Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Just my two cents on the issue, but the fct remains that Rathore is a scumbag who deserves to go to jail. It is a pity that it takes a media campaign to send him to jail. Justice in India is a rather strange thing, no?
Picture from The Indian Express
Monday, December 28, 2009
See, frankly, I feel the Editors Guild is an even more useless body than the Press Council. Until this entire issue of 'Paid News' came up everyone seemed to forgotten it existed and several editors - you know the guys who actually edit papers that matter don't even attend. I have argued that self-regulation is bound to fail and the Editor's Guild paying he matter lip service is bound to ensure that it is buried a quiet death. Until somebody raises it again soon, but by then god only knows if the media in its current shape, size or form will survive.
That said, I still don't believe that 'Paid News' is the greatest threat facing Indian journalism or journalism globally for that matter - the biggest threat (other than pointless self-regulating bodies) is 'cut-and-paste' journalism. Whole chunks of text from Wikipedia, likely written by a Public Relations type are taken as the gospel truth and printed verbatim. You would have thought that young Indian journalists would have learned from the cautionary tale of VN Narayanan, but who cares? You won't see lazy journalism discussed by talking shops will you?
Insincere journalism written or described by monkeys who feel that they're doing a 9-to-5 job and who 'scoops' are handed out to them is worse. At least when it comes to 'Paid News', the company/individual whose news is getting written about has shown some sincerity and maybe some thinking has gone in somewhere. Google might be my best friend, but it has also enabled utter idiots to parade about with 'PRESS' stickers on their cars - I've not had one on my car for over five years now.
Anyway, this was a rush job, I've got far too much work over the next few days for regular updates, even though I'm bemused at Twatteroor's latest adventures. Making fun of the Ministry of Home Affairs under Chidambaram is not a good idea (while it was under Shivraj Patil you were supposed to make fun of the MHA). Mr. Minister, do your job trying to ensure that Indians don't get too badly exploited in the Middle-East (that is your responsibility isn't it?) that they have to stow themselves away in planes.
Monday, December 21, 2009
It comes down to a couple of things. The first is the lack of disclosure – unlike newspapers and magazines, TV channels do not have to display a Form VI showing ownership – many language news channels are biased by their very ownership – Sakshi for example. Now, the casual viewer will hardly have a clue – though in the case of Sakshi you do know that Jagan Reddy owns it by the incessant coverage of everything YSR and Jagan. The second is that, and this problem is there is newspapers as well, a lack of disclosure about political affiliations of the owners. There is a nexus between news proprietors and the editorial, everyone knows that, the media in India is hardly free, so if the owner of a news organization sits as a Member of Parliament or even a Member of Legislative Assembly, that has to be disclosed. The reader needs to know that the proprietor of the Hindustan Times sits as a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha, or that the proprietor of Sun TV’s brother is an Union Minister.
The second aspect is quite simply the lack of teeth. Frankly, the Press Council of India (PCI) is a toothless body populated by old, irrelevant retired journalists and retired judges who look to Liberhan as a role-model. Also, the PCI does not control television news. There needs to be a drastic change in the way the media is policed. And believe me, the media needs policing, because it is just spreading all sorts of wild and whacky canards along with news of dubious quality. The problem is that these old, retired folks only end up complaining about the amount of skin shown. Not the news.
The relatively easy access to technology over the past decade has led to a massive explosion in the number of news channels and print publications. The PCI has not kept up. The lack of a regulatory body has been exploited by proprietors. Every single time a suggestion of a regulatory body is made by the government, it is seen as censorship by the media, in no small part due to the fact that any proposal is usually drafted by a control-obsessed bureaucrat. But there has to be a regulator, not a toothless one like the PCI or the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). Actually, between the PCI and the ASCI you would be hard-pressed to find a worse regulator. And Rajeev Chandrashekhar is complaining about TRAI (not that I’m saying they’re good, but compared to these two!).
Any new regulatory body for the media would need to take in the fact that there has been a technology explosion over the years and have to get rid of the tendency to muzzle the media that all governments have. Yet, there should be rules against false news (watch Hindi news channels on dubious science) or against news that incites (Sakshi?) and ‘Paid For’ news (everyone). Any body would have to take into account multimedia – the fact that maybe in five years time we won’t be consuming news through either TV or print. Like other regulators it should also look into what is being taught in courses that train young professionals.
And to be successful it must be comprised not of retired old fogeys, but should include younger editors, and editors of publications that matter, like a Jojo for example. Proprietors need to be brought in as well – because there are commercial interests in news – people like Raghav and/or Kalanidhi Maran know that better than anyone else. We do not live in a socialist age, junkets are a fact of life. And there should also be people from society –and government. The fact remains that the news is not equal, farmers might starve and buses could crash in far-flung parts of India but urban newspapers, even language ones will still publish pictures of Jamie Jungers, one of Tiger’s alleged mistresses in a bikini.
Every stakeholder from the government which wants to get news out, law enforcement, journalists themselves, proprietors and society needs to be involved. And this has to be done in a country of 1.1 billion people over several (what is it today? 30 proposed or 32 proposed?) states, each with a different agenda and different problems. The problems journalists are facing in Maoist-areas in central India are massive.
See if we in the media are serious about dealing with the ‘menace’ of ‘Paid News’ we have to go beyond soul-searching in articles and pointing fingers at each other. We need to deal with it. Self-regulation has failed and the government regulator is a joke. Either we deal with it, or as the coming wave of data access comes along, the media in India, much like the media in the west will face declining numbers as people move away to more reliable sources, like a kid with a cell-phone camera.
Anyway, comment with your thoughts or lack of...
Monday, December 14, 2009
Oh, and I spent the weekend in Lucknow for a college friends wedding where I saw modern Rome being created in Sandstone. I really did not know India has so much sandstone, yes, I know a bit of tetonic plates and that large parts of northern India were underwater, but still, some parts of that city are bizarre. The kebabs still rock though.
