Tag Archives: Washington Post

‘Media freedom bleaker with Ambani domination’

The takeover of Network 18 group with its myriad news, business and entertainment channels has received scant review in the Indian media, but the author Pankaj Mishra bells the cat in Bloomberg View:

“There is no denying that the future of media freedom in India looks even bleaker than ever after Mukesh Ambani’s Silvio Berlusconi-style domination of both news and entertainment content and delivery mechanisms.

“At the very least, such violation of the rules of the free market should be exposed to intense public scrutiny, even criticism, of the kind the deal between Comcast and Time Warner has provoked in the U.S.

“But a near-total silence from politicians and the mainstream media greeted the extraordinary doubling of gas prices in India.

“When Reliance attempted to throttle the book [by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta] about it, those columnists who had denounced Penguin for agreeing to withdraw Wendy Doniger’s “The Hindus: An Alternative History” went oddly quiet.

“And given the “toadification” of large parts of the Indian media, to paraphrase Salman Rushdie, it may even croak out some malicious joy as more independent-minded journalists depart what does look increasingly like a toad-breeding swamp.”

Infographic: courtesy Outlook*

Read the full article: India’s newest media baron embraces censorship

* Disclosures apply


Also read: Will RIL-TV18-ETV deal win CCI approval?

Rajya Sabha TV tears into Reliance-TV18 deal

EPW on the Reliance-ETV-RIL deal within a deal

Anant Goenka: WaPo, Amazon, HT and the Reliance-TV18 deal


‘Indian Media lost all balance during Obama trip’

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The visit of the 44th president of the United States of America, Barack Obama, and his wife, Michelle, was covered by the Indian media in a way reserved historic occasions like the sinking of the Titanic or the invention of penicillin would have been, if only there was 24×7 television.

Everything else that happens in our wide and wonderful land—and everything that is conveyed to us as “Exclusive-Breaking News-Flash-First On” in normal times—was summarily relegated to nanosecond bits before the weather forecast, or bunched together ‘in other news’.

As if nothing else mattered.

If ever there was an overdose of verbal and visual onslaught on, this was one.

Channel after channel, hour after hour, minute after minute, spewed forth raw and unprocessed data of every bit of the Obamas’ three-day trip as if there was no tomorrow. Thankfully, secret service didn’t allow cameras to record and beam footage after the couple retired for the night.

Studio discussions with a pantheon of “experts”—who were seeing the action on TV screens like the rest of us, normal folk, but who were duty-bound to say something wise and illuminating at the same time—only aggravated the national headache enveloping the country.

The newspapers were no different, devoting page after dedicated page.

Truth to tell, fawning over celebrities, especially visiting dignitaries, has been a national obsession for a long time, with ‘Athithi Devo Bhava’ being taken to ridiculous lengths to make the visitor feel at home. But do we have to lose our head and bend our backs as if we have no spine?

When our prime minister visits foreign countries, especially the US, his stay and activities get reported on page 4 of section 2, in the sixth column, for a grand total of 150 words.

Even at the height of the East Pakistan war, prior to the formation of Bangladesh, when Indira Gandhi visited the United States to convince President Richard Nixon, all she was accorded was page 32 or something in the Washington Post.

Walter Cronkite on CBS news or Chet Huntley and David Brinkley on NBC would not give more than 60 seconds on their prime time news, and here we were covering what was essentially a trade trip by a Nobel laureate with vanishing aura back home, as if our lives depended on it.

Despite the gains of the renewed friendship being trumpeted by our networks ad nauseam, Manmohan Singh still barely gets a minute or two in the US media, both electronic and print media. Shouldn’t be there some kind of reciprocity, or a semblance of balance?

Every student in India knows by now that Michelle Obama can play hopscotch and that she studied in Harvard law school. And that she is a better dancer than he.

How many of us in India know that Gurusharan Kaur (that is the PM’s wife for you) is a trained teacher? That she can sing keertans and she has sung on All India Radio many a time? Do US networks ask her play hopscotch in Washington and make her sing on TV when the Singhs are visiting?

No doubt, the Obamas are well educated and enlightened and make a nice couple. But where is the sense of discretion from our media who went crazy for three days lock, stock and smoking gun?

Good journalists, poor journalism, zero standards

Raju Narisetti, the former editor of Mint, the business daily launched by the Hindustan Times group, who is now one of the managing editors at the Washington Post, has given an interview to the latest issue of the Indian edition of Forbes.

Question: How do you rate the quality of journalism practised here in India?

Answer: Good journalists by instinct but poor journalism because of practices, weak institutions, zero standards and ethics enforcement–voluntary or otherwise. Many business journalists want to be part of the business establishment or be close to it. That results in journalism that isn’t about readers. Even the best–and there are just one or two such institutions–journalism schools are not graduating grounded journalists. That will be the soft spot of India journalism for some time to come.

Read the full interview here: A fresh-mint way

Also read: Pseudonymous author spells finis to Mint editor?

Conflict of interest and an interest in conflicts?

Vir Sanghvi lashes out at Mint ‘censorship’

Link courtesy Shobha Sarada Viswanathan

‘Proud to have held the powerful accountable’

Leonard Downie Jr, executive editor of The Washington Post, has announced that he will step down in September, after 44 years at the paper. On Wednesday, he took questions from readers:

Reader from Alexandria, Virginia: A question I usually ask in an exit interview is: “What are you most proud of in your career and what do you think was your biggest disappointment?” How would you answer that for yourself?

