18 November 2005

ConvergenceNext: Anytime, Anywhere TV

So what is the next thing that is going to change the way TV is understood?
Tivo which enabled recording of TV programmes so you could watch it anytime has tied up with Yahoo--which means an eventual popularisation of TV recordings.
Now comes Sling Media, a company which enables travellers to watch their TV programmes anywhere, through its device--which has no subscription fees--through a PC.

Check out these:




We have mounting evidence that TV, as a medium that enabled collective, forced viewing that gave rise to the mass medium and prime time is giving way to "anytime, anywhere" video.
In other words, TV programmes will become like books, to be bought or consumed in a manner that is flexible to the viewer.
Plenty of implications there for advertisers and media buyers--and ergo, for media companies and journalists/entertainers.

21 October 2005

Blogs should be subject to media laws

An ugly controversy has broken out about a magazine doing an expose on a business school--mentioned in this blog earlier in the context of a watch on the "education business."
Pls check details here, leading on to other blogs.


It is clear that blogs mean a lot for freedom of opinion, but cannot evade the responsibility of the media business.

14 October 2005

Video pods are here, and chaos is coming

Apple Computers has launched the video iPod player, and podcasting has entered the video era. (Samsung has already got one out)
Check this out for tasters:


So what does this mean?
If you are sensible enough, you will discuss this around, tell your colleagues, friends and whoever cares that TV is not, and will not be, what it used to be.
Get this:

We are entering a new age, when TV will be replaced increasingly by "group videos" or "video blogs"..in other words, videos will resemble books. There will be countless numbers of podcasts----on streets, in libraries, in stalls, being sold first-hand, second-hand, borrowed.
And downloaded.
There will be the mediocre and the excellent, the experimental and the vain. There will be creators and racketeers, hyping and triping.
Chaos, chaos, chaos.
Media's freedom will look like this:
r e E
d OM
What happens to the electronic media?

13 September 2005

Are multiplexes headed for trouble?

Just guessing.
BenQ has a digital projector available at 49,000 rupees.
DVD players are available, with home theatre included for around 4000-8000 rupees.
Rent a hall, call friends, watch movies. Buy the popcorn on home delivery.
More important, I think the laws will change eventually to permit smaller theatres for movies...and the distribution model will change drastically.
Maybe you heard it here first.

The Chewing Gum Reports: When stories fall short

I am looking hard for solid details on the Advani-Khurana drama in the BJP, but the press falls short. I mean, here is a rare occasion where the President of the BJP, and the man he is supposed to have differences with but rarely in a direct conflict, are in a clear difference of opinion. Atal Behari Vajpayee was tut-tutting at the expulsion of Madan Lal Khurana from the party and Advani was clever enough to say on Sunday that he will not answer questions from the media..now, that is a great chance to interpret the conflict between the two Great Leaders of the BJP..but has the media risen to the occasion? Am not very sure..but not clear either, as I have been skipping some TV and papers lately. If you came across some good story, tell me about it.

7 September 2005

Bad taste: Now on your TV screens

Here is a piece on how the madness to attract eyeballs is making the media mix good business with very bad taste. Only public awareness and protests can check this. Such practices usually arise from poor imagination and innovation in media companies.


30 August 2005

Film-shilm: Whose critic is (s)he anyway?

So I read a review in the Indian Express, telling me that "No entry" is a movie that should be avoided. An unfamiliar byline in Deccan Herald says it is fun.
My guess is that the latter is a newbie to the media, fresh out of a college, and enjoying herself--like the average youthful viewer.
Brings us to the question on film criticism: Is the reviewer someone who advises the reader to see or not to see a movie? Or is that someone imposing her/his standards on the reader? Or is this some arty critic using exalted standards of Cinema with a capital C, gorging on Truffauts like waffles for breakfast?
I broadly welcome the dumbing down of movie reviews, at least for their ability to connect with the average reader. But I would prefer reviews that assess films in their genre and mix healthy criticism with a feel for the readership. Easier said than done.
Writing for the Dumb requires a lot of Intelligence.
And it reminds me of a famous quote from Amitabh Bachchan, who was once asked why he was paid so much for running around trees.
Answer: "It is very difficult to make something stupid look convincing!"