NOTE ON THE CRISIS FACING ST.STEPHEN’S COLLEGE
1. St. Stephen’s College, founded in 1881 by Christian missionaries, was never envisaged as a mere adjunct of the Church. Its stated objective was to provide quality education and to send out men and women of character who would contribute to nation-building. Among its teachers and mentors was Deenabandhu C.F. Andrews, a close associate of Gandhiji during the freedom struggle. For the last 128 years, the College has played a pivotal role in the field of higher education in the country, maintaining standards of excellence in teaching and learning, and fostering creative and pluralistic growth. Its alumni have played an important role in nation-building.
2. The Constitution of St. Stephen’s College, developed by its founders, and modified from time to time to enable it to join Delhi University in 1922 and remain part of it as a constituent College, maintains a clear and emphatic separation between the Church and the administration of the College. The twofold role of the Supreme Council (a subset of the Governing Body consisting of the Bishop and four nominees of Church bodies and principal) is to appoint the Principal and to oversee religious instruction and other matters pertaining to religious character. It has absolutely no role in administrative matters as per clause 5 of the College Constitution. Additionally, Clause 8 of the Constitution makes it mandatory for the College to follow all conditions of grant-in-aid (to the tune of 95% which St Stepsagarika.hen’s College, like the other colleges of Delhi University, gets from the Government), as well as all University Ordinances that do not affect its Christian character.
3. The Governing Body of the College has 18 members, and the composition is as follows
Nominees of various Church bodies, including the Bishop of Delhi, who is the Chairperson
One of these is a nominee of the Synod (highest all-India body) of the Church of North India, the others are from CNI Delhi Diocese, two being direct nominees of the Bishop. Five of these seven form a group called the Supreme Council, headed by the Bishop.
Must be a member of CNI, with a Ph.D. and at least 15 years of teaching experience in a recognized college. Selected after open advertisement and interview by the Supreme Council. Then he becomes ex-officio Member Secretary of Supreme Council as well as GB
A college teacher with same qualification as Principal (as given above), appointed by Principal.
A college teacher appointed by GB on recommendation of Principal (as per University Ordinance) OR Treasurer (as per College Constitution). The Treasurer has to be a member of the GB elected by the GB and could theoretically be different from the Principal. The potential clash between Univ rules and College Constitution (regarding the nominating authority for the Bursar) was averted by the GB all these 128 years by the practice of making the Principal the Treasurer.
Appointed by GB
One appointee of Principal
Two University representatives
Professors from University appointed by Vice-Chancellor
Four teachers from the College
Two are by rotation and two by election by the faculty
4. Since 2005-6, when the then-Principal, Dr. Anil Wilson, went on long leave to take up Vice-Chancellorship of Himachal University, the College, which had to be administered through several interim officiating arrangements, has been going through a period of instability. These arrangements were as follows:
a. Dr. Jacob Cherian (August 2005-May 2007),
b. Rev Valson Thampu (May 2007-March 2008),
c. Dr. M.S. Frank(March 2008-September 2008).
Eventually, in September 2008, Rev. Dr. Valson Thampu was appointed regular Principalby the Supreme Council, after the due procedures of advertisement and interview, and his appointment was duly recognized (both in terms of qualifications and eligibility) by the Delhi University and the UGC. With this, the College community hoped that the college would enter a period of some stability, during which it could put its house in order and move forward with the collective energies and inputs of all its members to meet new educational and academicchallenges. This hope proved to be short-lived.
5. Within two months of appointing him, the Supreme Council appears to havechanged its mind. In November, 2008, it served him a letter putting him on probation (which allows the Supreme Council to terminate his services at one month’s notice) retrospectively. Rev. Dr. Thampu protested, pointing out it was illegal to change his terms of appointment retrospectively, apart from the fact that Delhi University Ordinances prohibit probation for Principals. The sole CNI (Synod) representative on the Supreme Council, Rev.Dr Pradhan, also registered his strong protest against the illegality and irregularity of a retrospective probation. At this point the Bishop and his associates attempted to drive Rev.Dr. Pradhan out of the Supreme Council and Governing Body. Thampu’s efforts over the next six months, to resolve the issue within the CNI fraternity, failed. In May, 2009, Thampu’s appeal was formally turned down by the Supreme Council, and in July 2009, he filed a writ in the High Court, challenging the letter of probation. The High Court stayed the Supreme Council from terminating his services, and the matter continues to be heard. An out-of-court settlement attempted by the Moderator (Head) of the Church of North India, in October 2009, failed as the Bishop reneged on the agreement that the letter of probation would be withdrawn.
6. There is much speculation about why the Supreme Council changed its mind about its own appointee. In his petition, Dr. Rev. Thampu alleges that he was asked by the Bishop’s emissaries for a hefty monetary donation which he refused. This is a serious charge, and the College community along with all stake-holders, the alumni and the University, need to know the truth about this. If true, this is an indication of the dangers to the financial and administrative integrity of the College.
7. Since November 2008, the Bishop and his associates have made continuous and systematic attempts to destabilize Dr. Rev. Thampu’s administration. These have included blatant procedural violations especially at Governing Body Meetings, doctoring and re-writing of Governing Body meeting Minutes, and undermining the functioning of members of the Principal’s administrative team with the aim to cripple the college administration. Matters came to a head in the meeting of October 28, 2009, in which the Bursar, Mr. Raghunathan, a bonafide member of the GB, was prevented from participating in its proceedings by an illegal ruling given by the Chairman. He left the meeting and facetious charges of financial mismanagement were leveled in his absence (even though audited financial data proves that since 2007, when Raghunathan was appointed Bursar by Thampu, the College has made a remarkable financial recovery).
