Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Today's 'What The F*** Rumour Of The Day' (WTFROTD) has nothing to do with the sexual peccadillo's of some anchorette or another, nor does it have to do with what publication Raghav Behl is buying, but something a little more interesting that I heard from two different people today (and with no connection between them). The rumour concerns the erstwhile editor of DNA and the fact that some of his close confidants from DNA are heading to Delhi. But, according to all indications DNA has put Delhi plans on hold, so what gives? well, as the story goes Gautam seems to be headed to 18-20 KG Marg. As what? I have no frikkin' clue, but that is what the grapevine says.
Second thing, the little story about Aakar Patel coming to head the India Today-Daily Mail newspaper is not confirmed as yet. The Daily Mail has been interested in India for a while and initial talks they had were with the Mid-Day Group where Aakar was still Group Ed. Going forward they were very keen that he comes to head this new baby, but with the Indian Today group calling the shots, it seems that things haven't quite fallen into place as yet. On another note, a couple of other senior people have come back to the India Today fold to 'oversee' things at the new paper. Thankfully, this new paper will not be as air-headed and as vapid as MetroNow which is neither here nor there. Well, actually its so bad it deserves to be in a dustbin - thats what happens when you hire airheads. Well, actually Today happens, but then again MetroNow is full of Today rejects, so ouch, it is actually worse!
Anyway, thats all for now.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


I finally take a break later this week, I was supposed to go to Chennai for a friends wedding, but that fell through, so I am going to Bangalore instead. No idea why I am headed there, but I guess cheap beer and the fact that Wertti is there might play a part. People ask me why I'm not running to the hills, but Himachal is crawling with families with toddlers in tow and I can only take so many images of kids shitting on the sides of the roads. And I was in Dharamshala less than six months ago, and I don't feel like driving off. Even though I am keen to go to the Yamuna Valley sometime soon if I find the time, no particular reason, but a friend's stories of possessed priests and incredible beauty might play a part. Too hot for Rajasthan right now, though a trip to Jaisalmer, the only major city in the state I haven't seen, is way overdue.
Anyway, I figured out that journalists don't really end up taking much leave, at least the ones who are doing well, or the ones who are mortally scared that their beats will get taken over. I know someone who had 97 days of accumulated leave, (no, not in my office) because she was paranoid that a 'climber' in her office would take over her beat.
Thankfully, I'm not that paranoid but after four years at my current employers I have over 55 days of Privilege Leave, wasted tens of days of Casual Leave by letting them lapse and never taken Medical Leave, touch-wood. I don't know what it is about the profession but taking leave isn't exactly priority number one on the agenda. And we have to claim leave every year if we want our LTA, I've known of people 'officially' on leave but who come to work everyday during their leave just to be at work. And this at a time when people complain that offices are over-crowded. Oh well, I have a thought on that, but I won't elucidate on that over here, lest I be accused of being 'unfriendly' to the idiots among us.
Anyway, have lots of loose ends to close before I head off and not much time to finish them in.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

So why did you become a journalist?

