Category Archives: Issues and Ideas

“Journalism is in an extraordinarily healthy place right now. I can’t think of a time when we mattered more”: Malcolm Gladwell shuts down the prophets of doom

The acclaimed New Yorker writer and best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell on journalism, and the future of journalism, in a podcast interview with Anna Maria Tremonti of the Canadian public service broadcaster CBC. Listen to the full show: Malcolm Gladwell

“Hold Facebook accountable. Misuse of social media a threat to democracy. Platforms must be agnostic to ideology”: newspaper editorials can’t hide weak reporting

Four days after The Wall Street Journal revealed Facebook’s chief India lobbyist Ankhi Das batting for BJP’s hate mongers, Indian newspapers are unable to add to a story that has deep implications for Indian society and polity. Also read: FB expose reveals barren cupboard ** Even today, there are no revelations and even today only…

Lead story in just 2 newspapers, and not one new insight in any: How the Facebook expose by WSJ also reveals Indian media’s barren cupboard

The August 14 expose in The Wall Street Journal of Facebook’s schmoozing with the BJP-led NDA government, by promoting hate speech for “business prospects”, has deep implications for Indian society, polity and democracy. Three days on, after the Independence Day holiday for some, the coverage of the issue in Indian newspapers is illustrative of their…

Facebook, BJP and Narendra Modi: The real story about the ‘WSJ’ expose is not just Ankhi Das’s role, but how FB began meddling in Indian politics before 2014

Facebook’s shady role in Indian politics—hunting with the majoritarian hounds and fuelling the communal fires, for a price—has been blazingly apparent for over eight years now. But it has taken a devastating expose in The Wall Street Journal to reveal why Indian media has been so disinterested in such a juicy story. The August 14 WSJ…

“There can be no finer guarantee to a nation’s welfare than a free press in the service of a free nation”: Mountbatten’s 1947 message

The following is the full text of the message sent by Lord Mountbatten, the outgoing Viceroy, on India’s Independence Day in 1947. *** “I send my greetings and best wishes to the Indian press and all your readers on this historic day. It is good to know that paper restrictions have been relaxed to enable…

“Mr Prime Minister, why do you look so unkempt?”: How Amar Singh rescued Karan Thapar after a testy interview with Chandra Shekhar 30 years ago

Never speak ill of the dead, maybe, but a week after his death, Amar Singh would go down in most people’s books as a fixer, as an operator, whose chief asset was an enviable (and enjoyable) collection of audio and video CDs—and a PABX machine which recorded every call. But, in Delhi, a city of…

“The newspaper print medium will not resurrect”: ‘India Today’ founder Aroon Purie’s dark prediction as ‘Mail Today’ shuts shop after a 13-year run

The following is the full text of the internal communication sent out by India Today chairman Aroon Purie, announcing the suspension i.e. closure of the print edition of the group’s tabloid, Mail Today. *** Dear All, As you all know, the Group entered the newspaper space 13 years ago with great hope. We collaborated with…

Narendra Modi and Barbra Streisand: a short story on how not to bury a secret, in 12 newspaper screenshots

Besides all her other achievements, the American singer-actor Barbra Streisand contributed the “Streisand Effect” to the dictionary of the digital age, when she sued a photographer for distributing aerial pictures of her mansion, in 2003. At the time she sued the lensman, Kenneth Adelman, the photographs had been viewed just six times—twice by her own…

In the gushing waters of majoritarianism, there are only a handful of media outliers on the day after

“The book that begins with ‘We, the people of India’ is the God that we failed” “Raja and rishi are no longer” With a picture of the Constitution, and a white-on-black headline, ‘The Telegraph’ (above) says India witnessed a “ritual merger of the Church and State” in Ayodhya, at the ground-breaking ceremony on August 5.…

When a newspaper salutes a union of journalists on the editorial page, it’s news

Much of Indian media’s travails just now–the salary cuts, the job losses, etc—can be traced back to the collapse of unions in the wake of liberalisation in 1991. As managements sought to break the stranglehold of unions by introducing the contract system of employment, “To each her own” became the norm. Editors, hired at higher…

Desi vs angrezi: how language and English newspapers showcase the start of the Ram Temple construction in Ayodhya