8. In this meeting (which was adjourned and continued on 17th November, 2009), the office of Treasurer was taken away from Thampu and given to Nirmal Andrews, the Bishop’s nominee in the Supreme Council, thus departing from the 128 year-old convention of making the Principal the Treasurer. No plausible reason was offered for the change. While the arbitrariness itself is a serious problem, the decision has opened the doors for a major conflict with the University and UGC on the issue of who will appoint the Bursar. According to the College Constitution, it is the Treasurer who appoints the Bursar, whereas the University has sent strongly worded letters that it shall not recognize a Bursar who is not a nominee of the Principal, as stipulated in the University Ordinance XVIII. The rationale for the University’s stand is that the UGC grant-in-aid is public monies which may be handled only by persons so authorized to do so. Even the College Constitution stipulates a commitment by the College to fulfill all conditions of grant-in-aid given by the Government (see para 2 above). A conflict over appointment of Bursar might affect the funding given to the College by the UGC, which is not likely to allow its grant to be handled by an unauthorized person. Since the College gets 95% of its funding from the UGC, any withdrawal of funding by the UGC would threaten its very existence. Moreso, since the Supreme Council has never put in even the 5% maintenance expenditure that it is legally required to.
9. In the meeting of 3rd December, 2009, which in another significant departure from the norm, was held at the Bishop’s office-cum-residence, Rev Dr. Thampu was asked by the Bishop for a panel of names for the Bursar. He gave a panel of three names, all of which were turned down by the Governing Body without any reasons other than the personal dislike of the Bishop being offered. It may be noted that, as per the University Ordinance, the Principal is obliged to provide just a single name which the Treasurer is bound to accept. As a result of all these developments, the College has now being functioning for a month and a half without a Bursar during which period large sums of money such as arrears of salaries after pay revision by the Sixth Pay Commission are being disbursed. This is a serious violation of University and Government rules, for which the Governing Body must be held accountable.
10. The Bishop’s challenges to the administrative autonomy of the college along with his attempts to wrest financial control have fudged the lines between the Church and the administration of College. This has been ongoing: instances of encroachment by the Bishop and Supreme Council on purely academic and administrative matters, such as admissions (weightage for interviews, number of persons to be called, cut-offs, attempt to send ‘observers’ to the interview board etc), appointments (attempt to have a religion-based quota in teachers appointments), examinations (giving show cause notice to the Principal for questioning the Superintendent of Exams, Dr. M.S. Frank, on why he refused a physically challenged student the facilities authorized by the University), have been have been continuous and escalating. Rev Dr Thampu took the initiative to re-open the process of making permanent appointments to teaching posts after seven years of a dispute with the University, during which period, the college lost several talented teachers to other institutions. Now, the College is poised to make about thirty teaching appointments. If the Bishop and the Supreme Council are permitted to interfere in administration, there is a real danger that considerations other than merit will be playing a role in the appointments. This will have a long-lasting adverse effect on the academic future of the College. Moreover, if a duly selected Principal can be forced out for resisting unwarranted and unjustifiable interference, the chances of getting a competent, principled and independent minded Principal in future are bleak. Additionally, though the Supreme Council has never put in the 5% maintenance expenditure that it is legally required to in order to claim participatory rights in the management of the College, it is attempting to annex the College and control funds given by the Government. Notably, in his counter to Rev Dr. Thampu’s petition, the Bishop, while attempting to justify the exclusion of Rev Dr. Pradhan, the sole representative of the CNI Synod (the highest All-India body of CNI) from the GB (for supporting Rev. Dr. Thampu’s position on the probation issue), stated that “The Church of North India did not exercise any jurisdiction over the College”. This attempt by the Bishop of Delhi to marginalize even the Church of North India when it suits him is part of his efforts to replace all independent representatives of the Church of North India with his nominees from the Delhi Diocese of CNI. Several such instances of expediency and adhocism have characterized the Bishop’s actions, giving credence to the growing popular belief that he regards the College as a personal fiefdom.
11. There are two imminent dangers. The first of these is a proposed ‘enquiry’ into ‘college affairs’. The GB in its last meeting on 3rd December 2009, resolved to set up a subcommittee consisting of three members of the GB to identify a “suitable” retired judge to conduct an “enquiry” into “College Affairs” on terms of reference to be decided by the three. The following may be noted in this context:
a) All three are the Bishop’s nominees in the GB
b) No criteria for membership to this committee were offered.
c) Neither a University Representative nor the Member secretary – both of whom are conventionally included in such committees in the interests of maintaining objectivity and credibility – was included. At least a University representative ought to have been co-opted.
d) No basis for the enquiry was offered
e) No terms of reference were spelt out by the GB
f) No procedural guidelines were thought necessary. It may be noted here that the GB has so far has been extraordinarily cavalier about matters of procedure, which in fact are at the heart of regulated and accountable functioning.
g) No complaint about any aspect of college functioning had been tabled. On the contrary, the College’s remarkable financial recovery in the last two years and its transparently and smoothly conducted admissions (not a single RTI query was received) had been remarked on by GB members.
The telling composition of the committee, the visible absence of accountability, transparent rationale and procedure, promises a Kangaroo court, a perversion of justice, procedures and regulations and a witch hunt.
12. The second imminent danger arises from the recent appointment of an ‘interim bursar’ by the Treasurer, Mr. Nirmal Andrews on 11. 12. 09. This appointment is highly irregular since, according to the University Statutes, the Bursar has to be a nominee of the Principal (see para 8 above). However, on 11. 12. 09, knowing that the Principal was out of station on leave for two days, the Bishop and the Treasurer, Nirmal Andrews, appointed Dr. Eswaran as “interim Bursar”. Dr. Eswaran’s name is not on the panel given by the Principal and his appointment is therefore in clear violation of the University Ordinance XVIII, and has set the college on a collision course with the Delhi University and the University Grants Commission (UGC). The unconstitutionality of the move makes unmistakable the malafide inherent in the ‘enquiry’ into ‘college affairs’. The specious justification offered for this shocking illegality is precisely the highly motivated ‘enquiry’ into ‘college affairs’. It has been stated that a regular Bursar cannot be appointed because of the ‘enquiry’. It may be noted that the justification itself is highly paradoxical, since the difference between the functions or status of an ‘interim’ and ‘regular’ bursar have not been specified. It is also an irresponsible move since this illegally appointed person will handle government funds. It may be noted that though the ‘interim bursar’ did not have the Principal’s confidence, the Principal will be a co-signatory to all cheques. Further there is every chance that this appointment will be derecognised by the University, thereby endangering our UGC grant. The ironies of the situation intensify when those who are the source of the trouble institute themselves as troubleshooters.
