Monday, December 31, 2007

Spam sometimes...

Clearing out my inbox at the end of the year I found this gem of an email sent to me yesterday. I was wondering if I could do something about this, because this is a rather scary mail. I just know I am going to get blasted with PR spam next year!

Hi! Wanted to be the first to wish you Happy New Year..on 1/1/08.

We have an updated database of 6000 of India's leading journalists. (TV and print) This email database maintained and updated as of 31st March'2007 contains the following details:-

1. Name 2. Office email id: etc. and/or Personal email id:
(@yahoo/gmail etc) 3. Media Name/(Hindu etc.) 4. City (New Delhi etc.) Maintained in Microsoft Excel Format and YOU will not find it anywhere else.

Includes senior and middle level journalists with leading newspapers, television channels, business press and magazines. e.g . ToI, IE, Outlook, Business Today, NDTV etc. Includes VS (HT), BK (ToI), RS
(CNN-IBN) and PC (Aaj Tak) among 6000 others.
Can be imported into all email merge software for personalised sending.

You ARE going to use it for blasting Press Releases, new product announcements,corporate briefs or press conferences to these 6000 public opinion moulders.

We would like to sell this CLICKING database to you.

If interested, to receive a no-obligatory, sample list of 100 from our master database of 6000 pls reply blank email [address withheld] with
SEND100FREEMAIL30dec07* in the Subject.


customer support

Friday, December 28, 2007

Bhutto's death.

Don't know about you, but I do think the papers have gone a bit overboard with coverage of Mrs Bhutto's assassination, taliking about the 'cursed' dynasty and thus making the obvious comparisons to the Gandhi's and even speaking in nice terms of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, even though that man was a mass murderer in Bangladesh. Only Kanwal Sibal, former foreign secretary, writing in the Mail Today (you'll have to go to page 6 of today's e-paper, there is no way to directly hyperlink to the story) says what I thought yesterday. Even though you can argue that a lot of the militancy is a direct result of General Zia ul-Haq's policies and while I am no student of global geo-politics, I do know that several thousands of Indian civilians and security personnel have died of a direct result of the militancy fanned by Benazir. I do not know why we are celebrating such a woman's death. I would also like to point toward Jemima Khan's fantastic piece in The Telegraph in October.
Yes, it is sad that she was killed and I would like to pass on my condolences to her family. Nobody should die in such an awful, brutal and violent manner, but what is that saying about 'You reap what you sow'? Anyway, it appears that Al-Qaida (or is it Al-Qaeda?) killed her. We should be worried here about the future of Pakistan, as should the rest of the world. One of the more popular military 'secret plans' being bounded about in Delhi is the joint Indo-US-Israeli plan to knock out Pakistan's nuclear warheads, but I'm more worried about nutty Islamic terrorists with bombs strapped to their bodies.
There is also another another story which should be highlighted. Evidently Delhi's MLA's who are the laziest of the lot don't like newspapers printing that fact which is available on their own website. Did you know that last year Delhi's budget was passed in two minutes? Good on TOI, the MLA's elected in Delhi are horrible and if this wasn't the national capital and because many authorities are beyond their control (such as the DMRC) they have not managed to screw it up. But they still should work instead of lining their pockets.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Biased Media? Really?

There is a mail circulating among members of the Editor's Guild of India which essentially ccuses the Gujrati media of 'corruption' and bias and that they tacitly supported the BJP during the recently held elections. Of course, some members are crying 'blue bloody murder' and demanding a 'fact-finding panel' which of course gives unemployed former journalists something to do. Now, I do know that media in smaller towns are far more 'commercial' and more in the 'old school' of 'I'll rub your back if I you can do something for me later on', and some of it is pretty crude, but then again, local TV channels and media outlets in many cases in Gujarat were already owned by BJP members.
Anyway, my point not arguing that the media in Gujarat was biased, but so was a vast majority of the national media against the BJP. So please go ahead and appoint a fact-finding panel but also investigate the role of the clowns who were sent to report from the frontlines, heck, cover the international media as well, because their reportage is almost completely based on that of the Delhi-based english media. Bhupen Chaubey aside, most TV reporting was virulently anti-Modi. Print reporting was a bit more balanced despite the screams of Tehelka which got lost in their own hype, even the Indian Express was a bit more rational.
Back to the point, can the media help but being biased? The Gujarati media was in a sense reacting to virulent Anti-Modi talk spouted by incompetent reporters (yes, I mean you NDTV - send people with brains to cover elections next time and not people who try and find people to find their stories) by the Delhi-based media. So what we got was no sense of balanced reporting, other than the occasional agency article from either. So, so to those guys who are suggesting that the role of the Gujarati media should be investigated, do a through report and do some introspection.
What say?
Plus this comment got me making many phone calls at night, and two people didn't confirm it, but did not express surprise either. "What did you expect with a clown at the top?" one told me. I've heard that there are lay-off's happening at that channel, and some of the boffins over on the print side are rather happy of this state of affairs.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Modi's back...

At around one yesterday when the scale of Modi's victory became apparent, I sent an SMS to a senior BJP (sort of) spokesperson related to me which was a simple 'Congratulations'. The reply, 'Thanks, I hope secularists learn some lessons'. But still this is not a time to be smug and point out to the english media at large that three successive good monsoons coupled with the fastest economic growth of any large state in India, the only state where the implementation of Special Economic Zones (SEZ's) has been without trouble, which, despite the fact that Modi withdrew free power from farmers, giving them a regular supply through the day instead, would mean that people are fairly happy.
Nope, Godhra had to be brought up, Tarun Tejpal had to chase some RSS cronies disillusioned by Modi's development talk and got them to blabber out lies. The look on Teesta's face yesterday has quite tragic honestly, but the fact of the matter is that even if you go around claiming that a 'particular community' is sinned against and 'ghettoised', their socio-economic indicators are the best in Gujarat and not in states where their 'political' interests are taken care of. Look, I did not want to watch NDTV or CNN-IBN harping on about this stuff, what they have done now is create a middle-class hero. Anyway, this post isn't going to try to make sense of the electoral thumping, but sound economic policy can win you elections. No matter what people say against Modi, spend some time in Gujarat and you will understand why Modi stormed back. OK, so the comb-over was a bad idea!
The problem with Modi coming back to power is going to be quite simple for many other parts of the country. Firstly, after shutting up the fringe loonies in the right-wing movement, the RSS cannot protest the possible clearance of alcohol sales in certain parts of Gujarat. Expect alcohol sales to be allowed in certain hotels very soon. This would make Ahmedabad a far more happening city, now that the riverfront work is almost done. But the biggest problem for the rest of India, and particularly Maharashtra and the southern states will be the lure of Gujarat. The new deep water ports in that state are going to seriously upset the apple-cart for many older businesses. Gujarat is building more shipping capacity than the rest of the country has, and while port development in the rest of the country is hamstrung by some protestor or the other, it has stormed through in Gujarat.
Five more years of Modi and Gujarat will become a gigantic SEZ! I don't pretend to know what will happen in 2009, but this poster-boy for the BJP could really help them, even though it is pretty certain that the BJP will lose Madhya Pradesh which has a clown in charge.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The $12 billion media colossus!

I was just being told with a person close to the negotiations from the Private Equity side that Bennett and Coleman which is looking at a potential divestment sometime in early 2008. Any such divestment will potentially value BCCL at between Rs 40,000-50,000 crore, which at today's delightful exchange rates for erudite shoppers on Amazon, particularly those who like graphic novels is worth $12 billion. This of course is initial talk, there is indication that BCCL will divest any share, after all they do own two money printing presses called The Times of India and The Economic Times respectively.
However, if BCCL were to divest and if the cash did not go towards organising the craziest Bombay Times party ever, it would deal a killer blow to the hopes of several up and comers in the print media space - read Raghav Behl. As it is, Behl has made BCCL hurry up the introduction of a Hindi business paper (a translated ET) thanks to the tie-up with Jagran and his tie-up with Forbes to launch a monthly business magazine (nice piece here), after the ABP Group has waffled (as usual) on their Fortune tie-up. Any cash infusion in BCCL that ranges from $1-1.5 billion can be used by the paper to double its efforts across the country, maybe even finally launch a Chennai edition and also move beyond Hindi and Marathi when it comes to language papers.
And with masses of cash coming into print in 2007-2008 salaries will obviously move higher, but this begs one simple question. Where on earth are the journalists to man the papers? Heck, someone could even ask a doofus like me to become an editor (it actually did happen some time ago, making me almost choke on a batata vada). Now, that is a scary thought!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

New telly channels!

No, we aren't talking about the soon to be launched News X, with its brand-new brand ambassador Dada!
or about UTV Business, which I thought would have started by now...
But about the now strongly rumoured 'MintTV' from HT. Supposedly technical people are leaving other networks in droves to this new not-yet-formally named channel. This isn't the first time that HT has forayed into TV, they had a disasterous foray into home-ent almost a decade ago called 'HomeTV'. With their online division also sprucing up their act, and HT Media now a listed company, I guess investors have to constantly see something exciting.
Not that the Times Group's forays into TV have been 'very' successful, Zoom is an unmitigated disaster and Times Now.. well ho-hum. I guess unless you can get the top leadership right, there will be problems.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Quick Notes.

