Search Results for “aakar patel”

The many faces of Aakar Patel (as per Google)

Aakar Prakaar

Google now has a search facility by which you can look up images of people by putting in an image in the search window.

This is what turns up when you look for Aakar Patel, at various times the executive editor of Mid-Day, columnist for Mint Lounge, Hindustan Times, Express Tribune, First Post and Open, and a talking head on CNN-IBN.

Just.

He said it: ‘Indian journalism is regularly second-rate’

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“Anybody can do an MBA. Not everybody can become a cartoonist”: the sage advice that turned Satish Acharya into a 24×7 cartoonist in the social media age

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Although the Mysore-born R.K. Laxman is the best known of them all, it is Kerala that has produced more political cartoonists in the English language: P. Shankar Pillai, O.V. Vijayan, Abu Abraham, Kutty, Unny, Ravi Shankar, Ajit Ninan et al.

In recent years, Satish Acharya has joined his Kannadiga torch-bearer as a political cartoonist of promise, his works first adorning the Bombay afternoon paper, Mid-Day, and now a number of newspapers and websites across the country.

As India heads into general elections, Acharya has two new books of his cartoons during the last five years. Titled ‘Cartoon Sarkar!’ and ‘Hum and Them‘, the covers capture the challenges of cartooning in the time of social media.

The Bombay radiologist, quizzer and cartoonist, Hemant Morparia, has a foreword.

Acharya, 47, now based in Kundapur in coastal Karnataka, speaks of his art and craft ahead of the launch of the books.

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Q: When and why did you feel like becoming a cartoonist? How did you start? 

Satish Acharya: During my school days, I was fascinated by the story-telling power of illustrations in Amar Chitra Katha books. Then the cartoons of R.K. Laxman and Mario Miranda which used to appear in The Illustrated Weekly of India attracted me. I started copying them religiously. Gradually I developed my own drawing style.

In college, I used to send pocket cartoons to Kannada periodicals like Taranga, Tushara and Sudha. After many failed attempts, my first cartoon was published in Taranga. I was paid Rs 25 for my effort!

I continued to contribute pocket cartoons to Kannada magazines and earn my pocket money during college days. But I never considered taking up cartooning as a profession. As I hailed from a lower middle-class family I knew that only a good job could change our financial situation and cartooning in Kannada didn’t hold any promise.

After completing B.Com., I did my MBA and started hunting for a job in Bangalore. During one of these interviews, the interviewer, after observing my keen interest in cartooning, told me, ‘Anybody can do MBA, but not everybody can become a cartoonist’. That line prompted me to look at cartooning seriously.

After failing to get any suitable job in Bangalore I moved to Mumbai. And it was in Mumbai that I realised that cartooning could be a profession. I started freelancing for some newspapers and magazines while working as a client servicing executive at an advertising agency. But I couldn’t focus properly on either of them. So, I had to take a tough decision to pick up cartooning as my profession. 

But it took me almost 10 years to get a break as a professional cartoonist. In 2003, I got a break at Mid-Day, as a graphic designer and illustrator. 

Aakar Patel was my editor. Basically I was doing graphics and illustrations, and making pages at Mid-Day. But my ambition was to become a cartoonist. I started doing small cartoons and sent them to Aakar and the newsdesk team. They started printing them along with readers’ letters. Luckily Aakar saw some potential in me as a cartoonist and offered a regular column in Mid-Day. 

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Q: How do you go about creating a cartoon? What is the inspiration? Does the line come first or the cartoon? 

Satish Acharya: I call myself 24×7 cartoonist. Though the actual time spent in creating a cartoon is just 40 minutes to an hour or two, the hunt for ideas continue through the day. I keep reading news portals, scurrying through social media (especially Twitter) and pick the most interesting talking point of the day. Most times, a news development prompts a cartoon idea. Sometimes I feel strongly about an issue and start brainstorming. 

On most days, I draw around 2-3 cartoons. On some days ideas flow fluently and some days are hard. When there’s a good cartoon idea, it makes me restless till I complete the cartoon. It’s like labour pain!

News is always the inspiration. Some quote, some visual…anything can trigger a cartoon idea.