13. The Bishop is actively attempting to crush all resistance from within the College. A majority of the permanent teachers had protested at the treatment of the Bursar and gross procedural irregularities through letters of protest addressed to the University and GB, silent poster-demonstrations at the venue of GB meetings and by insisting on proper procedures. These have been met with condemnation, criticism and threats of disciplinary action by the Bishop. In a fresh and deplorable attempt to silence by intimidation, the Bishop has singled out a senior teacher, Clement Rajakumar, who is a priest, and issued him show cause notices for “disloyalty”! Though this is ludicrous, it is of consequence to the future ethos and culture of the College. It would behove the Bishop to understand that a premier institution of higher learning must teach the value of dissent and integrity, rather than foster toadyism and opportunism.
14. It is of considerable concern to several members within and outside the college community that the Chair of the Governing Body is being transparently manipulative. Rather than committing illegalities cavalierly and expediently making up rules along the way thereby setting unfortunate and untenable precedents, the Bishop should abide by the University Statutes and established practices which have achieved an essential and carefully thought-out balance between the University and the College. It would be extremely unfortunate if St Stephen’s College or indeed any credible institution were to fall into unscrupulous hands or face disrepute and possible closure because of the whims and nearsightedness of a set of self-serving individuals.
Bikram Phookun(Physics), Vijay Tankha(Philosophy), K.P.Shankaran(Philosophy), K.M. Mathew(Chemistry), Sanjeev Grewal(Economics), R.S.Nanda(Philosophy), Karen Gabriel(English), Amrita Tulika(History), Anurag Malhotra(Economics), N.Raghunathan(Economics), M.C.Jain(Chemistry), Giti Chandra(English), Sanjay Kumar(Physics), Neelam Saxena(Hindi), Nandita Narain(Mathematics), Leema Paliwal(Economics), Arjun Mahey(Economics), Clement Rajakumar (Physical Education), Abhinav Gupta(Physics), A.Roy(English), and other concerned teachers of St. Stephen's College.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
It would be a bit difficult to deny that the television channel has been a tad disappointing. It is also by now no secret that people at the very top want the horses out and models in, the opposite of Tiger Woods’ philosophy of women (other than the Jamie Jungers chick, but she does look a bit like his almost ex-wife) and that isn’t really surprising. It is also by now no secret that the ‘integrated newsroom’ concept has been a colossal failure, but then again how did they expect to maintain an integrated newsroom with differential salaries. Seems a bit too much like ‘want Cake, for free, will eat too’. Ugsters on the telly minus the reporters, something had to give, no?
Such is life. On another note, one heck of a lot of carbon is being spent on sending reporters to Copenhagen (at last count, UndieTV is sending at least four people) but some parts of the media have been giving the event the coverage it deserves from India’s perspective rather than only buying into what the West wants. I’m no environmental guru, but any agreement that India agrees to must balance India’s developmental needs along with environmental concerns. Above all else, the government should instead of ramming down environmentalism down people’s throats teach them a bit about the problems – get the guys who write the Hindi soap operas to incorporate green messages maybe.
And then there is the ‘Paid News’ brouhaha. Usually most people specify what is an advertorial in print, and people have used the paid news club to batter BCCL again, and if you read the first two paras, they have their own problems (EDIT: though the Maharashtra Times did carry the same Chavan electoral advert). The funniest however was UndieTV which did a few shows, but it would have been better if they did some soul-searching themselves. A good half (well, estimates of over 60 per cent usually) the content on Undie Profit is paid for by advertisers. In fact, every business TV channel is guilty of this in India, and there is nary an indication of this before, during or after the show.
There will very few posts until the end of next week though as I’m caught up in a horrible mixture of work, wedding season (including travel to Lucknow), Single Malts and a bad cold. Well, there has been far too little single malt, but you get the picture.
PS: Oh, and I must thank Joji and Saad for giving all us twitter users a magnificently entertaining time yesterday evening. Yes, it got a bit out of hand, but that was primarily because Chetan Bhagat was finally exposed as the arrogant twat that he is. Surprising that bad authors can be so arrogant! Actually, wait a second....
Friday, December 04, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
“Some very simple practices that you often take for granted, such as being ethical in day to day situations, or believing in the rule of law in everyday behavior, are surprisingly absent in many situations,” said Raju Narisetti, who was born in Hyderabad and returned to India in 2006 to found a business newspaper called Mint, which is now the country’s second-biggest business paper by readership.
He said he left earlier than he expected because of a “troubling nexus” of business, politics and publishing that he called “draining on body and soul.” He returned to the United States this year to join The Washington Post.
All I can say is - Ouch! But then again, why am I not surprised. Expect a lot of bitching about Raju emanating from KG Marg very shortly.
Due thanks to Mr AR! And the post headline is from an 'anonymous' commenter.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Maybe I need to do a big-ass story again, though it has only been a couple of months. And the urgency to do giganormous epics of government failings or corporate skullduggery isn’t as urgent as that of having regular sex. Honestly, I would rather drive a fast car right now and then drown in a barrel of 17-year old Malt. You know that the smaller A-roads are absolutely wonderful in the Scottish Highlands. I’m sorry but I’m feeling bored and this is what I would rather be doing right now than hearing my fingers not-so-gentle maul my HP keyboard.
Come to think of it I do type extremely loudly.
Sorry, but I genuinely feeling extremely bored right now, I have finished reading all the webcomics I follow and short of suddenly attempting to finish all the unread posts over on my RSS reader – which I can’t because accessing Fleshbot in office is a total ‘No-No’ and there is only so much of gadgets and electronics I can take (no, really) before I want to take a soldering iron to my head. And our kindly office IT admins have banned YouTube in office, not that the craptastic internet connention they have here could serve up too many pointless videos of people trying to be Jedi’s anyway. There is something wrong with the world when your home connection is faster than the office connection.