Leonard Downie Jr.: I am most proud of the journalism I helped produce as a reporter and editor that held the powerful accountable to others in our society, the kind of journalism that has won us many prizes and, most importantly, brought about the righting of wrongs and constructive change. My biggest disappointment is those times, such as in the run-up to the Iraqi war, when we were not succeeding as much as I would have liked in featuring such accountability journalism.

Read the full transcript: Post newsroom leader to retire

‘Anybody here been raped and speaks English?’

Who is the best judge of a foreign correspondent? The readers, editors and bosses of the foreign correspondent? Or the residents (and critics) of the places the foreign correspondent is reporting from?

Surprising as it may sound, Amit Varma contends that it is the latter, and offers by way of evidence a Washington Post report on the cheer leaders of the Washington Redskins turning up for the Bangalore Royal Challengers in the Indian Premier League.

Varma calls the report by Emily Wax, “a piece of lazy journalism”, “sloppy hackwork”, in which she gets the basic facts of the game wrong (“Twenty20 cricket condenses nearly a week of match play into three hours, with shorter “overs”), and piles on all the usual cliches and preconceived notions that have become the bane of reporting from the subcontinent.

“In my view, the best judges of that are not peers or bosses, but the residents of the places you are reporting from. To someone who does not know India, this piece of hers must seem full of insight and telling detail, instead of the sloppy hackwork that it is. But who cares what the natives think?”

Read the full article: Of shorter overs and billowing swimwear

Also read: The land of a thousand bad newspaper articles

If our reporters are sloppy, what about theirs?

Photograph: courtesy Washington Redskins

If our reporters are sloppy, what about theirs?

PRITHVI DATTA CHANDRA SHOBHI writes from Oakland: Each time a foreign correspondent moves to Jorbagh and begins her South Asia Bureau chiefdom, the West rediscovers the essence(s) of India.

If caste and Hinduism were the old Orientalist inventions, as time has gone included into that list are some new ones: Bollywood, cricket, Taj Mahal, IT, chaotic traffic, elections and a functioning democracy.

Hegel would have been proud.

The Washington Post‘s Emily Wax returns to caste and untouchability today, in two companion stories. The first story “Iron Castes” focuses on caste discrimination, educational opportunities and upward mobility for lower castes. The second story is on Kancha Ilaiah’s new illustrated story book on caste discrimination. While there are no obvious factual inaccuracies, look at her narrative and the sloppiness in the narration.

So let us look at the human interest hook in the first story:

A lower caste boy wants to study but has to wash dishes at a restaurant, where his boss would tie him to a radiator at night. Of course, the boy couldn’t escape his destiny, until a foreigner rescued and turned him into “a star pupil with a voracious and ever-changing appetite for activities including yoga, photography and film directing.”

“His (Ramu’s) school, Ramana’s Garden, is just one of many progressive, mostly private institutions that have begun trying to dismantle the barriers of India’s caste system, a centuries-old pecking order under which higher castes have access to quality schools and jobs and lower castes remain largely poor and illiterate.”

Now, I am not sure how to understand this sentence.

How is time understood in the present continuous tense usage ‘trying’? Has this been happening in the last year or decade or century? Has caste too remained the same? Is there class based discrimination, in addition to caste discrimination? Moreover, have only been progressive private schools (largely funded by the Post reading westerners) been at the forefront of social change? How about government schools, colleges and universities? How is this story representative of what has happened and is happening allover India?

Questions that rarely get answered. Not doing nuances is a new national pastime.

Anyway, the story has a happy ending. Ramu now even begun his own business: selling postcards of photographs he has taken!

Sloppiness continues in the second story too.

“It has been called essential reading for every Indian child, a lively illustrated storybook aimed at raising youthful awareness of the injustices of the country’s caste system, much as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” exposed the indignities of slavery to white America.

“Kancha Ilaiah hopes his book, “Turning the Pot, Tilling the Land: Dignity of Labour in Our Times,” will change the way young people see farmhands, barbers, leather workers and others whose jobs are viewed with disgust by upper castes. The social activists who have lauded the book hope so, too.”

I tried to figure out how these two sentences are related to each other but couldn’t. Wax’s misleading comparison to Uncle Tom’s Cabin is undermined by Ilaiah’s hope, which is to uphold the dignity of labor, as opposed to indignities suffered by lower caste artisans.

Also, who has called it essential reading? Who are the social activists? Why not name them? Others too

I have no interest in doing Washington Post copy editing. Also, others, including Indian born journalists working for western newspapers and news bureaus, are guilty of such sloppiness. Anyone who has read Somini Sengupta in the New York Times will know what I refer to here.

Recently, Dileep Premachandran wrote a provocative and somewhat critical Guardian blog posting on the extreme and one sided response by the Indian media. But the title “India: where truth is up for grabs” didn’t make any sense at all. The headline undermines his argument by characterizing India as subscribing to a less than absolute notion of truth.

Worse, he seems to be suggesting India actually cedes truth to those who make a play to grab it and are powerful enough to pull off such a trick. It doesn’t take much effort to point out the hypocrisy of Indians, but clearly Dileep is belaboring that point way too much.