I thought the folks at India Today would have realised that Communists are not to be trusted, anyway, this one should play out well. I believe India Today has been 'banned' by Karat and the man is fuming that he was quoted verbatim.
On another note, some sad news, Tejeshwar Singh, DD newsreader of yore passed away a few days ago. I still believe that he was one of finest newsreaders this country has ever had, and this in a era where people can't pronounce proper English and have pathetic diction or put-on fake accents. But I doubt the man ever managed to live down Jalwa, but he was a genuinely nice man.

A legal misunderstanding.

Is it just me, or has there been a lot of tension between the media and the judiciary of late? I mean, this is the same judiciary that has in the past protected the media from legislative over-reach, courtesy Indira Gandhi and both her sons. But lately, in the midst of the media boom there have been some fascinating cases and some rather peculiar decisions.
The first was the censure of Vijay Shekhar, Zee News correspondent on exposing corruption in the lower judiciary. While some might question the means, any person with half a brain in this country knows that the lower judiciary in this country is anything but upright. Heck, the ‘advocates’ in a district level court operate like a mafia and the judges in these places are hand in glove with them. The previous sentence is liable for judicial reproach, but the average Indian has lost faith in the judicial process completely.
The second case is obviously the case regarding the Mid-Day journalists, who were put into jail without being given a chance to explain their positions. I’m sorry but how on earth was justice served in that case? I am not talking as a journalist, but as an average citizen. By sending those people to jail, all the honourable court did was to cement the idea in the heads of Delhi traders that the Justices involved were corrupt, their (his) reputation mixed into mud for all eternity. If the Court had taken a rational decision, the (accused) retired Justice would also be able to defend himself, and their decision leads most people to believe that someone is trying to ‘hide’ something.
The third, is a bizarre recent ‘suggestion’ by the Delhi High Court, which recommends that every ‘sting’ operation goes through a I&B ministry appointed committee. Thousands of tons of ink and newsprint have been wasted ever since that suggestion on newspaper edits which no-one reads questioning this suggestion. If it is taken any further, we can be assured of articles by Barkha and Rajdeep questioning the logic of the decision, so I am not particularly surprised that our I&B minister hasn’t peeped a peep!
Legal issues have come to roost in the media. I was being told recently by a close friend that the number of lawyers employed by NDTV alone has increased seven-fold in the past three or four years and some stories take weeks to get cleared by ‘leagl’. As the media becomes more competitive, more and more legal issues will pop up, because sooner or later we will be discussing the sexual habits of India’s cricketers on the front pages. I’m really looking forward to the tour reports from Melbourne this time round!
But, coming back to the issue at hand, there is now a dichotomy between the judiciary and the fourth estate. Part of the problem is a lack of knowledge on both parts. The other night there was a show hosted by a very senior anchor on Afzal Guru (on CNN-IBN at 10PM) where I was surprised at her lack of legal knowledge – if the Supreme Court has taken a decision – there is no legal issue left. The SC does not pass Death sentences lightly, basic civics lesson.
But anyway, that was just an illustrative example of a fairly senior journalist who does not understand issues (why she brought up the term Kashmiri Muslim however was beyond me, caste or creed had nothing to do with the case), and I can pretty much assure you that most journalists don’t understand legal issues. I have sit for hours sometimes to get into the nitty-gritties of telecom lawsuits, but that is an area where the lawyers aren’t quite sure either. If you were to ask me, as a journalist, on the merits of some major case or another, chances are that I wouldn’t know a thing.
Therefore, I would really like for someone to establish a Media-Judicial Centre, where such issues can be discussed and some amount of thinking can happen and some amount of thinking can happen, and instead of filling up such a centre with senile retirees, get insightful new thinking from field reporters and younger editors and younger lawyers. Because, while the media is evolving not just with TV, but soon to live streaming online video and what not, media law will need to evolve. You cannot judge the media with half-century (occasionally older) old laws. At the same time, journalists of all hues need to understand that in an rapidly expanding economy, the first industry that benefits is the legal industry and even young reporters need to understand the law and the implications of every story they do.
This is just an idea, but I think it can work, I think it should be there. Anyway… Comments welcome.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Things that make you go Argh!

No seriously, people mailing me Press Releases with massive powerpoint attachments explaining something or the other is just one problem, another, more serious one is running into a failed journalist in the 40-60 age group. These individuals who did not either become senior editors, members of parliament/diplomats/lobbyists or out and out politicians, TV stars or set up their own media schools (in some cases, before someone politely points it out to me, all three categories) are seen at some dinner parties where there is free (but usually always cheap-ass distilled molasses passing off as) whiskey and constantly whine about the depths of depravity that Indian journalism has fallen to.
Listen, I do not for second doubt that Indian journalism is in need of serious help, but on the whole, and I must stress the words 'on the whole', the quality of journalism and journalists has improved dramatically from the stuff in the 80's and 90's and is a far cry from the government sponsored drivel we read in the 60's and 70's. The last two decades gave us some fine journalists, and I am rather proud of being a second-generation journalist (more hints, if you have to mistake my identity, don't mistake me for an incompetent driver) but journalism today is braver and more competent, though sometimes takes some issues to the edge of reason (the Sanjeev Nanda case on NDTV for example). Don't get me wrong, there are still examples of incompetence all over the media and instead of government perks, the media is riddled with stories of corporate freebies - there is the recent case of the retail correspondent of a pink paper who goes shopping for free, not that the newspaper concerned has much in the way of ethics either.
Yet, everything said, the media in 2007 is far, far more inclusive, though it is still accused of being elitist, than it was in 1997. It is not a clique of former students from Stephen's and Presidency. Heck, when I look around, I am one of very few Stephanians from my vintage in the print media. And even though one TV network in particular is attacked for being an old-boys club, even that network has been forced to become more inclusive.
Sure, the media still does have rotten apples and you could argue that the number of bad apples has gone up considerably particularly in the local language television media, and I've had the misfortune of meeting some of them, but the yield of the apple crop has improved as well. The only problem that journalism will face is that some of those who lament the loss of the good old days teach in media schools and media schools themselves have not understood what the internet is all about.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bad Taste...

I don't want to see a dead body on the front page in the morning, I don't care how important the story is. Someone died, don't desecrate him by carrying a picture of his dead body on the front page. And while I'm at it, drop the Edit page too, I really don't want to read sanctimonious articles by people who should really be put out to pasture. And please improve your Business section as well, though I do think the Sports pages are awesome!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Zippity Zappity

This has nothing to do with media affairs, politics or anything of the sort. Since I don't run a personal blog any more, some silly posts will manage to infiltrate this blog!
I couldn't think of a headline, so I just put together a string of words. No I'm not stoned or drunk nor is my existence a sign of the malaise that afflicts Indian journalism, I think. Anyway, one of the honchos who helped me in my early career, by the very simple fact that he met me and spent time explaining things to me is retiring today, and I can't honestly say that I am not feeling a bit sad. I actually went ahead and got one of the nicer pictures we had of his in our library framed and will be presenting it to him. Pointless writing about this actually.
What did warm my heart a bit though is that the next installment of Harold and Kumar is coming out year! The R-Rated Trailer is here!The movie version of Speed Racer (Trailer)is also coming out, and one comment describes it as an insane 'Peyote Trip', which would mean that I could really have some fun watching this movie. Yes, I do watch my fair share of arty, insanely slow movies, which are beautiful and in the case of Almodovar make you realise you don't smoke quite enough pot as you should, but a silly commercial movie every once in a while is great fun.
My favourite movie this year was the Brit Action Comedy Hot Fuzz. If you haven't seen it, you don't know what you've missed!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Pet Peeves II

The mumbling non-committal interviewee, and these meetings are invariably with either non-desi executives or early morning meetings. Some of these meetings invariably turn out to be a chance to catch up on coffee, because half the answers get lost in either the accent or are not answered - "We don't disclose those numbers..." The weird thing is that those numbers are often revealed (though sometimes on page 467n of the Annual Report) but our friends just have to act cagey. I have figured out what is a 'forward looking' question by now, and what the Regulators can claim to be out of line, but so being fed bullshit is sometimes very irritating. Especially at nine in the morning. Then again, god knows whagook those guys have been fed by their PR handlers, they could go to disgruntled nutjobs to find out about me. Who knows?
Though you also manage to get interesting interviews once in a while. A recent interview I conducted with an industrialist was on a beach, another one was fun because the person (strangely for a foreign executive) came out with all guns blazing! Of course, you also get the most fascinating interviews with some characters who suddenly claim that their company is developing some all-new thing (which invariably would be a copy of something else) or that they expected a 40 per cent market share in a years time from under one percent today. You don't know what to ask delusional interviewees, because if you ask 'How?' you will be stuck there for half the day and be subject to quadruple your daily recommended dose of Powerpoint's, without one worthwhile slide.
Anyway, enough cribbing.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

On Blogging...