Anyway, I’m close to expending 400 words on this post. If I was in a daily I would consider my job done and go home, and if I had a box 360 I would play some Forza 3. But nope, the lure of big-ass story is strong!
Even though, there is a special joy in staying home on a working day.
PS: In response to a couple of 'friends' - I am not, repeat not, a high-class escort. I am pretty sure that they have a lot more fun than I do, and I am not going to be one to judge, but if someone (anyone) was to pay to have sex with me, they would need to be brain-dead, blind coot. Then again, if you have trawled the internet as long as I have you will know that you can find people with any sort of perversion online. Even so...
PPS: It isn't as if I don't 'believe' in what I write, other than the occasional load of boredom and being stuck in something patently unenjoyable, I genuinely have fun on the job most of the time. Which is why I've not been a 'bouncer'.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Simple conclusion, HT has been trashed by ToI in Delhi on the one survey where usually they weren’t trashed. This means that the number of adverts offering ‘Russians, Afghani’s and Air-Hostesses’ in HT will only increase. But then again after the collective amnesia that happened when it came to Manu Sharma, I’m genuinely not surprised. In fact, the paper that surprises me is Mail Today. I have no idea of their readership numbers, but they do tend to have a couple of interesting stories, in fact they were the only paper that kept up on Manu Sharma from the time he was given parole. Even NDTV which feigned moral outrage once Manu was caught clubbing didn’t seem to care. Or given that much of that network sits in ivory towers, never knew what was going on to care.
That brings me to a rather interesting trend which is in place in some television channels – that of ‘paid’ internships. I find the concept slightly bizarre, and can’t quite explain it. The amount of money involved is usually minimal, but someone it seems to go against the concept of internship. This isn’t a course, or even an excuse of a course, and much like air-hostess training institutes, many media colleges have also gone AWOL. But paid internships? I find the concept to out of whack that I can’t even write what I’m thinking right now. Or maybe I’m rushing through because I have the shits.
A couple of things, there is no need for me to react to attacks by misguided sexually frustrated followers of a demented twit. Enough said. But before you accuse me of getting on a another bandwagon, imagine you are Sachin Tendulkar, and make a lot of money from endorsements, would you have said anything other than what you said? That said, I would like to see how Sunny Gavaskar reacts now that he has been anointed a savior of Marathi’s by the senile one.
Friday, November 20, 2009
But I will write a post tomorrow about more interesting things, but this weekend I really do plan to watch Liefenstahl's Triumph of the Wills, one of the most revolutionary movies of all time but also a masterpiece of propaganda. Then again, the Congress does not need to pay for propaganda here.
Friday, November 13, 2009
And there is a very interesting report out by ICICI Securities on the state of teh Indian Media, including the televised news media. Which will not make for good reading for the folks at ET Now. I can't post it because of copyright issues, but try and get your hands on it.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Four years ago, a very close friend who happens to be a prominent anchor on TV and a war-buff dragged me to the graveyards at Monte Cassino. This monastery town a hundred clicks or so south of Rome was the site of one of the most ferocious battles of the Italian campaign as the resolute Nazi and Facist defenders of Rome. Hundreds of young Indian men died. On a field in Italy. In 1943. Fighting for a foreign King. The names are unmistakably South Asian on the memorials. I went to Monte Casino unwillingly, I returned chastened and respectful.
The sad thing is that while we do remember the dead of World War 1 in one of the nicest war memorials anywhere in the world - India Gate - many people and children forget this fact. That on the Somme and Gallipoli, 93 years ago (1916 was the first battle of the Somme, Gallipoli was 1915 if I remember correctly) thousands of Indians died. But we forget even the dead of our recent wars - Kargil for example. And some wars we choose to forget ever existed - 1962. Weirdly enough the Chinese do have a point, we as a collective have wiped out that war from our collective memory and only when China rumbles about Arunachal Pradesh do some remember.
I am no fan of war, yes like many other people I am fascinated by the technology of military-industrial complex, because much of this tech, such as the internet itself, will have some civilian application someday. I am just disgusted at the ability of our forgetfulness. There might be a billion of us today, but we should always remember the millions who died so that we could be here. I am not being a right-wing lackey, I am not being a nationalist, I am just being a respectful citizen and child of India.
And keep in mind, while your civics and history textbooks would like you to think that it was Mahatma Gandhi's non-violence movement that won us freedom, do not forget the impact of either the devastated British economy or the Royal Indian Navy Mutiny - a mutiny which showed the British that they had lost control of the only thing that had made the empire possible - The Indian military. That, and not 1942, was the final nail in the Empire's coffin.
Remember those who died for you and salute them.
PS: I am not saying that we should also observe 11th November as 'Remembrance Day', but any day - 16th December perhaps, the day the 1971 war ended. If we mark the birth and death anniversaries of our political leaders who led us astray, why can't we mark one day for the millions who fought for us? Of course, the TV channels today will be talking about the impending deluge in Mumbai, or why Sheila Dixit felt it fit to let a cold-blooded murderer out on parole. That said, why was Manu Sharma out of parole? And Manu, we are not biased. You ARE a murderer, you murdered a girl because you wanted a drink or wanted to get laid. You almost got away with it, and we didn't let you. So rot in jail.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
The problem is that Uncle M is treated as a God by several media moguls in India, even though he cannot understand why FDI isn’t allowed in newspapers. The future of the net and how content will be distributed online is an area where Indian media groups are hopelessly behind the West and they don’t have a frikkin’ clue either. The argument is not a easy one, there is a serious issue of ‘content stealing’ that happens in India. Citizen Journalism, other than the occasional lucky video is nothing more than wild opinions masquerading as journalism, or is that Times NOW? Most ‘Citizen Journalism’ is nothing more than second or third hand reporting. Anyone who followed Twitter during the events of last November in Mumbai would know that.