I meet or interact with a lot of fascinating people, and am constantly meeting new people, and that I guess is one of the really nice things about the job. Of course, saying that you are a journalist doesn't carry as much credibility as say when my father said it in the late-80's or early-90's, I even get that cynical 'You media types!' look every once in a while and people deplore what the media has done to this country. Of course, I have no intentions to take up cudgels for the media and I end up, smiling and telling them that I don't work for a trashy daily or a news channel, but a semi-respectable periodical, where I guess I am doing fairly well for myself, even though a part of me wants to get out and get back to school, flabbergasted as I am with the unraveling social structure in this country (or as some of my friends say, 'I just know crazy people').
Anyway, to cut to the chase, yesterday I was talking with someone on the phone when this person suddenly asked me, "So why did you become a journalist?" And there was this pause, because the answer wasn't "Because it was there" or "I had nothing better to do" or "I have big tits". I didn't have a straight answer, I actually joined my first journalism job because I wanted some work-ex on my resume and actually joined as an Editorial Trainee, but then I began to enjoy myself. I have always worked across beats, doing all sorts of things. Actually short of sports coverage, I have done pretty much everything, even the stories that got me places were on the craziest topics.
But, that is just a progression, I am saying I enjoy journalism, but I have no answer for the first question. I figure I became a journalist to do something, I guess to write (something I still think I can do better than most) and report (because as a quizzer I always had a fascination with current events) to the best of my ability, and maybe because back then I wanted a 'PRESS' sticker too, because it meant something. This job I thought would be the best use of the abilities that 15 years of the Indian education system had given me. Either this or become a teacher, but I'm too temperamental for that, plus like many good old-school reporters I smoked too much! And I wanted an active job, something that allowed me to go everywhere not sit at a desk all the time, meet people who mattered. I got sold on journalism when my former RE sent me off to Germany for a week-long junket, four months after I joined. Within a year I had seen more parts of India than I had in my previous 21.
I don't know if I have done what I wanted to do, maybe I have worked to the best of my ability but have I always been as diligent with my reportage as I wanted to be, or have I at times treated this job as a joyride, an excuse to lead a good life - travel, drink, stay in good hotels? But, I figure while doing all of that, I also ended up seeing stuff I would not have ordinarily seen, travelled to places that no other job would have taken me, seen both extreme poverty and the gross excesses of capitalism. Experienced some of the most amazing engineering marvels of the world and seen the economic development of this country from a front-row seat ever since I was 21.
But anyway, this gives me an opportunity for me to ask you - Why did you become a journalist? I know one hell of a lot of journalists read this blog, most of them even know who I am. And also that most of them never leave a comment, but all of you guys young and old can and should answer this question. Be anonymous if you want, even though I think you should sign. Why did you become a journalist and why are you still a journalist? Introspection is a good thing sometimes!

Well, he's out!

The most uncelebrated Person of Indian Origin (PIO) for eons, at least in the Indian media, which is more concerned about the human racketeering exploits of a Member of Parliament, Sanjaya Malakar has finally been knocked out of American Idol. Of course, with the diaspora viewers dropping out, as well as Sanjaya's fans, the impact on the ratings might mean we could see more Indians on US television screens, never a bad thing! If the makers of Indian Idol have any sense, they should invite Sanjaya to be a guest judge on the show, because Indian Idol has possibly the worst bunch of judges possible.
Anyway, this is understandably a sad moment for this blog, which only started writing about Sanjaya yesterday, and a few weeks too late it must admit. Sorry, Sanjaya you got voted out before I accused Americans of being more tone-deaf than the Himesh fan-club.
Now, with Richard Gere effigies being burnt across the streets of India, because he dared to chew Shilpa Shetty's ear, there are now a bunch outraged lawyers, who don't mind sleeping with call-girls of course, but do mind that a white man could do such horrible things to Vijay Mallya's squeeze. To those lawyers, please sue Richard Gere for being a bad kisser, not because your 'country' was defamed. For heavens sake, aren't there better things to fight cases on - or are you guys desperate to be on Aaj Tak, where, according to sources, some men are 'Sabse Tez' as well!
In case, you haven't seen the kiss, which was the only news item a few days ago, who cares about police brutality and loadshedding - much like the Ass-Shake wedding is going to be the only news event of the coming few days (even though I find that wedding gross, but I cannot elaborate without being accused of slander!), thanks to the wonders of the internets, we bring you this...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Me want News TV Channel too! (plus Sanjaya!)