One of the tragedies of recent years has been the shifting of the funnies to the supplements. Since I am usually too rushed to read just papers every morning, I rarely pick up Delhi Times or HT City to read the comics and even with comics, you get the same old, same old. Not that I would pick up the supplements anyway. Very few new comics ever get printed, like one of my favourite ones Stephan Pastis' Pearls Before Swine. So I often thank the big guy/gal up there for the interwebs so that I can get my daily dose of the funnies. And this was his strip yesterday which I thought was hilarious.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I'm part of the lower-middle class malaise that afflicts Indian journalism today! I really haven't heard a funnier joke in a long time, but really, other than having a weird desire to defend my snob cred, which I think I don't need to do, because that will lead to accusations that I typify the elitism that ails the English media in India today. Damned if I do, damned if I don't! But to defend myself, the conference I feel asleep was in my previous job (which automatically puts it half a decade ago) at was on a Saturday and after a mad Friday bender, I was fairly sleepy as is.
And attending some conferences are a recipe for curing insomnia! You see, I really don't give a damn about some press conferences and there is a perfectly good reason why I avoid them nowadays. Most press briefings are a waste of time and worse still, after making me rush through traffic and parking my car in a no parking zone in a rush to attend some presser only for said executive to saunter in after one hour. If you don't respect my time, I will not respect yours, as simple as that. I will fall asleep if you keep me waiting, and I really don't care what you think. If you think I'm scum, so be it.
But anyway, I've keeping a photographic record of some of my more recent assignments, and now that things have appeared in print, I can share some of my pictures with everyone. I guess anonymity isn't much of a priority anymore, since 'K' is a bit of a joke now.
When i run into folks from my college, who promptly inform me that they've all been following 'My' blog, like one told me the other day, "Dude, only YOU could have written this blog, but anyway you don't leave much to guess. You advertise you're from college, from a obvious set of batches and a fairly successful print journalist. Since almost everybody else ran off abroad or got into Bollywood, and then there is 'K' itself, you're a sub-set of one. Damn nice blog though."
Hmmm... I should have really been a bit more inventive with my pseudonym. You don't suppose I can change it now, do you?
Anyway, really if you don't like my blog, don't read it. And while I don't have any issues with anonymous comments, I would really appreciate it if you did leave a name. And to the people who subscribe to this feed, do drop by and comment once in a while.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Quoting some clever dude doesn't mean...

That you are clever, so when I see the wildest signature lines on emails in my Outlook inbox, I do get a bit horrified. See, I've become pretty accustomed to ignoring terribly long legal disclaimers about why I shouldn't read the PR email that I have been sent about some terribly fascinating launch of a washing machine which washes clothes but promises to remove the skid marks from your undies. And then I read some line from Bernand Shaw or worse still, I saw a line from Neruda recently on some pointless PR email. Here is the problem, PR emails are technically not spam, but they're just one level below it, I really don't want to get most of them. Of course, if the PR world stopped emailing they would call me, and given that my phone number is known to half the living universe, that won't really help matters.
Anyway, I was just tagged by Nikhil to describe the funniest thing I have ever seen at a conference. Now I have to state up front, I've been a journalist for over six years and I must have attended close to 1000 press conferences in that time, because for a lot of those six years I was at the bottom of the food chain. So I've seen a lot of funny things - I've seen Richard Stallman (funny), Steve Ballmer (funnier), Nandan Nilekani (sleepy), assorted Japanese and Korean executives (hilarity), naked women (not in India, but I have seen almost naked women in India), very drunk senior executives slurring on stage while trying to grope the hostess' ass and the hostess making a monumental boo-boo and watch my big boss squirm as she did that.
But the funniest thing I have seen at a conference was completely my doing and technically I didn't see it. Several years ago during a particularly painful Powerpoint, I fell asleep and started snoring. Pretty loudly I was told. And when the PR chiquita went to wake me up I supposedly didn't use the nicest language with her. Best of all, a colleague with a camera caught a lot of the said event. There goes my budding political career. Oh yeah, there was also this time when Richard Stallman dressed up as an angel/god at the AirJaldi conference, but thats Stallman for god's sake. What else? I've seen senior executives with their flies undone, people who desperately need to go to language school and Shah Rukh Khan being Shah Rukh Khan and many of the women journalists losing all objectivity (though that was worse at a Abhishek Bachchan event). I've gotten pretty drunk at post-conference parties and a lot more... but this isn't the place for such stories.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Going online...

Every once in a while we get a disgruntled subscriber call up the editorial office and because the receptionist loves me, or possible because I'm the most patient person I get these calls on my extension. So interestingly, I had this one call a few days ago, where during the course of the conversation I mentioned to the guy that we were revamping our online site, and opening up our archives (eventually) online as well as putting in a e-magazine, a full copy of the magazine online down to the adverts. Now, this is actually live right now and it is a lot better than any e-paper there is and none of the competition has a clue. But then again, our real-life competition barely has a clue anyway.
Now, back to the story, this guy then tells me 'Why should I buy the magazine then?', and honestly other than mumbling something to the effect, 'Well, it feels nicer in your hand and the e-magazine needs a good internet connection to work.' Now, this conversation actually got more interesting, 'But am I not subsidising the people who read it online?' this guy asked me, and that weirdly enough is a terribly valid question. Though I did tell him that the amount he pays for the magazine barely covers the costs of raw paper, let alone printing, distribution and the cost of maintaining an editorial and sales staff and this magazine like many others was ad-supported, but his point was well-taken.
The internet is going to change the way we will consume media, now as long as the current minister is in charge and busy raising funds for the DMK's electoral kitty by making bizarre decisions, there will not be proper broadband in this country, because I pay equivalent to $20 a month for shitty speed, albeit unlimited data from Airtel, and in the US with Fibre into the home, people can get 10mbips speeds for not much more. But, we will get those speeds one day, at ridiculously cheap rates, and just like the internet has changed the music and movie business (though the music industry refuses to change) we will have to change as well. 'Performance' media? Or will we all be slaves to Adsense revenues? You can't even say, let's wait and watch, because change will happen so fast that you'll be too far back if you wait.
That said, why are the sites of all of India's major newspapers so awful - ToI and HT both suck and are far too heavy and cluttered and their e-Papers are both rather shady, but Times' in problem requires a colour change on the e-Paper background page before anything else.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Just where is Brinda Karat?

I was watching Mamta Banerjee on NDTV last night asking "Where is this Mao?" Well, Mao is kept at a mausoleum in Beijing, so she could take the (delayed) Air India flight from Delhi to Beijing if she wanted to see him. But, I was wondering where India's #1 protester Brinda Karat has disappeared? Coincidence? I'm sure she was upset that her husband's Bengali goon's beat up her comrade-in-arms Medha Patkar. Somewhere out there, Narendra Modi is laughing. Very loudly!

Monday, November 19, 2007


The best way to get of travelling high to to spend the greater part of a day weaving between tractor-trailers, though there were points of time when you just saw lovely long stretches of empty tarmac stretching out into the dull grey haze. I was driving down to Jaipur to watch the final one-dayer between India and Pakistan, and yes, we lost, but I had a fairly good time none the less, even though flag-waving patriotism really isn't my thing, but what the heck, flags were bought and they were waved. Great deal of good they did! What was also peculiar was that half the crowd wearing gloriously bad fakes (sorry to be snobbish but 'Channel'? For crying out loud?) wanted to see Shah Rukh and Deepika, not to watch the Pakistani batsmen whack our bowlers to various corners of the ground.
That said, the Sawai Man Singh Stadium in Jaipur is lovely little stadium, as against the hell-hole that is Wankhede and the disaster zone called Kotla (though I will like to see the new 'Kotla' during the First Test starting Thursday). While Cricket is a great sport, I think TV has just taken over the 50-over game. The breaks between overs are ridiculously long and you suddenly realise just how much time the advertising takes up. So no matter what the purists think, the reason Twenty20 is becoming popular is not because India pulled off a fluke, but because the game is just so much easier to watch in a stadium.
And don't you really think India needs some other sports to develop really fast? Something fast-paced without a break every four minutes, like football for example. hey, its easier and better to play football on a game console than it is cricket (Have you even tried Yuvraj Singh Cricket on a 360?). But if that oily nut PRDM keeps running the sport, nothing is likely to change anytime soon. Anyway, I think I'll confine myself to Delhi for a couple of weeks.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Ek aur newspaper!

It's been raining raddi in Delhi for the last few months, three new papers in under a year - PaperMint, The bastard child and now Mail Today which came out today. First impressions, nice paper, nice size, nice layout, but I can't seem to find any content inside. Forget the business pages which began with a pointless story, even the lead story was rather pointless. This is a paper that is focussing on the Delhi market, so why don't they give me local news, not something about some bureaucrat. Tell me about the weird High Capacity Bus Service (HCBS) Corridor which has brought South Delhi to a screeching halt or even something of national importance. Or then be a tabloid. Proper tabloid.
That said, I think that PaperMint is only finding its feet now, with some really interesting reportage and it took MetroNow a few months to get cracking and go after that 'model on the streets' story, which was a great tabloid story. My honest opinion about the newspaper will be misconstrued, but it is difficult for a paper to be too many things - DNA proved that dramatically in Bombay and only now after getting some single minded focus and getting rid of the marquee names is the paper finally waking up.
A focus on 'women' is what was mentioned at a recent press briefing, and honestly I couldn't find anything that was focussed on women or at women. There was no story that came out of the paper and hit you, it was just several pages of well-designed blah, and with some of the senior editorial staff there right now, I doubt it will migrate from being more blah. PaperMint, for all its worth did always have some strong batsmen in the line-up, as did MetroNow. Anyway, first day, first show has been slightly disappointing, lets see how the paper progresses!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Dear Mr PR rep...