I used to draw with brush and ink when I started, then moved to pen and ink and later sketch pen/marker. Now I use Wacom Cintiq to draw cartoons directly on computer, though I still practice with freehand sketching. 

Most of my cartoons are now published on news portals, where I get more freedom and face less interference. Sify, One India, Star of Mysore, Newssting, Sportstar, Sports Illustrated, Udayavani etc are some of my clients.

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Q: Who are your favourite characters? Who do you find easy to draw—and difficult? Is it easy drawing women for you?

Satish Acharya: Mostly the politicians who are always in news become regular characters in my cartoons. And you get used to them. Presently Modi, Rahul, Shah are my favourites. When you start with a new face, you struggle to simplify the face to fit into political cartoons. But gradually you succeed in creating your own stylised character sheet for different characters. 

I always found drawing Nitish Kumar little difficult. Every time I drew him, he appeared more like Vajpayee!

Drawing pretty faces is a little tough, so women are difficult until you draw lots of their sketches. But every face has a prominent feature which readers identify with and cartoonist latches on to it.

Q: What, to you, is the role of an editorial cartoonist in journalism? Whose works do you admire in India? 

Satish Acharya: A cartoonist’s comment is as important as the editor’s comment in a newspaper. If you take up any newspaper, you will find that the cartoonist delivers the most independent voice, consistently. An editor might be handicapped by the paper’s stand, but a cartoonist has no such obligation.

I’m a great fan of cartoonists like Sandeep Adhwaryu (The Times of India), Surendra (The Hindu), Dr Morparia (Mumbai Mirror), Manjul, P. Mohammad. Each of them is so distinctive and so consistent.

I’m regularly in touch with most of them, and they inspire me every day.

Q: Is it easy being a freelance cartoonist? What kind of pressure do editors impose on you? How do you react to criticism from readers and trolls? 

Satish Acharya: It’s tough being a freelance cartoonist. Though I have established my name in this profession, I still face uncertainty. Money-wise it takes some time to quote your own price. But the biggest problem is not getting paid. Some journalists promise you payment, but cheat later. As you don’t always start with a contract, they misuse the trust. 

Fortunately, I live in the small town of Kundapur (after relocating from Mumbai), so my needs are limited and I can survive even without some clients.

I must say, most of my clients give me enough freedom and mostly they don’t interfere. Though I’m open to debate and changes, there have been uncomfortable situations, where editors tried to modify my opinion and I resisted. Once I resist, I realise that my days are numbered. Most of the times, they end the association abruptly. 

Losing a client poses lots of challenges. You lose your precious time in finding another client and settling down with another client takes time.

I welcome criticism as it helps me get out of my comfort zone. But in the last five years, criticism has been replaced by whataboutery! They are getting abusive, personal and threatening. Initially these things shocked me. And the silence of audience was uncomfortable. But during the last three-and-a-half years I see that readers are standing with cartoonists to protest against trolls. Cartoonists are getting lots of support from readers on social media. It gives lots of hope, and fill you with courage.

Earlier I used to react to some of these trolls, but then I realised that they are doing a ‘job’ and I just need to focus on my job. So, I ignore most of them as if they don’t exist.

Since they work as a gang. Once they pick a target, they abuse, threaten, disrupt social media pages, try to instill self-doubt etc. Their intention is to stop you from creating your next cartoon. But I end up doing two more cartoons!

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Q: Why did you decide to do these books? 

Satish Acharya: In 2014, just before the elections, I published a book titled, ‘Mein, Hum & AAP’. That book was an attempt to chronicle the political developments leading to 2014 general elections. It was liked by many. That election was a crucial one, after Anna Hazare‘s movement.

I feel 2019 is going to be another crucial election for Indian democracy. I thought I must come up with a book to record this journey from 2014 till the elections. I ended up picking around 200 cartoons, so I had to go in for two books. 

On social media normally some readers judge a cartoonist looking at one cartoon. They don’t look at the body of works. A book of cartoons is an opportunity to showcase the different perspectives.

Q: What is your advice to a young person wanting to do cartoons for a career?

Satish Acharya: During my college days, I had sent a letter to R.K. Laxman briefing him about my passion for cartooning. I received a reply through his secretary. Laxman advised me to focus on studies. Later I realised the meaning of that advice. 

