Tag Archives: Vinod Sharma

Express, NDTV, Tehelka, HT & the Bhushans

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Three weeks ago, Tehelka magazine ran a profile on the father and son lawyer-pair, Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan, who are on the Lokpal drafting committee.

Authored by Rohini Mohan, the piece inter alia repeated the canard that had been artfully spread about the Bhushans: that they had been allotted two prime farm-house plots by Mayawati “for a song”; that they had evaded paying stamp duty on a mansion purchased in Allahabad; that a CD involving Amar Singh hinted at their dark dealings, and so on.

The following week, Tehelka set the record straight, running a two-page clarification by the author of the original article, acknowledging that the magazine had got “some things wrong” on three key counts (see the Bhushans’ 11-page, point-by-point rebuttal here).

The Tehelka clarification has elicited a response from prime minister Manmohan Singh‘s media advisor, Harish Khare, in the latest issue of the magazine:

“Please permit me to put on record my appreciation of your decision to print a detailed clarification about the excellent cover story on the Bhushans. The clarification in no way distracts from Tehelka‘s commitment to responsible and rigorous journalism but it certainly is a welcome departure from the self-serving arrogance that has regrettably become the preferred style among many media practitioners.”

Tehelka is not alone in the course correction.

# The Times of India which first carried a page one story stating that the CD was genuine—a day after the Hindustan TimesVinod Sharma had dished out the same line on the basis of some unknown laboratory report—soon carried a story stating that the central forensic science laboratory (CFSL) had concluded that the CD was doctored.

# NDTV 24×7, which played no small part in the Bhushan smear campaign, asking repeatedly if the Bhushans should stay on the Lokpal panel despite the “evidence” against them, too, did an about-turn this week.

After the Supreme Court lifted a gag order on an earlier Amar Singh CD, correspondent Vishnu Som used the occasion to join the dots and show the verbatim lines in the two CDs to establish the point that the new CD had been cut and pasted from the old one, a point the Bhushans had been making from day one.

However, the key players in the “crude and disgusting character assassination” of the Bhushans (as Express columnist Soli Sorabjee termed the orchestrated campaign) continue to pretend as if nothing happened.

There has not been so much as a squeak from the Hindustan Times‘after the Chandigarh CFSL report showed the CD was doctored unlike its own prognosis.

For his part, Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta uses the assembly victories of Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalitha in today’s paper, to explain his paper’s visceral opposition to what he calls the Armani-Jimmy Choo “Revolution” of Jantar Mantar”, which resulted in the formation of the Lokpal panel with the Bhushans on it.

Gupta’s piece has a Freudian line in the first paragraph:

“Your best friends would catch you in five-star hotel lobbies and chide: ‘You defending the system? What’s wrong with you, you were such a nice guy?'”

Notwithstanding his Tehelka letter, let the record state that Harish Khare, a deputy editor at The Hindu before he joined Team Manmohan, has been at the receiving end of Express‘ barbs (here and here).

Also read: Because when dog bites dog, it’s news—I

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

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


Straight drives from the man behind Seedhi Baat

Former India Today editor Prabhu Chawla has taken his interactive “Ask Prabhu” column to The New Indian Express, which he recently joined as editorial director, answering questions on this, that and the other with earthy candour.

Many of the media questions directed at Chawla and his responses are illuminating. Chawla confirms market rumours  that the New Indian Express is on the verge of reviving the Sunday Standard title owned by the group.

Here’s a sample.

Q: Why were you fired from an outstanding media like India Today? Did your poor knowledge in journalism particularly about current affairs and useless questions in Seedhi Baat make you go? Have courage to answer.

A: You have already answered your own question. Be happy with it.

Q: You had a great platform with the other media company? Why take a position with The New Indian Express, which caters mainly to the southern region?

A: I hugely enjoyed my previous job which gave me recognition. But I was missing the challenges of a daily newspaper.

Q: Is there any possibility of the New Indian Express and the Indian Express coming together to make a wider national presence ?

A: It is not within my purview or authority to answer such a question.

Q: How should I book my copy for Sunday Standard from Delhi? Will it be available in all the shops? Please do give a good advertising campaign for this new endeavour sir.

A: You don’t have to book. Just order your newspaper hawker to drop Sunday Standard along with your other papers. We will be promoting it as well.

Q: Persons like you, Arun Purie, Rajdeep Sardesai and Arun Goswami are loved by us. Why don’t you join openly with Baba Ramdev in his pursuit of a political career? Instead, you openly discourage him?

A: I can speak for myself only. I am not interested in joining politics. I support Baba’s cause but not his politics. I have interviewed him nine times.

Q: Why is media being called the fourth pillar of democracy although it is only doing business here?

A: I haven’t understood your question. Media is not just a pillar it is mirror for everyone to see his or her face.

Q: In England, even the monarch is under media scrutiny and the royal heirs and other family members are hounded by the UK media for juicy stories. Why is the Indian media being shy of doing investigative stories on Priyanka and Robert Vadra?

A: Media can’t chase a mirage. It was media which exposed Bofors. And it is the media which has exposed series of scams. We chase scandals without thinking about individuals.

Q: Forgive me for asking you about your fellow journalist Vinod Sharma of the Hindustan Times. He appears to be brazenly pro-UPA in his appearance as a panelist in the Times Now TV. He makes no bones to show his admiration for Manmohan Singh.

A: He is entitled to hold an opinion. It is for the viewers to accept or reject it.

Q: Why don’t we see interviews in any media with Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi for the last 2 to 3 months during the scams and price rise? Media are happy to give them titles like Woman of the Year, Young Face of India etc.

A: Media can’t force them or anyone else to give interviews.

Also read: Should Prabhu Chawla edit The New Indian Express?