Since I have been alternatively travelling to various outposts of the Republic and getting drunk out of my skull on various types of whiskey thanks to some lunatic or another (don't worry, I haven't been driving drunk, with the Delhi government making all of South Delhi a giant construction zone you doubly need your wits about you nowadays), I missed this delightful post by Chris Anderson. Yes, while I'm not as high up in the food chain as Mr Ansderson, I feel his pain! And more.
I have received calls from dimwit PR types asking me 'We are updating our media lists, what is your name?' My mother taught me that banging phones down was impolite, but for chrissake! Other idiotic questions - 'What do you cover?' (Read the frikkin thing!), 'What is your designation?' (we have a tombstone!) et al. I would figure after six and a bit years, people can figure out what I cover and also figure out that calling me after sending a fax or email to confirm if I have received it is stupid, really frikkin' stupid! If you are in PR, don't get me wrong, I know we need you as much as you need us, and dealing with dumb journalists isn't pleasant, but calling me after an email which is some dumb press release is like asking me to scream at you. It won't make me any more disposed to carry it than not calling me. If you are pitching a story, fair enough, but use your brains there too - I know some of you have pitched to clients saying we have a good equation with so-and-so and we can 'guarantee' you XXX column centimeters / airtime of coverage in XXX publication or channel. I know who does this because I do happen to have friends who happened to go to IIM and have had to listen to these presentations. One friend who happened to sit through one of these presentations by a fairly well-known PR firm, laughed so loudly when my name was mentioned, that the PR firm got the hint that we murdered bottles of scotch together.
But will I put on a blacklist, Mr Anderson style? Not yet anyway, but my pet peeve isn't with useless email, my office filter is pretty good because I have set it up pretty well, but the problem is that I work in an organisation which is rather stingy with email server space. Of course, it is a wonderful organisation, but on some IT issues, it needs serious help! Anyway, what I hate the most is when PR emails come in with multi-megabyte images attached - the image invariably is of some horny manager trying to fondle the boobs of some $10,000 a night B-grade Bollywood actress. I really don't want to know, if I see a mail larger than 300kb I tend to delete it without opening it. If I need an image, I will call you, and if you folks have done your PR advocacy well and told your client that he/she should build some semblance of a media website where I can download product shots, I would very grateful. I don't want to approach you if I need an image, because it needlessly adds delays to the process and the images you hand out suck, because no matter how many times I try to explain '300dpi', a good 90 per cent of you think that if it looks decent on a computer screen it must look good in print! Most western corporates and some Indian companies have understood this.
The problem with PR here at times is that it still works on a 'contact' system, and while I know I can work the system pretty well, but getting basic information out is still sometimes such a pain. But I must tell my much harrowed boss about this, but the next time I get a large email from one of TV channels explaining in large pictures the happenings on the latest talent show or another, I will post email addresses online for spambots to pick up!

Have a great Samvat 2064!

Thursday, November 08, 2007


A friend told me a very weird thing yesterday, "You know, you probably have one of the best jobs in Indian print journalism today, K. You travel like a maniac to exotic locales. You cover just about anything that takes your fancy. Your life is like a constant blast."
Sometimes, I really wonder how I wandered into the job I have, not journalism per se, because I know how I wandered into the profession, but the job profile that I have. I mean, some of the assignments that I get boggle me, and sometimes sometimes the assignments that just land on your lap are even more puzzling. I just spent the weekend in one of the most beautiful parts of the country on a story that I doubt I enjoy the 'qualifications' to deliver, but then again, I guess writing is a skill and if you were born as a straight bloke, you don't need qualifications to stare at good-looking women.
But I have to admit, my job has been very good to me, in terms of travel. Sure, my passport still has empty pages, but when it comes to going wild and whaky places inside India, I have travelled to some really crazy places, seen stunning natural beauty and environmental destruction, both in scales unimaginable and experienced both abject poverty and gross oppulence, sometimes within hours of each other. But I guess in the process, my ability to get shocked or 'feel' pain or even enjoy a bloody good single malt has taken a hit. Sure, I guess I say all the right things when I have to, feel sympathy with those I have to, and I've probably attended enough alcohol-tasting sessions to blab out all the nasal and palate notes by rote.
Can you manage to see eye to eye with a widow whose husband killed himself over a Rs 20k loan one day in Wardha district and attend a champagne lunch with starlets snorting coke next to you two days later in some South Mumbai joint and feel equally comfortable doing both. I can, I know because I have, and I don't know if that I can possibly be proud of myself because of that.
I sometimes try to rationalise everything by saying, 'It's a job, if I didn't do it, someone else would', and that is exactly what I feel. I have always felt that one should experience a multitude of experiences, high and low in their lives, and god knows, I've had both, both professionally and personally. Totally natural too, but yes the acid did help out some years ago, but the drugs are a thing of the past now other than the occasional smoke.
But my life isn't a constant blast. I don't have a life, I just bounce around from one experience to another. It is fun alright and I really enjoy it, but I'm also killing myself doing this. This is my drug of choice now, I need it, I need the rush and I don't think I can cold turkey. Shit!

Photo : Vijaynagar Beach, somewhere in India!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Roti kyon nahin ho?

A very close friend of mine who works as a photographer with a daily, or rather used to work in a daily as he has just shifted to a national news magazine, came over last night and was narrating a strange incident. As all Dillivasi's are aware, Blueline buses have been mowing down a person every two days on average this year, so my friend was at the scene of one such event. The family of the victim, a small child, four or five years old was still coming to terms with what had happened, the mother was still in shock. That however, did not stop the TV crew of a local channel from Delhi.

"Aap toh dukhi nahin lag rahe hai?"
"Roti kyon nahin ho?"

What can you say to that!
This is not the only incident where Television cameramen/reporters have been known to get a bit too over-enthusiastic and manipulate the images they show. In the hyper-competitive world of TV journalism today, even though no-body might be watching a particular channel unless they have relatives working there (which kind of guarantees viewership nowadays), I think boundaries are being crossed a bit too often.
In a related story, despite eveything, 'Live India' has managed to get away scot-free from the 'Non-Sting' incident. I'm appalled at the decision by the court, but in India's lower judiciary, anything goes, I guess!
I'll be far, far away in a distant outpost of this Republic, so excuse me till I return!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Winning the lottery...

Sorry for the baseball analogy, but I actually tracked the MLB post-season and was really happy that the Red Sox won. Basically, I am a sports junkie, though I do have some teams to whom I'm ferociously loyal - Arsenal (they're good, aren't they?), the Indian Cricket Team (despite everything) and Williams in F1 (though I was unashamedly a Lewis backer this season) . Anyway, back to the story, sometimes life throws you a curveball and you manage to catch it by the corner of your eye and slam it out of the park. For a Grand Slam!
That is what happened at three today afternoon, I got a phone call from someone I didn't expect to be calling me right now, and to cut a long story short, I'll be on an island beach in a couple of days. Sometimes I don't know how I end up holding certain things in my hand, but I am really not complaining!
Life is good, though I should not really count chickens before they hatch. That job is a for 'management guru's'!

Falling asleep!

While I have fallen asleep, and quite soundly too, during Press Conferences, which is a major reason why I sometimes go into some briefings with my ears snugly plugged into my iPod, I recently found myself very close to dozing off during a 1-on-1 interview. It wasn't so much the fact that I was bored, yes, meetings full of technology jargon can bore me, I still usually manage to stay up. I mean, have a semblance of life, not roll my eyes and let the sandman take me from behind.
But, as I mentioned, I almost did doze off, and honestly, it wasn't so much boredom as a combination of boredom and tiredness. I had caught a flight at some obscene hour in the morning and coffee can only do so much when you are already tired and to make matters worse, this was that dreaded 'post-lunch' meeting. See, there is a reason I usually skip lunch. Eating lunch, no matter how good and how healthy the biological types insist it is makes me completely useless for an hour. Of course, there are also good sushi lunches which leave me awake, but that is because I'm still tasting Otaru in my mouth, and that is a wonderful feeling. Sadly, daily sushi lunches are not an option.
Anyway, I did not actually snooze off in front of the guy I was meeting, even though the thought of attaching my eyelashes to my spectacle frames did strike me. What is worse is that in my semi-stoned state I managed to make complete sense in what I was asking. I surprised myself by asking stuff, I was even comprehending what the person I was meeting was telling me, though my eyes could barely focus on his face.
Anyway, I doubt I'm the only one who has had to face such a situation, but I would like to know if there is anybody who has actually dozed off during an interview?

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Now, now, immature maybe, sladerous? Me? I don't make up stuff.
Anyway, I read this earlier today and am still laughing.

To quote...

" Pleading for a judicial intervention in the matter, the former Director General of BSF Prakash Singh, who is one of the petitioners, contended that children of the country were exposed to the uncensored obscene pictures adversely affecting their mind.