Being passionate about cartooning is good. But you need to support your passion with lots of hard work. Your education, your reading and your interests play a crucial role in your ideas. And for me, an idea is more important than the drawing part in a cartoon.

Work on your drawing skills, without worrying about the digital tools or software. But you should be open enough to build your opinion through lots of studies, reading and also through different perspectives. 

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Cartoon Sarkar! published by Vibhinna Ideas; 104+4 pages; Rs 250

Hum and Them! published by Vibhinna Ideas; 104+4 pages; Rs. 250

Buy directly from cartoonistsatish@gmail.com or through PayUMoney

Question: India’s best political reporting is in…?

etplug

Although India’s best and biggest corporate scams—from Satyam to Sahara and everything else in between—routinely escape the business papers and business magazines and business channels, for quite a while, the best political reporting has come from The Economic Times.  And The Times group is losing no opportunity to drum home the message, even as it expands coverage.

Also read: ‘Business journalists are PR mouthpieces’: Aniruddha Bahal

Aakar Patel: ‘Indian journalism is regularly second-rate’

SEBI chief: Business journalism or business of journalism?

New York Times: Why Indian media doesn’t take on Ambanis

Bangalore reporter who became a ‘RAW agent’

bala

In Lounge, the weekend section of the business paper Mint, the columnist Aakar Patel doffs his hat to Prakash Belawadi, the Bangalore engineer who became an Indian Express reporter, who became a magazine correspondent, who became a television chat show host, who launched a journalism school, who launched a weekly newspaper…

Who made a national-award winning English film, who makes a hit TV serial—and who is winning accolades for his role as a Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) agent in the just-released Hindi film, Madras Cafe:

“Prakash Belawadi started and edited a weekly newspaper, Bangalore Bias (it shut down). He has begun so many enterprises, a media school among them, that I have lost count just of those he has been involved in since 2000, and would not be surprised if he has too.

“Belawadi began his career as a journalist and worked for Vir Sanghvi’s Sunday. He remains a columnist and a first rate one. He has the best quality a columnist can have and that, according to Graham Greene, is never to be boring.

“Belawadi has a dangerous lack of ideology that makes him an aggressive and unpredictable debater. He can casually assume a position, often contrary to one he held a couple of days ago, and unpack a ferocious argument. Like all good men, he likes a fight, and like all good men it is promptly forgotten. He has a quality that is admirable among men.

“He is restless and tireless, and totally uncaring for the middle-class ambitions that most of us cannot let go of, and few of us ever achieve.”

Read the full article: A restless Renaissance man

Also read: For some journalists, acting is second string in bow

Finally, Karnataka gets an acting chief minister

External reading: Dibang of Aaj Tak, NDTV India is ex-RAW agent

POLL: Common exam, licences for journalists?

As if the “idiots” in the media didn’t have enough problems to deal with—paid news, corruption, wage board, 12-minute-per-hour ad caps, cross-media controls, job losses, recession etc—the Union information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari has now floated the kite of a “common examination” for journalists as a precursor to giving them “licenses” to operate, a la doctors and lawyers.

Bearing an eerie resemblance to press council chairman Markandey Katju‘s “order” advocating “some legal qualification” before one can enter the profession, Tewari’s proposal has the stamp of the control-freakery which has convinced the Congress-led UPA that the media is its chief problem—not the scams, scandals and shenanigans that have pockmarked its second term.

“I think a good starting point (for media education) would be that rather than prescribing a curricula which is then standardised across institutions, possibly the media industry could think about at least having a common exam. Like you have a Bar exam, like you have a medical exam or exams which are conducted by other professional bodies, which then issue a licence, which enables you to pursue your profession,” Tewari has said.

Tewari’s proposal for a “common examination” for journalists comes less than a month after the Supreme Court of India threw out the UPA’s move for a national eligibility and entrance test for life-saving medical colleges.So, does a national eligibility and entrance test for journalists stand a chance? Is it required? Will it necessarily produce good journalists or good journalism?

Even more dangerous is the thought of “licensing” journalists? Who will do that? The government of the day? A press council appointed by the government of the day? The local journalists union? Can this license be revoked or rewarded depending on favours rendered? Will a licence in one language, one state be valid in another? Etcetera.

Above all, could an examination and licence impact the freedom of the news media?