Should have figured something was up when the TV Today scrip moved opposite to the market sometimes during the previous month, I knew there was some activity happening with the scrip and someone was interested. A voice in passing mentioned Reliance Capital a few weeks ago, but I was so snowed under with worked I really didn't pay attention. But, now the news has come out that ADA wants a big bite of TV Today - a network with for channels - none of them actually watchable. Well, actually they have three and a quarter channels, because the English channel is a combination of junket journalism and news facts that can only amaze you in their banality. Even though I disagree with the moral stance taken by the Hindi channels on the network, surprising since producers at the network are known to be frisky in elevators and toilets, but I'm not in this game of exposing hypocrisy.
No wait, what am I am saying?
Anyway, so what is ADA's motivation for taking such a big bite? Well, and here I have to applaud him for his openness, I guess this has to do, at least partially with someone else funding another channel (rather network) indirectly. When that network recently launched, they specifically mentioned that 'bada bhai' had nothing to do with the channel and funding came from 'Funds'. If you know how some 'Funds' work, it is a glorious 'benami' system. Anyway, mine not to reason why. Even though some friends have joined Inky, I am still doubtful of its proposition, though, that said I was a bit unsure about RajdeepTV as well, and despite the occasional story pandering to left-wing interests (oh well, most stories at both RajdeepTV and UndieTV pander to these interests, but I mean the occasional, 'Lets sleep together' story) RajdeepTV has been fairly decent, overstaffed, which leads to too much duplication f'sure, but decent.
Anyway, I wonder why the Indian media, especially the newspapers haven't caught on to the Sanjaya bug as yet - and we have been carrying about Sunita Williams. Make no mistakes, Sanjaya Malakar is currently the most important Person of Indian Origin (PIO) in the world. Heck, the Tourism Ministry should use him to promote the country, instead of those arty 'Incredible India' adverts, Sanjaya is the greatest thing to happen to the diaspora since... well, a long time, which is why almost every (female) cousin I know in the US is voting for the guy. The American Press is ga-ga about this guy, so what if he can't sing, he is bigger than Simon Cowell right now. So what if he can't sing, Sanjaya is living proof that America is both the greatest and dumbest country (though, with people like Priya Ranjan Das Munshi and Suresh Kalmadi in power we come a close second) in the world all at the same time. How they manage to do it, I have no clue.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Moral Policing

Aaj Tak, the channel which does not ever mind stooping to cleavage shows and sex, with its whole-hearted endorsement of Rakhi Sawant, took on a very strange and hypocritical role yesterday because of Richard Gere deciding to chew off Shilpa Shetty's ear. Aaj Tak began playing the country's middle-class moral guardian - 'Sex is BAD' or rather 'Public Displays of Affection' are bad. I mean reams of newsprint have been spent on this, but I don't get why middle-class India is in denial about the fact that their children are copulating like f***ing rabbits.
I can write an impassioned post over here, questioning why fundamentalist and sexually frustrated assholes in every religion protest against anything from a kiss to sex to god knows what else. Part of the reason is the media explosion and given that short of a political assassination or a star-studded wedding, most news days are fairly slow, you know that even a ten-person protest with little cardboard signs with awful grammar and English will get attention, unless you're doing it at Jantar Mantar.
Then there is the case of the rabble-rousing elements of some 'Hindu' yada yada who bashed up the Star News office. I work in an organisation whose Bombay office was also smashed up by goons a couple of years ago because we made the cardinal sin of inviting Mani Aiyar (which is a cardinal sin, but anyway) who was on Savarkar-denial mode that time. The reason Star got into so much trouble was because of this story. I don't know what to say, these people are all goons looking for a cause whose morality is offended because of some weird slight. But, these things will not change overnight and I end up talking to people who have mindsets stuck in the 1950's or even worse the nineteenth century. And those won't change overnight, but hopefully, our demographics and rapid urbanisation will change the situation.
Anyway, Aakar Patel is from all indications taking over as the editor of the new India Today Group newspaper, fairly competent guy, but I still don't know the viability of a new newspaper in Delhi. Also, DNA has put their planned Delhi-edition on ice.