"I have collected the papers from all over the world and no newspaper publishes such obscene pictures," Singh contended while placing the copies of the newspaper before the Court."

Evidently, Mr Singh does not read The Sun at all, or did not submit it to the court, lest it ruin his case. But, I do contend that busybodies like Mr Singh should close his eyes, or stick to the Hindu group of publications! And this is my blog, so give me a frikking break, if I don't like someone, and I think someone is a cunt, big deal! So what if so many of you know who I am, I guess we are all allowed some venting time occasionally.
Anyway, evidently, the Registrar of Newspapers in India (RNI) has held up the application for a media group's new daily paper, which was supposed to have been launched by now. While, looking at some of the people that the paper has hired (has-been's) you might doubt its shelf-life, it also has some pretty smart people. But I wonder how long they will want to stay on board. Plus, competing with the Times of India is a pleasant prospect!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Random thoughts..

With so much politics on this blog over the past couple of posts, I thought it was getting too boring. I can't really think of something funny to post because my caffeine-addled head is working on writing something about mobile phones or something like that. So, this is just a stream of consciousness post, it will make no sense whatsoever to anybody, but it might make sense in bits. Read it, if you feel like it!
EDITED : Boo-Hoo, people cry! Chalo, I have never bitched about office here because I have never felt the need to, and I shouldn't have started. But you call a spade a spade and people with inflated assumptions of themselves and spreading canards (to all the wrong people) shall not be missed. Need I say more?
Office affairs aside, a couple of my dearest friends had a baby recently, and to steer clear of this chacha/mama business, I've decided that I'll become an uncle. But while I am congratulating my friends on their baby, I'm really unsure that I would want to bring in a child into this world right now. Not that I have a the requiste other ingredient for a baby - a woman - anywhere near-by, but the world today sometimes does freak me out. Global warming, rising sea levels, crazy displays of luxury, I think everyone has lost it. It is as if someone spilled a gallon of LSD into the world's supply of drinking water (But forgot Africa as usual).
One day you read about 25,000 people marching to Delhi protesting against the SEZ scheme which is being used by a bunch of Congress-minions as the most organised land-grab in history, and then you read this. Honestly, I saw a picture of the house to be in this month's UK edition of Esquire (their website doesn't work), it is frikking insane! I'm no admirer of Che or even Communism for that matter, but such insane, ostentatious displays of wealth is leading India on the road towards its own 1789.
I think I'm worrying too much, I need to go home and spend some more time on my Xbox360 and smoke a bit more. But, really, it is a bit crazy this world, isn't it?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Crazy Conspiracy Conundrum...

Pretty much the exact transcript of a conversation I had last night...

"Tell me something", a friend asked, "what if the Narendra Modi planned this entire 'sting' fiasco himself?"
"You crazy or what?" I replied.
"Think about it, the Congress gets blamed for being cynical and planting this story, the BJP rebels lose their agenda and Modi manages to polarise the Hindu vote in Gujarat. All while looking like the victim."
"It is a bit crazy, more crazy than the Indhira Gandhi had Sanjay Gandhi killed story."
"Ah yes, but that is true. Of course, you do know that there is one theory that Rajiv Gandhi never died, but that is too far-fetched, too Elvis-y."
"Anyway, why do you think Modi engineered this entire thing?"
"Think about it, nobody is arguing what Modi did or claims he did not do in 2002 is defensible. Shit happened back then, lots of people died, but the guy has been under electoral pressure from the rebels not so much the Congress."
"So what does this 'sting' do to them?"
"Name me one of these rebels who are nothing more than political opportunists in the Amarmani mold who did not lead a mob. Just like all these small time Congress leaders led mobs in 1984 to prove their loyalty, the same happened here. These guys lose their agenda."
"Yes, but Aaj Tak broadcast it, c'mon, it wasn't Rajdeep's channel or something."
"Yes, but think about it, what if the sanghi high-command already knew and ordered Aaj Tak to play along..."
"For fuck's sake, you're losing it dude!"
"And Tehelka?"
"Taken for a jolly old ride. People don't talk about such things to even their closest friends, so they would not tell a stranger unless they were in the loop. And this story isn't exactly cutting-edge journalism is it? It is your same old Tehelka journalism, only this time they didn't need to honey trap anyone..."
"This isn't crazy talk after one too many glasses of Scotch, I really do believe this is a classic set-up..."
"I need another glass of that..."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Why do I get cynical?

Listen, I never said that nothing happened in Gujarat. There is and actually has never been much doubt that there was a systematic murder of individuals from a particular community. Yet, I still believe that the timing of the 'sting' is awful. Plus, back in 2002, soon after the riots there were elections too, and Modi was voted back into power. We get the leaders we deserve, unless of course, you're a communist where you can just win a JNU election once in your life and thus become an expert on global geo-politics, because Hu Jintao says you are.
Why did Manmohan Singh lose South Delhi in the Lok Sabha in 1999? After all, isn't the South Delhi LS constituency one of the more rich, urbane and better educated constituencies in India, next only to South Mumbai LS perhaps? Because he denied 1984 and tried to claim that the BJP caused 1984. I didn't vote for him, and I am pretty certain I won't vote for the Congress going forward either.
Yes, the awful truth in India is that we make leaders out of rioters. This isn't just true in Gujarat, look at Jagdish Tytler and that murderer who was given a life-term yesterday. Despite the case on him, the guy did win election to the Legislative Assembly. See, at the end of the day, no matter how 'explosive' and how 'shocking' any revelations are, if we keep on voting these people to power, we, as a people, only have ourselves to blame. I do not believe that the Tehelka 'sting' will have any impact, because the people of Gujarat will most likely vote Modi back. They care about the more money, nice roads and development (as do most voters), in Ahmedabad actually that depends on which side of the river one stays.
We get the leaders we vote for! he problem is that everyone who stands for election is a crook or a son/daughter of a crook, so we're in a damned if you do or damned if you don't situation. Anyway, this blog isn't supposed to be about politics, it is supposed to be about the crazy antics of the media and nothing will be crazier than the massively overhyped Fortune 'Global Forum' taking place at The Imperial next week. The only Indian journalist invited as a participant is Ms Dutt (she of the Kargil fame), I am pretty surprised that Mr Sardesai isn't there, because isn't Fortune part of Time-Warner and isn't CNN a part of that?
Anyway, India Today's and Daily mail's new paper - Mail Today is expected to hit stands sometime towards the end of next week and INX is also going to starting soon judging by the billboards... Weird advertising campaign though!

Thursday, October 25, 2007


I am gradually realising that I am not the only cynic about Tehelka's expose of 'The Truth' in Gujarat. Elections around the corner there so let the BJP-bashing begin. Somehow, I am just not convinced about the story, people have points to prove and I know of very few individuals who would talk the way some people have. If something was to go wrong, and I have a very bad feeling that people might get killed for having flappy mouths, 'sting' journalism might die, and at the end of the day, its the timing. Though, this attack could strangely enough solidify the BJP vote in Gujarat.
I'm sorry but I'm a cynic.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A very delayed shubho bijoya!

OK, I'm Bong, ergo, erm... well.. Anyway, Shubho Bijoya everyone! Hope everyone had a great weekend, unlike me, who was relatively lazy, and here is to Kimi Raikkonen who proved that Formula 1 does not have to be predictably boring.
Have a great festive season!

Thursday, October 18, 2007


When the Times of India (finally) got rid of Dilip Padgaonkar as a 'celeb editor' and then removed Pradeep Guha from his perch as a 'celeb manager', the Times Group has been running very smoothly with most editors and managers following their boss Samir Jain's extremely low-key style. And while others cry out that commercial interests have prejudiced Indian journalism, and while I agree with that contention, I tell those guys who cry out, that listen, the Times is as bad as the rest and honestly as long as you are charging a person one rupee for a newspaper, what on earth do you expect? The Economist? Though that said, the recent revival in the quality of the ToI product has been rather self-evident, and again while bloggers cry out against 'big media' and how the Times sucks, the recent Indian Readership Survey figures make for really interesting reading.
The Times already led Hindustan Times according to this survey last year, but a lead of 230,000 readers is no joke! And it isn't just Delhi where the Times has managed to break into such a strong lead, even in Kolkata, the Times is a strong #2 and I believe since the Kolkata market includes the North-East where The Telegraph has a strong position, the Times is poised to take a lead over there as well - especially since a Guwahati edition is supposedly in the wings.
So with the Times now on the verge of starting to carpet-bomb the country with new editions (with Delhi and Mumbai continuing to be the 'mother' editions) the question is why not Chennai so far? Is it because, as a journo-friend in Bangalore once speculated that no self-respecting Tamil journalist stays on in Chennai, since The Hindu group does not employ journalists rather it employs ideologues, or was (in true Times' style) a deal struck with The Hindu?
Now, before I begin a large (and subsequent) post about the continuous decline of EchTee, I wonder if the Times guys were aware of this upcoming disaster at 18-20 KG Marg. I mean, Delhi's #1 paper is quickly being relegated to a has-been, and with editorial content still recovering from the Kalbag imposed disaster, and the ludicrous 'no-poach' agreement with Times, I'm sure it was felt that award Shobhana the ET 'Businesswoman of the Year' (or the 'Liberty Tea' award for smoke without fire) would help. I mean, it does also help that your nephew sits on the committee, but you do suppose that this was Times' way of saying 'Thank You' for letting us screw your organisation over!
Man, I can be funny at times! And just wait for the National Readership Survey to confirm these results! And there are some surprises on the lower end of the spectrum too, but more on that later!
Have a great Durga Pujo everyone! And 104.8FM has to be the worst waste of the airwaves in history!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The lack of updates...

