmsman has left or why a new one has come in, especially when there is a cloud shrouding the midnight operation.

At the crack of the new year, however, the business daily Business Standard had a more civilised change of captaincy. Here, the veteran editor and wordsmith T.J.S. George, founder-editor of Asiaweek magazine and a longtime editorial advisor of The Indian Express group, offers his salute.

***

By T.J.S. GEORGE

Appointments inside a newspaper are usually of no concern to the general public. But what happened in Business Standard last week should interest every citizen.

For it was a re-assertion of values we all hold dear and yet are vanishing almost unnoticed by us.

Outwardly it was a simple matter of re-styling. The editor of the paper was made chairman of the company and a new editor appointed in his place. But the significance of the move is wide-ranging for a variety of reasons—its rarity, the quality of the players involved, the importance of the values they represent, and the universality of stake-holders in this field.

Editor turning chairman is a rare phenomenon anywhere in the world. In India it has never happened before outside family-run newspapers.

In Britain it happened when Denis Hamilton, editor-in-chief of The Times was made chairman as well. In the US, Peter Kann who was covering Asia for the Wall Street Journal from Hong Kong was recalled and made publisher  in 1988 and, four years later, chairman of the Dow Jones Company.

What is noteworthy here is that only papers that had achieved high public confidence through their editorial excellence entrusted the company itself to the editors who had helped attain that excellence.

In the news business there is no greater asset than credibility.

In many other cases also credibility was gained when the owner/chairman allowed the editor to rule unfettered. The Washington Post and The Guardian are examples. In the latter case, owner John Taylor willed that the paper be sold to editor C.P.Scott.

That’s where the quality of players, both owner and editor, comes in.

Hamilton, the most innovative editor in England at the time, became chairman when the owner was Roy Thomson, a man of inherent  virtue who respected the high traditions of The Times. When the company was sold to Rupert Murdoch, a man of inherent faith in his own virtues, Hamilton left and became chairman of Reuters.

T.N. Ninan became editor of Economic Times (1988) when it was a staid, uninteresting paper. He completely re-invented it, gave it variety, liveliness and freshness. This approach of comprehensiveness was to become the template for other financial dailies.

In that sense, Ninan can be called the Father of Business Journalism in India.

He is effective because of his non-projection of himself, his habit of delegating powers and his knack of picking top-notch team mates. His choice for the chair he vacated at BS was Sanjaya Baru, perhaps the most accomplished scholar-academic-administrator-analyst in the newspaper business.

Unfortunately for Ninan, there was no Roy Thomson in Economic Times. Worse, the ghost of Rupert Murdoch lurked in every corridor. Ninan moved to Business Standard where owner Aveek Sarkar was conducting the Ananda Bazaar Patrika group rather like the Sulzburger family was conducting the New York Times company. He revamped BS on Ninan’s advice, but eventually sold the title.

Uday Kotak, the new majority shareholder, is said to have decided on investing only after getting an assurance from Ninan that he would mind the company as well. The chairmanship now conferred on Ninan is thus the culmination of  a philosophy already in place.

It is important that this philosophy  succeeds. Journalism has already sunk to unacceptable levels in our country.

How unethical this socially responsible profession has become  was demonstrated last year when the greatest newspaper scandal in the democratic world hit India. Several leading newspapers took money from politicians to publish reports praising them at election time. This was disguised as news—a clear case of cheating readers.

Is that the journalism India wants?

BS has progressed from  8000 copies to 185,000. But it is said to be facing problems typical of these uncertain times. In publications where values are upheld even when times are hard, every citizen is a stake-holder.

If honourable publications suffer, we all suffer.

If they succeed, we all succeed.

Photographs: courtesy Business Standard

Also read: It’s all official about the return of Sanjaya Baru

Sauce for a paper ain’t sauce for a TV station?

Conflict of interest and an interest in conflict