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Posted on 31/10/11

History of Oriya Journalism in India

By Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee
Media Hive News Network

Like in several other provinces in India, journalism in Orissa had its genesis first in missionary activity and later in the reformist and national movement. The Mission Press in Cuttack, which was set up in 1837 to print the New Testament also brought out the first Oriya journals Gyanaruna (1849) and Prabodha Chandrika (1856).

The first Oriya newspaper to be printed was the weekly Utkal Dipika by Gouri Shankar Ray in 1866. Utkal Dipika owed its birth to the upsurge of nationalism during the late nineteenth century. It played a significant role in sociopolitical life of Orissa.

A number of newspapers were published in Oriya in the last three and half decades of the 19th century, prominent among them were Utkal Dipika, Utkal Patra and Utkal Hiteisini from Cuttack; Utkal Darpan and Sambada Vahika from Balasore, Sambalpur Hiteisini from Deogarh, etc.

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In the early part of twentieth century swadeshi movement in Bengal had gained momentum and it had great impact on Orissa’s political and social life. This period was also marked for the spread of journalism in different parts of Orissa and publication of more papers from Ganjam and Cuttack.

The first Oriya Daily Dainik Asha was published from Berhampur in 1928 by Sashibhusan Rath. It was a turning point in the history of Oriya journalism. It demonstrated the power of press in uniting people for a cause- in this case first unification of the outlying Oriya areas under one administration and then freedom movement.

Pandit Gopabandhu Das founded Samaja as a weekly in 1919 to support the cause of freedom struggle of the country. It was made a daily in 1930. Samaja played an important role in freedom movement in Orissa. So did papers like Prajatantra.

Post independence Orissa saw expansion in the media both in number of newspapers and circulation. It also saw an attitudinal change. From being a mission- it slowly began to turn as a profession. It also became a stepping-stone for many to enter politics. Politics and literature has had a very close relation with Oriya journalism. Journalism as a separate, distinct profession with specialized set of skills began to gain ground very slowly after independence. It gained momentum only after 80s.

It was in 80s that a change swept through Oriya media. As Robin Jeffrey wrote , “Until the 1980s, Oriya newspapers fell starkly into a particular category: they were put out by people of influence to demonstrate and bolster that influence.” Unlike the other states Orissa had a press managed by politicians, and not businessmen. Some newspapers were run at a loss because their proprietors valued the prestige and leverage within the tiny elite that dominated Orissa politics from the 1930s. Circulation, technology, advertising and profit were not the key considerations of owners; status, influence and ‘education’ were.

But in the 1980s, this began to change. Between 1981 and 1991, daily circulations quadrupled and the proportion of Oriya newspaper readers went from roughly 7 per 1,000 to 22 per 1,000. By 1992, circulation of Oriya newspapers had moved from being the lowest of 12 major languages to being eighth, ahead of Telugu, Kannada, and Punjabi.

Sambad, a daily launched by Soumya Ranjan Pattnaik spearheaded the change. In fact many scholars believe that Oriya newspaper industry came of age with Sambad. The credit for introducing many firsts in Orissa media industry goes to Sambad including introduction of photo type setting and offset printing. This was a turning point in newspaper industry in Orissa from technical as well as content and layout point of view.

The nineties saw more expansion in the media scene with publication of more Oriya dailies and consolidation of the established ones. Several major Oriya dailies also started publishing from more centers in the state, a trend started by Sambad with their first edition from Berhampur in 1990. Almost all major dailies started regularly printing in colour. All of them began to publish several supplements and pull out. Competition for readership began to hot up, which had definite influence on the look and content of newspapers, also on the marketing style and strategy.

Present Status of Oriya newspapers:
National Readership Survey (NRS) 2006 had encouraging figures for Oriya media. The total readership has crossed 1 crore. Three leading papers: Sambad, Samaja and Dharitri together have close to 55-lakh readerships. Sambad leads the readership with 20.39 lakh readership followed by Samaja (18.97 lakh) and Dharitri (14.45 lakh). All the three leading papers have increased their readership in comparison to last year. Here is comparative data:
2005 / 2006
Sambad 17.70 / 20.39
Samaja 17.43 / 18.97
Dharitri 12.00 / 14.45
(Source: NRS-2005/v-3.00, NRS- 2006/V-1.00. Readership in lakh)

Number of newspapers and periodicals also had increased substantially. At the end of 1964 there were 70 papers published in Oriya language (four dailies, nine weeklies, 38 monthlies and 19 other periodicals). By 2010 there were as many as 52 dailies approved by the I &PR Department of Orissa. According to the Registrar of Newspapers of India (RNI) figures 2007-08 there were 1032 publications in Oriya including 107 dailies and 247 weeklies.

Oriya newspapers and periodicals are published from many places, even from small townsin Orissa and several cities outside the State, where there is a sizable Oriya reading population like Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Surat, Vijaynagaram.

Many mainstream newspapers have multiple and multi-location editions from several places of the state and also from outside the state where there is sizable Oriya population, and potential for substantial advertisement revenue.
Besides the mainstream newspapers, Orissa has a sizable but not necessarily financially and ethically healthy rural press. Rural press in Orissa is largely imitating the urban, mainstream media- in terms of content and presentation. Instead of focusing on the rural population in its content, which ought to and could have been their strong point most of the rural press are poor copy of the urban press.

The first radio station in Orissa was set up at Cuttack. All India Radio, Cuttack started functioning from January 28, 1948 with a 1-kilowatt Medium Wave transmitter. It started its Vividh Bharti operation in 1962 and commercial broadcasting service in 1975.

By mid 2011, there were 11 AIR stations in Orissa located in Cuttack, Jeypore, Sambalpur, Bhwanipatna, Baripada, Keonjhar, Rourkela, Bolangir, Berhampur, Puri and Joranda. Four more radio stations at Soro, Rairangpur, Raygada and Gajapati- were almost ready for commissioning. There were five private FM stations in Orissa; four (Radio Choklate, Big FM, S FM and Red FM) in Bhubaneswar and one (Radio Choklate) in Rourkela. Radio Choklate, the first private FM radio station in Orissa went on air on May 4, 2007. Eastern Media Limited, which publishes the Oriya daily Sambad, owns this station. The second private FM station to go on air was Big FM. It went on air on May 17, 2007. This was the seventeenth Big FM radio station, owned by Adlabs Films.

The first Community Radio Station (CRS) in Orissa- Radio Namaskar started functioning from Konark from July 11, 2010. It is run by a NGO (Non Government Organisation) Young India. Ravenshaw Autonomous University, Cuttack started its campus radio in 2010.
Local News on AIR is broadcast from AIR, Cuttack since the day it has been set up in 1948. However, news from AIR, Cuttack station was put on air on 26 May, 1958. Ten years later, on September 8, 1968, it started broadcasting news in the morning hours. Midday news of five minutes duration was introduced on 2000. Regional news of two minutes duration every hour was introduced in FM Rainbow of Cuttack from August 4, 2006. Besides news bulletins, AIR, Cuttack news section produces a number of current affair programmes on a daily basis.

The entry of television in Orissa was through the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) conducted in 1975-76, the first experiment with satellite technology in India. It was also the first attempt anywhere in the world of using this sophisticated technology for social education.

SITE in Orissa covered the districts of Dhenkanal, Sambalpur, and Phulbani. Oriya programmes were produced at the base production centre at Cuttack. In 1978, the district of Sambalpur was selected under the SITE continuity programme and a terrestrial transmitter of 1 kw was set up there. During the ASIAD in 1982, Bhubaneswar was provided with a LPT. Subsequently a HPT was set up in Cuttack in 1985. In 1987, Oriya programmes for a limited time span were started. In the following year a daily Oriya news bulletin was started. In 1991, the regional up linking facility was made available to network in Orissa. A new studio complex in Bhubaneswar saw the production work shifted to the state capital in 1992. In the 80s and 90s, a number of Low Power Transmitters were established in different parts of the state. At present besides Bhubaneswar, studio facilities are available in DD Sambalpur and DD Bhawanipatna.

Orissa Television (OTV) claims to be the first private electronic media in the state of Orissa. It was launched in 1997 in the twin cities of Bhubaneshwar and Cuttack. In January 2007, O-TV started airing through satellite, expanding its reach. From being a variety channel, it became an exclusively 24x7 news channel. Three more content-specific channels were subsequently launched by O-TV: Taranga (entertainment), Prarthana (religion) and a music channel.

Enadu Television (E-TV), Hyderabad-based media conglomerate of Ramoji Rao launched its Oriya channel in 2002. This was the first Oriya private satellite channel. It quickly became popular. Although E-TV Oriya is a variety channel with strong entertainment content, it telecasts news round the clock, besides having other event-driven and occasion-oriented news-based programmes. It has pioneered many news-based programmes in Oriya. In fact it set a bench mark in election coverage.

Four more satellite channels with Oriya programming were launched in 2009: Naxatra, Kamyab TV, Josh TV and Kanak TV. While Naxatra and Kanak were news channels, the other two were channels with both news and fiction programming. Kanak TV comes from the stable of Eastern Media Ltd, the media conglomerate, which owns the Oriya daily Sambad and FM Radio station Radio Choklate. Kanak TV went on air on October 4, 2009, the day Sambad was launched in 1984. Several entertainment-focused channels was launched in 2009 and 2010 like Ekamra TV, a variety entertainment channel and Taranga, the entertainment channel of O-TV and Prarthana, a religious-content channel.

(The author, a journalist turned media academician presently heads Dhenkanal campus of Indian Institute of Mass Communication. The article forms a part of his forthcoming book ‘History of Journalism in Orissa’. Contact: |

Posted on 25/10/11

History of Telugu Journalism in India

By Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee
Media Hive News Network

The earliest Telugu journals, like in several other languages, were promoted by missionaries and were mostly intended for religious propaganda. The first Telugu journal, a monthly, titled Satya Doota was published from Bellary in 1835. Printed in Madras (now, Chennai) it concentrated on propagating the gospel of Christ. Several such journals were published subsequently. The Hitavadi, which was published weekly, ceased to exist after a few years.

The Canadian Baptist Mission published the weekly Ravi from Kakinada, giving space to news as well as religious matters. Rao Bahadur K. Veeresalingam Pantulu, scholar, educationist and social reformer, made a beginning in Telugu Journalism with his weekly the Vivekavardhani devoted to social and language reform. A competing paper was the Andhrabhasha Sanjivini, edited by Venkataratnam Pantulu, also a scholar and socio-religious leader. These two papers carried on a lively controversy on the common subjects in which they were interested.

The first Telugu news weekly Andhra Prakasika was published in 1886 by A.P. Parathasarathi Naidu from Madras. It supported the National Congress. It continued for 25 years after which it was converted into a bi-weekly and again into a weekly. It ceased publication in the late twenties of the 20th century.

Sasilekha (1894) was the first weekly to campaign for the unification of Telugu speaking areas and the formation of a separate province of Andhra Pradesh, a dream which materialised long after independence in 1956. From the late 18th century the bulk of the Telegu area remained under the composite madras presidency and the remaining part in the Nizam’s territory. It was because of this that for a long time Madras remained the centre of Telegu journalism.

The credit for starting a Telugu daily paper goes to Devagupta Seshachairao who started the Desabhimani, first as a fortnightly, then as a daily newspaper in the last decade of the twentieth century. At about this time a controversy arose between the champions of literary Telugu and simple popular Telugu. The Andhra Sahitya Parishad Patrika published by the Parishad in 1911 took the cause of simple Telugu. The foundations of modern Telugu were, however, laid in the journal Janata published and edited by Viswanadha Satyanarayanana and Ramakoteswara Rao.

Andhra’s first successful daily paper the Andhra Patrika, that is still published, was started as a weekly from Bombay (now, Mumbai) in 1908 by K.Nageswara Rao Pantulu. He was a business man, who sold pain balm. Patriotic instinct led him into journalism. He moved the weekly to Madras in 1914 and after a few years, converted it into a daily. The Andhra Patrika acquired its form and character under the editorship of Seshagiri Rao. After his death, Nageswara Rao himself took over the editorship. He favoured sober advocacy of the Andhra cause. The daily and the weekly as well as the monthly Bharati, started in the late twenties, became an institution widely patronized by the Telugu-reading public. The paper was dominant in spreading Gandhiji's ideals in the nooks and corners of Andhra.

After the death of Nageswara Rao in 1938, the Patrika was managed by a Trust. It shifted to Vijaywada in 1965 after Andhra province was formed. Later it started publishing from Hyderabad too.
A popular rival of Andhra Patrika was the Andhra Prabha, first published in 1938 by the Express Group. Its first editor was Khasa Subba Rao. N. Narayanamurti followed him as the editor. Narala Venkateswara Rao was the most famous editor of Andhra Prabha, who set a high benchmark for Telegu journalism. A versatile and well read person, Rao besides playing a vital role in shaping public opinion on several pressing national and regional issues also coined scientific Telugu terminology. He loved his freedom. He resigned from the Andhra Prabha and became the editor of Andhra Jyoti, which was started in 1960 in Vijaywada.

In Telugu language, interestingly, weekly papers by and large fared well both in terms of circulation and the quality of content than the dailies. The Krishna Patrika started in 1902 by Konda Venkatappayya and Dasu Narayana Rao and edited later by M. Krishna Rao and K. Ramakoteswara Rao espoused the Telugu cause. Among the other successful weeklies were the Prajamitra. Anandavani, Janavani, Prajabandhu, and Swatantra once edited by the legendary Khasa Subba Rao.

The formation of the Andhra Pradesh state in 1953 gave a fillip to Telugu journalism. Four dailies which were started at around this time were: Andhra Janata (from Hyderabad), Andhra Bhoomi, Rajahmundry Samacharam (Rajahmundry) and Vishalandhra (Vijaywada).

However, it was the daily Eenadu that brought about a new surge of dynamism in Telugu journalism. It was launched in Visakhapatnam 10th August 1974, and a year later in Hyderabad. C.V.Ramoji Rao, the publisher of Eenadu single handedly changed the way journalism was practised in Telugu media. He made journalism a vehicle of the masses, with need- both latent and felt-directed content, racy language and attractive lay out. Telugu people adored it and it grew at a phenomenal speed. Ramoji Rao began to expand his operations. He started another edition of Eenadu from Vijaywada in 1978, Tirupati in 1982, Anantapur in 1991 and Karimnagar and Rajamundry in 1992. By mid 2011, it was published simultaneously from 23 printing centers and its circulation was over 17 lakh (17,01,145 copies as per ABC Jan-June 2011) per day, making it one of the largest circulated newspaper in the country. Ramoji Rao established ETV and expanded it as a national network comprising multi language channels.

Vaartha, a daily newspaper was published in 1993 by the Sanghi group.

Telugu newspapers, like in other states went for multiple and multi-location editions in a big way. Andhra Jyoti, which was first published in Vijaywada in 1960, started editions in Hyderabad (1986), Tirupati (1987) and Visakhapatnam (1991). Andhra Prabha of the India Express group, which played an important role in freedom movement spread out from its base in Vijayawada to Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam, and even outside Andhra Pradesh to Bangalore and Madras to serve the Telugu speaking people there. By the new millennium, many Telugu newspapers were being published from Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Delhi and other places.

The trend of newspapers venturing into other publications and media- and gradually becoming a multi ‘product’ media house started with Telugu papers too. Almost all the big newspapers started sister publications and began to venture into other media like television, radio, film production, book publishing, etc. The Eenadu started a farmer’s monthly, the Annadata, and two literary monthly publications, Chatura and Vipuala. It also published an English daily, the Newstime from Hyderabad but it was closed down. The Andhra Jyoti published a weekly and children’s monthly called Bala Jyoti. Andhra Bhoomi published a weekly titled Sachitra Vara Patrika.

According to the RNI figure 2007-08 there were 2168 Telugu newspapers in the country, including 405 dailies, 372 weeklies, 340 fortnightlies and 971 monthlies.
As per the IRS Q-2, 2011 results the top five Telegu daily newspapers in terms of readership were Eenadu (Readership: 59.5 lakh), Sakshi (50.56 lakh), Andhra Jyothi (21.1 lakh), Vartha (3.44 lakh) and Andhra Bhoomi (2.53 lakh).

By mid 2011, Andhra Pradesh had about 20 AIR stations and over 20 private radio stations including Red FM, Big FM, Radio City, Radio Mirchi and Visakha FM. There were four Campus Radio including Bishnu FM (Campus Radio of Shri Vishnu Engineering College for Women, Bhimavaram in West Godavari District), Bol Hyderabad (Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad), Sri Venkateswara Oriental College Radio at Tirupati and Gyan Vani.

There were two community radio stations: Deccan Radio, Hyderabad and Sangham Radio in Medak district (run by Deccan Development Society). By mid 2011, Andhra Pradesh enjoyed wide television coverage both in terms of geographical coverage, audience and number of channels. The Doordarshan Telugu channel Saptagiri was the first TV channel launched in Hyderabad in the early 1970s. By 2011 Doordarshan transmited two terrestrial television channels and one satellite channel from Hyderabad. Many private regional television channels began broadcasting from early 80s. Among the major Telugu television satellite channels broadcast from Hyderabad were: DD-Saptagiri, ETV Telugu, ETV2, Gemini TV, Teja TV, Maa TV, APtv, ATV, Vissa TV, Raj News, TV9, Sakshi TV, Zee Telugu, HMTV, Studio N, I News, Gemini News, NTV, TV5 (India), Channel 4 HyTV, Jagruti News, ABN Andhrajyothi, T news (Telangana news channel), etc.

Telugu media has taken to the web medium in a big way. Several newspapers have their e-paper edition. The Eenadu first started e-paper edition. Presently almost all the major papers including Andhra Jyothy, Vaartha, Sakshi have e-paper edition.
By mid 2011, there were a number of Telegu-people centric stand alone (not part of any established media house with multi-media operation) news sites like,,, etc.