Listen I am not defending traditional journalism, I still maintain that most journalists in India are either dumb or lazy, sometimes a horrible mix of the two. I can’t honestly say that I do not fit into either category, even though chances are another editor will make a third category for people like me – ‘fat’. Back to the point, there have been far too few discussions on how the internet will change journalism in India. Do I know? Nope, I have no clue, but I can pretty much assure you that journalism will be drastically different even by the time my father retires (if he does), let alone ten years time.
I don’t know if I want to poll blog readers for opinions, because I’m afraid much of it as usual will be vitriol directed towards me. And I will give people more and more reason to hate me even more soon enough. Alongside my image of a seriously mentally disturbed potential psycho-killer, I am quite hatable! As for being a 'jealous hater', yes, I do not like certain people, but 'jealousy' is an attribute that I don't think I have unless it concerns women.
And for the record, why on earth would I want to suck up to (an evidently suit-hating) Suku? And the first comment on the last post mentioned, I genuinely enjoy where I currently work because I get to do things I love doing, I possibly have more fun on the job than any peer of mine. Sure, I’ve never worked for the money, but I can run a blog like this. Why would I want a strait-jacketed job which I would want to leave at the first opportunity I got to leave. I believe the secret to good journalism is a happy journalist. You might or might not agree with me, but I don’t give a flying eff!
Monday, November 09, 2009
By career suicide, I mean FE – I know some of the guys joining FE are loyalists of the new FE Editor MK Venu, but honestly that paper only exists for the tender adverts, it is not bad or anything but ask yourself (if you are not in PR or in the Indian Express group) when was the last time you read FE for a sustained period of time. I just about manage to glance through it in office. That said, I wish the new team in FE all the best towards achieving the ‘high profile’ that Shekhar Gupta wants, but Mint won the ‘profile’ wars long ago. That said, I just wonder how many people are ‘parking’ themselves to break the ridiculous and anti-employee ‘no-poaching’ pact between BCCl and HTMedia.
Some of the seeds of chaos were sown by the concept of an integrated newsroom but differential pay structures for print and TV. My reporter friends in ET have expressed their displeasure with this over and over and they were just waiting for an uptick in hiring to jump ship. But I laughed this away, a couple of people of people here and there, the scale of this desertion is mind-boggling. But then again, I have to admit a couple of Editors I have worked with saw this coming, along with the plunging ratings – which isn’t surprising when they send a vapid but pretty face to interview the CEO of a company that Robert Noyce founded.
Admittedly the business news space is more robust than general news, but the attendant chaos is limited to the second floor of 7, BSZ Marg and not the third floor. Puzzling, or maybe because ToI staffers aren’t jealous of Times NOW staffers as ET staffers seem to be of ET NOW staffers. Maybe people in ToI just take a look at Arnab’s zeal for war with China and/or Pakistan and thank their lucky stars!
Oh yes, and an apology for not writing over the past few days, I’ve acquired a new Editor and he has been flogging this slightly thinner reporter. And I’ve been enjoying myself quite a bit at work.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
At their heart, most pseudonymous identities are collaborations between the author, who provides the outline of a persona, and the audience, which fills in the blanks. The result is a sort of virtual superhero, an oracle more accurate than any mortal could hope to be. Compared to the elusive mastermind of the collective imagination, the real author inevitably disappoints.
From this month’s Wired.
Back to regular programming now. Which over here usually means clearing up masses of spam comments placed by guys who run Search Engine Optimisation firms. Other than that what news? Well, some Undies have been left out to dry as Undie is getting rid of Imagine – which should actually be known as the Sameer Nair family show (with Rakhi Sawant on the side). With Turner exiting Real, effectively the second flop channel after Peter and Indrani Mukerjea’s INX whatever, they’ve decided to get into used Undies. Not that I watch much of what are termed as General Entertainment Channels, though I must admit I did see a bit of Rakhi’s show and I will watch bits and pieces of ‘Who wants to be beaten up by an abusive husband?’ where Rahul Mahajan fritters away whatever little is left of his father’s legacy.
But good for him, everybody has the right to make money. And abuse substances. Even Andre Agassi. Listen the guy did drugs at a low-ebb of his life and I don’t know why the entire contrite moral brigade – hypocrites that they are – are condemning him. I actually found myself agreeing with Rick Reilly’s assessment of Agassi on his blog and I will buy the book. I liked Andre Agassi as a kid, his was a player with heart and not like a robot – both the one Agassi played against and the other one today. The robots are good but dull. And Agassi is the one that married Steffi Graf!
In other news, well it seems that the media’s horrible tradition of personal life destruction continues. And we stick with the same network, I’m not surprised at marriages breaking up and the fascination for older people, but the cast involved sometimes baffles me. To take a guess, there is a reason why some people call the evening prime time talking-head shows on NDTV (other than the 9PM news itself) the ‘boyfriend’ shows. I won’t be a hypocrite and pass comments on the lack of stability in people’s lives, but the sooner that both media bosses and HR inside the companies realize that, particularly their ace reporters/anchors, in both print and television do not have healthy and/or steady personal lives, that is a problem. This is worse than alcohol, well and in many cases it is pretty much responsible for alcohol abuse.
People can call journalists names, accuse us of biases and you know what, we all have biases. I try my utmost to not let my opinion of something affect something I’m working on, but any journalist, even the dumbest ones would be lying if they said that their biases did not impact them. The fact that some of us have been brought up the way we have comes through in the way we write or present. The fact remains that this is a job, and if you are good at what you do, and this is the sad part, you are usually asked to do more than you can handle simply because you are good.
The fact is that most journalists in most organizations would be what club football calls squad players, average for lack of a better word. If you are ‘an International’, and sorry for the football analogies here, you life is destined to be a horrible one. Yes, you will enjoy great professional success, meeting some really important people and your phone-book will bulge, or in some cases your mobile is so full of numbers that it pretty much stops functioning properly. It is a great feeling believe me, but man that completely screws up your sense of priorities and in many cases your life, because above all else it gives you a tremendously inflated opinion of yourself and sometimes you just can’t see clearly of who does matter. This is not about cracking a sale or becoming a General Manager, you really have access to power.