Apologies to two readers who actually cornered me at recent Press Briefings and asked me, "K, what the hell is up with you? The lack of updates at your blog disappoint us." Sorry, sorry, sorry, but I really have been busy!
Anyway, moving one beyond grovelling...
Other than making fun of the random ET journalist that I meet about how they're enjoying Liberty Tea, someone was pointing out that since the arrival of Papermint and its close ties with the Aditya Birla group (nephew's company after all!) the Tata's which were not on speaking terms with the Times (the small affair of Dilip Pendse, and no history lessons here) have suddenly started cozying up to them again (though this case indicates otherwise). That said, one senior PR type tried to convince me that this was a 'deliberate' plant to just see if someone could pull off such a stunt. I must admit, whoever the PR type that thought up the story, hats off!
But that leads us to another issue, while the quality of the best journalists in the profession has improved, the sudden boom has meant that there has also been a dilution of quality somewhere down the line. A cursory look at byline frequency will make an observer think that 10 percent of the staff of a print news organisation produce 50 percent plus of the content. Of course, this could have two reasons, either that this ten percent sucks up to the Editors the most or are genuinely good, sometimes both.
Anyway, but how easy is it to get a story through in a newspaper? Pretty easy is what some PR chiefs tell me, once you mollycoddle journalists enough. I do know several senior folks in the PR world, many of them from way before I became a journalist, some through school, college and South Delhi networks. While many of them hold their drinks well, sometimes, just sometimes they blurt stuff out and my god, some of that is entertaining. But, its not what they say, and I do believe them in many cases, just because I have known some of them since I was a pre-teen, but the stuff I have noticed myself.
In one organisation I worked at (guess, guess?) a colleague whose English skills required him to redo his entire secondary education to improve suddenly submitted a perfectly written article. Something was fishy, so I confronted the chap, he denied everything. But if you read the piece it read suspiciously like a PR spin, so eventually an Editor did confront him and he admitted that he had done this before. And if this guy had done it, I'm pretty sure other people had done the same.
Voila, they had! I know of at least three other senior editors who have had entire articles written for them by PR executives, or worse still, policy types in large companies. One large edit page article for a newspaper despairing about the state of the power industry was written by, or lets use the word inspired to an extent that is unethical, by a certain official we'll call Jesus-Man.
But going to companies and listening to their PR spiel is cool, I do that all the time, but copying Press Releases is borderline lazy, and taking either market-gossip or what PR types tell you as the Gospel Truth? That is bad reportage. This is the age of Google and Wikipedia, it really isn't THAT difficult to cross-check basic info, like if a company exists or not! I mean, the above-mentioned websites might have made journalists doubly-lazy, but c'mon?
Is action ever taken against such lazy types? Not that I have heard of in an Indian news organisation. But really, how is this story any different from the 'non-sting', both are examples of fake reportage. Papermint is slowly improving, and once they get their breaking news bits right, with the competition publishing 'fake' stories on a dateline that does not read 'April 1', everyone is in trouble.
By the way, readership is down across the board, well a couple are up, but mostly down. And I'm sleepy, and I drove a lovely car today. I need a drink! Oh yeah, if someone can make sense of the Indian capital markets please let me know.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fun story!

I read this story in yesterday's Hindustan Times and thought since so many words were once wasted on IIPM (almost exactly two years ago), it deserved a link!
The crux of the story is that Ponytail's institute has been served a Service Tax notice of Rs 17.5 crore. This is the interesting line - "According to the service tax law, commercial coaching institutes providing education or coaching leading to any qualification not recognised by the government are liable to pay service tax." Hmm, I guess plans to upgrade the Continental GT will have to wait a while.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Changing times.

And this has nothing to do with the ToI. I really thought yesterday was a fairly newsy day - you know with India beating Australia in a proper-ish game of cricket instead of a slam-blam game of modified baseball after three years. Then there were governments falling left right and centre with the two national parties deciding to call their partners' bluff and stand up for themselves, and I am glad that the Congress and BJP finally showed some aggression and did not cow down to politicians who think they're too clever by half, or as in the case of Prakash Karat, serve Hu Jintao.
Nope, according to Aaj Tak, India's Sabse Tez channel, the ups and downs in John and Bipasha's relationship was more important on a day when the government of the country was on the verge of collapse. Which brought me back to a conversation an old friend had with me the other day, "What the hell is wrong with TV News?" And frankly, after searching high and low to find news on the Hindi channels (save two) I had to switch to the English Channels. But this is not the only time TV News has lost touch with reality, I know that P Sainath sounds like a grumpy old man with no clue of the changing times when he complains about the vacuousness of journalism, but sometimes even those of us two generations younger wonder what the hell we are doing in a profession that seems to have lost all sense of what it is supposed to be doing.
It's not just TV, in my last post I highlighted how even a large print organisation didn't do basic fact-checking and ran a story which was comically put down by a large international media organisation (and from what we have heard shit is already flying with at least one PR agency head pointing out to me that it was only a matter of time before someone got caught out in that paper). Stories are born in edit meetings where a reporter, or editor will say, "I know someone who does this.." and a social trend is suddenly created where none exist, and journalists have lost all touch with their readers - and thus reality.
So when the older generation of Editors whine and complain about where news is heading, they do have a point. I may not agree with them about everything, but I do feel sympathetic towards their opinions. And so do a lot of my friends, where are we heading? And what on earth will this profession look like in ten years time?

Friday, October 05, 2007


Short post. A commenter on the last post pointed this blog entry on one of the Financial Times' blogs. Here is the original story in the Economic Times. Quite a put-down, FT is essentially saying that the ET reporters.. ahem.. made up a story! Don't know who the anonymous commenter is, because most of my sources were surprised at the story, and quite taken aback. Globalisation has a cost!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Travelling with journalists!

If there is such a thing as the travelling companion from hell, I would not be surprised it that thing mutated into the form of a desi journalist on a junket. After spending the greater part of August and September writing more words than I knew existed in the whole wide world, my office decided that it might be a good idea for me to spend some time in the bosom of our great, big neighbour to the East, or as Prakash Karat calls it, home. I have been to the land of the Dragon before and must admit I really enjoy travelling there, not just because I have a soft spot for Tsingtao beer, but I genuinely like eating good food. I mean the non-spiced up bastardised stuff we get here, which is a great cuisine in its own right, but you know proper Cantonese grub.
But, here is the funny part, you always get stuck on the trip where the folks see the food and decide that they want good old ghar ka khana out in the Peoples Republic (and what a Republic it is!). There are time you don't know what to say, why on earth would someone want Cantonese Roganjosh? But, then again, I thought I was being the prick out here, because I was the twit with an open mind and open mouth. And I know I can find my way around a city, its a city after all and I always end up going to the seedy part of every city I visit, though in the Peoples Republic, there were no seedy places - though there were a lot of hookers. But on that front, I believe I'm a good boy, plus my mother and assorted senior journalists also do occasionally read this blog.
Anyway, its not just about food, but sometimes the level of intelligence of some journalists completely befuddles me. Prejudiced and occasionally judgemental and sometimes purely racist, I could never get their logic, they insisted on certain things and of course, the food played a major part. Language was another, bemoaning the fact that no-one spoke English too well (not that my friends had great English either and screaming out doesn't usually help people understand any better). It wasn't me imploring that you need to travel with an open mind, you just can't seem to get through to certain people. It doesn't help when the person accompanying you has the IQ of an ant. What worries me is that, journalists of all people should have the most open mind and at least be slightly erudite, but in this era of mass-factory produced clowns, god knows what the profession is ending up with. Well, its ending up with illiterate idiots and liars.
Usually on every trip I travel on, I scout out one person I can get along with, this time there just happened to be none. No-one interesting or intelligent enough to hold a conversation with, no-one I could drag along into the city and say, lets have a drink. I didn't mind going out alone, but I'm a slightly gregarious person and because roaming rates were silly expensive out there, I didn't even try texting home too often. But then again, I had a decent time, my credit cards are wrecked and the booze was good, and heck, the squid balls and braised octopus on the streets of Hong Kong was fantastic!
Anyway, I should be a bit more regular over the next few days...

Friday, September 21, 2007

Journalists sentenced.. haws!

Hmmm... but read some more ... in HT and there are others...