Monday, April 16, 2007


On Saturday Vir Sanghvi railed (once again) against Medianet, that insidious division of Times Group which takes money to feature social nobody's and high-class call girls on Page 3. But really, my problem is not with goes on inside the supplements, all supplements, either in the Times or HT are effectively paid for - have anyone even bothered to take a look at the Education supplements? Those things are filled with shady operators - and by shady I mean people who make 'The Ponytail' look half-decent - promoting unrecognised institutes by the dozen - I read of one called the Indian Institute of Human Rights where you get a diploma in Human Rights. WTF is that???
Heck, selling space on Page 3 is better than individuals whacking clothes, having free lunches or dinners, and even of photographers and reporters trying to get some action to get the tartiest women on those pages. Now those tarts and steroid-pumped muttoncakes (we can't have beefcakes in India, can we?) can 'pay' to get some publicity and no harm in paying your way through - just look at Rakhi Sawant - all that money spent has paid off! I would really like to see how 'ethically' and 'morally upright' Inky Media will be, I can hazard a guess, but the answer won't flatter anyone. But at the end of the day, to quote a senior editor - It is a supplement and no-one really cares - so what if it ends up promoting plastic breasts and steroid abuse - hey, the more men with shrivelled up balls there are, the better it is for me!
What I have a problem with is this - which was the anchor piece in The Economic Times today.
This is a piece on the front page of what might qualify as one of the top three English language dailies in India and this is an unabashed plug. This piece is what is not an article, it is an advertorial. I doubt the writer was hiding his/her disgust (though if ET had balls, they should have made the article a signed article - after all free bylines have gone for worse) you can make that out in the language. I know ET does some stories once in a while which test the boundaries of credibility and common-sense, but that happens to every newspaper. Fair enough, you can understand people using their own media vehicles to cross-promote other media assets, but in such a blatant and pretty tasteless manner, I doubt it.
Not done.
EDIT : I hear from friends in Bombay that Gautam Adhikari has put in his papers as editor of DNA. Please refer to this post I made last month, I understand that the Aggarwal's of the Dainik Bhaskar group expected much more from DNA and while the paper hasn't done too badly, maybe the Bhaskar group expected more. This is the second high-level editorial vacancy there is in the country right now, the first being at the India Today Group's new morning paper. From all indications, within the next couple of months there will be a third. All said and done about the Times Group, things do seem a bittle more stable there at the higher echelons, middle-level editorial though is a different kettle of fish altogether. Inky Media has recruited heavily from HT and some people at CNN-IBN are also jumping ship to the new place.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I think I have figured out the reason why my blogging proclivity has diminished of late. It is the heat. No, honestly. After a meeting in Gurgaon or wherever, and then the 30-45-60 minute haul back to office, even in an air-conditioned car, with the sun beating down on your every pore, turning your skin a dark shade of dark, the last thing you want to do after you get anywhere - office or home - is to sit down on a computer and type. You need an hour just to recover and then you realise that because you happened to shoot your mouth off in a meeting, "You, know I think if we do XYZ it will be a good idea." Pitching the idea with options, not exactly an idea, a section really, and then your kind editor says, "Great idea, I like the name, why don't you implement it. Now!"
Some colleagues and peers complain that their problems are to do with the fact that their ideas never get accepted, recently one was distraught that a suggestion he made on the medical instruments market was dropped because of unsympathetic editors. Well, I can't blame the editors there, but, if you get into a system and know exactly what sort of stories work and how to pitch you get into the opposite situation - you know you can pitch five things and if everything goes wrong all five get accepted and suddenly you find yourself with... well, traveling to Gurgaon much more than you would like to. Particularly when it is almost 40 degrees outside. The only saving grace to that is that there are a lot of nice places to eat in Gurgaon now and the Landmark store is also there. And to be honest, the Expressway has made life slightly easier.
Then again, if you happened to be a gregarious animal like me, you decide to complicate your day further by sticking with friends all night long. Till the end of the World Cup match, no matter how boring.
I now come to an important topic of discussion - whats up on KG Marg? Recently, the Sports Editor of the newspaper had a showdown with the Editor and quit. However, the Editorial Director asked him not to leave and supposedly told him that the issue 'will get sorted out'. And now it gets more interesting, the Ed in a meeting proclaimed that he didn't read the paper's supplement, and while you can't blame him for avoiding trash, the ED had a point to make, "(said supplement) is part of the paper too and you are the Ed."
Hmm. Methinks that there is about to be some activity at that building.
And what about the 'Daily Today' (that is what we will call it for now), the weird creation between the Daily Mail and the India Today Group? Well, no editor can be found for love of money just now, but I have heard someone from KG Marg is on his way there. Will it work? See, I'll be honest, the Times has improved dramatically over the past year, really. Parts of it are still ill-informed and trashy, but there has obviously been a lot of work in that paper. And in almost every city the paper is present, they have the best city coverage. I could not have said that about Times Delhi a couple of years ago, where city reportage bordered on the inane. Now, it must be said city reportage is quite solid. In fact, it is the best.
And the thing about a newspaper is that no matter how solid your Nation, Business and Sports sections, unless you have a solid city team it just won't sell. Just look at the travesty that is MetroNow, it is so bad, it is really not funny. I mean even the jokes are unfunny. They started out well, but it has been a fairly downhill road from there. Whereas Papermint has recently been coming out with some really nice stories (though one might argue only ONE person has been coming up with the stories) of late. But, they should have the the railway shit in peace!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Airline tickets.