I should know, believe me. Thankfully, most of those closest to me in this profession, other than one notorious hold-out have managed to piece together their lives. Somewhat. But, honestly unless some action is taken, and taken soon things will only get worse. And the action should start from an organisation that needs it more than any other. The one in a disused cinema hall.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Enough cricket, and for that matter enough sport for now. Some people would gleefully be looking at yesterday’s election results and feeling rather pleased with themselves. Other than ordinary Maharashtrians (and Bhupinder Hooda) I’m sure. The Maharashtrian voter might have rejected the Shiv Sena, but the fact remains that one of the most inept state governments in India outside the Communist ruled states has been re-elected.
Unlike Bengali’s who had a clear death-wish for their state (and still do, by backing the Whacky Mammy!), Maharashtrians I guess had to choose between the Devil and Deep Blue Sea, pardon the cliché. Some voters struck Faustian deals and gave Raj Thackeray quite a few seats, but I sincerely hope that one of India’s great states finally gets good government with good policies. And not suffer five more years of suicides and power-blackouts and what not. I’m not saying that the SS-BJP combine should have come to power in Maharashtra, they had no clear policies in place and did not deserve power. But, Maharashtrians just had to look at the other end of NH-6 to see what years of constant power does! Change if it must happen, has to start now and not a few months before the election and to give credit to Raj Thackeray, he did (aided by the Hindi channels in particular – who demonized him to the extent that he became the victim) build an organization.
OK, another weekend has come about and I’ve had a rather fruitful week I must admit. I’m feeling hungry right now, so I am leaving with a little-wittle link to a rather interesting blog. I have no idea who runs it, too much detail for a journalist, I think it is a money man of some sort. But extremely interesting nonetheless. Do read it.
Or you could read this. Only if you want. Don’t blame me, I warned you.
Have a great weekend.
Monday, October 19, 2009
This is a country where a large percentage of the population scrapes by at under a dollar a day, but the gossip pages see fit to show pictures of Delhi’s money-swirling card parties – ‘Ohhh! look at my black money’. OK, I won't be too much of a hipocrite, I also played some cards but I lost money. For the cause of entertainment. So there! Before angry commentors pour scorn on my stupidity/hipocrisy/ass-licking whatever. generally, for me personally this was a arather subdued Diwali as my brother wasn't around, being in a phoren-land. And after my adventures with an old girlfriend, whom we shall call Gin and Tonic on Friday, I really couldn't drink that much the rest of the weekend without feeling sick. Or possibly that was from eating the expired foods that get packed up into Diwali gift-packs. Or breathing the fumes from poisonous Chinese firecrackers.
The only thing that was good this weekend was the Trinidad and Tobago T20 team. Man, they rock!
Friday, October 16, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
That said, the first point is possibly the biggest reason for the large drop in circulation for most papers - notice teh sudden absence of schemes like free shoes or what not along with papers. So the drop in circulation must also have led to a decline in the sale of cheap Reebok shoes - must check on that one. And in a weird sort of way, a decline in circulation is a good thing for everyone - prices of raddi paper completely diverged from each other as more and more newspapers flooded the market. The loss of pages also meant fewer crap stories got printed, not that crap stories have stopped in any which way but they're fewer of them. The downside is that the ads that promise clean male-to-male massages have become more prominent - sometimes I wonder if HT and ToI will survive without those ads? eriously, even the sex sites don't have such brazen adverts. Talk about 'family' newspapers.
Anyway, back to the point, even though things are picking up and there are signs of people movement all over again, I think the high-water mark was reached last year and subsequent floods will never be the same.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Since I'm not exactly Mr Human Rights, may I suggest a quick-fire solution to Delhi's driving woes. Humiliate the city's worst drivers. People caught doing the stupidest things - such as driving on the wrong side of the road to save a 100 meter drive, not using indicators, generally driving like a complete moron and all Bajaj Chetak owners should be given a large 20-point sticker that simply says Main Chu*iya Hoon. No need for fines or anything like that. That might not stop blueline and RTV drivers driving like complete dicks but it will be start.
And while I understand that Sasha Baron Cohen's new movie Bruno is an amazing social satire and makes people face their prejudices, it did mentally scar me. The guy has some balls (literally - no seriously, there is a lot of cock and balls in this movie) but I'm going to have nightmares for a few months and will willingly run into the arms of Mr Wand Mr Chivas, old friends of mine I had forgotten for a while.
Monday, October 12, 2009
So, I watched this to cheer up.
Does anyone else have my peculiar Wikipedia fascination? Not that I'm fascinated by Wikipedia, but where I can spend hours just randomly surfing Wikipedia finding out bizarre things - yesterday I spent hours reading how whales evolved (and related articles, some having nothing to do with anything in general). Don't ask me why or even how I got there. Maybe the copious amounts of Kingfisher Blue I had drunk while Veeru and Dinesh Kartik were batting had something to do with it. But, despite the fact that I support Delhi - no I am not going to fall prey to parochialism and support KR - methinks they're missing AB deVilliers. But it is always good to get in a few games at Feroze Shah Kotla.
A couple of answers to the last post, I have no idea where my friends mom is, I don't even know if she is alive. Sure, it won't be that difficult to find out, I'll have reactivate some contacts, maybe even some I would rather not, but it can be done I guess. Dealing with death is never easy, no matter what age you you have to stare it in the face. I guess I had to deal with it so up close and personal when I was young that I lost a bit of my, I won't call it innocence, but, I lost something.