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External reading: How licensing journalists threatens independent news media

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Raju Narisetti: ‘Good journalists, poor journalism, zero standards’

Aakar Patel: Indian journalism is regularly second-rate

Is UPA hitting back at media for Anna Hazare coverage?

Say ‘No’ to India’s blogger control act

Narendra Modi‘s disgraceful assault on media freedom

An Emergency-style witchhunt of the media

‘Darkest hour for the media since Emergency’

POLL: Should media corruption come under Lok Pal?

‘Business journalists are PR mouthpieces’: Bahal

Last week, Cobra Post, the website run by the investigative journalist Aniruddha Bahal made public “Operation Red Spider”, its sting operation into alleged money-laundering by HDFC, Axis and ICICI banks.

This week, in Open magazine, Bahal answers a couple of questions on the media treatment of the story.

The story is significant, but failed to create a furore, don’t you think?

We can’t say that. Most news channels took it live. There were live debates on every channel. However, the conduct of business papers and channels was disappointing. For them, this story should have been of overwhelming importance, which was apparently not the case. We need to examine the reasons for it.

It poses a question on the credibility of business journalism in India.

Not one journalist from a business paper or news channel contacted me for a detailed briefing on the scam. This tells you where their hearts and minds are. They are PR mouthpieces of establishment.

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

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Aakar Patel: ‘Indian journalism is regularly second-rate’

SEBI chief: Business journalism or business of journalism?

Raju Narisetti: ‘Good journalists, poor journalism, zero standards’

New York Times: Why Indian media doesn’t take on Ambanis

How come none in the Indian media spotted Satyam fraud

Sachin Tendulkar, Mid-Day & the Indian Express

Thankfully, Sachin Tendulkar‘s below-par performance on the Australian tour has dimmed the spotlight somewhat on the Indian media batting for a Bharat Ratna for the cricketer in quest for his 100th hundred.

In Lounge, the Saturday section of the business daily Mint, columnist Aakar Patel argues why, among other reasons, Sachin shouldn’t get the nation’s highest civilian honour:

“On 15 April 1999, just before the World Cup, Sachin Tendulkar’s car hit a Maruti 800 in Bandra. Tendulkar got [Shiv Sena chief] Bal Thackeray to telephone Mid Day, the paper I joined the following year.

“He warned them against carrying the story. This was surprising because nobody had been seriously hurt in the accident.

“Thackeray told the paper running the story would damage “national interest”.

“What was this national interest? Mohammad Azharuddin was about to be sacked, Thackeray explained, and Tendulkar was likely to become captain again. Such stories could spoil his chances. Except The Indian Express, no newspaper ran the story. In July, Azhar was sacked and Tendulkar was named captain.”

Since that story, Tendulkar and Thackeray, Bandra-ites both, have had a small run-in over the batsman’s statement that “he was an Indian first and Marathi too, but Mumbai belongs to all“.

Read the full column: Why Sachin shouldn’t get the Bharat Ratna

Also read: ‘Indian journalism is regularly second-rate’

Prime minister, maybe, but not a very good sub-editor

‘Has Justice Katju been appointed by Stalin?’

The “tendentious and offensiveremarks of the new chairman of the Press Council of India, Justice Markandey Katju, on the state of the media and the quality of journalists—and his articulation for greater powers, including over television news channels—has predictably, a) touched a raw nerve, b) stirred a hornet’s nest, c) set the cat among the paper tigers, d) exposed the media’s achilles’ heel, or e) all of the above.

The Editors’ Guild of India*, the Broadcast Editors’ Asociation, the Indian Journalists’ Association have all reacted sharply, while public opinion seems to be on the side of the press council chief, a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. To a question on the CNN-IBN programme “Face the Nation” last night, 73% viewers said there was no need for Justice Katju to apologise (but who believes these polls any way?).

While Justice Katju tries to “place” an article in newspapers to further elucidate his views and some in the media say he said nothing that should not have been said, at least two Delhi-based English newspapers have thought the controversy fit enough for editorials.

Mint, the business daily from the Hindustan Times stable, has an edit titled “Educating Justice Katju“:

“Perhaps Justice Katju is not aware of what journalists do. The basic task of any journalist is to gather news and report it. Most of his or her working day is spent doing that. This is true of the cub reporter and of the senior editor.