My contention here is quite simple, of the three pillars of government, the Judiciary can protect itself from all allegations of corruption by using contempt. Lawyers, notoriously corrupt ones, can bend the rules of law quite easily. The Delhi High Court acts with surprising speed in sentencing journalists but ponders for years about the culpability of the Ansal brothers in the Uphaar case. If one of their own is questioned, the Courts suddenly become swift. There have been journalists who have exposed corruption in various courts in the country - such as the Punjab and Haryana HC in Chandigarh (remember the Chandigarh Golf Course issue) and have been hounded. The contempt laws are stacked in favour of a bunch of people who will defend their own!
I believe no body in this country should be above scrutiny, I am not saying that what the Mid-day journalists said was the truth, but if they had the gumption to print these allegations, they should have a proper mechanism to get to the bottom of these allegations. This is not the first time these allegations have been raised - an article today morning in HT proves that point.
Anyway, will write a bit more over the weekend, even though tomorrow will be an awful day for me!

Thursday, September 20, 2007


One, Two, Three. In a weird sort of way, I feel for some of the people who work there and had nothing to do with the 'non-sting', however, I still maintain that culpability must be placed at the door of the Editors and Management of the channel. Anyway, I think yet another re-brand might be around the corner for this channel.
An anonymous commenter on the last post pointed out the habit of advertising masquerading as content - heck, I have one channel for that - NDTV Good Times. Anyway, it is true that in these commercial driven times sometimes there is a whole lot of you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours that goes on. If Reebok helped organise an interview you must put in the company's name somewhere if you want to get an interview the next time. The problem is that a 'Reebok makes great shoes' should technically go into a product section in the business pages of the paper, not in the Sports Pages, but when most newspaper/channel bureaus run like little fiefdoms with minimal interchange of ideas, this of stuff ends up happening and some interviews or stories end up reading like advertorials because the story has been poorly placed/positioned.
Of course, this is not to condone what goes on, journalists should have the gumption to avoid getting taken in by the fluttering eyelids of the PR girl and ask what they want to ask and write what they want to write. Does it happen that way? Naah!


Over the last couple of days, I've reverted to type and am dispensing advice from 'K's Book of Wisdom' to several friends, all of whom are very well sorted in their professional lives but something have living, breathing disasters in their personal lives. The ironic bit is that my own personal life is a bit of a minefield and I've had the most godawful experiences in life and love, but, but then again, I guess I've always been one to take on the problems of the world. My Class 12 teacher even told me that I have this bad habit. Then again, I guess I've stopped offering unsolicited advice, but that said, I do have some friends whose lives are so knotted up, that it would take an Alexander to untie it.
But, the issue here is that almost all my friends who are going through issues in their lives are media professionals. I was trying to figure if that was because I tend to know more journalists than the average person or if it was because our lives are really rather messed up because of the way we lead them. At the end of the day, I guess that it is difficult to maintain the professional/personal balance for many of us. Lately, I haven't had much time to myself, let alone have time to give to another person. Not that I mind that, but I look at a couple of my Editors who slog away till midnight at times and wonder just how accommodating their spouses are. Needless to say, the spouses are not journo's.
It isn't always like that, and I should know better than most. If it hasn't been made painfully obvious before, my father is a senior journalist and his climb up the ranks, when he was in his early-30's put a huge amount of pressure on my parents marriage and unfortunately (or fortunately) the marriage gave way. You can't shed tears about something that happened close to two decades ago, but as the media has expanded dramatically and the pressures of the job have shot through the roof for many, many more people. Sometimes, we can make the most incongruous things become a life or death issue and put everything else on hold. We forget that sometimes a line needs to be drawn.
I'm not saying that the media is any different from other professions, but because I guess most times, we tend to be overly-educated, socially liberal sorts anjd if two of these species get together, particularly the smarter, better educated ones, something has to give. Maybe, these are just growing pains of a growing industry, or maybe this is just the start of the beginning. I'm not saying it hasn't happened before, there was a famous case at 'the' pink paper in Bombay about a decade ago where things were thrown at each other an estranged couple which worked there. It is just that it seems to be happening a lot more now. Or maybe, they're just so many, many more media-people now.
Anyway... I really need a break!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Apologies for not writing regularly, I really haven't been able to find time to write a rant on the state of the media in India. I'll invent some time to write about something soon enough, but not right now, I've just managed to make some time for myself after a while, which does not involve huge amounts of booze! I need to give my liver a break, it will be card season soon, and being the good Delhi boy that I am, I will gamble away large sums (for me that is!) of money. But then again...
Take care folks!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Where are we headed?

At the risk of letting in even more people on my identity, today morning I was a moderator (along with a close friend) at a panel discussion with journalism students. Of course, several topics were raised, and on the whole despite being rather paranoid about how the event will go off, it actually went off surprisingly well. I went a whole hour and a half without saying 'F***', which is, given my recent tendency towards abusing everything, quite a record. Also I managed to pass 90 minutes without either being cynical or pompous, another record of sorts!
I was disappointed to learn that many students do not follow international media trends as much as they should, particularly a rather elementary understanding of the internet, those students who had grasped the concept of how the internet is changing the way the media is functioning though were very well clued in. Fair enough, blogs aren't that big news, but for students of mass communication, I do believe that the internet should become proper course material - these are kids who will be working in the media as the internet does begin to dramatically transform lives in India and they should have an idea about what is happening out there.
The conversation did swing towards 'sting' operations and the ethics of sting operations, and of course, the 'non-sting' that was carried out recently. None of us on the stage, and this included a person who is pretty good at 'hidden camera' work, believed that what happened was good and also agreed that certain guidelines need to be followed. But, that said, with the costs of establishing a channel coming down and the only way for a channel to stand out being sensationalism, how on earth can one control it? What is happening in the Indian TV news sphere is fascinating, and a TV news channel is seen as a profit centre. The cost of establishing a national channel is what - Rs 25-30 crore, and a local one say around Rs 15 crore? Given the economic boom, ads are not a problem and nor are getting enough viewers to sustain yourself. Actually, unless there is an economic downturn things really won't change.
The problem, I feel is getting enough editors - good editors and particularly good people in the 27-35 age bracket are at a huge premium. People like me actually, and the good ones, and I do know quite a few are in many cases going through a massive crisis of confidence - I have far too many 'Why the f*** are we doing this?' conversations nowadays. It is great to talk to some senior people, or in my case different senior people, ever so often just to get an idea what goes on their head. Of course, I read the discourses like Rajdeep's today, but these discourses aren't conversations. I personally feel that there is a disconnect between the three generations of journalists in the media - the seniors, the middles and the juniors. Nobody gets anyone else and they hardly spend time talking to each other...
On another note - I saw NDTV Good Times and must declare it is a complete Travel and Living clone, but lets put it like this - a bad clone. You know, kind of like Mini-Me is to Dr Evil in Austin Powers...

Thursday, September 13, 2007


According to a legendary story, a part of which was even implied by Mani Ratnam in Guru, a famous business tycoon once said that 'Every man has his price'. Entrapment, according to me, when used in a 'sting' operation is just that. The reason I never did agree with Tehelka's or CobraPost's method's was because it was entrapment, it was not 'hidden camera' operations trying to help a family recover their dead son's body from the clutches of a corrupt Delhi cop, nor was it an exposure of a illegal racket in organ trading.
The problem with entrapment is just this, some Members of Parliament caught in the 'Cash for Questions' scandal were exposed taking small sums of money, and were thus easy to expose, but how are they any less guilty than the MP who goes on a foreign junket sponsored by a company, or for that matter the bureaucrat who gets a bottle of Johnny Black for Diwali. They were not, those guys were just naive, and yes, while selling Parliament time for small sums of money might seem incredulous, special interests spend much, much more wining, dining and entertaining people with access to power.
See, people can do desperate things for money or lust. And while all of us would like to believe that 'we' are above that, I am not so sure how I would react if I was in a sitation like that. Fair enough, we don't (usually) accept gifts (though I am a sucker for model planes and cars) but if a situation arose where I believed where no-one would be the wiser I could get away with something, would I do it? In the sense, while I might not sell-out for petty change, but if big money and/or beautiful women were involved would I sell my ethics out? I don't know the answer to that question very honestly, because it is bloody easy to say, "Not Me! I am not like that", but I have seen very few people in my life who are as straight as an arrow and most of them were members of a Christian Fraternity.
At the end of the day, we're all human and entrapment, while it can expose several ills of society is essentially taking advantage of human frailties, and that isn't a story or a fair way of getting to a story. I still contend that certain types of 'Sting' operations can help society at large, but the type that is most prevalent in India are not paragons of journalistic excellence. And on another note, the more I read about this LiveIndia TV episode I find it incredulous that the channels Editor is trying to distance himself from the story, Sudhir Choudhary is more responsible than the reporter for the broadcast of the story and as Editor should be culpable as well.
Anyway, these were just my two cents...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Je Na Sais Quoi...

The title has nothing to do with the post, but then again I'm an old-school journalist who has seen the strange ways of the desk, where headlines involved stringing together adjectives and verbs in really bizarre combinations. Anyway, back to the matter at hand, televisions high and mighty have been debating the ethics (or not) of sting operations in the light of the recent case of the 'non-sting' and they all pretty much whole-heartedly agree in a convoluted manner that sting operations are good, but they should not be mis-used. Not a single one suggests any redressal mechanism or having a set of policies in place to prevent the abuse of the medium.
See, as a commenter on the last post pointed out, we already have the Press Council of India which is there to regulate the functioning of newspapers/magazines and news agencies in India while maintaining their freedom. The PCI Act which was instituted in 1978 in the wake of Sanjay Gandhi's censorship regime during the Emergency is a fairly comprehensive act and has in a way contributed to the development of the media in India. Of course, some believe that the PCI is toothless - heck, according to their website - rather respectable publications such as Outlook Money and Traveller and Businessworld still owe them money - laughably small sums (Rs 600 in the case of Outlook Traveller). But the act does have this provision and I quote...