I hear from sources, well make that readers, that the Times Group has blocked this blog (and some more) in Bombay. I'm genuinely surprised, because I actually wanted to say good things about the ToI, like how their cricket coverage over the last week has shattered the competition - in TV as well as Print. Inside, outside and exclusive interviews - brilliant interview with Greg Chappell yesterday.
Anyway, on the ethics front, I had an interesting insight on Friday. I had gone to visit a senior executive at an airline and while waiting for him in the Corp Comm's guys office, I overheard a phone call. The phone call was made by a journalist from an organisation I once worked at, and he asked for a 'free ticket' - the CC guy laughed saying that the guy would pay the taxes, but I still was horrified. Fair enough, it is a low-cost and a return ticket would be what - maximum Rs 8,000? But still, asking for a free ticket - that is a bit wild even in my opinion. I offered to give the CC guy the number of the guy's editor, but he didn't want it. He told me with a straight face, "If he wants this, if he wants to sell his soul to me, I'll get my own back."
Of course, during the course of the conversation, it became apparent that this was 'not' an isolated incident - quite a few journalists, not particularly senior ones also try to pull their 'PRESS' status for more than skipping traffic offenses, and frankly, I was a bit shocked. I know that one or two certain airlines don't mind dispensing trips, but they give them out to very senior journalists and a free ticket is rarely wasted on those folks - because you never know, during their best Tony Bourdain impressions on Travel and Living they might just mention the airlines' name.
On another note, everybody's favourite minister PRDM now claims the idea of the draconian 'Broadcast Bill' is to save the media from 'vested interests'. Have you seen a more delusional man? Anyway, I will grant him this much, after much humming and hawing, the government has allowed us to watch 'Adult Content' between 11-5. If this means I can see movies where the 'F' word is used is every possible form I will drink to that. Anyway, it is Sunday and the Formula One race is about to begin at Sepang, so till later...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Thoughts on Cricket