“It is true that newsrooms, newspaper columns and TV channels are noisy. But that is only a reflection of the society at large: journalists don’t exist in ether. What is true of Indians is true of Indian journalists.

“Now it would be wonderful if all journalists could appreciate Caravaggio, read Catullus’s poetry, know Thucydides by the chapter and creatively use advanced macroeconomics to interpret the daily ebb and flow of events. It would not only make the press a more cultured institution, but possibly make India a better country. It is also true that few, if any, journalists are enabled to do that.

“These are expensive tastes that require extensive (and yes, expensive) education. Few journalists can afford that, even if most of them want to. The reason: there’s a huge divergence between personal and social returns from such education. This is a wider problem and it afflicts many other professions. To blame the press for being “illiterate” is misinformed, if not downright wrong.”

Mail Today, the compact daily from the India Today group, pulls no punches. “He doesn’t deserve to be press council chief” is its rather straightforward headline:

“Justice Katju’s attitude towards the media is one of undisguised disgust. Clearly, he seems to have been misled about his work as the PCI Chairman.

“He seems to think that he has been appointed by Josef Stalin to forcefully “ modernise” the media. Actually he has been appointed under the Press Council of India Act and his main job is to ensure that the press remains free in this country.

“A second task is that of raising the standards of the media discourse, not through chastisement— where, in any case he can merely admonish— but dialogue and persuasion. But this is something you cannot do if you hold the media in utter contempt.

“It would appear that Justice Katju, who had a streak of the self- publicist even as a judge, is pursuing a bizarre agenda which may end up embarrassing those who pushed for his appointment as the Chairman of the Press Council of India.”

* Disclosures apply

Also read: ‘I have a poor opinion of most media people’

Editors’ Guild of India takes on Press Council chief

TV news channel editors too blast PCI chief

Raju Narisetti: ‘Good journalists, poor journalism, zero standards’

Aakar Patel: Indian journalism is regularly second-rate

TV news channel editors too blast PCI chief

On the heels of the Editors’ Guild of India*, the Broadcast Editors’ Association—the apex body of editors of national and  regional television news channels—has slammed Press Council chairman Markandey Katju‘s remarks on the media in recent interviews and interactions.

Below is the full text of the BEA statement issued by president Shazi Zaman and general secretary N.K. Singh:

“The Broadcast Editors’ Association (BEA) strongly condemns the irresponsible and negative comments by the new Press Council of India (PCI) Chairman Justice Markandey Katju against the media and media professionals, ever since he assumed charge. Coming from a person holding an august office, the utterances are extremely disappointing.

“In a democracy, criticism is welcome against institutions by individuals and representatives of institutions. It gives a fillip to self-corrective process. The BEA believes in inviting public criticism against itself and in taking, after evaluating such comments, the required corrective steps. But the criticism being made by Justice Katju is as demeaning and denigrating as it is a manifestation of his ignorance of media working. Any criticism made in a holier-than-thou fervor defeats the very purpose it is sought to be made for.

“The new chairman should know that the electronic media has taken a giant step in creating a self-regulatory mechanism under the chairmanship of eminent jurist and former Supreme Court Chief Justice J.S. Verma.

“Justice Katju accuses media of dividing people on communal lines and hence being anti-people. The sane and balanced coverage of two recent incidents— Ayodhya Judgment and Gopalgarh Riots— belies the assertion of the PCI Chairman. Taking recourse to logical fallacy, he accuses media of branding a particular community as terrorists after every bomb blast by showing emails purported to have been sent by some terrorist organizations like Harkat-ul-Ansar (which according to him may have been sent by any mischievous person). Justice Katju, the BEA hopes, is aware of the elementary lesson of logic that says “cow is an animal but all animals are not cow”.

“Justice Katju’s claim that media professionals are of low intellectual calibre with poor knowledge of economics, history, politics, literature and philosophy shows  scant knowledge of  the great journalists the country has produced.

“While claiming to be a democrat, his demand for more “teeth” to the council, and inclusion of electronic media in it, exposes more than what it conceals.