24 August 2005

Columnist blues: Opinion vs Bias

If you thought columnists voiced opinions, and it was a natural thing, it may pay to think again on the issue.
Opinions are one thing, bias is another. One is about a point of view, the other is about integrity.

News is out that a New York Times columnist faces a defamation complaint from Institutional Shareholder Services, a reputed advisory agency that offers its considered opinion. It seems from the story that the columnist accused it of bias, and ended up facing the same charge! Is it okay to hurt reputations?
Here is the story:

And here is the column:

In India, this could be food for thought after a recent incident involving a planned (but not real) privilege motion against Pioneer columnist Swapan Dasgupta after he questioned the neutrality of the Lok Sabha speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, using some data and plenty of vitriol to paint the chair with the speaker's communist red. But the columnist is a well-known saffron sympathiser!
We can bring this colour scheme down to political mudslinging but that does not mean that we can abandon measured thoughts on where a columnist becomes biased and where s/he voices a well-thought-out opinion. In such cases, both the reputation of the columnist and the facts in question play a role.
Of course, the moot point, as the cliche goes, is that a columnist with a sustained bias is called an intellectual with a right to ideological twists, but when the speaker does it, he is partial. We are talking chairs here, not people.
Strange, but I didn't hear in the Pioneer episode of any significant cries of bias from the opposition benches that was loud enough. Were they bowing to authority, or was the columnist--in his own outdated British lingo--more loyal than the queen?

22 August 2005

Baa, Bahu and the Maturing of The Indian Soap

Good news for Ekta-bashers!
Star Plus's new soap, "Baa Bahu and Baby," may be changing the rules of Indian soap. Shrewdly positioned to seamlessly start at the end of Kaun Banega Crorepati II on weekends, the show about a somewhat middle class business family from Gujarat has literary shades, discusses work ethics and simple values, eschewing Ekta Kapoor's formula of Conspiring and Scheming women in a tug-of-war for men's hearts and purses, loaded in the umpteen K serials. At the very least, Baa speaks of variety in TV serials, and at the most, it could mean a maturing of the soap in India to include some shades of realism and a plumbing down of the market to include the less than industrialist khandaans. We would love to watch the TRPs on this one!

Celebrate! It is the end of Faking News

It is official, finally!
No less than the head of TAM says that news channel viewers don't really care much about "breaking news" --or who broke the news first, and are more concerned about quality of coverage. Here is the story:
And a reaction talk-shop:
For at least 3 years now, channels have been breaking out trivial bits of information, and spending more time and money than brain work, in pretending to lead the field...Do viewers really care? Apparently, they want more value from the coverage.
Let us hope this would knock some sense into those who mistake rigged athletics for journalism.

18 August 2005

Parineeta Pandey: Mythical period marriages

My Independence Day weekend was spent watching "Parineeta" while crowds outside the multiplex rushed to watch "The Rising" a.k.a. Mangal Pandey. There is a common thread between the two period movies. Uma Mahadevan-Dasgupta (who blogs as well) in a recent piece in the Hindu compared Parineeta with its original by Sarat Chandra, bringing in relevant points to show that the 1960s adaptation by Vindo Chopra of the story originally set in 1914 was a travesty of the times it was portraying.
But I liked the movie much as I agreed with the author.
In the post-Devadas period chic, the beauty of the sets and the heroines, and an opulent romance, are what drive movie goers, not the genteel sensitivities and social motifs of ye olde classics. Cinema verite? Forget it, dahlings!
Like in Parineeta, Mangal Pandey is also cast in a dubious mould.
If romance is the leitmotif of new-age literature re-makes, pop patriotism replaces authentic history in political movies. One blogger, in dense academese, makes some fine points on 1857 (http://ssaklani.blogspot.com) effectively to suggest that there is a whole load of myths about the man who staged the first war of Indian independence and the movement itself...Rudrangshu Mukherjee's book on the first freedom fighter, coinciding with the movie, also provides a reality check to the movie.
In the world of feelgood period movies, there is little those with an appetite for facts can really do. How about petitioning the directors to show a disclaimer? : "Any resemblence to real history is purely coincidental"!
And so, I await a new period movie in which Mangal Pandey travels in a time machine and woos Parineeta with a guitar, which must be made of oak to show the period authenticity.
Welcome to surreality chic!