India’s language press has been a key force-multiplier of the Hindutva cause—and ipso facto of the RSS-BJP agenda. This is breezily attributed to the language media being more in tune with the aspirations of “real India”. Today’s front pages on the foundation stone being laid for the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, are less a product…

J-POD || Podcast || “In 1992, journalists had to be beaten up to stop them from telling the Ayodhya story. Today it will appear on page 8. English media will go Hindi way soon” || Seema Chishti on covering the Babri Masjid demolition

*** Most journalists will confess that “changing people’s lives” was one of the reasons they got into the profession. Some might even remember this or that story that indeed changed a few lives. But not too many can claim that they actually reported a story that changed a billion lives, in fact changed a nation. The demolition…

The subtle signals newspapers send in the manner in which they display Amit Shah’s claim of being COVID positive

Union home minister Amit Shah admitted that he had turned COVID positive through a tweet on Sunday. Across the country, the news is the lead story in most newspapers, if not second lead, but the display in some newspapers is revealing of how sections of the media are increasingly mindful of how they are perceived…

“I was asked to leave my phones outside. I was told, ‘resign now or be terminated’. The HR manager held the relieving letter. By the time I got home an hour later, I’d been locked out of my official email”: a brave note from a “journalist of courage”

Hundreds of journalists have lost their jobs in India in the middle of the COVID pandemic with barely a squeak. The haemorrhaging has hollowed out newsrooms at the very moment news consumers expect more (and better) from journalism. But it is all hush-hush. Chhupa rustom. Unlike more civilised parts of the journalistic world, where the…

How many journalists does it take to secure freedom for one of their own? 765.

Once upon a time, the jailed writer, poet and activist Varavara Rao had an occasional column in The Indian Express on Sundays. Now, as he languishes in jail, 765 Telugu journalists petition the Chief Justice of India and the Maharashtra chief minister urging for the release of the 81-year-old. And Prof G.N. Saibaba. Screenshot: courtesy…

J-POD || Podcast || “In 1962, media was more independent, less subservient. It lampooned Nehru, Krishna Menon mercilessly. Modi is trying to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by managing headlines” || Jairam Ramesh

*** When WhatsApp becomes the chief source of information, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that India was a mere 15 years old as a free nation when China invaded in 1962. An impressionable teenager, whose population was 45 crores, whose GDP was a mere $4,200 crore. On the other hand, when China intruded…

‘Deccan Chronicle’ owed lenders Rs 8,180 crore. An arbitrator tells BCCI to shell out Rs 8,000 crore for cancelling its IPL franchise. Will Venkattram Reddy be back in control? Take a wild guess.

Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad’s oldest and biggest English newspaper, has been under the pump for quite some time now, but the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has provided a windfall boon for the premature termination of its IPL franchise. Rs 4,800 crore, if you read Mint, or Business Standard. Rs 8,000 crore, if…

J-POD || Podcast || “The stench of dead bodies did not go away from my mind for days” || Parul Sharma, the brave photographer who captured the last lap of hundreds of COVID victims with a smartphone

Over 26,000 Indians have perished due to COVID in the last four months. But is there an image of any one of them that is imprinted in your mind? A single photograph in your newspaper or magazine that you remember instantly, for its poignancy, for its pathos—for its display? *** Whether they are natural or…

J-POD || Podcast || “Google and Facebook think tying up with Reliance Jio will open doors, shut out competitors. Indira Gandhi bludgeoned media with ‘jhatka’; Narendra Modi uses the ‘halaal’ technique” || Paranjoy Guha Thakurta

There once used to be a time when any new announcement by Reliance Industries would be put under the microscope by the media and examined with a fine toothcomb.  A rights issue, a new venture. a tie-up, even a routine annual general meeting (AGM). Everything would be inspected with forensic detail by newspapers like the Indian…

“The information dissemination lapse is the greatest lapse for India and Indian democracy”: Ajai Shukla’s devastating indictment of media stenography on the Chinese pullback in Ladakh

There are at least 50 reporters in Delhi on the defence beat. But for nearly six weeks, from early-May to mid-June, all but a couple of them were in the dark, or in patriotic denial, of the Chinese incursion into Indian territory at Ladakh. The killing of 20 soldiers on June 15 provided the necessary…