“The BEA would like to remind the new PCI chief of media’s role in ameliorating the plight of the poor by airing news about abject poverty and rank corruption. Had it not been the case, the self-proclaimed intellectuals cozily sitting in the majestic lap of the State would not have even known its magnitude.

“For the benefit of Mr. Katju the BEA quotes here a famous statement by none other than the architect of modern India and first Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru: “To my mind the freedom of the press is not just a slogan from the larger point of view, but it is an essential attribute of the democratic process. I have no doubt that even if the Government dislikes the liberties taken by the press and considers them dangerous, it is wrong to interfere with the freedom of the press. I would rather have a completely free press, with all the dangers involved in the wrong use of that freedom, than a suppressed or regulated press.”

“Justice Katju may well be reminded that Indian electronic media in its 16 years of existence (outside of government) has achieved many milestones in strengthening the democratic values and has, as bulwark of democracy, continued to live up to people’s expectations.”

* Disclosures apply

Also read: ‘I have a poor opinion of most media people’

Editors’ Guild of India takes on Press Council chief

Raju Narisetti: ‘Good journalists, poor journalism, zero standards’

Aakar Patel: Indian journalism is regularly second-rate

Editors’ Guild takes on Press Council chief

The Editors’ Guild of India* has responded to the remarks made by the chairman of the Press Council of India, Justice Markandey Katju, in recent interviews and interactions with the media.

Below is the full text of the editors’ guild response:

“The Editors’ Guild of India deplores the ill-considered, sweeping and uninformed comments on the media and on media professionals by the new chairman of the Press Council of India, Justice Markandey Katju. Mr Katju has been making negative statements on the media ever since he assumed office, but his comments in an interview to Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN, broadcast over the week-end, touched a new low.

“The Guild notes that Mr Katju thinks the media divides people on religious lines and is anti-people. He objects to TV channels that focus on cricket and other subjects that he disapproves of. He believes that journalists have not studied economics, politics, literature or philosophy, and he has a poor opinion of the media and media people (some of whom, as it happens, are members of the Press Council that Mr Katju chairs).

“The Guild notes that Mr Katju, after expressing such sweeping negative sentiments, has asked the government for draconian powers to impose fines on the media, to withdraw advertisements and to suspend the licence to publish or broadcast. The Guild strongly opposes such powers being given to the Council, especially a Council led by someone who it would seem wants to invoke “fear” in the media.

“The Guild wishes to draw attention to the fact that its attempt to engage in dialogue with Mr Katju has been rendered futile by Mr Katju, who however continues to express his tendentious and offensive views. The Guild wishes to remind Mr Katju that the Indian media is as diverse as it is vigorous, and that while it has drawbacks and shortcomings, on the whole it contributes to the strength of the Indian system.

“Press freedom is a bulwark for the Indian people against the onslaught of people in authority, and the Guild will firmly oppose the assumption of any draconian powers by a Press Council that was created with an altogether different purpose. Further, as the very name of the Council suggests, only the print media comes within the Council’s ambit. The issues and drivers of the electronic media are such that they call for separate regulation. Therefore the Guild firmly believes that the Press Council should have its brief limited to the print media, as it is at the present.”

T.N. Ninan, editorial director of Business Standard, is the current president of the editors’ guild. Coomi Kapoor, consulting editor of the Indian Express, is the secretary.

* Disclosures apply

Image: courtesy Mail Today

Also read: ‘I have a poor opinion of most media people’

Raju Narisetti: ‘Good journalists, poor journalism, zero standards’

Aakar Patel: Indian journalism is regularly second-rate

So many reporters, so little info on Sonia Gandhi?

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, scooped by Indian Express photographer Anil Sharma, as she leaves her daughter's residence in New Delhi on 14 September 2011.

Nothing has exposed the hollowness of so-called “political reporting” in New Delhi, and the fragilility of editorial spines of newspapers and TV stations across the country, than the Congress president Sonia Gandhi‘s illness.

Hundreds of correspondents cover the grand old party; tens of editors claim to be on on first-name terms with its who’s who; and at least a handful of them brag and boast of unbridled “access” to 10 Janpath.

Yet none had an inkling that she was unwell.

Or, worse, the courage to report it, if they did.

Indeed, when the news was first broken by the official party spokesman in August, he chose the BBC and the French news agency AFP as the media vehicles instead of the media scrum that assembles for the daily briefing.