(The author, a journalist turned media academician presently heads Dhenkanal campus of Indian Institute of Mass Communication. The article forms a part of his forthcoming book ‘History of Journalism in Orissa’. Contact: |

Posted on 16/10/11

History of Hindi Journalism in India

By Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee
Media Hive News Network

The first Hindi newspaper Oodhund Martand, a weekly was published in Kolkata on May 30, 1826 ‘in the interest of Hindustanis’. However, its editor Yugal Kishore Shukla (Jooghol Kishore Sookool- in some documents) faced many difficulties in running it. He was not allowed postal concession and had to close down the paper within a year. He made another attempt to start another paper in 1850 called Samyadani Martand but this also failed.
The second Hindi newspaper Banga Doot was published in 1829 by Raja Ram Mohan Ray and Dwarika Prasad Thakore with Nilratan Haldar as its editor. Besides Hindi, it was also published in English, Bengali and Persian.
The first Hindi daily Samachar Sudha Varshan came out in June 1854 from Kolkata with Shyam Sundar Sen as its editor and publisher. It was a bilingual paper in which market and shipping reports were published in Hindi, the rest in Bengali.
Between 1850 and 1857 a number of Hindi Newspaper were published. Among them were Benaras Akbar, Sudhakar Tatwa Bodhini, Patrika and Sathya. A literary magazine which set the standard for Hindi Journals in the early year of century was Saraswathi, a monthly edited by Mahavir Prasad Dwibedy. It standardised the style and pattern of Hindi journalism and developed literary criticism and book reviews. It became the torchbearer for later day Hindi journalists who cultivated its prose style. Newspapers like Bharat Mitra (1878), Sarsudhanidhi (1879), Uchit Wakta (1880) and Hindi Bangavasi (1890) were published from Calcutta during the last three decades of 19th century. Bharat Mitra, published from Calcutta became the leading Hindi newspaper of the time under the dynamic stewardship of its early editors, Balmukund Gupta and Ambika Prasad Bajpai.
The beginning of the new century saw the birth of many Hindi dailies in Bombay, Calcutta and Patna. The more prominent among them were Sri Venkateswar Samachar and Calcutta Samachar. Viswamitra, which was started after the Calcutta Samachar became defunct, offered serious competition to Bharat Mitra from 1918.
Hindi journalism made rapid progress during the first world war period and many outstanding journalists came to the fore including Ganga Prasad Gupta, Nanda Kumar Deo Dharma, M. P. Dwivedi, Hari Krishna Jouhar, Chhote Ram Shukla, Indra Vidyavachaspati, Shri Ram Pandey, Lakshminarayan Garde and Narmada Prasad Misra. One of the foremost Hindi journalists who earned a name for his patriotism was Ganesh Shanker Vidyarthi. In 1913, he brought out weekly Pratap from Kanpur. He made the supreme sacrifice in 1931 in the cause of Hindu-Muslim unity. Krishna Dutt Paliwal brought out Sainik from Agra which became a staunch propagator of nationalism in Western U. P. The noted Congress leader, Swami Shradhanand, started the publication of Hindi journal Vir Arjun and Urdu journal Tej. After the assassination of Swami Shradhanand, Vidyavachaspathi and Lala Deshbandhu Gupta, both prominent Congress leaders continued the publication of these journals.
At the turn of the century almost all Calcutta based Hindi newspapers went vocal against the suppressive and divisive policies of the Raj. This marked the beginning – in 1907- of two outstanding magazines: Nrisinha and Devnagar. Nrisinha edited by Ambika Prasad Vajpayee, a stauch supporter of Lokmanya Tilak was a political magazine and it joined the protest against British rule. Devnagar on the other hand tried to work on a uniform script.
In 1920, the Aj was started in Banaras. It played a notable part in the freedom struggle. Its first editor was Sri Prakasa, a great freedom fighter who occupied positions of power and prestige in free India. He was assisted by Babu Rao Vishnu Parakar whose contribution to the development of Hindi Journalism was considerable. Espousing the national cause and waging a never-ending battle with the alien rulers, the Aj was a bulwark of the Indian National Congress and its main forum to spread the message of freedom to the Hindi-speaking masses of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Nepal. It set the tone and style for Hindi Journalism and was acclaimed for its impartial objective reporting and illuminating and fearless editorials. A balanced blending of national and international news was one of its strong features.
In Patna the Desh, a weekly, was an influential journal and the mouthpiece of the Congress. It was founded by Babu Rajendra Prasad and his friends in 1920. But it was not a profitable venture and had to close down.

In 1924 there were 102 Hindi newspapers; four of them were dailies (AJ, Banaras, Swatantra, Calcutta, Arjun, Delhi and Calcutta Samachar, Calcutta) According to one historian, until 1926, Hindi dailies were not financially successful. “Their get up and printing was poor, the reading material not quite up to the mark and the editorials unwieldy and lengthy. The weeklies were better edited and got up.” Among the well-known better produced weeklies were Bhavishya (Kanpur), Karmaveer (Khandwa) and Sainik (Agra). Among the important Hindi dailies which flourished in 1930 were: Visvamitra and Bharat Mitra (Calcutta), Savadho Bharat (Bombay). Lokkat (Jabalpur), Variman (Kanpur), Milap (Lahore) besides AJ (Banaras), Arjun(Delhi) and Lokmanya (Calcutta).
As freedom struggle gained momentum, there was a steady rise of Hindi journalism both in terms of quality and quantity. More number of Hindi publications took birth in almost all North Indian states and also in Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh, especially Hyderabad. Hindi publications like other language publications by and large supported Nationalist movement and faced the suppression of the British rulers. One of the important Hindi dailies to be published from the capital was Hindustan, sister newspaper of the Hindustan Times, started in 1936. Wide news coverage and a variety of special features marked the Hindustan. Started in 1940, Aryavari of Patna was a sister publication of the Indian Nation and enjoyed considerable influence.
Hindi journalism grew more rapidly after independence. After independence Hindi was adopted as the official language of India. This also helped to spread Hindi language nationwide. The Nav Bharat Times of the Times of India group started in Delhi in 1950. The Amrita Patrika of Allahabad was another notable Hindi daily which was well-known for its trenchant editorials. By 1964 Hindi had the largest
number of newspapers among language papers. The trend of publishing multiple editions from different states helped Hindi newspapers to increase their reach and circulation.
According to RNI (Registrar of Newspapers) the total number of publications in Hindi was 27, 527 in 2007-8 including 3418 daily newspapers.

By 2011 Hindi daily Dainik Jagran claimed to be the largest read newspaper of the world. Six out of the top ten newspapers with highest number of readership in India are Hindi. According to IRS (Indian Readership survey Q-2) the top ten largest read Hindi newspapers are: Dainik Jagran (readership: 159.1 lakh), Dainik Bhaskar (140.1 lakh), Hindustan (118.1 lakh), Amar Ujala (87.47 lakh), Rajasthan Patrika ( 70.33 lakh), Punjab Kesari (34.79 lakh), Navbharat Times (25,89,000) Prabhat Khabar (18,12,000), Nai Dunia (17.62 lakh) and Hari Bhoomi (14.37 lakh). All of the newspapers have multiple editions from different cities and states.
Hindi newspapers are published from several states. Besides the North Indian Hindi belt, sizable numbers of Hindi publications are there in West Bengal, Maharashtra, Gujarat and other states. There are two good Hindi dailies from Hyderabad – Swatantra Vaartha and Milap. Sanmarg has an edition from Bhubaneswar, Orissa.
There are over 100 Hindi news channels including Aaj Tak, IBN-7, Azad NEWS, Maurya Tv, AryanNews, News 7 Network, Khoj India, India TV, Raftaar News Channel, Live India, NDTV India, India News, News 24, Press TV, Sudarshan News, Sahara Samay, STAR News, Zee News, Zee Business, DD News, Total TV, A2Z News, Crime Nazar News, Channel No. 1, S-7 News, Mahua news, ETV Bihar, Time Today, DayNightnews,, GNN News, P7, TV 24 News, newsxpress, tv9 Mumabi, Sea News, Taaza TV, etc.
There is innumerable number of Hindi news sites now.
(The author, a journalist turned media academician presently heads Dhenkanal campus of Indian Institute of Mass Communication. The article forms a part of his forthcoming book ‘History of Journalism in Orissa’. Contact: |

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Posted on 13/10/11

History of Urdu Journalism in India

By Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee
Media Hive News Network

Contrary to popular perception, Urdu is not the language of Muslims. It was a lashkari (soldier) language (the word ‘Urdu’ comes from the Turkish word ‘ordu’ meaning ‘camp’ or ‘army’), nourished during the period of Mughal emperor Shahjahahn. It had words from Persian and local languages. The purpose was to make communication easy among soldiers who were from different places: Arab, Turk and locals. Based on the Khariboli dialect of Delhi and Western Uttar Pradesh in the Indian subcontinent, Urdu developed under local Persian, Arabic, and Turkic influence over the course of almost 900 years. It began to take shape in what is now Uttar Pradesh, India during the Delhi Sultanate (1206–1527), and continued to develop under the Mughal Empire (1526–1858).

Urdu is written from right to left just like Arabic and Persian. Urdu has 39 basic letters and 13 extra characters, all together 52 and most of these letters are from Arabic and a small quantity from Persian. It has almost all the 'sounds' available in any other language spoken in the world.

The Persian newspapers of West Bengal were fore-runners of the Urdu press. After the decline of Persian as an official language, Urdu gained prominence.

The first newspaper of Urdu language was Jam-i-Jahan-Numa, founded by Harihar Dutta in 1822 in Kolkata (then Calcutta). He was the son of Tara Chand Dutta, eminent Bengali journalist and one of the founders of Bengali weekly Sambad Koumudi. Editor of this three page weekly paper was Sadasukhlal . After English and Bengali, it was the third language newspaper in India. It continued to be published till 1888.
On 14 January 1850, Munshi Harsukh Rai started the weekly Kohinoor, which had a remarkably high (for those times) circulation of 350 copies. In 1858, Manbir Kabiruddin started the Urdu Guide, the first Urdu daily, from Calcutta. Another important paper founded that year was Roznamha-e-Punjab from Lahore. Oudh Akhbar by Munshi Nawal Kishore was the first Urdu newspaper from Lucknow, also begun in 1858.

The Sepoy Mutiny or Great rebellion of 1857 had impacted Urdu journalism in terms of number of publication, volume of circulation and content. While some new Urdu papers appeared during this period, a much larger number ceased publication. The number of publications dropped from 35 in 1853 to 12 in 1858. The decline is directly related to the reign of terror let loose in 1857. In the North West Provinces, most Urdu papers had ceased publication after the outbreak of the war.

After 1857, Urdu journalism entered a new era of development. Mention may be made of some major papers like the Oudh Akhbar Lucknow; the Scintific Gazette, and the Tahazib-ul- Akhlaq, Aligarh; the Oudh Punch, Lucknow; the Akmalul Akhbar, Delhi; the Punjab Akhbar, Lahore; the Shamsul Akhbar, Madras; the Kashful Akhbar, Bombay; the Qasim-ul-Akhbar, Bangalore and the Asiful Akhbar Hyderabad. Of these the Oudh Akhbar lived long and was soon converted into a daily. Published by Munshi Nawal Kishore, it shot into great prominence under the editorship of Ratan Nath 'Sarshar'.

The first Urdu newspapers of Delhi were Fawaid-ul-Nazarin and Kiran-us-Sadai, founded by Rama Chandra in 1852. The Urdu press in Delhi became highly critical of the British government. The best example of them is the Urdu Akhbar, edited by Syed Hasan, which highlighted many civic issues like drainage, sanitation, adulteration of food, and corruption.

In 1877, Maulvi Nasir Ali, one of the founders of Anjuman Islamia- the Islamic intellectual and political movement- founded 3 newspapers- Nusrat-ul-Akhbar, Nusrat-ul-Islam and Mihir-e-Darakhshan. All three focused on current civil and political affairs and were valuable aids of Muslim empowerment. In 1877, Oudh Punch, the first humour magazine in Urdu was started by Sajjid Hussain. The first women’s journal in Urdu was Akhbar-un-Nisa.

Darul Sultanat, one of the most important newspapers of 19th century was published in 1881 by Shaikh Ahsanullah Sandagiri Dehlawi from Kolkata. Mathura Prasad Savmar was its editor. It started as a weekly. Later it was made bi-weekly and then tri-weekly.

At the beginning of the 20th centry, there were only three Urdu dailies, the Paisa Akbhar, the Oudh Akbhar, and the Sulh-i-Kul. Politically they all belonged to the moderate group. As, however, the new political wave swept the country, news-papers and periodicals like the Zamindar, the Hindustani, the Al Hilal and the Hamdard introduced new political zest in journalism. The Hindustan, Lahore; the Deepak, Amritsar, the Desh, Lahore; the Urdu-i- Molla, Kanpur ; the Muslim Gazette, Lucknow; the Madina, Bijnore; the Hamdam, Lucknow; and the Swaraj, Allahabad did a great deal to awaken political consciousness and to enlist popular participation in the national movement for freedom.

Politics and social reform dominated Urdu journalism from the very beginning of the 20th century. The political and social movements launched by the Congress, the Muslim League, the Hindu Mahasabha, the Arya Samaj, the Khilafat Committee and the Aligarh Movement, exercised profound influence on Urdu language newspapers and periodicals. They contributed towards the general growth of literature as well. The style became more forceful and direct and a much richer and varied vocabulary developed.

Urdu journalism took on a strongly nationalistic note towards the turn of the 20th century. Zameendar, was started in Lahore in 1903. It was the first Urdu newspaper to subscribe to news agencies. Zameendar was intensely nationalistic, which boosted its circulation to over 30,000 copies. In 1902, Maulvi Sanaullah Khan started the weekly Watan, meaning motherland. Watan was intensely nationalistic and continued for 33 years. Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar started Naqeeb-e-Hamdard in 1912. Another powerful political periodical was the Madina, edited by Hamidul Ansari.

The greatest Urdu periodical that time was Al Hilal, started by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. A weekly, Al-Hilal created political and religious consciousness among the muslims. It was one of first Urdu newspapers which put equal importance on content and presentation including the layout and design. It was designed on the pattern of Egyptian newspapers. But its greatest asset was the content. It addressed the readers in a new language and style of expression.
In 1919, the Pratap was started in Lahore by Mahshe Krishnan. It vigorously supported Gandhi’s policies and the Indian National Congress. It was a victim of government harassment and suspended publication several times. It had great influence among the Urdu reading Hindus of Punjab and Delhi.

In 1923, Swami Shraddhanand founded the Tej with Lala Deshbandhu Gupta as editor. It had a wide circulation in Rajasthan, U.P. and Delhi. It was confiscated several times by the government and banned in a number of princely states. In the same year, 1923, the Arya Samaj started the Milap, a daily in Lahore. It was known for its powerful nationalistic editorials. Jawaharlal Nehru founded Qaumi Awaaz in 1945.

Urdu journalism suffered heavily, during and after Partition. Riots in Lahore lead to mobs raiding the office of Milap and burning machines and newsprint. Its Managing Editor, Ranbir was stabbed and the paper was closed for six weeks. It then shifted to Delhi. Due to the unrest, the Pratap also shifted to Delhi.

At the time of partition there were 415 Urdu newspapers including all daily, weekly, fortnightly and monthly magazines. After partition 345 of them remained in India as owners of 70 newspapers migrated to Pakistan. As per the RNI report of 1957, there were 513 Urdu newspapers and the combined circulation was 7.48 lakh. Fifty years later the number of Urdu dailies alone was 3168 and the combined circulation of all Urdu newspapers was 1.7 crore as per RNI report 2007.

Some of the Urdu newspapers after partition in India are Dawat, now a bi-weekly, started by the Jamat-e-Islami Hind. Maulana Abdul Waheed Siddiqui started Nai Duniya, a popular Urdu weekly, which was later by his son Shaheed Siddiqui. The Sahara Group started a weekly-Aalmi Sahara. A good number of Urdu newspapers were published in Hyderabad including the daily Siasat, The Munsif Daily, Indian Etemaad and Rehnuama E Deccan. In fact till 2006 Andhra Pradesh had the maximum number of registered Urdu newspapers (506) among all the states of India. Mumbai also had several Urdu publications including The Inquilab daily and Urdu Times. West Bengal, especially Kolkata also had a sizable number of Urdu publications. In 2005 there were five Urdu dailies in Kolkata: Azad Hind, Rozana Hind, Akhbaar -e- Mashrique, Aabshaar and Akkas.

After 1980s there was a gradual decline in the number of publications and readership of Urdu newspapers. Several publications ceased publication. For example, in West Bengal Shan-e-Millat, Imroze, Asre-Jadeed, Ghazi and Iqra were closed.

However, in the first decade of the new millennium, a resurgence was marked in Urdu media, with a number of new newspapers and television channels making their entry. The big media houses made their presence felt in Urdu media across several states.

The major Urdu newspapers and television channels that are run by major media houses are Rashtria Sahara (launched by Sahara Group in 2006), Inquilab (Jagran group took over this Mumbai based Urdu newspaper in 2010), Azad Hind, Hind Samachar, ETV-Urdu, Aalami Sahara and Zee Salam. In 2011 Hyderabad based newspaper ‘Munsif’, which is the largest circulated Urdu newspaper of the country launched its news channel whereas Mumbai based Urdu Times will launch its print editions from Delhi and Lucknow shortly.

Hyderabad based Siyasat was the first Urdu newspaper to start a web edition in late 90s. Several other Urdu publications presently have their web editions.

Besides Delhi and North Indian states like UP and Bihar, Andhra Pradesh has a tradition of fostering the Urdu Press, Hyderabad being a major publishing centre. Besides Munsif, Siasat, Rahnuma-e-Deccan and Saaz-e-Deccan are published from Hyderabad. In 2005 two more Urdu dailies were published from this city: Etemad and Rastriya Sahara. There are smaller Urdu dailies like Aina-e-Hyderabad, Bhagyanagar Observer, etc.

Not many Urdu publications have appeared from Orissa, though the state has a sizable Urdu knowing population. In late eighties Eastern Media, publisher of Sambad started a Urdu weekly Sahara. It closed publication within one year.
According to RNI (Registrar of Newspapers) the total number of publications in Urdu was 3315 in 2007-8 including 703 daily newspapers.

(The author, a journalist turned media academician presently heads Dhenkanal campus of Indian Institute of Mass Communication. The article forms a part of his forthcoming book ‘History of Journalism in Orissa’. Contact: |

Posted on 10/10/11

Can Amazon conquer India?

By Rohin Dharmakumar

Can Amazon become 'the Amazon of India'?

In any country there are e-commerce firms that want to be the 'Amazon' of that country. Ironically it's also what Amazon wants to be outside the US!

But in three of the largest and fastest growing emerging market e-commerce economies — China, Russia and Brazil — the leading online retailer is not Amazon. It is not even present in Russia and Brazil. “The Amazons” of China, Russia and Brazil are 360buy, and MercadoLibre, respectively.

Will India be any different?

There are lots of news and rumours regarding Amazon’s India entry. Amazon did not respond to repeated Forbes India queries on this story. However, multiple media reports and e-commerce entrepreneurs say that Amazon is hiring employees and renting warehouses for an India launch.

That’s surprising because the current retail FDI regulations do not permit Amazon to set up a majority-owned Indian subsidiary. And that is why it needs a local partner.

“There’s not much local knowledge involved in selling standard products like books, mobile phones or home appliances. That comes from categories like food, groceries or apparel,” says Raghav Gupta, a retail consultant with Booz & Company.

Which means Amazon can replicate most of those using its own resources in a relatively short while. “Amazon has global relationships with many multinational vendors, so it may get better prices from them even in India. That is an advantage,” says K. Vaitheeswaran, co-founder and COO of Indiaplaza, at 12 years the oldest e-commerce site in India.

R Sriram, co-founder of consulting firm Next Practice Retail and ex-CEO of Crossword Bookstores, says, “If Amazon’s goal is to be the dominant online business covering every possible category then what ‘Step One’ is does not matter in the medium or long run. Their customer traffic from India is already four times that of the top online Indian retailer.”

Given that Amazon is not the leader in China, and is not present in Brazil or Russia, the assimilation of local knowledge may not be a trivial matter. So, Amazon will do well to get a local partner on board. And most likely the partner would not be a conventional retailer because none of the large retail groups have been approached by it yet. It will also not be the local e-commerce darling Flipkart because buying a chunk of Flipkart would be very expensive. Flipkart is angling for a valuation of USD 500 million to USD 1 billion (CEO Sachin Bansal refused to admit it) on a monthly revenue run-rate of USD 10 million (which Bansal says will be crossed in September).

“I would almost bet Amazon won’t spend anywhere near a billion dollars on an India acquisition,” says Kartik Hosanagar, an associate professor at the Wharton School of Business. It will most likely be a less expensive e-commerce company.

Once the local partnership is in place, Amazon could do with remembering its China experience. In 2004, Joyo was China’s largest e-commerce player before Amazon acquired it. Today, that title belongs to, that started in 2004 and is planning a US IPO worth USD 4billion to USD 5 billion, the largest ever. Amazon China and Dangdang, a smaller competitor to Joyo in 2004, which wisely refused a buyout offer from Amazon for a reported USD 150 million, are both one-third the size of 360buy. The other big player is Taobao Mall, part of the Alibaba Group.