10 August 2005

Anchor-white toothpaste: On your TV channel

Pssst! Wanna buy a tube of Anchor-white toothpaste?
Two years ago, it was the turn of Hindi channels to start a merry-go-round of anchor-poaching. Aajtak's faces cropped up on Zee News, NDTV India and Doordarshan, and some moved back, and later, Channel 7 joined in. This year is the partner-swapping season for English channels. With IBN and Times Now poaching anchors from familiar grounds, it seems like a good time to be a recognisable face on TV.
But I think TV Today's Aroon Purie may soon have an I-told-you grin on his face. Aajtak made no great attempt to retain its anchors when the last battle of the faces happened and it nearly seemed they had made a mistake. Now, it may be proved right, perhaps.
Two of its old faces are back alongside the familiar red logo.
By Diwali this year, we shall probably see more old faces in new environs. CNBC has lost some well-known faces to Times Now, and NDTV is set to see some of its known faces on IBN. My hunch is that faces will become less and less associated with channel brands and that could be good news for the channels after some initial rounds of anxiety. This could lead to the "commoditisation of anchors", perhaps. The brands will become tubes and anchors the commodity toothpaste inside. Am I being pessimistic about anchors? I hope I am wrong!
This you-poach-my-anchor-and-I'll-poach-yours game may have its limits as viewers dissociate faces from logos. When the dust settles, there will be other winning formulae.
I am not going to tell you what they are.

When the PM gently weeps...

The Economic Times reports in a dramatic lead that Manmohan Singh wants out.
Seems the prime minister feels lonely in the Congress benches, with party people not supporting his reformist measures enough, and sounding more like the Left parties...(With friends like that...).
Great story, I thought (by Girish Kuber).
One, it says Mr. Singh expressed his tiredness and frustration in several meetings, sort of proving that the story was on strong ground. And then, the story also manages a nice quote from Mr. Singh's spokesman, which does not amount to a denial: "I don't want to talk to you on this issue!"
(I noticed that the PM's spokesman is a former editor of the reporter who wrote the fine story!).
I wonder how all the leading lights of the capital's news brigade missed this stuff if Mr.Singh indeed so frustrated. They must have been on cha-biscuits at PIB!
Sometimes, such stories are "planted" to build public opinion or score small political points. But, when there is merit in the back-up facts, the stories manage to break new ground. I suspect this one does.
(P.S.--The story has since been denied officially by the Congress, but it still seems on solid ground...a plant of sorts, but relevant to reflect the PM's mood)

9 August 2005

Desi Dukes: A Southside Story

I enjoyed reading Anubha Sawhney's story in the Times of India on Jay Chandrasekhar's box-office magic last weekend with "Dukes of Hazzard"...managing to quickly detail the Indian origins and nomenclatural quirks of Jayant Jumbulingam Chandrasekhar, the next big Tamil gift to Hollywood after Manoj Night Shyamalan. But I struggled to confirm the vital detail....and had to turn the "continued on" page to find out that he was indeed the director of the movie.
I find that in newswriting, reporters tend to delay or miss some vital point which can make a reader restless. Hitting the small stuff early can work wonders. The deskers who need to be alert on this are often caught sleeping at the keyboard (as it were!).
But the story deserves praise (Gee! I avoided saying kudos!)...Sitting in Delhi, the reporter made a quick front-page connect with the reader, and even managed to stay ahead of the paper's prolific and passionate Washington correspondent, who never misses a detail of the "desi-derata" he writes so well about.
Maybe he could not stomach the official subtext: He is no longer the wittiest South Indian in America!
(p.s. Apologies to Chids. Could not resist that one!:))

8 August 2005

When showbiz follows journalists

There is a new Kannada movie out called "News" which I don't propose to see, as the reviews are not exciting. But I like the storyline: One TV channel breaks big news too often, and a rival company sends its investigative reporter to find out how!
Journalism/media movies are engaging, and it is my regret that I haven't yet seen some classics, like
Citizen Kane (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033467/) ,
The Front Page(http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0071524/) and
Network (http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0074958/)

I have enjoyed seeing He Said She Said (love story on two anchors).
Having seen more of Bollywood than Hollywood, I have more expsoure on the theme closer home, like "New Delhi Times" which was a fine portrayal mixing politics with journalism, and of course, this year's "Page Three" on the cultural politics of the party circuit. "Jaane Bhi Do Yaro" of the early 1980s, is a comic, cynical portrayal of two naive reporters. There was also a nice TV comedy called "Chhapte, Chhapte" and another serial called "Newsline" on life in a broadcast company.
Irving Wallace's novel, "The Almighty" is about a newspaper baron who "creates" events in order to break news on them!
I am not talking here of movies like the classic "Roman Holiday" featuring Gregory Peck as a reporter-hero, because it is more about the man than the profession or society.
Will someone help me compile a list of media-centric movies/shows/fiction?