Sonia Gandhi has since returned home but even today the inability of the media—print, electronic or digital—to throw light on just what is wrong with the leader of India’s largest political party or to editorially question the secrecy surounding it, is palpable.

Given the hospital she is reported to have checked into, the bazaar gossip on Sonia has ranged from cervical cancer to breast cancer to pancreatic cancer but no “political editor” is willing to put his/her name to it.

About the only insight of Sonia’s present shape has come from an exclusive photograph shot by Anil Sharma of The Indian Express last week.

In a counter-intuitive sort of way, Nirupama Subramanian takes up the silence of the media in The Hindu:

“That the Congress should be secretive about Ms Gandhi’s health is not surprising. What is surprising, though, is the omertà being observed by the news media, usually described by international writers as feisty and raucous.

“On this particular issue, reverential is the more fitting description. Barring editorials in the Business Standard and Mail Today, no other media organisation has thought it fit to question the secrecy surrounding the health of the government’s de facto Number One.

“A similar deference was on display a few years ago in reporting Atal Bihari Vajpayee‘s uneven health while he was the Prime Minister. For at least some months before he underwent a knee-replacement surgery in 2001, it was clear he was in a bad way, but no news organisation touched the subject. Eventually, the government disclosed that he was to undergo the procedure, and it was covered by the media in breathless detail.

“Both before and after the surgery, there was an unwritten understanding that photographers and cameramen would not depict Vajpayee’s difficulties while walking or standing. Post-surgery, a British journalist who broke ranks to question if the Prime Minister was fit enough for his job (“Asleep at The Wheel?” Time, June 10, 2002) was vindictively hounded by the government.

“Almost a decade later, much has changed about the Indian media, which now likes to compare itself with the best in the world. But it lets itself down again and again. The media silence on Ms Gandhi is all the more glaring compared with the amount of news time that was recently devoted to Omar Abdullah‘s marital troubles. The Jammu & Kashmir chief minister’s personal life has zero public importance. Yet a television channel went so far as to station an OB van outside his Delhi home, and even questioned the maid….

“Meanwhile, the media are clearly not in the mood to extend their kid-glove treatment of Ms Gandhi’s illness to some other politicians: it has been open season with BJP president Nitin Gadkari‘s health problems arising from his weight. Clearly, it’s different strokes for different folks.”

Read the full article: The omerta on Sonia‘s illness

Also read: Why foreign media broke news of Sonia illness

How come no one spotted Satyam fraud?

How come no one saw the IPL cookie crumbling?

How come no one in the media saw the worm turn?

Aakar PatelIndian journalism is regularly second-rate

Why foreign media broke news of Sonia illness

Few things have exposed the state of political reporting in India than the news that Sonia Gandhi is unwell.

Dozens of reporters, most of whom claim more “access” to 10, Janpath than all the rest, cover the Congress party.

Yet, in a throwback to the Cold War days, none knew or none told the world what was wrong, although there had been strong whispers for nearly a year.

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Neelam Deo and Manjeet Kripalani of the Bombay-based Indian council of global relations, Gateway House:

As TV channels fell over each other [on August 4] to cover in minute detail, the unseemly succession drama of the chief minister of Karnataka, and the CAG’s naming of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit in the graft and corruption surrounding CWG, by 2.30 pm foreign TV agencies, the BBC and Agence France-Presse reported that Sonia Gandhi, had undergone surgery in the United States.

The foreign news reports named Gandhi’s spokesperson, Janardhan Dwivedi, as the source of the information….

The news of Sonia Gandhi’s undisclosed illness and secret departure came as a shock to Indians… Democratic institutions like the media and the Parliament, which should have disclosed Gandhi’s condition as a matter of public knowledge, had kept silent.

The Congress Party carried no notice of its leader’s illness on its website, and it is significant that its spokesperson confirmed the news first to the foreign press.

If it felt it could not trust the Indian media with responsible reportage, the Indian media as a collective, has given it good reason. It is, increasingly part of the cozy nexus of politicians and bureaucrats in Delhi, and is often partisan in its coverage, scoffing at the public’s right to know important events.

For the record, Manjeet Kripalani is former India bureau chief of BusinessWeek magazine.