In two of the other leading emerging markets, Russia and Brazil, Amazon is missing in action. That leaves India as the only large emerging market where Amazon still has a good chance of becoming a market leader. But for that to happen, it’ll have to unlearn a lot. (Courtesy: Forbes India)

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Posted on 12/08/11

The Sultry Eyes of Julian Assange

By Connor Simpson

Julian Assange is a charming man, a charismatic man. The Wikileaks leader even (maybe) had Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie invited to his birthday party. He fancies himself a decent dinner partner too, as he once sold himself out to the highest bidder. Now, according to a new eBook, he is a master seducer. British journalist Heather Brooke released an eBook Thursday about following Julian Assange around at the height of the Wikileaks controversies. She became quite close to the man, according to the Amazon blurb about the book.

"To her, the platinum-haired idealist is a magnetic personality and a charismatic crusader on a mission to expose suppressed and censored injustice," it writes. As Today writer Rosa Golijan points out, though, she may have crossed a line during her time with Assange.

Brooke's treatment of Assange is suspect, if only because she seems to have a crush on him. Golijan said the book was "dull" until she found a a line in the book about asking, "what was in his soul?" Golijan was intrigued now. The line wasn't Brooke's musings, but her description of what Wikileaks' second-in-command was thinking about while working with Assange. Still, Golijan found the wording weird.

Brooke's description of her first time meeting Assange is when things start to get really strange. When he has his eyes on me — as he did just now when he was saying that fear exists largely in our own minds — I have the sense he's looking right into my soul. The teenage girl in me swoons madly, but the investigative journalist concludes that the detached/intense thing is a technique he's honed after years of practice to get people to open up and five away their secrets. I have to admit it's pretty effective.

Let's all take a moment, shall we? Fan yourselves off accordingly. At this point Golijan was reading lines aloud to her friend, who asked if it was a romance novel or fan fiction. In case you forgot, this the stare she was swooning over. Golijan lists more ways Brooke describes Assange in the book, and wonders how an award winning journalist could come across as such a "dreamy-eyed school girl." Brooke describes the moment she became aware of how much she really liked Assange: it was when he dropped an awful pick up line on her.

He sighs. "I just have so much to do."
"Yeah, it's a tough life being a messiah." I joke. There's a pause.
"Will you be my Mary Magdalene, Heather? And bathe my feet at the cross?"

This is a new one on me and now it's my turn to pause. What does a person say to such a question? At that time I did genuinely like Julian. When I'd met him at the conference he was like a bolt of lightning. But even so — foot-bathing? I'd reached a point with Julian where the personal and the professional had begun to blur. He's the world's most famous leaker; I'm a freedom of information campaigner, so we've a lot to talk about. But he was unsettling, even bafflingly, unaware of any notion of personal boundaries.

As a well-traveled purveyor of terrible pick up lines, I feel safe saying this was destined to fail. A study in May said girls were attracted to guys who show lots of pride, but he might have taken things too far. Even in the Amazon review of the book, Brooke's feelings towards him turn. Later in the review she calls him, "a megalomaniac, a hypocrite of the first order, and a threat to the integrity of his own mission." Gawker's Adrien Chen points out a tweet from Wikileaks sent out Thursday where they horribly violate Twitter's 140 character limit. In it, they warn against people, "who constantly invent libels against Wikileaks." Chen did try to console Assange. He offered some words of encouragement, "It's OK. She's just not that into you."

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Posted on 12/07/11

The rise and fall of a global media baron?

As News of the World newspaper shuts down, analysts speculate on the future of its billionaire owner, Rupert Murdoch.

By Chris Arsenault

When the last issue of News of the World newspaper went to press on Sunday, media analysts were left to wonder if the demise of Britain's most popular tabloid marks the beginning of the end for its billionaire owner or just a bump in the road to full spectrum global media dominance.

Known for reporting lurid details of sex scandals faced by footballers and politicians, the 168-year-old paper stopped the presses over a phone hacking scandal, drawing ire from the police and political elites who once sought favour from its owner, Rupert Murdoch CEO of News Corporation, one of the world's largest news conglomerates.

"In global reach, there are no comparable figures to Murdoch," said Ivor Gaber, a professor of Political Journalism at City University London. "He has a reach in US, UK, Australia and even China. He is a press baron like none other in the world. In terms of his domination of the media in the UK, there is no comparison," Gaber told Al Jazeera.

In the UK alone, Murdoch media properties include several leading newspapers including establishment paper The Times and The Sunday Times, The Sun, a tabloid, along with a major stake in Sky News, a TV station.
David Cameron, the British prime minister, was close with the mogul. Andy Coulson who was recently arrested in connection with phone hacking allegations, was Cameron's former spokesman, and the editor of News of the World in 2007.

"The truth is, we have all been in this together -- the press, politicians and leaders of all parties -- and yes, that includes me," Cameron told reporters on Friday. He promised that "the music has stopped" on cozy relationships between the country’s media and the political elite, slamming "some illegal and utterly unacceptable practices at the News of the World and possibly elsewhere".

News business

The "practices" include allegations that reporters hacked into cellphone message systems belonging to families of UK soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the voice mail box of a murdered teenaged girl, possibly erasing messages and compromising criminal investigations.

There are also allegations that staff from the News of the World bribed police officers so they could continue with illegal activities in pursuit of readers. The UK government has promised a commission of inquiry into activities at the paper.

"This is the biggest media story I can remember in 30 years of journalism," said Marie Kinsey, a journalism lecturer at the University of Sheffield. "The phone hacking has shocked a lot of people; it is not common practice."

Murdoch, an Australian-born conservative who used his papers as cheerleading vehicles for the invasion of Iraq, "has been allowed to get dominant influence [in UK politics] and there is no doubt he has used his newspapers to get political leverage," said Richard Tait, director of the centre for journalism at Cardiff University.

In 1989, Murdoch told an audience in the UK: "Much of what passes for quality on British television is no more than a reflection of the values of the narrow elite which controls it." The problem of media concentration, and politically biased news, is by no means unique to the UK. Among its media holdings, News Corporation - with a market capitalisation of around $46bn - owns some 175 newspapers, Fox TV station, 20th Century Fox films in the US, Harper Collins publishing and television interests in China, Italy, Australia and beyond.

But unlike profitable TV stations or movie production companies, several of Murdoch's papers lost money. The media baron spent $5.6bn to buy Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, in 2007 just before the newspaper industry went into economic free-fall. After paying a roughly 65 per cent premium for the prized publishing brand, News Corp wrote down about half the value of the deal in 2009.

US interests

News Corp doesn't have the same information dominance in the US media market that it maintains in the UK. Yet Fox News, owned by Murdoch's firm, has spurred the rise of the Republican right, supporting first George W Bush's war in Iraq and now the conservative Tea Party movement.

"Fox news couldn't exist in the UK broadcast media, because television output is regulated by legislation," Kinsey told Al Jazeera, adding that UK newspapers don’t face similar forms of regulation. "By law, a broadcaster has to be fair and that isn’t the case in the US, where a politically slanted channel can broadcast."

Legislation aside, the business deals underpinning Fox's brand often seem at odds with Murdoch's political slant. Like many of his media interests, the tycoon personally supports Western military interventions, Israel's occupation of Palestine and free-market economic doctrine. Kingdom Holding Company, a firm controlled by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud from Saudi Arabia's ruling dynasty, is the second biggest shareholder in News Corp, behind Murdoch’s family.

The two biggest shareholders in the media empire often have contrasting views, on politics and international relations, particularly on questions over Islam, Iraq and Israel.

"Murdoch is fundamentally a businessman, but he can't stop from being involved in politics," Gaber said. "He has allowed his politics to influence his business. He is certainly no left-winger; he runs the Sunday Times because he likes the influence the paper gives him."

Rupert Murdoch is considered one of the world's most powerful media owners [EPA]
The decision to close the UK's most popular paper with a weekly circulation of 2.67 million is likely linked to Murdoch's more lucrative TV interests.

As newspaper circulations decline around the western world, facing competition from internet media and other problems, TV stations have become more profitable and politically important. Prior to the scandal, Murdoch’s company had launched a $14bn bid for the remaining 61 per cent of pay-TV operator BSkyB that News Corp does not already own.

In order to take complete control of the station, News Corp's directors need to prove to regulators that they are "fit and proper" persons to run the network.

"There is no possibility any government could approach the public to say 'Mr Murdoch should own more TV stations and newspapers," Tait told Al Jazeera, in reference to alleged criminality affecting dead soldiers and murdered women. "It is just not going to happen." The government has received more than 135,000 public complaints against the BSkyB deal.

Journalists pay the price

Many of the 200 journalists who will lose their jobs on less than a week's notice had no part in the alleged phone hacking scandal. But Rebekah Brookes, chief executive of News International, who was responsible for News of the World when the alleged illegal acts took place, has not been given a pink slip, perhaps due to her personal closeness with Murdoch.

"The tragedy, in some ways, is that 200 journalists at News of the World, who had nothing to do with these alleged practices, have lost their jobs," Kinsey said.

The scandal has become a major story in the UK, linking politicians, media barons and the police in a shady web of phone hacking, cronyism and information control. The future is uncertain for one of the world's biggest news conglomerates and its larger than life owner.

Critics of Murdoch, and elite ownership of the press in general, allege that bosses tell journalists what to write and politicians how to act, if they want favorable coverage. That view isn’t quite accurate, Gaber said. "He doesn't need to be a conspirator, he isn't on the phone telling his editors what to do; they know what to do. He didn’t need to tell Tony Blair or David Cameron what to do. They knew he was against [the UK] using the Euro currency. They knew he was in favour of Israel and the Iraq war."

It is impossible, and unreasonable, to directly link the execution of these policies to Murdoch himself. Perhaps he was just one voice, helping to create international policy. Or maybe he is a man who just knows how to pick a winner.

Even so, like News Corp's stock price which dropped more than four per cent on Friday, Murdoch's star seems to be falling, fast. (Courtey: Al

Posted on 04/07/11

A journalist in Pakistan: Living on the edge

By Sabin Agha

The story is by now familiar: Syed Saleem Shahzad, Pakistan bureau chief of Asia Times Online, went missing on May 29th, on his way to participate in a television talk sthow in Islamabad. Two days after his abduction, his body was found at Mandi Bahauddin. Subsequently, the ISI was accused of complicity in his killing, which it promptly denied.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Pakistan has become a hotspot of global news, but while it may be “a good beat” for reporters, at the same time, the dangers it poses to them are grave: the government, militants, the military and intelligence agencies — it seems that journalists are up against them all. Shahzad’s murder puts the perils of being a journalist in Pakistan sharply into focus, but this isn’t the first time that a journalist has been in grave danger because of his job.

The curious case of Saleem Shahzad

A mild-mannered, soft-spoken person, Shahzad’s area of specialisation — international security and terrorism — led him to focus on Pakistan’s armed forces, the northern tribal belt, al Qaeda and the Taliban militancy. In 2011 Shahzad wrote a daring book, Inside al Qaeda and Taliban: Beyond Osama Bin Laden and 9/11.

I met him in January this year in Karachi and, while swapping views on the law and order situation, I asked if he felt under threat or surveillance for reporting so daringly on sensitive issues. “Oh, constantly,” was his prompt response. “I was abducted by the Taliban in 2006 in Afghanistan. I was shot last year here in Islamabad but survived, and I do receive threats from intelligence agencies and militants alike. But, you know, this is all part and parcel of journalism.”

Days before his murder, Shahzad wrote the first of a two-part report on the extent of al Qaeda’s infiltration in the lower ranks of Pakistan’s Navy. After his disappearance, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed concern and reported that he might have been abducted by a state agency. The commission’s statement said, “It has been suggested that Shahzad’s reporting after a terrorist attack on a navy aviation base in Karachi might have something to do with his abduction.” Other analysts too suspect the involvement of the state’s secret agency in the abduction and killing of Saleem Shahzad.

Of state and non-state threats

Shahzad’s case is unique in the sense that he was killed. Mohammad Rafique Baloch, is still alive, as is Umar Cheema, investigatvie reporter of The News.Both were allegedly abducted by intelligence agencies and tortured. Baloch, a Karachi-based journalist and vice president of Karachi Union of Journalists claimed that he was picked up by intelligence agencies to restrain him from appearing in a court hearing in a case about journalists’ wages.

“I was on my way to the Sindh High Court on March 21st at around 8 am when I was intercepted by plainclothes men,” recalls Baloch. “I was blindfolded and bundled into their vehicle. A 20-minute drive led us to a location where I was interrogated for almost four and a half hours. They constantly accused me of making derogatory remarks about the chief justice.”

While the interference of intelligence agencies to control and manoeuvre the message sent out by the media is not new, it has increased with the growth in the media industry.

“Intimidation is a threat that journalists encounter every day. Being on the frontline, they are soft targets,” says veteran journalist Qaiser Mehmood. According to him, there are three sources of threat: “State intimidation, intimidation by non-state actors, and even pressure from their own employer in the form of job insecurity. State intimidation can be resisted with protests but the graver threat emanates from non-state pressure groups.”

Political chaos, armed insurgencies led by Taliban militants in the North and Baluch separatists in the South, target killings in Karachi, and denial of access to the fields are only some of the challenges faced by journalists. As the room for reportage grows, so too does the imperative for strangling press freedom.

Dangerous liaisons — between political parties and journalists

Part of being a journalist is the responsibility of filing a great story without being intimidated by underlying threats. Danger is part of any story that is sensitive, controversial — and ultimately, worth being brought to the public’s attention. Wali Khan Babar, a reporter for Geo News, was onto just such a story at the time of his violent death in January. Shot five times at point-blank range while returning home from work, Babar, 28, covered an operation against a drug-peddler in the suburbs of Karachi that day.

His murder investigation led to nothing: in a press conference Karachi Police boasted of having arrested five men in connection with his murder. But there’s more to this case then just nabbing henchmen. Adil Jawad of Daily Express Newspaper gives a chilling account of how, one after another, four men, including two policemen, a brother of a police official and an informer, linked to the investigation were killed.

“The credit for the arrest of Wali Khan Babar’s killers goes to our government. Zulfiqar Mirza and I visited his family and promised to bring the culprits to task,” boasts Sharjeel Inam Memon, information minister of Sindh.

Babar was killed in Liaquatabad, a stronghold of the Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and thus the blame automatically fell on them. MQM rejects the accusation: “This is an absolutely absurd allegation!” says MQM MNA Waseem Akhter. “Why on earth would we kill him and that too in our own area?”

Zaman Ibrahim, crime reporter of a daily newspaper, was also killed in Karachi this year. Ibrahim was gunned down in Lyari, an area notorious for gang warfare. He was believed to have had close ties with the now defunct People’s Amn Committee (PAC) — an affiliate of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party. PAC is accused of violent tactics and with no appropriate investigation from the police for his killing, it is clear that Ibrahim’s stories might have rubbed one of the rival gangs operating in the neighbourhood the wrong way.

Danger on the frontline

It is not just investigative crime reporters who face danger — on the frontline, reporters risk life and limb to get accurate news out. Amin Shah, a Karachi-based TV news reporter, was critically wounded in a bomb blast on Chehlum last year at Jinnah Hospital in Karachi that killed at least 34 people. “Moments before, a bus full of Shia mourners had been blown by a bomb. I was waiting for my beeper when I was shaken by another blast behind me. A fracture in my head caused internal bleeding in my brain and paralysed the right side of my body for quite some time,” recalls Shah.

Like other victims of the blast, Shah failed to receive the compensation of Rs300,000, that had been announced by the Sindh Government; the paperwork required to get the compensation defeated him. “I was treated at the Agha Khan Hospital for 18 days but for this treatment only Rs100,000 were paid by Jameel Soomro from Information Department. The rest of the money I arranged on my own,” says Shah.

“Loss of life or an injury can’t really be compensated with money — but it provides some relief to the victim and his family. As long as the state fails to provide compensation, it becomes the responsibility of media houses to safeguard their employees with a hazard fund,” says Mehmood.

How media houses can help — or not

Tahir Hasan Khan, the president of the Karachi Press Club, laments that while media-houses expect journalists to be professional, few measures are adopted to facilitate them. “While we expect the government to be indifferent to the challenges that journalists face, we imagine that media outlets will be different. Surprisingly, even media houses are more concerned about their equipment than they are about reporters who put their lives at stake. Channels reap the benefits of ‘breaking news’ in the form of high-ratings and revenues — all at the cost of reporters,” says Hasan Khan.

He believes that the pressure for more information from their organisations compels reporters to take unnecessary risks, instead of following safety precautions. Print and television crews are working at great personal risk in significant danger. But this surge in danger doesn’t seem compelling enough for Pakistani news organisations and media outlets to train journalists for conflict reporting. War and terrorism require a set of rules governing how reporting crews should cover different events: when a story is too dangerous to cover, how close should a reporter get to the frontline, for example?

Despite its growth, Pakistani media remains at a nascent stage when it comes to journalists’ safety and hiring responsible human resources. Unlike journalists from developed countries, where personal safety training is mandatory, Pakistani journalists with minimum or no training continue performing their duties, especially in the conflict-prone tribal belt. They draw lessons from the field instead.

Hall of shame

Constitutional protection and legal safeguards to counter the dangerous climate affecting press freedom are almost non-existent here and Pakistan ranks 10th on the Index of Impunity created by the Committee to Protect Journalists. On the other hand, on the worldwide index of press freedom, it ranks 159th. What contributes even more to the fear is the fact that culprits remain at large and unpunished in most cases. According to Reporters Without Borders, as many as 14 journalists were murdered across Pakistan in 2010, including the first quarter of 2011. The International Press Institute put the number at 16 — out of this total, 6 belonged to the volatile province of Balochistan. In January this year, Ilyas Nazar’s bullet-riddled body was found in Pidarak. Nazar was a local reporter for Baloch magazine Darwanth. He went missing for some time before being killed. Abdost Rind, associated with The Daily Eagle was shot dead in February in Turbat while returning home from work. In both cases, the killers remain unidentified.

Hasan Abbas, general secretary of Karachi Union of Journalists says, “We don’t want to take up arms — I am a journalist not a criminal. My weapon is my pen with which I fight back. I can’t think of killing, even in self-defense.”

“The question is whether you can actually stop intimidation with laws or not. There are common laws for threats to life and security of every citizen — we can’t ask for separate laws for journalists. ‘Intimidation’ is actually a mindset which needs to be altered,” says Mehmood.

Reality bites

Despite these stories, the former Inspector General of Police in Sindh, Fayyaz Leghari seems out of touch with reality. “I don’t have any specific reason to cite as to why journalists in Karachi have been targeted frequently, other than terrorism,” he says.

This response crystallises the state’s apathy to the unsafe environment in which journalists work. In the past ten years, risks have escalated for Pakistani journalists due to growing militancy and the involvement of armed forces to counter it. But the government claims that it is doing all it can to compensate journalists’ woes.

“Pakistan is a good beat,” said Peter Oborne, a journalist with the Daily Telegraph and a documentary reporter with Channel 4, during a visit to Karachi. But it is the very nature of Pakistan’s newsworthiness which has made it so dangerous.“The war on terror has made journalists here more vulnerable. We in the West recognise and appreciate the inspirational and courageous stand of Pakistani journalists.”

It is clear that conflict training of media practitioners is the need of the day. Training not only enhances the understanding of journalists about their roles, it boosts their confidence and encourages independent decision-making.

“To safeguard the lives of journalists is the state’s responsibility but it is a responsibility which media houses should share. The equation is: we protect you and you expose the real culprits by reporting with objectivity,” declares Sharjeel Memon.

Can we speak freely?


Article 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan enshrines every individual with freedom of speech and the right of information.