Peter Jennings, R.I.P.: Amitabh of anchors

I have fond personal memories of seeing Peter Jennings, the ABC anchor who has just died.
Those were the days when India had no cable TV or news channels, and colour had just visited television. And, I would visit the American Center every week to watch weeks-old videotapes of ABC news, broadcast one day of the week, I don't remember which. The joy of watching real TV news, complete with a suave anchor, was then sheer magic in a nation where Doordarshan was dull and drab. I do miss those DD anchors, for reasons of nostalgia more than professional liking.
But Peter Jennings was like Amitabh Bachchan, with a wonderful mix of what I call American ease and British dignity (I learn he is Canadian, and that might figure!).
I did not much fancy the ABC news selection, which focused too much on the then usual U.S.-centric obsessions like the Cold War and Cuba. But it was all worth it to watch Jennings, finely dressed, elegantly curt, with a chiselled face and wonderful voice.
Here is the story of his passing. Am glad to know that he died in peace, having lived a full life.


4 August 2005

Business vs Media: Self vs Reliance

I was wondering why NDTV was going overboard covering Mukesh Ambani's shareholder meeting speech last night at 9 p.m. (when it usually covers not business but diplomacy, Bihar or the shenanigans of the Sangh Parivar!). The answer came in this story, involving a ban on NDTV by Anil Ambani from his post-AGM news conference earlier in the day.

The story shows NDTV responsibly used a wire agency story to serve its viewers, but it still begs the question as to why Mukesh should get so much prominence in its flagship general news channel, all of a sudden. (A big of divide-and-rule helps us get stories, I do confess!).
And the younger Ambani, nursing an empire that he just inherited, should perhaps learn from his late father, who he adores so much, how to gracefully bypass unpleasant confrontations with the media.
This Press vs Business clash is not new anywhere in the world. But both the media and the businesses concerned are perhaps better off handling things with a touch of class. That's easier said than done. So I am just doing some loud thinking today.
Take a look at this story involving the venerable Los Angeles Times and the auto giant General Motors, which suspended ads to the paper after its auto critic trashed its CEO (since then, peace has broken out!)

There used to be an old saying:"If it is good for GM, it is good for America."
And sometime in the 1990s, we heard "If it is good for Reliance, it must be good for India."
Strangely, both these big names are in less-than-excellent confrontation with the media!

3 August 2005

The Rise of "Personal" Journalism

Take a look at this personal account of the rains that lashed Mumbai. With blogging on the rise, there will be many useless, self-involved stuff, but some, like the one below, show how people will begin perceiving and expressing reality in many more ways. And some will emerge as stars in their own right.


2 August 2005

DNA: Premature obituaries are naive

I saw this piece about Mumbai's hot-new paper, DNA. It pronounces that the product is not really going to dethrone the Times of India (a claim never made by the challengers in the first place). It is a timely, relevant article based on a panel discussion. And I do believe first impressions matter and expectations were high from the paper. Here is the story.


But one is reminded of a Mark Twain saying:
Rumours of my death are greatly exaggerated.

DNA, Daily News and Analysis for the uninitiated, has just been launched, defying the monsoon-fed paralysis of Mumbai, against a formidable opposition. Looking back, it took the Telegraph years to dethrone the Statesman in Calcutta (oops, Kolkata) despite the late C.R. Irani (bless his soul!) moving more into real estate than the Fourth Estate. India Today's early issues were decidedly shoddy before it became a powerful, rich magazine.
Methinks early editions give some flavour, but may not be the Real McCoy.
Exchange4media may jump to hasty conclusions, but the Jains, who know how to run a big publishing house, will most likely not!
(I haven't seen DNA yet, so I don't propose to say anything on that now).

The Coming Fall of the Mass Media?