Power to Censure

14(1) Where, on receipt of a complaint made to it or otherwise, the Council has reason to believe that a newspaper or news agency has offended against the standards of journalistic ethics or public taste or that an editor or working journalist has committed any professional misconduct, the Council may, after giving the newspaper, or news agency, the editor or journalist concerned an opportunity of being heard, hold an inquiry in such manner as may be provided by regulations made under this Act and, if it is satisfied that it is necessary so to do, it may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, warn, admonish or censure the newspaper, the news agency, the editor or the journalist or disapprove the conduct of the editor or the journalist, as the case may be :

Provided that the Council may not take cognizance of a complaint if in the opinion of the Chairman, there is no sufficient ground for holding an inquiry.

(2) If the Council is of the opinion that it is necessary or expedient in public interest so to do, it may require any newspaper to publish therein in such manner as the Council thinks fit, any particulars relating to any inquiry under this section against a newspaper or news agency, an editor or a journalist working therein, including the name of such newspaper, news agency, editor or journalist.

(3) Nothing in sub-section (1) sha11 be deemed to empower the Council to hold an inquiry into any matter in respect of which any proceeding is pending in a court of law.

(4) The decision of the Council under sub-section ( I ), or sub-section (2), as the case be, shall be final and shall not be questioned in a court of law.

Now, the fact remains that people would rather turn to the convoluted and abused legal system for redress rather than the PCI - but as sub-section (4) mentions, the decision of the PCI is final. Of course, the PCI cannot either fine or imprison editors, reporters or publishers for malafide intent, which is what happened in this case.
I do believe that if malafide intent is proven, people should be imprisoned, after all if I try to hurt someone physically I can be jailed, why should the same not apply if i try to hurt someone through an article. However, very often, and this is particularly the case today, many journalists are for lack of a better word - dumb. And I mean Editors too, maybe not in places like the Times or NDTV, but at small hack-shops like Live India, you'll be working with a bunch of stupid scumbags, then what? You can't sue someone for being stupid can you? Though, shutting down a channel run by people with an IQ of under 25 might be a good start.
Should the PCI be allowed to fine news organisations, or if malafide intent is proven can the accuser go to court for civil damages? If Uma Khurana proves that 'LiveIndia' ruined her reputation and standing can she take the TV channel to the cleaners? I believe she should. The PCI Act needs some modifications to deal with emerging media trends, because the way we consume news is changing dramatically, and the media should be kept under a leash. Heck, business publications in India are more scared of SEBI than they are of the PCI - so would giving the PCI more teeth and giving it a more meaningful executive committee which includes active journalists and not retired bureaucrats and assorted losers might be a start.
I'll be having a chat with a friend of mine who is a fairly accomplished 'sting' reporter over the week, will keep you posted on the conversation. And as one letter asked - are no-poaching agreements legal? Well, I'ld like some comments on that by email if you guys have anything to say!

Another question - Do you believe the breaking of the Geetanjali Nagpal story by Metro Now (why does the site not work) was a publicity stunt? I don't think so, I believe it is a fantastic tabloid story, the first really good story broken by Metro Now, exposed the fashion fraternity for the hypocrites they are I remember this wonderful quote from a model - "Are you implying that there are drugs in the fashion industry!" - something I am still laughing over. And honestly, picking up someone of the street and helping them to a better life isn't a bad thing, heck if she has a husband and a son, even better. Tabloid journalism? For sure, but this was in my humble opinion good tabloid journalism.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The non-sting!

In my last post I asked whether the Broadcast Bill, per se is such a bad thing? This was in the light of the haphazardly conducted sting operation by 'Live India' which now turns out to be fake. Of course, a friend at NDTV had told me on the day of the sting that Sudhir Chaudhary, the Editor-in-Chief of the channel did not have the what-would-you-call-it deep-rooted belief in ethics that say most normal journalists have (hah!). In fact, in turns out that both the Editor and the Reporter had tried to run this story at the former employers - India TV, where even that most sensational of channels, and no stranger to the 'honey trap' system decided against it.
Anyway, no point delving into the news, but what the fallout of this news item will be. I'm sure in the columns that will proliferate Edit and Op-Ed pages from tomorrow, there will be calls for the arrest of the editor, the reporter and the 'aspiring journalist' (and this leads to quite disturbing questions in its own right!) girl who posed as the prostitute. Fair enough, I agree with that - if AKB can be sentenced to one month's RI for 'criminal defamation' of a much less injurious nature (you did know this, didn't you?) these three should be locked up for a year at least and blacklisted from the profession. Not that some of these start-up channels really care who the hell they hire and this only made the news because it happened in Delhi and the newspapers decided to get to the bottom of the story. From the reports I've heard, in small-town TV channels such irresponsible reportage is like par for the course.
Which brings me back to the simple question - How can you control rogue journalists? I mean, lets be honest there will be rogues because its all about ratings and thus advertising and thus money? You need rules, and this incident will be used by PRDM to push through the Broadcast Bill, or at least used as an excuse. Now, the argument that NDTV and CNN-IBN will use is that it would be unfair to bring them under the purview of this act and governments that don't like these channels such as Mr Modi's will use this act to crack down upon them. Which is a very valid fear. This bill will also put in a a lot of needless bureaucracy. But you do need some sort of standards council where in case of conflict such things can be vetted - what is in the public good, what legal recourse people should take, heck, what standards should be followed! I don't believe Tehelka's and India TV's 'Honey trap' system is fair and is open to huge amounts of abuse - like Tehelka's relentless pursuit of politicians of a certain party.
But, things can't be this wild. To use an analogy - could the aviation boom in India happened without Air Traffic Control. You would not want pilots to compete with each other to land on the runway first and SpiceJet and Indigo chaps running their airlines like a Blueline Bus service (Delhi-wallah's will understand) ramming pedestrians left, right and centre. But, the Broadcast Bill is a bit draconian and the TV channels are saying that we don't want any rules at all. That is clearly an untenable situation, a compromise needs to be found. What it will be I have no clue, but honestly, the sooner it is found the better.
On another note, there is a strong rumour doing the rounds that Rajiv Verma, CEO, HT Media has quit/bee fired. If true, you really have to wonder what the hell is going on in that group! First the Editor and now the CEO. Phoren-Returns not working too well, I wonder if the Jain's, their managers and editors are sniggering!

Friday, August 31, 2007

So is the Broadcast Bill a bad thing?

The TV channels keep on harping about how bad the 'Broadcast Bill' proposed by that slick-willy, Priya Ranjan Das Munshi is like a draconian act that even the Gestapo would not have thought up. However, yesterday when 'India Live' the latest incarnation of 'Janmat' a channel that virtually no-one watches managed to create a riot in Old Delhi, you wonder if even sting operations in the 'public good' need to be regulated.
While, there is no doubt that this sting operation weeded out a person who has no place in civil society, should the channel have gone live with the sting before it informed the local authorities? I think it should have. Of course, the said channel was proudly thumping its chest - 'Hey look, we caused a riot! Yay!'
Listen, to repeat I do not believe that what these guys did in itself was bad, but before airing they should have informed the police, even gone to the Delhi Police Commissioner or someone at the Central Government and had this woman arrested. Plus, the Police should have been warned to give them time to react. Should the school not have been identified? Maybe yes, but that is debatable.
At the same time, while the 'premier' English news channels have harped on about how evil the act is, the fact remains that through the day some of non-English channels could not care less. Watching TV in the afternoon is like watching a comedy show if you put on certain channels which really care more about Katrina Kaif visiting Salman Khan than anything else. Heck, the outburst of judges on India's cacophonic music shows makes for an half-hour special! So where does news end and where does entertainment begin?
So should channels who have lost the plot when it comes to news be held accountable? I think they should. Either that, or they become news channels again. I'm not saying that there is no room for entertainment, but create special channels for such reporting and with stings, at least co-ordinate them when you are exposing something that will rankle the public. Don't keep shooting yourself in the foot and then start frothing at the mouth.
Oh yeah, and NDTV has sold its soul to Kingfisher - Vijay Mallya is the lead sponsor of their new lifestyle channel which will be called NDTV 'Good Times'. Don't know what to say! But VM had this to say...

The Kingfisher brand has come to epitomize a lifestyle that encompasses some of the finest things in life and is today synonymous with delivering a premium experience. The NDTV Good Times channel would leverage from the editorial credibility and quality of the NDTV group and the strong lifestyle appeal of the Kingfisher brand and icon, to offer Indian viewers a world-class television entertainment experience. The shared values of the Kingfisher brand and NDTV Good Times - a great lifestyle, the good times and living in style are highly complementary.

Didn't know that really...
And if you haven't ever read this fantastic blog called Guruphiliac, do so now!