Article 19:

Freedom of Speech

“Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be the freedom of press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or Defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, (commission of) or incitement to an offence.”

Article 19.A:

Right to Information

“Every citizen shall have the right to have access to
information in all matters of public importance subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by law.” (Coutresy: The Express Tribune)

Posted on 01/07/11

New school of thought

By Sangeetha Devi Dundoo

“Imagine studying in a film and media school that is set up amidst a thriving studio where you get to see film and television content being shot and you can also learn postproduction,” said Kurt Inderbitzin, CEO of the International School of Film and Media (ISFM), which begins operations in Annapurna Studios today. The first batch of students is expected to join in September.

Kurt Inderbitzin was the founding Dean of Subhash Ghai's Whistling Woods International. “I quit the institute in 2008. In the last few years that I've been in India, I've had the opportunity to visit some of the top film schools in the country,” he said, talking to us on the sidelines of the launch of the ISFM.

The ISFM is the brainchild of Akkineni Nageswara Rao. A career that spans seven decades began without formal training. Much before Nageswara Rao made his on-screen debut, he had donned the greasepaint for plays. The veteran actor said, “I wasn't trained in film craft. I learnt on the sets, improvising through retakes.” The

87-year-old Nageswara Rao retraced his early years in theatre and cinema. He had lost his father when he was barely three or four years old and his mother, seeing him sing, dance and enact with ease, realised his potential to be an actor. Nageswara Rao's first role was that of a young girl when he was in IV Standard. “Years later, when I was cast as hero of a play, I was paid Rs. 5,” smiled the actor, who has more than 250 films to his credit.

With his forthcoming film slated to release in September, Nageswara Rao talks about his long-cherished dream: “I wanted to start a film school even before my son Nagarjuna entered the industry. At that time, I didn't have the organisational powers to execute the idea. Today, when most of my family members are involved in different departments of filmmaking, we are able to give back to the society through a non-profit school.” Elaborating on the non-profit model, he stated that the revenue earned through the tuition fees will be invested in the school and the profits will not go to the Annapurna Studios or the Akkineni family.

To begin with, the film school will have short term courses, targeted at attracting 500 students at the end of five years. Graduation programmes for film and media studies are also on the anvil, and the institute is working towards getting an accreditation from a leading university.

“The uniqueness lies in having custom-made programmes to suit specific needs. If a media house wants its photographers to be trained in a certain way or a film production house that is planning a period film wants its actors to be trained, we can tailor-make programmes for them,” said Nagarjuna, talking to us post the launch. The actor has been actively involved in the setting up of the film school, along with his family members for the last two years.

With an insight into other film schools in India, he points out, “We found that some of the courses were designed 10 or 20 years ago and are not relevant to the demands of the industry today.” The film school is in talks with media and film industry experts to rope in regular and guest faculty. “In fact, half of our budget will go towards faculty. We are willing to pay since it's important to have the best faculty,” he reiterated.

Graduation programmes for television journalism and new media is also on the anvil. “Not just anchoring and reporting, we want to train students on professional standards of writing news,” says Inderbitzin.

Expect global exposure through tie-ups with international media houses in the long run. “We'd like to take one step at a time rather than promisethe sky and not deliver,” said Nagarjuna. Classrooms, editing suites et al have been set up and plans are afoot for the construction of the film school on a space of one lakh square feet.(Courtesy: The Hindu)

Posted on 28/05/11

A Journey Through Journalistic Waters

UK National Oscar Rousseau shares his dream of becoming a journalist and how India has helped shape that dream.

When I envisage myself as a journalist, my first thoughts go to Henri Blowitz, the Bohemian reporter who was the Paris correspondent of The Times during the 19th Century, a journalist admired and feared by scribes throughout Europe.

He was a true battle-hardened reporter, displaying what the inhabitants of the Wild Wild West, would call ‘True Grit’. Tenacious, he wrote with such passion that every word was profound and cascaded upwards from the depths of his soul. When he narrates, it is not just informative and accurate but also makes you feel as if you are by his side whilst he obtains the Treaty of Berlin, or accompanying him on one of his many escapades. He is a definite inspiration of mine and - among others - has made me dream of becoming a journalist for several years.

Ever since I informed my parents of my desire to be a reporter, they have been pedantic and slightly skeptical; most probably with good reason.

Carving out a successful niche in an industry that is rapidly redeveloping and redefining what being a journalist signifies means that getting your foot in the door and keeping it there is easier said than done. It is all about luck and experience states Will Parkhouse, writing for The Independent.

As for luck, I may be doomed when I attend the annual village raffle, back in my rural homestead, enter a casino, relish a day at the races or even a standard game of cards.

But experience- well, that’s an entirely different kettle of fish. I am on what we Brits call a Gap Year, which traditionally allows students to take time out between college and university education to travel and indulge in the array of enticing cultures our planet has on offer. In my case, this has been a chance to squander my time and capitalize on a career in the media.

I chose India, for a voluntary journalism internship even though the UK is ahead in technological and socio-democratics. I was entranced mainly by its multitude of religions, cultures, cuisines and the reputation for producing some of the top journalistic talent in the world. Kerala drew me with its vast offering of online & print publications and its whopping 100% literacy rate.

I have been living and sweating in Trivandrum for over a month now, halfway through the final trip. Friends and family, who had previously travelled to Kerala, spun stories of the beauty and serenity that Kerala is famous for. However, comprehending the genuine beauty of ‘God’s Own Country’ takes my breath away.

The fringes of coconut trees, and the fragrance of jasmine and chai, engulf the nostrils at every turn of the rickshaw and create a peaceful modality which is hybridized by the hustle, bustle and horn honking that is an integral part of Trivandrum’s character.

Last weekend, along with two volunteers, I took a trip to the hilly cardamom surrounded town of Kumily. We stayed in a beautiful home stay called ‘Spiceville’ an amble away from the heart of the town and encircled by rich coffee, pepper and cinnamon plantations. It also boasted of a west facing balcony that allowed us to gaze transfixed as the pale pink sun set behind a backdrop of rolling hills turning the plantations from emerald to indigo.

We spent the weekend indulging in the variety of treats Kumily has on offer. First we visited the Elephant Junction, and for a very reasonable price of Rs.1,250 we were able to have two and a half hours of 'Nelly’s’ - as we dubbed her – time. This included riding the beauty through the jungle for an hour, before feeding her huge chunks of pumpkin followed by a hearty scrub down in an oversized bathtub.

For the rest of the day we engaged in a training session of Kalaripayattu, much to the amusement of our very patient instructors. In the evening we were entertained by a demonstration of martial artists before being escorted to a Kathakali drama which I found quite entertaining.

Working at the Trivandrum-based portal Yentha .com has opened my eyes to the multitude of opportunities available to the reporters here. They are more than mere reporters; they are an integral part of the city, and are teaching me ways to breathe life into every story.

I have been here [at Yentha] for a little over one week now and each day I spend here, I have been learning so much about the world of Journalism, which I hope to retain. So far my internship and insight into the field of reporting has been an invaluable experience. It has had a fundamental impact on me and continues to fuel my burning desire to become a journalist. My time here has changed the very fabric of the person I am…The question I ask now is, what next? (Courtesy:

Posted on 12/05/11

Middle-East expert Robert Fisk's interview with Laden

Robert Fisk was one of the few journalists ever to interview Osama Bin Laden – the terror mastermind who created Al Qaeda. The interviews give a unique insight into the one-time Saudi businessman who became a paranoid fanatic and waged an obsessive war against the West...

In late June 1996 the telephone on my desk in Beirut rang. “Mr Robert, a friend you met in Sudan wants to see you,” said a voice with an Arabic accent. “The man you interviewed. Do you ­understand?” Yes, I understood. “Go to Jalalabad – you will be contacted.”

A month later, in Afghanistan, and someone was banging a set of car keys against my window. “Misssster Robert, come ­downstairs.”

I grabbed a coat, and almost forgot my old Nikon. I walked as calmly as I could past the reception desk and out into the afternoon heat.

The man said his name was ­Mohamed. I followed him until we arrived next to a group of gunmen in a pick-up truck.

We travelled for hours. By dusk, we had reached a series of cramped ­earthen villages, old men burning charcoal fires, the shadows of women cowled in the Afghan burqa standing in alleyways.

There were more guerillas, all ­bearded, grinning. They were the Arab ­mujahideen. Very soon, the world would know them as Al Qaeda.

Mohamed beckoned me and we skirted a river and jumped across a stream until we could see a sputtering lamp. Beside it sat a tall, bearded man in Saudi robes.

Osama Bin Laden stood up, his two teenage sons, Omar and Saad, beside him. “Welcome to Afghanistan,” he said. He was now 40 but looked much older than at our last meeting in 1993. His beard was longer and slightly flecked with grey. He seemed tired.

When he asked after my health, I told him I had come a long way for this meeting. “So have I,” he muttered. There was a detachment about him.

We sat down on a straw mat and I was given a glass of tea. He said the “evils” of the Middle East arose from ­America’s attempt to take over the region and from its support for Israel. Saudi ­Arabia had been turned into “an American colony”.

Bin Laden was speaking slowly – there was an Egyptian taking notes. “This doesn’t mean ­declaring war against the West and Western people, but against the ­American regime which is against every American,” he said.

He sometimes stopped speaking for 60 seconds to reflect on his words. Several armed men served plates of yoghurt, cheese and naan bread.­Occasionally he would ask me questions. What would be the ­reaction of the Labour Party to his ­demand that British troops leave Saudia Arabia? Was the Labour leader Tony Blair important?

Then he pointed at me. “I am ­astonished at the British Government. They sent a letter to me through their embassy in Khartoum before I left ­Sudan, saying I would not be welcome in the UK. But I did not ask to go to Britain. So why did they send me this letter? It gave the Press the ­opportunity of claiming I had asked for asylum in Britain, which is not true.”

I said that Afghanistan was the only country left to him after his exile in Sudan. “The safest place in the world for me is Afghanistan,” he replied. I tried another question. What kind of Islamic state did he wish to see? Would thieves and murderers have their hands or heads cut off?

“Islam is a complete religion for every detail of life. If a man is a real Muslim and commits a crime, he can only be happy if he is justly punished. This is not cruelty. The origin of these punishments comes from God.”

Yes, he said, I could take his ­picture. Bin Laden moved his head back and the faintest smile moved over his face. He called his sons and Bin Laden turned into the proud father.
Then his anxiety returned. When we shook hands, he was already looking for his guards. (Courtesy:

Posted on 01/05/11

Why we need war reporters

By David Uberti

This week probably wouldn't be the best time to tell mom you want to be a war correspondent. Two Wednesdays ago, photojournalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros were killed by mortar fire in the highly contested Libyan town of Misurata. The latter was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for his images of Liberia's Civil War. And Hetherington, whose Academy Award-nominated Restrepo covered a US Army platoon's 15-month deployment in Afghanistan, was famous for putting a human face on armed conflict.

Also in Libya, Medill alum and freelance journalist James Foley has been held for more than three weeks by forces loyal to Muammar Gadhafi. Foley is with at least two other journalists.

Sending reporters to war zones has been a hot button issue over the past 10 years, both inside and outside of the media industry. Along with its high material cost, critics point to its physical dangers and—regarding embedded reporting—its "soda straw" view of conflict.

Despite its detractors, however, putting boots on the ground in conflict areas is essential, both for war coverage and public perception. As Tim McNulty, a Medill professor and co-director of the National Security Journalism Initiative told me, journalists in war zones can understand the "consequences of [war], both on our own troops and on the people who are either in the middle or who we're fighting."

"Is any one particular life worth giving up for one report?" he asked in a phone interview. "No. It's always told to correspondents that "no story is worth your life."

Mature war reporters know which risks to take and which to avoid, he added. And they have to be aware of the other dangers that come with the job besides bullets and bombs.

The military is a proud organization that loves coverage. The information war waged by the its public relations personnel is largely overlooked, and it presents both an opportunity and hazard for journalists. The military unexpectedly allowed around 700 embedded reporters to travel with units at the outset of the Iraq War, a move that drastically shifted the focus of coverage.

Col. Steven Boylan, a former public affairs officer under Gen. Stanley McChrystal, gave a guest lecture to my national security journalism class Wednesday. He put the military's PR strategy simply.

"You can't win if you don't play," he said.

This is exactly why we need the Foleys and Hetheringtons of the world, reporters who will tiptoe the line between keeping the military in check and getting in bed with it. And over the past five years, journalism has largely done a good job of it. A 2003 Pew Research Center study found Americans had a generally favorable view of the Iraq War coverage, but "felt depressed," "frightened," "tired out," and "saddened" by it.

War isn't pretty. In fact, as General William Tecumseh Sherman famously said, it's hell. War coverage should frighten, depress and sadden audiences. And that's why war reporters are so important. Without them, viewers and readers would be left with sensationalized stories from the Pentagon of glory and bravery that would merely fictionalize humanity's most inhumane institution.

Only war reporters can showcase both the terrific and the terrible. This is their duty, this is the thing they carry: To pair faces, voices and stories with the names of the dead. And embedded reporting—perhaps the most dangerous process of all—could not play a more invaluable role.

Chronicling the minuscule details of war, from the difficulty of getting a cup of coffee to a dying man's last breath, is imperative to war coverage. The Iraq War proved that. American audiences had a more intimate relationship with combat than ever before, and perhaps that contributed to the massive decline of public support for the Iraq War through its first five years.

Sure, media outlets must pay a steep price to send reporters to war zones, both in dollars and personal safety. But it's a price worth paying until the coverage of wars becomes so enthralling, so depressing and so frightening that we stop fighting them.

(David Uberti is a DAILY web editor. He can be followed at Courtesy:

Posted on 12/04/11

What Hugh Grant revealed about Paparazzi and Power

By Christina Patterson

You wouldn't necessarily expect the most interesting journalism of the week to come from a film star and his ex-girlfriend. You wouldn't necessarily expect that either of them could write. And you wouldn't necessarily expect two people who have seen their private lives regularly spattered over the front pages of the red tops, and not always in ways that have been hugely flattering or helpful, to approach the issue of privacy, and of the freedom of the press, with their sense of humour intact.

And you wouldn't, I think we can safely say, without insulting the staff at Britain's worthiest political weekly, necessarily expect to find these things in the New Statesman. But life, as a former News of the World journalist discovered when he opened the copy of the magazine he no doubt rushed, as usual, to snap up, is full of surprises. And this one, involving a film star, a car, a paparazzo and a pub in Dover, is delicious.

I don't know if Hugh Grant did the headline on his piece for the New Statesman, or if it was done by his ex-girlfriend, Jemima Khan, who guest-edited this week's magnificent issue, but "The bugger, bugged", while being gloriously reminiscent of the opening scene of Four Weddings and a Funeral in which a four-letter word that isn't "four" is repeated a lot more than four times, perfectly caught the irony and the sheer, blinding joy of tables turned.

Grant's piece starts, with the kind of self-deprecating irony we've come to associate with the characters he plays, with the breakdown of his "midlife crisis car" in "deepest Kent". It continues with a car journey with the paparazzo who stopped to snap him, and who then offered him a lift. The paparazzo, it turns out, was Paul McMullan, who used to be an investigative journalist at the News of the World. Now, he runs a pub. After making sure he got the pics that would net him a bit of extra pocket money, McMullan invited him to pop in for a pint. Grant was happy to accept. And turned up, for a nice chat, with a wire tap.

The resulting conversation was one of the most gripping I've read in a while. McMullan, who had already talked about phone-hacking at the NOTW in the Guardian and on Channel 4's Dispatches, couldn't, like a man with Tourette's, let the subject go. He told Grant that Andy Coulson, who resigned as editor of the paper when the phone-hacking scandal blew up, and then from his "second chance" rehabilitative post as David Cameron's director of communications in January, "knew all about" phone hacking and "regularly ordered it". He told him that Rebekah Brooks, currently the chief executive of News International, did, too. He told him, in effect, that there was a time when anyone with an ounce of sense, or nous, or maybe I mean an eye to any kind of future in journalism, could nip down to Argos and buy a 59-quid scanner, which would enable them to listen in to phone calls made by actors, politicians or (in a memorable case involving tampons) heirs to the throne.

McMullan, like many a pub bore (though you couldn't, on this occasion, accuse him of being boring), was very, very keen to air his inside knowledge. (Inside knowledge, by the way, that Coulson and Brooks deny they shared.) But he was also keen to assert his philosophy about free speech and transparency. Like an Assange manqué, he thought that if you were "transmitting your thoughts and your voice over the airwaves" then your thoughts belonged to everyone -- and particularly, of course, to the hack with the scanner. He thought that he and his fellow freedom fighters at the NOTW were what kept "corrupt politicians" from more dastardly acts of corruption, and what ensured that we had a "reasonably fair society", and not one headed by a Gaddafi. He thought that if you were rich, or lived "off your image", which seemed to mean if you lived by doing something like acting, which you couldn't reasonably do while being invisible, you'd lost any right you might ever have had to a private life.

And why was he saying all this? Why, as Grant asked, was he so keen to spill the beans on a practice he clearly thought the linchpin of Western democracy? The answer, of course, was publicity. Publicity for his pub.

Perhaps it's no great surprise that someone who has earned his living by crawling through a sewer, in search of giant turds and tampons, will have found it necessary to argue that digging out other people's turds and tampons, and plastering them all over the pages of what they insist, in spite of its evident inaccuracy as a title, on calling a newspaper, is part of a crusade for justice and truth. Gaddafi, after all, still insists that his own work (as a torturing and murdering dictator) has been vital for his country. But the bigger surprise, or perhaps I should say the even less savoury aspect of this Kent equivalent of the Gettysburg Address, has been the details that emerged about another kind of crawling: the crawling of every prime minister since Margaret Thatcher to a man called Rupert Murdoch.

We knew this. Of course, we knew this. But the fact that David Cameron, according to McMullan, extended his Murdoch-licking duties to include regular socialising (and, he says, horse riding, which may well be a flight of NOTW-style fantasy) with Rebekah Brooks is more depressing than I can say. Cameron, of course, likes rich people. He likes the countryside. He likes power. But you can see why detectives in charge of a case involving phone hacking at a newspaper that's part of the empire run by Brooks, and owned by Murdoch (detectives, by the way, who were also quite keen on dinners with employees from NOTW), might have felt that it was a case they didn't want to pursue with too much passion.

And you can see why Nick Clegg, in an excellent interview by Jemima Khan (who has demonstrated that she is very much more than a "socialite"), would get a bit cagey when the subject came up. "Look," he said, when she mentioned the Oxfordshire dinner parties, "you're putting me in a very awkward spot. If you've got an issue with it, speak to Dave."

Well, Dave, I've "got an issue" with it. I can see how, if you're running a country, you might have to shake hands with the odd murdering dictator, or the odd boss of the odd sewer rat. But what I can't see, what I really can't see, is why you'd have these people as your friends.
(Courtesy: Huffington Post)

Posted on 28/03/11

Why Radio Will Live On

By Beth Knobel

Imagine that you're on the bus going to work. As you pass a particular building, your phone asks you if you'd like to hear a radio story about an event that happened there.

Then you get a text on your phone from a different station asking you to write back if you're stuck in traffic. The station uses the information to create a real-time traffic map on its website.

Then a Twitter message asks, since it's the 8th day of the month, for you to vote on which of three composers' 8th symphonies you'd like to hear at lunchtime on the local classical music station. This is the future of radio.

I sit on the Community Advisory Board of New York Public Radio, and we just held an event about what's in store for the medium of radio. And I'm happy to report that radio's future -- or at least the future of audio reporting -- is still bright in many ways. And new technologies like the ones I describe above, and social media, are all helping to keep audio reporting alive.