Both those times I never attended the funerals, the first one I attended was a few weeks after I finished my Class XII boards when another school friend died in Uphaar fire. I won't forget the chaos and the horror of a mass funeral. It isn't as if I had not seen death close up otherwise, as a kid on a drive back from Chittorgarh to Udaipur we saw an accident scene, which let me assure you wasn't pretty. But then again, that wasn't someone close to me. Maybe, all these things helped me acquire that crazy detatched demeanour they say journalists need, call it cynical or whatever, it has to come from experience. Which is why I could pull off assignments like this without getting caught up in the human tragedy of it all, and avoid, for better or for worse, bleeding heart syndrome.
Which is why I cannot become a Naxal apologist like Arundhati Roy. That said, seeing how the sugar lobby has bled Maharashtra dry and the immense poverty in some parts of the state. Weirdly enough, in my 16-odd months as a reporter in Bombay I saw more of interior Maharashtra than I should have - and that is where my antipathy towards Indica's comes from. Yes, there is a dichotomy in India (two India's, maybe not), the rich, even some of the apologists have never seen how poor the dispossed actually are and what the problems really are.
But the fact remains, violence doesn't solve anything - as the Communists have shown in West Bengal - the oppressed can become the oppresser within a generation. And one worse than the previous oppressor ever was. There are solutions to these problems - it is not as if the Naxals are 'anti-development' as some insane NGO's would have you believe. I've seen how ham-handed rehabilitation programs for the dispossed have been in Orissa. Heck, a majority of the Naxal's are nothing more than sexually-depraved extortion racketeers! Some more equal than others.
There are no attempts at trust building by successive governments in the state and centre. As well-meaning the 'Holy Calf' really is, and I won't be a cynic and say that he is a hipocritical bastard whose brother-in-law spends tens of thousands on drinks for him at Delhi's better bars. Because that leads to the rhetorical question - how many 'cuddles' could a bottle of Chivas buy?
OK, I take this post as a nother example of my tremendous ability of 'flow of consciousness' writing with no real aim in sight. But it is so much more fun that structured pieces about fat and balding farts! And then again, it is just the start of 'Swag' week. Yay!
Friday, October 09, 2009
Last night I went to a cocktail reception somewhere in Central Delhi. Not bizarre in itself, other than the fact that I’ve severely cut down my alcohol intake. But big deal, the occasional ‘low-sugar’ Mojito never hurt anyone. Anyway, when I drove down I noticed something peculiar, I knew the lane where the party was happening very well.
A long, long time ago I had a friend who we’ll call A, who used to stay on that lane. Me and another friend of mine, we’ll re-introduce Doc here, used to go over to A’s house quite often. To do what kids did back then. Play video games – Double Dragon, Super Mario; watch cartoons on VHS – classic Transformers and Thundercats is what I can remember right now. Actually quite too many cartoons. These in the days before mobile phones which used to make my paranoid mother even more paranoid than usual when I didn’t land up home with the school bus.
Long story short, during the Class VIII summer holidays when I was summarily packed off to Calcutta to twiddle my thumbs and experiment with cigarettes, A died. I didn’t even know until I came back and called Doc. When A’s mom, who was an extremely sweet lady came to school on the first day, I remember crying and running away and then I never bothered to keep in touch. I don’t know why. I guess I tried to rationalize it – I was 13 at the time. I had barely experienced death, let alone death of someone close to you, someone your age and not some fogey.
Death is a funny thing at any age but when you face the concept in your face when you’re thirteen it does change your thinking in a way I guess. I never thought about it until someone accused me of having a casual attitude towards death. Firstly, I could not get what having a ‘serious’ attitude to death is, but I am horribly bad at comforting people. Because, while A died in the summer holidays, four months later just before the last exam of the second-term exams, Maths I think it was, the class heard that we had lost N, another classmate. Two deaths of guys who sat close to you when you’re 13 or 14? That screws your mind up rather bad.
It also taught me a couple of lessons, the first is to respect electricity and the second was never to want to kill myself. I’ve done plenty of stupid things, and inadvertently tried to kill myself more than once, coming very close to doing so in a car. But, inadvertently mind you. No matter how high I’ve been, or how sad, and believe me I’ve felt horribly sorry for myself every so often, I’ve never tried to slash my wrists or fill myself with Phenyl. If anything, as much as I have screwed up my life, at a level I have to live a full life, to the best of my ability because someone else could not.
And I have to go meet A’s mother sometime. I don’t know what I’ll do or say, but I can’t keep running away for ever. Even from something you would rather forget. Heck, I tell people all the time to suck it on and deal with it. Maybe I should do that too.
I'm not so sure this is a collective, 'What were you thinking?' moment but a 'What were you smoking?' moment. I mean seriously? The Big O? The Nobel Peace Prize? I mean, I can say this funnily, but by that twisted logic, the 'Holy Calf' has more rights on an award that they never gave the world's most famous pacifist. A man, whose visage featured on lots of pieces of paper I lost night. Maybe they just wanted to resurrect the prise after they awarded it to a guy who made a great powerpoint and some other bearded guy. But anyway, who are we to question the Nobel Prize Committee. I mean, I'm a guy who bleeds cash while playing cards. Oh well...
I've been working on some pretty interesting stuff and the last few days I've been forced to do a lot of number crunching - probably explains why my card game has gone down the tube, my brain is math-ed out. Playing with numbers always opens your mind to some really interesting facts and figures. You know, sometimes you miss out on that when you start paying too much attention to the gory details of media and political gossip, such as 'Whose Gay?' (the gossip, if it were to be made public might surprise some of you).
In other news, EchTee has something called a 'Leadership Summit'. And this year they've decided to bring over the Dumb and Dumber act - George W.Bush (who will speak about non-alcoholic beer) and Nawaz Sharif (who will speak on why Mush and Zardari are evil). And you thought bringing Mush was bad, this is going to be a security disaster. It is bad enough that the capital is swarming with Naxal apoplogists (you can read all about it in the Naxal's paper - 'Jihad and Maoism Today'), but this might bring out the mad-fringe-leftie firepower. Just thinking.
Hoping to play a bit of cards in the next couple of days as I thrown myself wontonly into the hands of money-fuelled excess. I need a drink. But first, I'm hungry.