Illustration: courtesy Thomas Antony

Read the full articleGandhi dynasty, politics as usual

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Aakar PatelIndian journalism is regularly second-rate

A ‘wrong’ map lands Mint in a bit of a bother

A screenshot of the business paper Mint‘s web homepage on Sunday, 16 January 2011, after a graphic accompanying an Aakar Patel column on corruption showed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as a part of Pakistan. Result: pages 10 and 11 are now missing from the epaper site of the newspaper.

Salmaan Taseer: The Tavleen Singh connection

Indian media reports of the assassination of the Pakistani politician Salmaan Taseer have been deferentially silent on his “Indian connection”—his dalliance with the columnist Tavleen Singh.

Although Twitter is abuzz, most newspapers (including The Indian Express, which carries Singh’s column on Sundays) have preferred to ignore any mention of the cross-border connection.

Except…

An IANS report: “Salman Taseer came to India in March 1980 to promote a laudatory biography of Pakistan’s leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. According to columnist Khushwant Singh, Taseer met Tavleen Singh at the Oberoi hotel where he stayed and fell in love with her. The two married briefly, but fell apart swiftly, leading to much bitterness.”

Sankarshan Thakur writes in The Telegraph: “Taseer teased the edge in private as he did in public. He married thrice and a brief tryst with Indian journalist Tavleen Singh produced his best-known progeny, author Aatish Taseer.”

Aakar Patel writes in Mumbai Mirror: “Taseer was fond of women and stories about his sexual appetite were part of his legend. With socialite-writer Tavleen Singh, he fathered a boy.”

Sameer Arshad and Omer Farooq Khan in The Times of India: “Taseer married twice and fathered six children including Indian journalist Tavleen Singh’s son, Aatish Taseer.”

A report in The Economic Times: “Born in London in 1980 to Taseer, the slain governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, and renowned Indian journalist Tavleen Singh , a Sikh by faith, Aatish always wanted to discover the faith of his father, Islam.”

‘Indian journalism is regularly second-rate’

Indian media doesn’t know. That is the conclusion that has been reached by Aakar Patel, formerly of Asian Age, Deccan Chronicle, Mid-Day and Divya Bhaskar, as he tears into the Indian media in a column in Lounge, the Saturday supplement of the business daily Mint.

Indian journalists do not know how to ask questions. Indian journalists look for validation of their views rather than fresh information. Indian newspaper proprietors are more knowledgeable than editors. Indian writers are rarely asked to write for publications abroad because they are so bad.

And, since he is writing in a business paper, Patel takes care not to bite the hand that feeds.

“There are good journalists in India, but they tend to be business journalists. Unlike regular journalism, business journalism is removed from emotion because it reports numbers. There is little subjectivity and business channel anchors are calm and rarely agitated because their world is more transparent.

“Competent business reporting here, like CNBC, can be as good as business reporting in the West. This isn’t true of regular journalism in India, which is uniformly second rate….

“You could read Indian newspapers every day for 30 years and still not know why India is this way. The job of newspapers is, or is supposed to be, to tell its readers five things: who, when, where, what and why. Most newspapers make do with only three of these and are unlikely to really you ‘what’….”

Where would Indian journalism be if it weren’t for its columnists?

Photograph: courtesy My Space

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External reading: Aakar Patel on working at The Asian Age

Prime Minister, maybe, but not a very good sub

Indian prime minister hopeful, L.K. Advani, prides himself as a former journalist, having worked at the journal Organiser, published by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), where for seven years he wrote film reviews.

Former Mid-Day editor Aakar Patel uses Advani’s memoirs My country, My life to assess the man credited with the “when-asked-to-bend, the-Indian-media-crawled” quote during the Emergency years.

“His writing is lazy and he leans on clichés and stock phrases. He describes a criminal as “dreaded gangster”. He uses too many adjectives and likes hyperbole. He calls Indira Gandhi’s Emergency the “darkest period in Indian history”, but then reports its years wrong in three places (pages 259, 266 and 270).

“I edited newspapers for 10 years and I can place Advani as a journalist immediately. He would not have risen beyond middle rank.”

Read the full article: Advani the party man

Also read: A lifetime achievement award for L.K. Advani?

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