Many radio stations are hurting these days, as young people lose the radio habit. Radio's "not cool," as one speaker put it. Indeed, very few of my students at Fordham University own one, even a clock radio.

But the stodgy image of radio is changing, as radio stations use social media and other communication technologies to engage their audiences. Radio stations are already moving aggressively into social media. Part of that effort includes obvious things like Twitter feeds and Facebook pages. But that's all going to expand even more, as stations benefit from new, innovative ways to send and receive information.

Social media is clearly succeeding in bringing in some young listeners. People under 30 may not tune in to radio regularly, but if someone sends them a link to some great piece of audio, they may just open it. And if they listen and like what they hear, they might then tune in to a radio show, or subscribe to a podcast. Experience shows that good content will hold listeners if they just give it a try.

And it's not just social media that's engaging radio audiences. WNYC, New York's main NPR station, has been successfully using texting, too. Example: after last December's devastating snowstorm, the mayor said in a press conference that the city was doing a good job of clearing the streets. WNYC quickly asked listeners to text in to say whether or not their street had been cleaned. The station used the info to make a map, and then went back to listeners over the next few days to update it. Then the station asked those same people, once the streets were clean, if their garbage had been collected. That's real community engagement.

Technology is also remaking the broadcasting side of radio. Anyone can now make and broadcast radio programming on a home computer, and receive it on nearly any mobile device. That means that terrestrial radio will undoubtedly go away someday. But I seriously doubt that that's going to be the end of radio. Radio stations will continue to exist, but they will distribute their programming digitally, and use the money they now spend on over-the-air broadcasting on content creation instead.

That may be a good thing in the long run, because stations' money will go to hiring more staff, funding more stories and developing new, technologically savvy ways of reporting instead of expensive transmitting equipment. Internet broadcasting already allows people to hear stations from far, far away, increasing listenership and, with that, potentially revenues.
In the end, though, the future of audio reporting is all about the content. Radio not only provides great reporting, but it's also a valuable editorial voice that helps listeners makes sense of the barrage of information that is raining down on us all these days.

That's why my former CBS News colleague Mike Wallace and I wrote our recent guidebook for young journalists, Heat and Light: Advice for the Next Generation of Journalists -- to argue to young people that no matter the delivery system, what really keeps journalism valuable is strong content. And by using technology to improve its content, radio can keep itself not only alive, but vibrant.

(Beth Knobel is co-author of Heat and Light: Advice for the Next Generation of Journalists; Fordham professor; Former Moscow bureau chief; CBS News. Courtesy:

Posted on 07/03/11

Blind Pakistani journalist wins hearts of Sri Lankan team

Media Hive News Network

According to a report in the Jang newspaper, a blind female journalist from Pakistan has won the hearts and admiration of the Sri Lankan cricket team after she travelled to the Islands to cover the ongoing World Cup matches.

According to the report, Sania Zaidi a big fan of cricket and a lecturer of Mass Communication in the Bahauddin Zakaria university in Multan, has travelled to Sri Lanka as a freelance journalist. Sania, who lost her eyesight at childhood because of a retina disease, is known to the Sri Lankan team players on first name basis. "I covered the Sri Lankan team's one-day series in Pakistan in 2009 and came to know them well, most of the players know me well and make me feel at home in Sri Lanka," Sania told Jang newspaper.
The blind girl, who is married to a fellow lecturer at the same university, said her husband was not interested in cricket but her brother Bilal had accompanied her to Sri Lanka. "Bilal helps me out by guiding me everywhere. During matches I listen to the commentary on radio and my brother who sits with me in the media box keeps on guiding me on every ball about the action on the field," she said.

Sania, who writes for a magazine for special people, said it was her desire to show the world that even handicapped persons could accomplish anything.

Posted on 18/02/11

The known unknowns of business journalism

By Anya Schiffrini

Journalists love thinking about journalism so I was happy recently to spend some time reading 18th and 19th century Indian newspapers, part of the collection housed at the Jawaharal Nehru Library in New Delhi. With my new book BAD NEWS: How America’s financial press missed the story of the century just published, I was looking at early examples of business and economics coverage.

In addition to its outdoor canteen that serves samosas and masala chai for 25 cents, the Nehru library has a formidable collection with everything from old communist party papers and the Bombay Spectator to the famous “Hickey’s Bengal Gazette or the original Calcutta General Advertifer” and the missionary newspaper “Friend of India.” These short papers carried all sorts of amusing advertisements on the front page. Instead of classified ads for cars, they advertised carriages imported from London, bolts of indigo and all sorts of scary medicines. There were also plenty of announcements for clipper ships bound for China and looking for cargo consisting of opium.

News dispatches came in the form of long letters from anonymous contributors and began with various disclaimers : “As the writer seems of considerable intelligence and well acquainted with the subject, we give it insertion but by no means adopt the opinions which he advocates” or “We have received no authentic accounts from Rangoon since our last issue but there are numerous letters and reports afloat amongst the Mughul merchants in the town indicative of a state of disquiet among the foreign traders.”

It was refreshing to see journalists admit that they weren’t really sure of the information they were providing. Business journalism got its start in the 16th century with newspapers in several cities including Antwerp and London that largely consisted of lists of prices known as “currents” (which included prices of money, commodities and securities) and “bills of entry” which recorded the arrival and departure of cargo ships and the commodities they carried. John J. McCusker is an authority on these.

Few today would accept the vagaries and obvious imprecision of those centuries-old dispatches. Yet reading recent press coverage of the parlous state of the U.S. economy, I often have the feeling that reporters and economists are just as confused today as they were in West Bengal in the 18th century. A recent New York Times story about new job numbers, showing that only 36,000 jobs were created but that the unemployment rate fell from 9.4% to 9.0%, left me perplexed, especially when I turned to Bob Herbert’s column saying the numbers didn’t really make sense. Floyd Norris also offered a partial explanation of why the numbers often aren’t reliable.

Media critics and academics give many reasons for why economic reporting often falls short. They note that economists are often uncertain as to where the economy is headed, and that reporters lack the knowledge to analyze the data they receive. Writing a short piece to a tight deadline means there often isn’t the time and space to delve into deeper economic questions. And then there is the question of “cognitive capture” (a term coined by economist Willem Buiter) which Financial Times editor Gillian Tett has used to describe the fact that journalists often take on the worldview of the people they cover. In the case of business journalism this means the view that markets work well and that U.S.-style capitalism is the best in the world.

Today’s business journalism is more sophisticated than it was 200 years ago. And the financial crisis has produced some superb reporting from people like Michael Hudson, Gretchen Morgenson, and the late Mark Pittman. But since my book has come out I’ve heard many stories of journalists being told by their editors to downplay their warnings of how badly the economy is doing. If business journalists want to do an even better job, they would serve their readers well if they could be a bit more critical and follow their instincts as to what seems wrong, distorted or missing—even if it means questioning the conventional wisdom.

Posted on 14/02/11

Will Egypt ever believe its media again?

By Somayya Jabarti

"I'd always wanted to be a reporter even before the 'thowra' (revolution)," volunteered a young girl having overheard my questions — regarding national media, directed earlier to a man beside her on Kasr El Nile Bridge, a couple of feet away from Tahrir Square.
Have you changed your mind now I asked?

"No," she replied, "I still want to be a reporter, not here though but for Al Jazeera! They tell the truth!" Meet 13-year old Huda Ibrahim. Not because she's an aspiring reporter, but because she defined that being a truthful reporter means working for foreign media. Young as she may be, her opinion regarding the integrity of Egyptian media is not hers alone.

Huda's family, like other countless Egyptians, had stopped looking to their local TV channels or newspapers for information over the past weeks even before January 25th's events had unfolded. Egyptian media, its inaccuracies exposed by alternative satellite news channels covering the youthful revolution, had managed to lose the trust of its local audiences.

"Friends had told me something was going on in the streets," said Magdi Abdelaal. "I called home and was told nothing was mentioned, not on TV or in that day's papers." He continued, "few minutes later an overseas relative calls me up asking if the family and me are OK because an international news channel had reported that were riots going on in Cairo! Can you believe that — and I'm the one living here?"

The media in Egypt had actually started losing ground when the Tunisians revolted against the now exiled Ben Ali, weeks before January 25th. Instead of presenting the people with the facts, Egyptian media adhered to its government's dismissive approach and downplayed the seriousness of the situation.

"They totally made light of what happened in Tunis," said Nagwa Mohammad. "If it hadn't been for my nephew who'd read it online, I would've been like 'the deaf person at a wedding.'"

Mubarak, dismissed the Tunisian people's revolt with local state press conveying his confidence that such occurrences could — and would never happen in Egypt due to it "being a big, great country of 80 million people to which Tunis' circumstances and conditions were inapplicable..." His statement had also included the privilege of Egypt's "freedom of press," another criteria that distinguished it from Tunis.

Weeks later, on January 26th, newspaper editions disclosed nothing whatsoever on the mass protests or the clashes between police and demonstrators that had taken place in Tahrir Square. Instead, pictures showing amicable exchange of chocolates and flowers between policemen and civilian were displayed.

"Once upon a time we used to pride ourselves as the Arab world's most liberal and controversial press," said Sally Maher, a retired university lecturer and a senior Egyptian citizen who had recently returned from Europe.

National TV fared no better, if not worse than the print media. While that fateful "Friday of Rage," January 28th, claimed the lives and well-being of many Egyptians, national TV channels assured their viewers that "everything was a under control."

National security sources, through local TV channels, told the people that all was stable and calm but for some "foul play."

"They treated us like idiots!" said Ahmad Beyumi. "As if we don't have satellite TV!"
"And even without television," he continued, "people have people.""Had it not been for the army suddenly showing up in the streets and the curfew they enforced, we would've believed them," said Mervat Fahmi. Since that day, various Egyptian broadcasters, men and women, have been busy explaining themselves — some defensively and others apologetically.

"We were misinformed," said the hostess of a daytime TV program. "But my heart was in the right place." "My daughter and wife were verbally abused and aggressively treated when they went to join the protesters in Tahrir Square," said another Egyptian TV presenter. "If this revolution is really about justice, then where's the fairness in such behavior?"

In Saturday's editions, the first day after Mubarak's step-down, only one column touches on the compromised status of Egypt's national media. In Al Ahram, Emad Arbaan writes, "why do they believe Al Jazeera and belie Egyptian television? Why do they trust Al Arabiya and do not care for what Al Nile channels say? ... Many questions, whose question we've not bothered to search for but instead have restricted, confiscated, etc., media sources who tell the truth that angers us..." Will Egypt ever believe its media again?
(Courtesy: Arab News)

Posted on 06/02/11

Cybercrimes-a nemesis for today's world

By Dr Syed Aijazuddin
Media Hive News Network

The growing danger of cyber crime also called computer crime by way of stealing, denying access to, or destroying valuable information on computers, there is constant fear and vulnerability to every computer and its user. It won’t be long before each one of us or our love ones becomes victim of potential cybercrimes that include identity theft, hacking, phishing, stalking. It has really become a nemesis for all of us.

With existing laws remain unenforceable against such crimes and perpetrators work overtime with impunity to criminally exploit the 21st century’s economic driver. The lack of real effective legal protection means that businesses and individuals must rely solely on technical measures to protect themselves from cybercrimes and cybercriminals. Self-protection, while essential, is not sufficient.

The rule of law must also be enforced. Nations should enact new laws, countries having relevant laws should examine whether they are sufficient to combat cyber crimes. Those who are not quite developed should draw on best practices from other countries and work closely with industry to enact enforceable legal protections against this new threat. As challenges are undisputedly global in nature, nations should work together to achieve a shared vision on this important issue.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), USA, “we lead the national effort to investigate high-tech crimes, including cyber-based terrorism, computer intrusions, online sexual exploitation, and major cyber frauds. To stay in front of emerging trends, we gather and share information and intelligence with public and private sector partner’s worldwide.”

The FBI is helping law enforcement to take a new outlook on the way law enforcement will handle cybercriminals. Undeterred by the prospect of arrest or prosecution, cyber criminals around the world pose lethal danger to the financial health of businesses, and threat to nations’ security. News headlines of cyber attacks and security breaches in this decade have gone up many folds, and countless instances around the world remain unreported.

Many countries do not have laws against cybercrimes. Even in countries that have the existing laws against these cyber related wrong doings, effective law enforcement is not feasible due to transnational nature of cybercrimes.

Cyber criminals can stealthily overcome the conventional jurisdiction and legal realms of sovereign nations, originating an attack from almost any computer in the world, passing it across multiple national boundaries that dramatically increase both the technical and legal complexities of investigating and prosecuting cyber crimes.

Mechanisms of cooperation across national borders to solve and prosecute crimes are complex and awfully slow albeit, it is desirable to have an approach, whereby nations, governments, industry, and the public at large workout to devise enforceable stringent laws that will effectively deter the most determined cyber criminals.

These trusted relationships, coupled with intelligence and robust security can have long lasting impact on the emerging digital economy, apart from it will make the world a better place to live and work with immense pleasure.

Posted on 15/01/11

Using Wikipedia to change the language of the Web

As Wikipedia, the online open-source encyclopaedia, turns 10, India is set to host its first offshore office outside the US

By Deepa Kurup

Nothing exemplifies the power of Wiki – the open and collaborative platforms for content creation – like the online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia. The site that everybody can freely and collaboratively edit is credited not only with having created a massive repository of knowledge but also democratising the presentation of content on the Web.
Wikipedia, which turns 10 this January, has over 35 lakh articles. In 2010, we saw several Wiki Media Foundation bigwigs visit India, hold public meet-ups with the Wiki community and appoint the first Indian to sit on the board of the Wikipedia Foundation, Bisakha Dutta. Apart from the formal Indian Wikipedia chapter, that has been on the anvil for some time now, Wikipedia Foundation has also chosen India to set up its first offshore office.

Why India?

But why India? The large number of potential Net users here, and the ‘ground support' that exists in the form of a passionate community of Wikipedians, drive these “offshore efforts”. However, they realise, that the ‘Indian Internet' is by no means a homogenous entity. During recent visits to India, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has repeatedly articulated the need to approach Wikipedia growth here from a strictly ‘localised' perspective — by expanding the user base for the local language Wikipedias.
Yes, the Internet, with English as its predominant language, can barely make inroads into vast areas of the country.

Indian language content on the Internet is low, and is restricted either to niche blogs or news content. Internet firms are also interested in changing this by enabling web advertisers aim to target larger local audiences.

So, how can Wikis help drive this change? It seems natural that a massive task like this one — that of creating and expanding local language content — is best tackled ‘collaboratively'. And that is just what Wiki communities do best. As of today, there are Wikipedias in over 20 Indian languages. While there are 58,000 articles in the Hindi Wikipedia, Telugu and Marathi too have been growing steadily, clocking 47,000 and 32,000 articles respectively. The Tamil Wiki has around 26,000 articles, Bengali (22,000), Malayalam (16,000) and Kannada (9,900). Together, Wikipedia is arguably the single largest source of Indic content online.

Early challenges

Enthusiastic Wikipedians (Wikipedia editors/contributors) will tell you that this growth has been all but easy. Buggy fonts, lack of platform-independent fonts and the lack of a common standard for keyboard layouts marred early efforts. Data input, though much improved today, is still a challenge for non-technical folks. Most operating systems, particularly proprietary ones, still do not support Kannada fonts ‘out of the box', points out Hari Prasad Nadig, an active Kannada Wikipedia editor.

“Data input was a huge challenge when we started building the Kannada Wikipedia in 2004. Even the Nudi font for Kannada, declared a standard by the Karnataka Government, worked only on machines running on Microsoft Windows. There too, Windows XP, the most popularly OS, still doesn't offer complete support for Unicode Kannada,” he explains. Most Indian languages face similar issues with rendering of Indic fonts.

Enter Internet firms

Things have come a long way from then. Over the years, technical experts among the Wikipedia community worked to improve Media Wiki — the software that runs Wikipedia — to offer web-based support for these fonts.

More recently, Internet firms have evinced substantial interest in this area. Firms that were once indifferent to these local needs are today proactive about what is termed as localisation. From seeking out Wiki volunteer groups to use their translation tools (by offering free applications such as Google's Translation Kit) to ‘Open Sourcing' their software kits (proprietary firm Microsoft's Wikibhasha is released under Apache 2.0, a Free Software licence), firms are going all out to make the Internet “linguistically diverse”. They are investing heavily in tools that can help translate the web and ‘localise' it.

Understandably, Wikipedia, with its existing army of enthusiastic volunteers, is seen as a useful ally. So, traditional offline Wiki meet-ups in recent months have had corporate guests attending to get a first-hand understanding of how Wiki volunteering works, and to encourage them to use their translator kit — a tool that allows translation of webpages, Wikipedia articles and Knol. An Official Google Blog post, dated July 14, 2010, states: “Translation is key to our mission of making useful to everyone. The intent is to ... help Wikipedia become more helpful to speakers of smaller languages.” So, their project began in 2008, when Google employed translators and volunteers to translate Wikipedia articles into Hindi. Using search data from Google Trends to determine what Wikipedia articles are most read in India, they selected articles for machine translation, and then got teams to do rough edits. Google estimates that Hindi Wikipedia grew by at least 20 per cent as a result of these efforts. The firm is now working with at least five local language Wikis.

While the stated aim is to increase the quantum of Indic content online, there are tangible benefits for its Translation Toolkit. The more ‘humans', as opposed to machines, use the translation toolkit, the more the tool learns and the better it translates. That is, every time you or the company's team edits using their tool, the tool learns a new word, phrase or syntax. This is stored in the translation memory, a data base that stores the source text and the translation coupled together as ‘translation units'.
The software is so designed that once Wikipedia pages are imported, these units are stored in the tool's memory. Given that Wiki articles offer variety in content and style, this is an ideal platform for their tool to ‘learn'.

This makes perfect business sense for not only will it enrich Search options, but also index content on various software platforms. This could potentially be valuable for Internet firms in emerging technology areas such as Optical Character Recognition.
Google, though the earliest to take this approach, isn't the only one looking to capitalise on the ‘power of the Wikis'. Albeit a late entrant, Microsoft in October 2010 released WikiBhasha, a browser-based tool that works on Wikipedia sites.
It allows users to translate, manually make changes to the translated piece and upload it on to Wikipedia, in 30 languages. Other machine translation tools include Yahoo's Babelfish.

What about the Wiki philosophy?

Besides releasing these tools, and lobbying for its adoption, Internet firms have hired teams to translate articles, adding what they call the “human touch” to the machine job. However, the Indian Wikipedia community is divided in its response to this ‘commercial' approach to content creation.

Many argue that the articles generated are ridden with errors and way too literal as translations. Others argue that the whole idea of “developing content collaboratively” is lost.

Typically, more than one volunteer creates a Wikipedia article. An article stub is created, following which a request for contributions is placed on a ‘talk page'.
Using data from multiple sources and citations, the article is expanded, rewritten and reviewed by Wiki editors.

This process — characteristic of a Wiki and one that Wikipedians are proud to be part of — is lost when hired translators go about their job. They seldom take feedback or return to their articles a second time, passionate Wiki editors lament.
The efficiency of these machine translations is around 25 to 30 per cent, admits Nadig. But he adds that in the case of the Kannada Wiki the articles (translations) are of a fairly good quality. There has been resistance in other language Wikis where the “quality factor” has been overlooked.

While most agree that getting more content online is good for the cause of a “richer local language web”, many do not want the quality to suffer. For instance, in the case of the Bengali Wiki, the firm has not approached the community.
Conversations on Wiki mailing lists there reveal that they are worried about “dump-and-run translators” who do not follow up with the translations, and do not interact or make a second edit to fix issues with the article.