I got to know late last night that the Times of India was about to print a story that was about to dominate TV talk-shows for the whole day. Sachin Tendulkar's fascinating comments to the newspaper made for great reading. Of course, if I remember correctly, this was the first national media vehicle to use the term 'Endulkar', but then again, I still feel that if you want to make an impact, ToI remains India's most effective media vehicle. Sachin's comments have given a sea of retired former cricketers, many of them in the team which won the World Cup against all odds and because of Kapil Dev's heroics in 1983 (I wasn't at Lords, but I was in England at the time, I might have been a pint-sized blubberball, but still) who never made enough money from endorsements, who raking in the cash as 'experts' on one channel or another. You always get the contrarians - Kris Srikkanth and Bishen Singh Bedi's, but after watching TV today (so what if India and Pakistan have decided that we might talk peace, Cricket is far more important - of course, if you're Headlines Today you do an half-hour special on the 'Fastest Train in the World') no matter what you might think about Sachin and why he must go, you also realise why a nation reveres him.
I like cricket, I make attempts to watch matches whenever I can and I have never figured some things out. Other than Mohali, (and now I believe the new stadium in Hyderabad) most cricket grounds in the country range between atrocious and disgusting. Even the mosh-pit that is the Eden gardens is a wonderful place and but thank your lucky stars that there hasn't been a stampede as yet. As a country, we play only one sport and follow only one team at that, chances are other than a handful of journalists, few cricket writers would actually know the stars coming through the Ranji ranks.
Anyway, that is not the point. I said I like cricket, I am not passionate about the sport however, I do not have time to be passionate about the sport and nor do I see the sense in people spending hundreds of crores signing up stars to promote the game. Pepsi would make a lot more sales if they reduced prices to Rs 8 instead of asking consumers to subsidise the lifestyles of the rich and famous. But then again I do not decide marketing budgets, I only occasionally write about them.
But why do many people get so passionate about cricket? While, some people can blame Jagmohan Dalmiya for being a brilliant marketing man or the teams of the early-to-mid 80's actually being good before the sport degenerated in politics, I blame people like Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, KPS Gill and Suresh Kalmadi. These are people who have not let other sports grow in this country to the detriment of the country, because sporting success and sporting events are extremely effective social harmony tools and personally, I wouldn't mind going to watch a game every once in a while. The lack of other sporting options actually works to cricket's detriment in India. Look at it this way, countries which have populations smaller than that of Greater Bombay sent teams to the World Cup in Germany and you expect me to believe that across the land we can't find 22 decent football players that we can turn into world-class pro's? Do you know how embarassing it feels when you play EA FIFA on a console and see India's football ranking at 118. Do you know how idiotic you feel when India come next to last in Hockey? And in Olympics Sports, we spend crores sending a Bollywood troupe over to Melbourne, but medals - what medals? One Silver and Rajyavardhan Rathore becomes a hero. One Silver! One point one billion people and we get one second-place prize. Pitiful.
It is disheartening to see our performances in cricket degenerate to that of our performances in other sports. But when politicians get involved, what can or should you expect! The players morphed into Tigers in a Pepsi ad, they came back like frightened pussycats!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Ethics and the common Indian journalist...

It is quite weird when your resident Oil and Gas reporter bitches out a member of his tribe in another organisation, I mean the skeletons that tumble out make you sit back and say - Whoa! You hear of how people have a taste for expensive pens and expensive malts and how others host parties as go-betweens. I won't get into stories about my former colleagues, knowing that many of them read this blog, but my god, the things I have heard - I cannot ever ascertain the veracity of the stories, but knowing that the senior-most editor in the organisation had his honeymoon 'funded' by Air India, I'm genuinely not surprised if some of the stories were true.
So what is journalistic integrity? Do you keep that shiny mobile email device that a Canadian manufacturer gave away at a 'select' press briefing in Bombay recently - heck, the others in the group took it. Or do you like in Indian's least watched English news channel go on junkets like mad taking your 'friends' (from the channel, obviously) along with you (as cameramen!!! How much brains do you need to operate a DV camera?). Or as sometimes happens in my case, discover that your table is piled sky-high with boxes of electronic gadgetry that people sent over for reviews and they have steadfastly refused to take back. I mean, short of going to a PR agency to return a gadget, I have sometimes done everything. Then again, I might have done things earlier in my career that might leave me 'ethically compromised' too - even though I can swear I actually lost the products in question. (Taxi seats have a habit of swallowing things!)
So here we have a group of individuals who now get paid rather well, live the good life and get given products and nice foreign trips in Business Class and use their Press Cards and Press Stickers to try and get away with murder.
So would someone kindly explain to me what's going on?
Later on - more on Inky-Pinky TV, BAG TV (Bhagwan, Allah, God TV and no I did not make this up!) and the Living Media Group's already doomed to failure venture with the Daily Mail Group.