Technical issues

Balasundararaman, who has been editing the Tamil Wiki for over five years now, says that though firms intend to add more content while serving their business interests, quality takes a backseat.

For instance, he points out that tools often do not lend themselves well enough to translate wikitext — text interspersed with wiki syntax.
“Because of this, for example, we faced an issue of spurious red links to non-articles. I wrote a patch to pywikipediabot to fix the mess the tools created due to their business requirement of enriching their ‘translation memory', a machine learning technique. They've built the tools to do more aligned translations i.e. line-by-line. This creates a highly mechanical and unnatural translation unsuitable for the consumption of native speakers.”
Further, Mr. Balasundararaman points out that the third-party companies that get the contracts to do these translations are incentivised only to dump articles and not use community feedback to improve the articles or future translations as would normally happen with volunteer editors.

Courtesy: The Hindu

Posted on 24/12/10

Meet Pakistan's first woman photojournalist

Inspired by the husband she lost to war,Pakistan's first woman photojournalist Saadia Sehar tells about her husband, an Afghan photographer who was killed when a convoy of journalists was ambushed in Afghanistan, and about her career and its ordeal.

On 19 November 2001 I received a call from the Reuters Pakistan bureau telling me to pray for my husband, Afghan photographer Aziz Ullah Haidari. He was killed when a convoy of journalists was ambushed in Afghanistan.

I remember the wife of my husband’s colleague standing in front of me telling me, "Be strong Saadia", "Hold yourself". Those words broke me inside.

I was married on 28 January 1996 after a four-year love affair. We faced many problems from our families; they were against our marriage because we came from different cultures and countries. My parents thought Aziz would sell me because he is Afghan, and that he wouldn’t be a good husband. It was the first experience our family had had of intercultural marriage.

Aziz had joined Reuters in November 1991 as a correspondent and photographer. We met for the first time in a private academy where we both taught.

He was smart and handsome, still I had no intention of marrying him. But over time, he became a good friend and we fell in love. Within a year of marriage I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, and three years later an equally precious son.

I quit my job and settled happily into life looking after our family and home, which was everything to me.

In 2001 Aziz went to London for three weeks hostile training for media on the frontline. When he returned, Reuters suddenly assigned him to Afghanistan in anticipation of a US attack. I was so relieved when it was cancelled; we returned from Turkham, a town on the Pakistani-Afghan border.

But just a month later the US did attack and took the Afghan capital Kabul, and my husband prepared along with his journalist friends from all over Pakistan to go to war.

Going to war

I was terrified for him. I knew that there was no safe place where they were going, for him or anyone else. I tried to talk him out of accepting the assignment, but his bureau chief threatened to sack him unless he agreed to go. He left with a heavy heart.
Before he went, he looked unusually tired and my intuition indicated that something bad was going to happen.
He left Pakistan on 17 November 2001 and arrived in the Jalalabad province of Afghanistan the following day. Journalists across the world were gathered in the same hotel where my husband was staying with his friends and colleagues. They planned to go to Tora Bora but fighting between NATO and the Taliban had already begun there.
They changed their plan and travelled towards Kabul. On the morning of 19 November 2001, a 28-car convoy of journalists moved out from Jalalabad to Kabul, a distance of 67 miles.

After two hours the convey slowed through Aba-e- tung Rashum, a narrow pass where only one car could pass as a time and blind turns made the road treacherous.
Suddenly the three cars heading the convoy, isolated from the others behind them by the narrow road, were stopped by eleven armed men recognisable as Taliban despite their faces being covered with turbans.

Three years later in court, Raza Khan, a man later convicted as one of the murderers, described the terrible order of events that followed.
19 November 2001

My husband and three other foreign journalists – one Spanish man, one Australian and one female Italian – were ambushed.

The Taliban commander, disturbed by the Spanish man’s shouting, first ordered Raza Khan to shoot him on the spot. My husband begged in his own language for mercy, to no avail.
The female journalist was raped and had her legs broken before she too was killed; all four were physically tortured prior to death. My husband was singled out as the only Muslim in the group, before being killed by the commander.
Khan was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. The murderers turned out to be a group working for the Taliban.

Utterly broken

When I found out the news, I ran to my parents’ house with my children, crying. My father opened the door and fell down with a heart attack on hearing the news. We were utterly broken by it.

I was so angry at the Taliban for killing these people like animals. I thought after my husband’s death that I wouldn’t be able to live without him.

I didn’t talk about it to my children, I never did. Eight years on though, they know now that their father was martyred.

Reuters offered me a job in their office and I joined them because I used to visit there to see my husband – it allowed me to feel close to him. I felt that he was with me and would be coming back soon.

After starting my journalism career at Reuters, I demanded that they give me my husband’s old position. They refused, saying senior Pakistani photographers were never women. They told me I would not be able to go in the field or write a story, and said I should stay at home instead.

After one and half years I quit and joined Visual News as a reporter and photojournalist, a role I eventually held for six years. The boss of this association was my husband’s friend, who had supported my professional development.

I accepted this profession for my beloved Aziz. I wanted to fulfill his mission and keep his name alive as long as I live.

I was in fact a good photographer before, a skill inherited from my uncles and grandfather – M. Bhatti, a famous Pakistani photographer himself. But by taking up this role, I became Pakistan’s first employed female photojournalist.

Of course, I got a lot of criticism from male colleagues and still do to this day, but I accept the challenges for my husband.

As part of my job I travel a lot all over the country; my parents kindly look after my children whenever I am away. I finished my masters in mass communication and am now a successful journalist, feature writer and video journalist as well as photographer, working for GEO Independent Media Corporation and Xinhua news agency.

My children are good and hardworking, and help me all the time despite my frequent absences from their lives. I think they know that I have sacrificed my life for them and their beloved father.
(This article was first published by the European Journalism Centre.)

Posted on 19/12/10

A meeting with a literary icon, Khushwant Singh

By Navtej Sarna

A meeting with a literary icon can sometimes be imbued with excitement akin to that of a lovers' tryst. With a knowing smile, it seems, this thought crosses my mind on tiptoe, as I stand in the smoky, early winter dusk of Sujan Singh Park, glancing repeatedly at my watch. Finally, at seven sharp, I step up to the door that says famously “Do Not Ring Unless Expected” and bravely thumb the doorbell knowing that, 96 though he may be, Khushwant Singh does not forget his appointments.

It seems that time has bypassed that living room which I enter after a gap of more than two years. The books, the photographs, the drinks table and the author himself on his sofa chair in the corner, wearing a black woollen cap, his legs stretched out on a stool and a rough shawl thrown over them. A closer look shows that he is perhaps frailer than he was two years earlier, and perhaps he needs the hearing aid a bit more, but the sight of the strong drink of whisky that already stands near his right hand is reassuring. He watches carefully, unwilling to begin the conversation, until my drink has been served along with the wasabi-coated peas and butter-drenched fresh mushroom vol-au-vents.

Inevitably, we begin to talk of his latest novel The Sunset Club. He reaches out to a side table and hands me a card for the launch party. “I was asked to do it when I was 95. I said I am not going to do it, I am too old. But the idea wouldn't go away. So I started writing. You know I am an agnostic, but I call God Badhe Mian. I said: Badhe Mian, you have to give me one year so that I can complete the novel. When I finished it I said Badhe Mian, you have to give me six months to see it published. These six months finish on November 30 when the book is being launched. Now I am asking Badhe Mian for more time to see how the book does, what the reviewers say.” All along his fingers hold his forehead in a characteristic gesture and his infectious laughter makes you part of his conspiracy. He and I both know that the book will do very well. The first edition of the recent volume, Absolute Khushwant, containing his distilled thoughts on subjects ranging from love to religion, as told to Humra Quraishi, sold out in three days flat.

And does he still write everyday? “Yes, every single day. Actually I wake up at three in the morning and I brood. I feel sorry for myself, I have so many ailments.” His gentle smile and a timely sip of his drink belie that statement. “Then I get the morning's newspapers and waste my time doing crossword puzzles. Only after my siesta do I begin to write and continue till the evening. If I don't write everyday, it becomes too difficult to start again. The sight of that blank page and the challenge of having to fill it! It gets easier after the first page. I must write three or four pages everyday otherwise I do not feel I have earned my whisky.” This from a man who cannot remember how many books he has written, only that the list runs into yards. And besides the books there are the two columns every week, now translated into several regional languages, enabling Khushwant Singh to be read by “chaiwallahs at railway stations, policemen on patrol and butchers in Khan Market.”

An open book of Urdu poetry lies face down near his left hand. I recall an entire section on the subject in Absolute Khushwant in which he writes: “I keep Ghalib on my bedside table and an anthology of Urdu poetry on the table beside me where I sit the entire day.” When I draw his attention to it, he raises his glass and quotes Ghalib: Goh hath ko jumbish nahin, ankhon mein to dum hai/ Rahnon do abhi sagar-o- mina mere aage. (Though the hand is powerless, the eye is still alive/ Let the jug and goblet remain before me)

And where does he place Faiz Ahmad Faiz in the ranks of Urdu poets, I cannot resist asking? “Very high,” is his quick answer. “Faiz was two years my senior in Lahore, at Government College. I met him years later when I went to Pakistan. I went to have breakfast with him and he was drinking whisky. Then I came back for lunch and he was drinking whisky. But he was never drunk. And the other Urdu poet, Ahmad Faraz: when he came to my room to have some whisky, he dipped his cigarette in his drink and said that this way he can enjoy both together!”

All this talk is not wasted on me. I hurry to my second drink; he is only half way through his only one. I wonder aloud if his evening darbars carry on with their usual regularity. “Actually I am thinking that I will stop meeting people altogether,” he says. “I want to sit in the dark and drink my whisky; otherwise, I am not being fair to it.” But I know that he yearns for silence and solitude for other reasons he has written about. “It is work, my writing that keeps me going. Writing is a solitary profession and you simply cannot write in a crowd or in the midst of people. Over the years I have discovered what enormous energy silence creates, energy that socialising and useless chit chat depletes. You have got to train yourself to be alone. You have to discipline yourself to follow a slavish routine.”

It is ten to eight and I know I must gracefully depart. Even as he looks meaningfully at my glass, I quickly drain it, toasting his health and his pen, and step out. For some reason I am exuberant and cheerful, unmindful of the traffic. Those who have visited this literary lion in his winter will share the feeling.

Courtesy: The Hindu

Posted on 14/08/10

A nation talking to itself

Mark Twain wrote them. So did George Orwell and Graham Greene. Writing letters to newspapers is a habit with some. We met five men for whom it’s a passion--and akin to a moral obligation

By Rahul Jayarami

When Mark Twain set off for a cruise in April 1907, bad weather ensured there was no news of him for a few days. The Fourth Estate went into a tizzy. The New York Times speculated he may have been “lost at sea”. Letters began pouring in to the newspaper’s offices singing hosannas about the man, his work, and his possible untimely death. But Twain returned to the Big Apple hale and hearty. And then offered this gem in the form of a letter to the editor of the paper: He offered to “...make an exhaustive investigation of this report that I have been lost at sea. If there is any foundation for the report, I will at once apprise the anxious public.” The reports of his death, he said, had been greatly exaggerated.

Twain, George Orwell, Graham Greene and Jonathan Swift are just some of the great men of letters who penned their views for the letters pages of newspapers. Greene almost had a parallel career as a letter writer for The Spectator and wrote in from datelines across Africa and Latin America.

At our end of the globe, things weren’t all that different. The independence movement was often inspired by the ideas put out by a fast-growing Indian press. Indeed, journalistic writing—which included letter writing—helped give a voice to many political and literary figures. Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were famous for their epistolary correspondences with newspapers too.

Internet, TV and reading-unfriendly activities notwithstanding, our newspaper letter writers are still going strong. If, as Arthur Miller said, a good newspaper is a nation talking to itself, he’d be both happy with argumentative Indians and their contributions to the letters section of papers.

Some of the veteran writers have had up to 6,000 letters published, on topics ranging from politics, economics and human rights to cricket, music, cooking and humour.
Jacob Sahayam, who retired as assistant divisional manager from the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, is one of the most prolific among this group of wordsmiths. Sahayam’s very first letter appeared in the India Today magazine in 1987. His byline count is now “a little more than 6,000, and that’s not counting the rejections”.

“I write due to an unstoppable need to express myself, and quite often I find myself not agreeing with what I read in newspapers and magazines,” he says. Sahayam began by commenting on financial affairs, economic policies and “public grievances” such as insurance and education loan issues. His first published letter was on employees’ dearness allowance. “I heard my then maid speak about her husband’s problem when it came to dearness allowance and wrote about it.” In time, Sahayam began to comment on subjects such as children’s and women’s issues.

But what’s the trick to being published so many times? Over years of writing, publication and rejection, Sahayam realized his word limit should not exceed 150-200. “Earlier, publications took 300-word letters too, but now the word limit has gone down,” he says. This letter-writing veteran reads newspapers and magazines at the Trivandrum Public Library.

Ashok Goswami, a Mumbai-based marketing professional who has been writing letters to newspapers since 1977, understands that newspapers have a space crunch, but also wishes exceptions could be made—especially for ideas that affect the public at large. “I think as a people, we Indians don’t speak out and stand up when we (see) some wrong happening. We’re made to live with certain kinds of realities due to the policies of the government,” he says. “But I see to it I’m saying something on an issue that has not been caught or captured by the reporter of an event or issue.” For Goswami, letter writing is a way to address moral questions.

He recalls his years in Punjab in the 1980s and is still proud of the fusillade he sent to newspapers in Chandigarh almost daily on Sikh militancy and state responsibility for the situation, while pointing to the root causes of the conflict. “I write letters because I don’t want to keep quiet if there is injustice going on,” he says. “A really good letter, I feel, should not conform to the views which we get everywhere. It must add something new, give us a new thought.” Goswami has had nearly 500 letters carried in publications across India, and a slice of them have been about everyday grouses such as erratic water supply, overcrowding in local trains and corruption.

If Goswami has endless problems with the “government of India”, Gulshan Kumar Arora reckons he can give readers an “insider’s insight”. Delhi-based Arora retired recently from the Delhi Vidyut Board (DVB). A law graduate, he has had letters published in major newspapers in Delhi over the past 15 years. “I write letters to express my frustration as a citizen of this country,” he says. “I’m more interested in bringing to light the misguided policies of the government which go against the common man,” he says, explaining his latest missive about municipal corporation money being utilized for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games. “That is our money, has anyone asked us permission to use it?”
“As common citizens, despite things like the RTI, I feel we have no power over our present and future. That’s why I write,” says Arora.

But this doesn’t mean he cuts an eternally grumpy figure. “I love reading about food,” he says, “and also wrote a letter as a response to one of columnist Vir Sanghvi’s dal preparations. I was delighted when the publication published my recipe of thikri ki dal!”
Like other letter writers, Goswami feels the desire to correct the image about his environment and his country. He was so proud of boxer Vijender Singh winning the Olympic bronze medal that he wrote a lengthy letter on how youngsters from rural areas are winning India more accolades than those from big cities. As he goes on, he feels a pinch of regret that he settled for life in the DVB, whereas “journalism would have been so much fun”.

Fellow tribesman C.K. Subramaniam is a missives man unlike all others. He has an opinion on everything related to bat and ball, and he has expressed them in countless letters to the editor.

The retired Syndicate Bank officer in Navi Mumbai says he has “cricket running in his blood”. Not only has he played the sport, he has umpired in the Times Shield, a club-level tourney in Mumbai. He also has a collection of 600 books on the game.

His views on cricketing matters have a touch of reverse-swing to them. “Yuvraj Singh is not a Test-class batsman,” he asserts, referring to India’s woeful performance recently during Muttiah Muralitharan’s last match in Galle, Sri Lanka. “He shouldn’t have been picked.” He doesn’t like the Indian Premier League and believes Brian Lara is a greater cricketer than Sachin Tendulkar.

Subramaniam has arguments on everything from cricket administration to the quality of Indian pitches, and many of these comments have been published.

The one unifying theme for these writers is their exasperation about daily living in contemporary India. Be it bad roads, corruption, dowry deaths, or governmental apathy, the country rarely makes the cut in their eyes. Says Mumbai old-timer Bhagwan Thadani, who has had around 3,500 letters published since 1980, “I react strongly when some injustice is done.” Thadani, who runs his own cement company, is engaged primarily with the city’s issues. The number of letters he’s written about potholes and open drains can fatten many sarkari files. “If you as the citizen don’t speak up, or write about it, no one will care,” he says. “People don’t realize they can have the power to voice their opinion and be heard too.”

All these writers say they adhere to the dictum of “short is sweet”. The letter should be to the point, and invariably with reference to an article in the publication. Have any of their letters gone on to make a difference to the lives of folks around them? Yes and no.

Sahayam recalls, for instance, a letter he wrote many years ago highlighting the crowding and confusion at the State Bank of Travancore branch in Kundra, near Quilon, in Kerala. “Weeks later, not only did State Bank of Travancore write back to me thanking (me) for my suggestions, but it also opened a new counter to ease the flow of clients coming in,” he says. But even if the letters don’t make a difference, muses Sahayam, “It’s better to have tried than kept quiet.”

And going by the writings of this passionate group, a good newspaper is a nation screaming at itself.

Courtesy: Mint

Posted on 06/08/10

Newspaper article inspires student to become naval officer

By Prasad Kulkarni

This is a tale of true inspiration. When he was in Std 10, Pavankumar Shukla, son of a Air Force sergeant, read a newspaper story about the son of a rickshaw driver who became a officer at the Armed Forces by sheer grit and determination. That story was to change Shukla's life. "I thought, if a boy who did not have any defence background can make it, why not I?" Shukla told TOI. His goal was set.

But it was easier said than done. For the two consecutive years he missed the target by a close margin. This year, in his third attempt, he has finally attained his target. Now, a student of engineering, Pavankumar is all set to leave the lucrative option of a civil life to join the Indian Naval Academy in Ezimala on August 1.

A family of four, Shuklas are the native of Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh, and have been in the city for the last eight years, where Sergeant D P Shukla is posted. His mother Kusum is a homemaker and has a younger brother, a student of std 12. He studied in Air Force school in Vimannagar and Kendriya Vidyalaya, Lohegaon.

"Pune, which is kind of a defence city, played an important role in shaping my career. After reading the article, I visited various defence organisations in the city and it kept my urge to join the armed forces alive. A visit to the passing out parade at the NDA gave me inspirations. So, despite not making it to the NDA, I decided make an attempt and was selected for the INA," he said.

Shukla will undergo a four-year long training at the INA, after which he will receive his BTech degree.

Courtesy: Times of India

Posted on 02/08/10

Is the death of books upon us?

Amazon says it now sells more e-books than hardcovers. What's being lost is the messy tactile narrative of how books are made manifest and cling to our lives.

By Mark Franek

Imagine going to the library and ending up in a museum with free wireless, and you get the picture of where the reading public is headed. Books, the kind with spines and glue, are heading for the rare manuscript collection.

Amazon's announcement last week that over the past three months they have sold more e-books than hardcover books (a market they've covered for nearly 15 years) is a testament to the voracity of their Kindle-reader audience and evidence that we may be nearing a tipping point for digital reading.

The age of books is ending. Children born today will experience not the extinction of the book, per se, but the slow decline of the universal yet wonderfully idiosyncratic process of giving and receiving actual books, holding and shifting them in the lap, turning pages, and moving the eye and the mind across ink and shadow.

Long history
This communal human activity has spanned over five centuries, beginning with the invention of the Gutenberg Press and coming to rest not long after wireless technologies and e-readers started thumping their chests.

My lament for a life without books stems not from mere affection for how books are made and handled, but from an appreciation for the messy tactile narrative of how books are made manifest and cling to our lives. Our treasured books hold more than dog-ears and bookmarks; they store the fragments we shore against our ruins, to paraphrase the poet T.S. Eliot.

Back in the heyday of the early 1980s, at the close of my 8th-grade year, I put down my Rubik's Cube long enough to read my dismal report card. I had earned a D+ in English, a gift from the gods, really, as I hadn't done any of the work.

A few days after the school bus stopped coming, my mother stole into my brother's room, retrieved J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and quietly left the well-worn volume on my bedside table. In the margin of the title page was my older brother's name and this brief but powerful recommendation, "Great Book. Loved it". I was hooked from the first line: "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit". Thus began the literary adventure of my adolescence.

I'd like to say that reading the Tolkien sagas that summer turned me into a reader, and becoming an avid reader changed my life. The truth is probably a lot less dramatic and much more complicated.

All I know is that when Gandalf tapped his staff on Bilbo's perfectly round, green door and invited him to undertake an adventure, that knock came on my door as well. Maybe I was just ready for the adventure.
Perhaps I would have become engaged in my own life's journey if my mother had placed on my bedside table another book. Or a Kindle reader. Or an iPad. Some answers lie beyond even a wizard's comprehension.

I still have the Tolkien trilogy from my youth, their crinkled red, green, and blue editions lodged among a row of other books with grand titles, stories from Homer to Carver, and notes from loved ones or friends tucked in the pages, the tangible artifacts of a reader's life.

There is the book of essays by Lance Morrow, that erudite newspaper writer, given to me by my grandmother. At the close of an essay about the telephone, my grandmother observed in an elegant script: "An amazing invention — It still stumps me".

There is a book by Tim O'Brien called The Things They Carried. Inside is a hand-written letter from my cousin Tex, forever 19 years old, a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, his last recorded words on fading stationary, slipped into the spine of the book: "War is Hell. It's hard to explain to people living back in the States what living and fighting in Nam is like. It's no John Wayne rushing bunkers and throwing hand-grenades. No, it's watching the low bird make tight circles looking for gooks to kill."

A week later, his helicopter and crew were shot down and killed.

I wonder what kinds of messages I will write to my children and my children's children as far as books and "gooks" are concerned. My wife is Asian. Will I have to tweet my messages, email them, or leave them on Facebook's wall, where they will dangle momentarily on the screen before getting lost in the infinite scroll?

In my library there are books with scores of marginal notes, the disembodied but permanent markings of prior readers. It's emotionally stirring to encounter notes from strangers, old friends and girlfriends, some now married, others divorced — conversations dead and gone. Like my old self.

Black and white
Have you ever come across a marginal note you wrote 10 or 20 years ago and scratched your head: What was I thinking?

"Do not go gentle into that goodnight," wrote Dylan Thomas, nearly 60 years ago, railing about the imminent death of his father. "Rage, rage, against the dying of the light." I like words that don't disappear. If that makes me a Luddite, so be it. A blog still sounds like a clog in my kitchen sink.

(Mark Franek is the academic dean at the Rock School for Dance Education, in Philadelphia, and has taught English for nearly 20 years.)

Courtesy: Christian Science Monitor

Posted on 07/07/10

Tell a Friend

Indian publishing needs to get less fun

By Aditya Sudarshan

In India it is editors who decide what readers get to read. Why is it that mediocrity becomes a goal in the attempt to bridge a non-existent divide between ‘literary’ and ‘commercial’ fiction?

In the world of Indian English publishing, kitsch has begun to dominate the mainstream. Penguin India publishes ‘Metro Reads', books that they call ‘fun, feisty, fast'; Random House India produces the ‘Kama Kahani', a series of Indianised Mills and Boons; Hachette India openly states that it cares most about commercial thrillers; and with its latest, highly-marketed release, Johnny Gone Down, HarperCollins India seems to be headed in the same direction. These are all books that openly disclaim any particular literary merit. They are projected instead as ‘fun' reads — with the implication that only a killjoy could possibly protest them.

A preliminary question

But before we get to that question — are these books fun for us? — there is an important preliminary question:why are they being offered to us? The easy answer is that the market is clamouring for them, just look at Chetan Bhagat. But this is too easy. It's been seven years since Bhagat's first book. Why would it take so long to follow his example? Moreover, the mainstay of Bhagat's readership has never been readers per se.It has been non-readers, those who are new to books, even new to the English language. This is certainly a massive group, and after Bhagat's success it has certainly been tapped — but by the smaller publishers, such as India Log and Shrishti Publications — not by the A-list. For them, Bhagat has simply been a fact of life — too dominant to ignore, too declasse to embrace. Which is one reason why their own ‘fun' releases take great pains to explain that they're well-written too, that they ‘bridge the divide' (a fashionable phrase) between the literary and the commercial.

In any case, with Bhagat's readership out of the picture, we can see more clearly that the push towards this new breed of writing is not being fuelled by market forces — those simply aren't strong enough. Our habitual readers of English fiction are not a small group, but they are not nearly so organised as to be pro-active in shaping publishers' decisions. Readers remain reactive and the freedom to decide what books get to them, remains primarily with the publishers.Unlike in more developed environments, ‘ publishers here need to be entrepreneurial', wrote Chiki Sarkar, Random House's Chief Editor, in an article in Seminarlast year, ‘A large number of our best-sellers have probably been commissioned ... Rarely do we discuss submitted work. Half of my list consists of subjects that Ithink would make a good book... And I would guess that's the same for most other publishers here [emphases added].' Her article, by the way, was called, ‘Why Indian Publishing is so much fun'.

The impetus for new books, then, comes neither from the readers, nor from the writers — their submissions, remember, are rarely discussed. So how did the Kama Kahani series begin? Sarkar explains: ‘We're full of girls in the editorial department who had grown up on historical romances and hadn't read any desi ones. So we figured we should launch our own.'

This answers our initial question. If, today, our shelves of Indian English fiction are crammed full of ‘light reading', it is because our editors felt like it. That such centralisation of literary power should hold sway in a world that includes readers and writers seems unacceptable on the face of it — but let us hold our condemnation a moment. After all, more new Indian authors are being published today than ever before, in more genres than ever before. We have crime fiction, thrillers, young adult fiction, fantasy, chick-lit, erotica. These are books, says the Penguin Metro Reads Facebook page, ‘ that don't weigh you down with complicated, boring stories, don't ask for much time, don't have to be lugged around.' They are what Hachette's M.D. Thomas Abraham calls ‘crossover' books — not literature, but good enough to ‘bridge the divide' between literary and commercial fiction.

No such thing

But what if there was no such divide? What if there was only good fiction and not so good fiction? What if being engrossing was a virtue, even in ‘ literary' fiction, and being shallow a vice, even in ‘ commercial'? Because, the truth is that the abstract standards of literary quality are constant. Campus novels and murder mysteries may be second-rate trash or the most moving experiences, but they aren't condemned by their labels to be a half-hearted compromise. So setting out to ‘cross over', is simply setting out to lose your way. To try to‘bridge the divide' is to get on a bridge to nowhere. The galling element here is not that you are arriving at mediocrity — there's no shame in that — but that you were aiming at it.

Getting serious

If we remember further that Indian English fiction is a very fledgling body of work, greatly in need of direction and nurturing, then the escape to ‘ fun' seems even more of a cop-out. It suggests a basic lack of belief that quality books can be written by Indian authors — or an inability to recognise them. In the absence of a foreign endorsement, it is as though an unwritten rule prevails that there may not be any serious writing, there may only be amusement. But such a self-loathing attitude helps nobody. It doesn't help the new genres.These can't be wished into existence by an editor looking for kicks; they must emerge naturally from those who care about them — like pulp fiction did, in the early American magazines. And it doesn't help the new writers, because there is a sad, but common, phenomenon, of authors being published and simultaneously disrespected. In the recent past, for example, there have appeared a number of essays lamenting
the inferior state of Indian English writing. But the curious fact, which would be funny if it were not annoying, is that the same people who have contributed to that state have nodded along sagely, and sighed.

The point of this present essay is not, I hope, similarly futile. It is simply to argue that we ought to demand high standards from everyone associated with our literature: not merely our writers, but also our critics and editors. Then maybe Indian publishing can get

Courtesy: The Hindu

Posted on 29/06/10

A Student Journalist's Hard Lessons in India

Riane Menardi

Six months ago I had no idea how to hail a rickshaw, when to eat curry with my hands, or that a 2-rupee coin is engraved with a peace sign. I didn't know that every Indian state speaks its own language, and I certainly didn't know anything about Indian politics, education, or culture. I went to India for a four-month study abroad program in Hyderabad (a city of 6 million in the heart of South India) to study sociology and culture, both in and out of the classroom.

As a journalism major, I also wanted to improve my writing and reporting skills, but I had no idea that I would have a chance to cover the complex Telangana controversy threatening to split Hyderabad's state of Andhra Pradesh in two (separatists claim that Telangana has been exploited in terms of natural resources, funding and representation in government since Andhra and Telangana merged to form Andhra Pradesh in 1956).
My first interview in India was with local political activists -- part of a group that became violent in December and January. I spoke with 25 men fighting for an independent Telangana state.

They ushered me into their tent and patiently told me about the history of Telangana, the problems it's facing, and their protest strategy, but I was still lost. I had done my research beforehand, but I couldn't wrap my mind around the caste oppression, the process of becoming a new state, and the politics behind it all. To understand Telangana, it seemed I needed to understand the entire culture and history of India-British rule, independence, caste, class, economics, family life, and politics. More than a few times, I sat on my bed, pulling my hair out, trying to find the truth and understand a different way of life.

India is the world's largest democracy, and it's only 60 years old. There are numerous political parties, three major religions, two national languages and over a billion people. Each state has a different language and government system. Poverty is rampant. Drug use and unemployment are major issues. Sexism, racism, caste-ism, and religious discrimination have caused deep rifts in society and inhibited national unity. There are official "backwards" tribes and "scheduled" castes -- people who are so poor, in areas that are so underdeveloped, that they need government funds and affirmative action for jobs and education. India is growing, but it's struggling to reconcile thousands of years of tradition with the global pressure to modernize.

Telangana's plight is decades old, so everyone but the protesters thinks it will drag on for years before any change happens, despite the dramatic agitation that flared up six months ago. The last chief minister of Andhra Pradesh kept the protest movement under control, but he died last September. The transition to a new minister opened the door for unrest to spark again. People said that politicians paid students to keep demonstrating, and every time a student committed suicide, their family could receive money from political groups supporting the movement (and seeking opportunities for increased power that separation might provide).

Ninety-eight percent of Indian civilians think that politics is affected by corruption, according to a 2005 Transparency International study. Sixty-two percent have had to pay a bribe or "use a contact" to get a job done in a public office. I quickly learned to be skeptical of the media, government, and other authority figures.

It also became unnervingly clear that the media does not serve as the watchdog of the government as in America. Accuracy and ethics are not held to the same standard in Indian media, at least among the English-language papers. Newspapers print contradictory information, and some reporters are paid to write favorable stories for the highest bidder. In New Delhi's inner government sanctums, the "cash for questions" method of reporting is not uncommon. And just two years ago, a reporter lost his TV news job and was arrested after reporting that a teacher named Uma Khurana had been accused of selling her students into prostitution, when the whole thing was a hoax created in concert with a businessman who claimed Khurana owed him money. Another reporter posed as a schoolgirl and victim of the prostitution ring.

As a foreigner, I never knew which papers to believe or which people or organizations were most or least corrupt. These were things most Indians seemed to know, but never wanted talk about, either out of fear or apathy. I once asked my resident director which paper was the most trustworthy. He pointed to one of three on his desk and said, "This one is usually pretty good."

Many news websites steal content from each other. They report different figures and misspell names and places. Often I found conflicting information in reports by prominent Indian papers. The omnicient "admin" author writes most stories, instead of a writer with a real byline. And blogs and personal websites often seem more professional and credible than newspapers.

Organization and government websites can be unreliable anywhere, but India's are even worse than usual -- they occasionally look like the work of a child with finger paint and a computer. "Contact Us" pages are hard to come by, and more often than not, I heard "the number you have dialed is not valid," when trying to reach a source.
In my time researching the Telangana movement, I only read one investigative report that challenged the movement's legitimacy. Most news articles simply reported riots, protests, and speeches as they happened, often with obvious embellishments. It saddened me to see politicians and the media orchestrate events and play the movement for maximum attention, though such practices are standard in other parts of the world. But I was impressed by the protesters' resolve to change things. I admit that their concerns are often more extreme, but I saw more unity and determination from the Indian youth in less than five months than I have ever seen from American youth.

People ask me all the time how I liked India. I tell them I loved traveling by rickshaw, and I was slowly learning to eat with my hands, but I never mention my frustration with the "don't-question-The-Man" mentality and the lax attitude toward lies and corruption. I found myself homesick for American media and the freedom to speak one's mind. The most challenging -- and humbling -- lesson I learned during my 180-degree jaunt is how lucky we are in my home country.

(Riane is a junior magazine and news/Internet major at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. A Wyoming native, she has served as executive editor of and has worked for magazines and newspapers in Wyoming and Iowa. This spring she will be studying sociology in Hyderabad, India while learning Indian dance, yoga, and Hindi. Follow her exploits on Twitter and at

Courtesy: Politics Daily

Posted on 15/06/10

Manipulating media - Ten easy tips

Santosh Desai

The stronger media gets, the easier it becomes to manipulate it. For all the screechy aggression, we see particularly on television, it works on some rudimentary principles. Here are some easy ways to use television to your advantage.

1. Use strong language and splutter frequently with contrived rage. This makes for intense television, and gives the audience a vicarious sense of power. Sock it to 'em, vierwers intone with glazed eyes as a panelist rubbishes another. Intemperate language is a must if you want to be on TV. Ask Varun Gandhi. When was he on our screens before or after?

2. Don't worry about the content of what you say, just speak very loudly and be sure to interrupt the moderator. Remember, his or her primary role is to interrupt the other panelist loudly and frequently and this is war. Nobody will remember what you say in any case, they will only remember how noisy you were. If you do not let others be heard, you win. Of course, the moderator will always win.

3. Use twitter. The same thing said on twitter needs fewer words, little knowledge of grammar, no justification and is for some reason, very cool and new age. You will attract many followers and in the event of the mournful demise of your career because of a twitchy twitter finger, you will be hailed as a new age politician or sports administrator. If you are a celebrity, make sure that the twitter-twatter of your messages includes other celebrities. If you do this, media gets two celebrities for the price of one in a headline.

4. Give television channels something to show. Filling up hours of time is not easy and there are only so many film star spats to cover in slow motion. It helps of course if you are attractive, or a celebrity, but if you are not hang out with those who are. In the worst case, do something that can be shot. Break some windows, if no other ideas spring to mind. Conversely, if you are the subject of a controversy, make sure you give channels nothing interesting to show. Dry up visuals and the story will sooner or later, die.

5. Get outraged easily and publicly. Call yourself an organization, give it a righteous sounding name and launch attacks on cricketers, film stars and any new film. You have to do very little to be on all national channels- maybe rough up a few completely innocent people, file a case in an obscure court thirsting to issue warrants to Sania Mirza, Mandira Bedi or Khushboo or announce a boycott, if you cannot rustle up a fatwa. Don't waste your time getting outraged about things that actually matter- nobody wants to cover thousands protesting against lack of drinking water, but four people talking about the insult to bhangra make for better television.

6. Say nothing deep on television. In particular, do not appear as if you are thinking about you are going to say. Blurt out the first thing that comes to your head and make sure to speak continuously without any pauses. Thinking is dangerous and has extremely limited visual appeal. Besides, it takes up too much time.

7. Always blame someone. Focus on people not issues. Television is about people, not things. And it is about blame, not understanding. Who is responsible, the moderator will thunder. Thunder back. When someone attacks you for something wrong you have done, do not attempt to respond. Instead attack them for whatever wrong they have done. If they bring up Gujarat, it is foolish to try and reply. Bring up Delhi 1984 instead. The fun thing about this game is that is can go on endlessly. After all, both sides are hardly likely to run out of ammunition.

8. Deny wrongdoing stoutly. It doesn't matter if you are caught accepting a bribe on camera, or have slapped a junior officer in public, or have described the minority community in inappropriate terms on national television, dismiss it as a conspiracy. Thanks to the rumours about the progress made by digital technology, we no longer believe our eyes or ears. It can all be attributed to technological manipulation. If for some reason, you have to apologise, remember you can get away by saying anything as long as you use the word 'sorry' in the sentence."I am sorry about the way my remarks were misconstrued and I regret the offence caused by any misunderstanding that might have occurred", for instance is a great way of seemingly apologizing while calling everyone else idiots for not understanding what you said.

9. When attacked, do not defend yourself on the substance of the attack. Seek refuge instead in an emotionally resonant collective identity. This is a good time to remember that you are a dalit, a woman in a man's world or a Malayali proud of his heritage. An attack on you is an attack on your collective. It works even better if you can use some local word like manoos or asmita.

10. If everything fails, wait. The media gets bored easily. Either offer them tedious explanations or just lie low. You will be forgotten, and even better be remembered only for being once famous. The more brazen you are, the more you will be respected. In this country everybody gets a second chance. You can be captain of your cricket team, fix matches and still get to be fielded successfully as a candidate for the Parliament. Who could I be talking about? Can't remember.

Courtesy Times of India

Posted on 15/06/10

Why digital media is a novelist’s best friend

Paulo Coelho

St Martin, France: 2009 has been a year of fear in the publishing world. The specter is digital media, in wide and varied forms.  Ten years ago, in 1999, my agent returned from Russia bearing bad news: The publisher of my novel ‘The Alchemist’ had decided to discontinue publication because fewer than 3,000 copies had sold. After considerable effort, we found another Russian-language publisher. Unfortunately, he was based in Kiev, in Ukraine, and was having difficulty buying paper (which was not, at the time, generally available). 

The odd thing is that, only weeks before, I had found a pirated edition of the Russian translation on the Internet, and my immediate reaction had been to attribute the low sales of my books in Russia to piracy. 

Like any other author, I wanted my books to be read. Since a physical book wasn’t available, and I had no idea when the new publisher would manage to buy the paper he needed to print the new edition, I thought: Why not make a virtual version available? Acting on impulse, I posted the pirated translation on my Web site, where anyone could download it without paying. 

At the end of 2000, my Ukrainian publisher was thrilled to report that we had sold 10,000 copies! A year later that had risen to 100,000. By 2002, 1 million Russian-language copies had been sold. 

During that time, I received emails referring to the pirated edition I had placed on my Web site. Many of those messages said: “I’m so glad to have found your work.” My conclusion: Russia was a vast country with enormous distribution problems, and the Internet was helping to bring the book to readers. 

Excited by this discovery, I decided to do the same with my other books. But I ran into a legal problem: The Russian translation had been posted on the Internet by the translator, but what about translations to which I did not have the rights? My solution was to gather all the links to file-sharing P2P (peer-to-peer) sites and create my Pirate Coelho Web site. 

This became a hit on social networking sites, which spread the news. By the time I spoke publicly of this at the 2007 Digital, Life, Design conference in Munich, a million unique visitors per month were visiting the site. There, they could find almost all my books in various languages - from German to Malayalam. Meanwhile, the printed versions were selling in ever greater numbers. Since none of my publishers had complained up until then, I assumed they must know about the Web site but had decided not to intervene. 

The day after newspapers published my remarks in Munich, my telephone began ringing. Some of my publishers asked: “Do you know the risk you’re running? Don’t you realize that this is going to decrease your sales?”

Pirate Coelho had been online since 2005, I argued, and sales had continued to rise. That meant the traditional publishing model benefitted from file sharing. I must confess that, much as I respect my publishers, their view of reality bore little relation to what was happening in the bookstores. 

By that time, I had sold more than 100 million books, and that gave me a few privileges. Among them was keeping Pirate Coelho online (where it is today) despite the “bad example” it set. 

How can I explain what happened? It isn’t only the financial world that finds the word “greedy” problematic, but any industry that tries to claim a monopoly on anything, be it information or a specific product. In my case, people started reading my books on the screen, liked them and went on to buy a print copy — handier and cheaper in the long term. And so it went for several years. 

Somerset Maugham said: “We do not write because we want to; we write because we must.” And, I would add, because we want to be In the 16th century, the Catholic Church created the “Index Librorum Prohibitorum” (List of Prohibited Books), and despite the fact that many of the authors of those books were burned at the stake, the list continued to grow during the four centuries it existed. More recently, dissident Soviet citizens produced mimeographed copies of their books in order to make their ideas available to whoever wanted to read them. Two of those writers, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Boris Pasternak, went on to receive the Nobel Prize in literature. 

The publishing industry cannot follow in the footsteps of the music industry, which managed to close down Napster only to witness an explosion of file-sharing sites. With new products like Kindle, Nook and Sony’s Reader, and various applications for the iPhone and Blackberry, the author who once posted his books on blogs (for free) will now choose electronic formats and, from then on, the publishers — like record companies — will become expendable. Those countries in favor of banning file sharing — France, for example, passed legislation this year — will find their writers losing ground and importance in an ever more competitive world. 

Banning things is just not the answer. The answer is to use the good things about technology to promote and disseminate the very best in literature. 

Many people argue that I can allow myself the luxury of doing this because my books have sold in such large numbers. In fact, it was the other way round: I sold so many books because I took the trouble to make my work available. 

If someone today were to offer me the choice between getting paid $3 million to write a book for three readers and getting paid $3 to write a book for 3 million readers, I would definitely choose the latter. 

I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone in my choice. Most writers would do the same.

(Paulo Coelho is the author of 26 books, including The Alchemist, which has sold 65 million copies) 

Posted on 10/06/10

Israel row claims veteran US scribe

Chidanand Rajghatta

WASHINGTON: She wanted Jews in Israel to "get the hell out of Palestine" and "go home" to Germany, Poland, and the US. Instead, she had to get the hell out of the White House and went home — to retirement.
Journalists write news more often than make news, but Helen Thomas, 89, was no ordinary scribe. The doyenne of the press corps ("Prime Doyenne," some called her), who has covered the White House from before President Obama was born, was an American institution.

She was so revered that she had a reserved front seat in the White House briefing room, and by convention, because of her seniority, got to ask the first question at presidential press conferences.

But last week, the reverence turned to shock, outrage, and even anger in the press corps and beyond. Asked by a Jewish blogger what she thought of Israel, Thomas, who is of Lebanese origin, snapped that Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and go home to "Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else."
The blogger, Rabbi David Nesenoff, who filmed the comments, said he was shocked by the response, and soon posted it online, where it generated a firestorm of protest.
Thomas later expressed "deep regret" for her comments and saying "they do not reflect my heartfelt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance." But it was too little, too late. Many in Washington DC, including fellow scribes, who had been at the receiving end of her tart tongue, felt it was time for her to go.

Even the White House press corps, which treated her with awe, called her comments "indefensible". A local school cancelled a speech she was scheduled to give and an agency that represented her for speaking engagement dumped her.

It was an ignominious end to a glorious career that spanned ten US presidents. Described as the most famous woman to ever cover the White House, Helen Thomas even played herself in two movies ("Dave" in 1993 and "American President" in 1995). Her in-your-face style, which got more opinionated and cranky with seniority riled presidents and their aides to the extent that ex-secretary of state Colin Powell once joked, "Isn’t there a war somewhere we could send her to?"

Courtesy: Times of India

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Posted on 27/05/10

AJKMCRC, a class in its own

K Fatma
Media Hive News Network

New Delhi: Jamia Millia Islamia’s Anwar Jamal Kidwai Mass Communication Research Centre (AJK MCRC) is a globally recognised premium institute in the field of mass communication. Founded in 1983, it was started with funding from the UGC and the Canadian International Development Agency and with university cooperation between Jamia Millia Islamia and York University, Toronto. Anwar Jamal Kidwai took help from Jim and Margaret Beveridge, both important players in the international documentary movement, for starting this centre.

Under their supervision, AJKMCRC was set up as a teaching institution and a production centre for the UGC educational programmes on Doordarshan. In 1991-92, it received a Japanese equipment grant of Rs 18.68 crore to upgrade its equipment and facilities, making it one of the most generously endowed public institutions. It is recognised as the only media institution in India that offers a Masters degree in Mass Communication.

By offering a multi disciplinary curriculum and a space where students from all over the country, media professionals and other scholars can interact, create and reflect, AJKMCRC has made a significant contribution to our contemporary media culture. This is evident from the large number of socially committed, independent and innovative documentary films, television programmes and other media works produced by professionals who learnt their craft at the centre.

“The curriculum and activities at the centre involve both academic/theoretical work and hands-on production. This twin requirement has been achieved by creating and sustaining a highly rigorous and disciplined work ethos,” said an alumnus of AJKMCRC.

Its alumni have received national awards like the Chameli Devi Jain Award and international awards like Golden Gate Award in San Francisco, Mumbai International Short & Documentary Festival Award, Film South Asia Award (Kathmandu) and other film and television awards. Its alumni have also been awarded prestigious scholarships and grants like the Fulbright and Inlaks scholarships, the Cardiff and Commonwealth fellowships and the India Foundation for the Arts grants for media research. (For list of famous colleges/institutes of mass communication and journalism click here)

Courses at MCRC

M.A. in Mass Communication

M.A. in Convergent Journalism

P.G. Diploma in Development Communication

P.G. Diploma in Broadcast System Maintenance

P.G. Diploma in Graphics & Animation

P.G. Diploma in Still Photography

Contact details:

AJK Mass Communication Research Centre
Jamia Millia Islamia University
Maulana Mohammed Ali Jauhar Marg
New Delhi -110 025
Phone: +91 11 2698 7285
+91 11 2698 6812
+91 11 2698 6813
Fax: +91 11 2698 6811

Posted on 22/05/10

Career in print media

By Dr. Pradeep Nair

If you dream of making a qualitative change in the people's life, bringing into light the dark side of the society, have the patience to get along with politicians, bureaucrats, criminals and a myriad of persons desperate to get some ready to rush to work at odd hours, do night shifts; Journalism is one of the best careers to pursue.

Journalism as such is more than a career, it's a mission. A mission that generates your creativity helps you socialize, earn name along with your livelihood, bring to the forefront problems facing the society and help implement the possible solutions. These inherent advantages of journalism attract a lot of young graduates.

Scope and Areas of Work in Print Media
Print Media is the oldest form of media. But even today it is growing from strength to strength. Around 4000 small, medium and large newspapers and magazines across the county are registered with the Registrar of Newspapers every year. This indicates that it is a growing sector where employment opportunities are increasing with each passing day.

Most of the young aspirants who want to enter the print media prefer reporting, but newspapers and magazines also seek young talent as photographers, artists, editors, computer experts, librarians, and cartoonists. Students who have writing ability, graphics or photo skills, curiosity and determination and who are well prepared by education and training have less difficulty in finding a good opening in the print media. The well known areas to work are:

Editing ? Editing means to plan the contents of the publication and to supervise its preparation. Newspapers have Editors who should have sound knowledge of newspaper laws. They need to put forward innovative ideas and establish the style of the publication. Editors must be able to coordinate the efforts of a team. They must possess a sound knowledge of their market, and take the initiative in looking for new authors and new subjects. In very large newspapers, there are associate or assistant editors who are responsible for particular topics, such as sports, international news, local news, supplements, special pullouts, etc. Administrative duties of editors include hiring writers, planning budgets and negotiating contracts with freelance writers.
Newspapers also have a large number of sub-editors whose job is to give a final shape to the story submitted by a reporter. Sub-editors acts almost like a gate keeper ? editing, reformatting, objectively presenting each report, keeping in mind the general policy of the newspaper. They must be able to identify potential doubts, complications and mistakes in the text, inconsistencies or lack of adherence to the style of newspaper.

Reporting ? Reporting in Newspapers and Magazines means to file stories about local,state, national and international events; to present different view points on current issues and to monitor the actions of public officials and others who exercise power. Newspapers frequently station reporters known as correspondents in large cities and in other countries to prepare stories on major news events occurring in these locations.

Freelancing ? One can also work as a freelance journalist for newspapers and magazines. Freelancers are not the regular employees of the organization. They are paid according to each piece or article they write.

Writing Columns ? A newspaper appoints specialists for regular columns. Columnists, being assigned a column, have to keep contributing to the column on a regular basis.

Writing Comments ? Well known people, who are authorities in their respective fields, are invited to write on topical issues in magazines or newspapers.

Drawing Cartoons ? A comical or satirical sketch on political, cultural events is the job of a cartoonist. While established cartoonists work for some big groups, others are generally free lancers.

Working as an Artist - Illustrators and cartographers who specialize in maps and charts to illustrate data work in this medium.

Photojournalism ? Photojournalism is an art to tell a story with pictures. People having an interest in photography with an ability to link it with a news story can work for newspapers and magazines as a photojournalist.

Nature of the Job
A journalist can work in various capacities in print media. The print has several sub categories like newspaper, magazines and news agencies, and also internet based news portals like,,, etc.

In a newspaper house, fresh journalism graduates usually join as trainees at the news desk or the editing desk. After a couple of years, they get transferred to reporting. However, exceptions to this rule are common and some people join straightaway as trainee reporter also.

The hierarchy for reporters in most of the newspaper houses is roughly as follows - trainee, staff reporter correspondent, principal reporter/ senior reporter/ correspondent, chief reporter and special representative/ correspondent.

Working for a news agency is slightly different because of the tougher deadlines - not at the end of the day but right now. The ABC of news agency reporting seeks accuracy, brevity and clarity. The format of writing is very straight forward and to the point and does not allow any scope for speculation or analysis within the news story. Agencies like Press Trust of India (PTI) and United News of India (UNI) are 24 hours open and their offices are not closed even on Republic or Independence Day or on big festivals, which are holidays for the newspapers.

Reporting for magazines involves less leg work than newspapers. But it requires closer co-operation with the sources of news. Here, the distinction between reporting, editing and desk work many a time gets blurred and the reporter does all the work.
Where to Study and the Eligibility

To pursue a career in the print media one may attain a bachelor's degree or a post-graduate degree or diploma in journalism or mass communication. Courses in journalism are offered in English, Hindi and regional languages. Specialized courses in selected fields like page composition, layout designing and photo journalism are also offered. Apart from the professional degrees, other skills required are a good command over the language, good general knowledge and the ability to collect information and report events quickly.

Now a day?s most of the Indian universities offer both under-graduate and post-graduate programs in journalism. Graduates of any stream are eligible to opt for a post-graduate degree or diploma program in journalism.

Some of the well known institutes offering journalism courses are Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi, AJK ? Mass Communication Research Centre (MCRC) of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, Bharatiya Vidhya Bhavan units at Mumbai, Delhi, Thiruvananthapuram, Manipal Institute of Communication, Manipal, Times of India School of Journalism, Mumbai, Pioneer Media School, New Delhi, The Manorama School of Communication, Kottayam, St. Xavier?s Institute of Communication, Mumbai,Simbiosis International University, Pune etc.

Beside this, there are certain traits which a budding journalism graduate needs to know while opting journalism as a career. A good journalist should have ? a keen interest in people related issues, an inquisitive nature, ability to meet deadlines and outstanding communication skills. Basically if you are not interested in what people have to say, their emotions and their achievements, you simply cannot function as a journalist.

The minimum salary as per government directive has to be Rs. 5500 to Rs. 9000 for reporters and senior reporters, Rs. 5000 to Rs. 10,500 for the chief reporters and sub-editors, and Rs. 7500 to 12000 for editors. Private sector even offers higher remuneration including lucrative various fringe benefits. However salaries offered depend on the publication house one is working with. Field journalists are given travel and stay expenses as well as allowances are additional with all pay packets. Freelancers are paid for each piece of work they submit. Self-employed also have good earning depending upon the nature and extension of their business.

Further, the bigger publishing houses pay far higher salaries than the prescribed grades of the Government of India. Entry level salaries range between Rs. 8000 to 12000, experienced Journalists get from Rs. 20000 to 25000 and Senior Journalists earn over a Lac per month. Editors of several publications draw salaries in Lacs as they are given globally competitive salaries.

Excelling your Skills
Journalism is one of the most important vocations. Journalists not only report news but are also responsible for searching out for new stories that might impact the larger society. Journalists are also responsible for shaping opinions and perceptions about key issues that are prevailing in a society. From the local to the national level, journalists play a key role in shaping public opinions and perceptions. Journalists therefore perform a special function and one that no other vocation does.

Journalism as a vocation has also been one of the fields that have seen a radical change over the years. Both print and the visual medium have grown exponentially over the years and there is always a demand for skilled professionals. Increasing competitiveness has also led journalism becoming a very high stress job where deadlines must be met at all cost.

There is also an intense competition for more readers and viewers in both the print and the visual media. Both print and media journalists have to battle the daily stresses of work and life in order to produce relevant results. The job is stressful and may involve very high workloads in order to meet tight deadlines. It is not a profession for the weak willed or the timeservers. The vocation requires passion and complete dedication from an individual if he wants to excel.    

Good writing skills itself is not enough to excel in journalism. In addition to it, one requires an attention to details, because it is in these details that a story finds both clarity and meaning. Journalism also requires boundless energy and the relentlessness to pursue a good lead.

Journalism can be an ideal career for those who love to read books and write. The vocation offers them an opportunity to extend their natural talents and utilize them to the best of their abilities. There are also various streams within journalism that a journalist can specialize in. These specializations include sports, investigative, science and film journalism.

For people who are looking forward to a journalism career, there are so many things that they can do to move an inch higher to their dream. For young people who were already to determine in themselves that a journalism career is really the profession that they would want to pursue, they can start gaining all they need to be qualified for the job.

Young ones should be arming themselves with the necessary skills in becoming a journalist such as writing. To do this, they should practice writing articles more often and monitor their improvement. To be more knowledgeable about the craft, they should also enroll in various writing workshops where the resource person are the ones who have been in the industry long enough to share their first-hand experiences. Aside from meeting famous writers and journalists, attending writing workshops can also help you improve your craft and will introduce you more into the technicalities of writing such as styles, structures and the like.

To widen your vocabulary, it is also a must that you read the newspaper regularly. Aside from current events and news, reading feature articles in magazines and even novels can help you be familiar with certain writing styles that can help you in creating your own in the future.

When you get to college, it is best to take up a journalism degree giving importance to the practical assignments. Generally in a good institute, you will be trained in all aspects of the field. Aside from training your writing skills, the school will open you up to other possibilities of the field such as the business side and other fields that may help you decide which field you are really suited to. Here, you will also have the opportunity to meet the "masters" in the field and you will also be able to use the school publication as the training ground for your future journalism career.

Getting the First Career Break
Graduates can go in for an internship with a newspaper for supervised training. The latest trend in this regard is that big groups of newspapers advertise the posts of trainees in any of the above categories. After conducting the entrance examination, suitable graduate trainees, with a flair for writing, are selected and employed.
Almost all newspapers hire journalism graduates fresh out of college, though most of the larger papers (and many of the medium-sized ones) ask for prior experience. Therefore, the smaller the newspaper, the better your chances of landing that first job. It is advantageous to apply to newspapers that you know something about, newspapers where you have had an internship, and papers that are located in areas that are familiar to you.

Print Media organizations where aspirants can find jobs are:

  • Newspaper groups
  • News agencies and news bureaus like the Press Trust of India, Reuters, United News of India and Associated Press
  • Magazines and journals in English and vernacular languages
  • Indian Information Service (Group A) of the government, Directorates of publicity
  • In-house publications of large corporate houses
  • Websites
    It is best to create your own opportunity by learning how to market one's self, coming up with a strong portfolio, and to know when the best time to break into the field is. Here two things are quite important. The first one is to sell one's self. This is a very important aspect because employers and editors would not believe you if you just say that you are good. During an interview for a position, try to mention some of your good qualities that can be assets to the publication such as resourcefulness, creativity, and productivity. The second one is the willingness to start small. If you are a fresh journalism graduate, don't expect that you will get the position you want right away. Since the journalism field is competitive, it is best if you will have mindset of starting small. Those who are enjoying their journalism career nowadays are the ones who underwent through the ladder of success.
  • Dr. Pradeep Nair is presently working as a Research Scientist and Course Coordinator of PG Program in Development Communication with Anwar Jamal Kidwai Mass Communication Research Centre (MCRC) of Jamia Millia Islamia (A Central University), Jamia Nagar, New Delhi.
  • E-mail Id:
    Courtesy: Employment News

(For more mass communication & journalism career/admission related info click here)

Ingenious spin doctors of PR

Never sell a journalist a product; sell her a story instead

Pronoti Datta

Apart from the politician and Rakhi Sawant, the public relations executive is probably a journalist’s favourite punching bag. We’re rude to them when they call on our cellphones, we admonish them when they want coverage for products that have no place in a publication (why would a fashion supplement be interested in the latest ball bearings?) and we curse them when they spam our inboxes with five copies of the same press release. At the same time, we can’t do without them as they’re often a source for stories. However of late, PR executives have given journalists a new stick to (playfully) nudge them with: the press release with a story idea. Some are truly ingenious.
Recently, a PR agency representing a contact lens company suggested a story for Teacher’s Day: to popularise themselves with students, teachers are now shedding cotton sarees for business suits, unravelling their buns for trendier hair cuts and trading bulky spectacles for invisible contact lenses. Somehow it’s hard to imagine old Ms Basu getting a perm. Another press release for the same company has a list of fashion tips for the monsoon. For instance, contact lenses are preferable during the rains because spectacles tend to slip. Of course, that would explain why people fall into open manholes. Another release about a gourmet grocery store proclaims that people are now switching to “spa foods”. Are they foods you consume while soaking in mud baths? Wrong, they include eating novel things like fruits and vegetables, curd made of skimmed milk and food cooked in olive oil. Those in the spin industry explain that PR executives are often under pressure to be creative. They feel that journalists would be more receptive if PR announcements were dressed up and they’re also expected by their clients to come up with new ways to generate publicity.

Kajal Gadhia, who runs her own PR firm, explains that public relations has become a highly competitive business in which scores of agencies are vying for limited editorial space. “If five people are pitching you a story then I want to be sailing in the same boat,” she says. “Journalists will not be interested if I don’t give press releases a twist.”

A PR professional who wished to remain anonymous pointed out that clients often push their publicists to come up with innovative ways of advertising their products. “PR has gone through a revolution over the past four to five years,” he says. “Initially PR people would do straight stories. Now most clients are looking for ways to supplement marketing activities.” The other problem, he said, is untutored executives who often make naive PR decisions. “That's sort of bad because PR people have (already) got a bad rep,” he says. “For the few good people, it becomes difficult to break ice with journalists.”

Gadhia admits   that PR professionals often cross the line between the interesting and ridiculous. But it's not all their fault. Journalists can hardly afford to be self-righteous, she says, verbally wagging a finger, as they are often guilty of doing lazy stories borrowed word for word from silly press releases

(Courtesy Sunday Times of India)

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