A few days ago (in an entry last month), I had mentioned "Bhelpuri" news--a do-it-yourself approach in which news will become more tailored to the viewer, thanks to new technologies. CBS is already on it.
Now, a company called Current TV, launchd by former U.S. president Al Gore, is taking the media to the next level, where amateur broadcasts will get prominence. Here is a story for details.

And here is the site http://www.current.tv

What does all this mean?
Precisely that the coming of blogs, podcasts, amateur videos and cheaper digital technologies are giving a chaotic mix of opportunities and threats to the media industry. If you look at the ads thrown up above entries like this, you begin to see the possibilities. Advertisers and publishers have their challenges coming up, and nobody is going to have an easy time.
For journalists, this is a moment of truth: Accept, if you have not already, that this is the decline, if not fall, of the age of the mass media. You may be a niche celebrity but your neighbour may not recognise you. Your opinion or news may be excellent, but it may not carry with the ease with which it did in the good old 20th century. On the other hand, I expect a new system of intermediaries to emerge and alter the landscape. And that could mean a new form of mass media.
The rules are changing, but the basic game is the same: Human beings want to communicate with each other!

1 August 2005

Mumbai Rains: After the Deluge, the Media!

I found this piece on Mumbai's rains quite exhaustive.


NDTV made up at the weekend after a slow start with excellent live coverage of Mumbai's rain ravages, with correspondents being there.

I am yet to see a decent piece on urban planning. The key point is that Mumbai's problems are not its own. It is about why there is no meaningful urban infrastructure in many parts of India. If there was, there would not be so much migration to Mumbai!

28 July 2005

Get a life! Borrow somebody else's!

CNBC-TV18 has done a deft trick by putting in a weeknight capsule called "Get a life!" on its prime-time business news slot. With a bull run in the stock market, the focus is on spending and goading viewers to lead the good life. But one needs to ask: Is getting a life nearly always about buying paintings or drinking a previously untested brew that is riskier than a junk bond? There seems to be a cliched approach to defining the good life, and the unspoken code is to go for the imagined joys of the elite westerner, with a token bit thrown in on some local stuff.
I know some CEOs who love old Bollywood music, and some in Delhi prefer gossipping in invective-laden Punjabi to the French accent (which they can't tell from a Hyundai Accent!).
I dare say that a better part of CNBC-TV18's viewership is decidedly ethnic in cultural traits, never mind the neck-tie. As India emerges bigger as an economy, perhaps it is not a bad time to re-examine some cultural equations.
But I love this show, nevertheless. The script is taut and funny, and the anchorette who presents it most of the time is engagingly chirpy. The fun is in the packaging, not the sushi they talk about!

Lingo Bingo: When the Spelling Is Telling

I must thank the anonymous visitor (I suspect it is a dear friend) who pointed out a spelling mistake in my previous entry. It was actually a common factual mistake, if you look at it hard enough. I spelt "in tow" as "in toe" by some oversight which was not exactly typographical. Very simply, it was a case of not applying my mind on something. Only goes to show that experience is never a guarantee, though it helps. One is always learning, and more so in this profession.
Only the other day, I learnt that "fresher" is a term used only in India and Britain. And that, too, has acquired a new twist. The term is historically used for new college entrants (what in the U.S. they call freshman..and I am not sure if feminists have invented the politically and genderly correct freshwoman yet!).
Now, Indian software companies have started using the term for fresh graduates, or recent graduates...or first-time, full-time employment seekers. You can go to the Infosys or Wipro Internet sites and hope to find that word in the HR annals.
And then, I am told blogger is the hottest new word in English.
Now "google" that on the "web" to find out more.
Languages keep evolving. Today's cool is tomorrow's grammar ( I fear!). And today's grammar is tomorrow's fuddy-duddy (I fear even more!!).
In my younger days, you were a cool pro if you knew not to say prepone when you needed to say "advance"--as in the advancing of dates. We would snigger when a headline read: University exams preponed. This intuitive adaptation of postpone is an Indianism which has now found a way into a supplement of the Oxford English Dictionary. This is a bit like associate membership in a club. If you are smart and stay long enough, you become a regular entry. I am dreadfully awaiting the day when the Oxford University would announce that its convocation has been preponed.
Now that prepone is a nearly propah, and program, rather than programme, is oft-used in Indian newspapers, both American and Indian usages of English are common.
Just as well. If Americans can twist the language one way and gain respectability, so can we!
But let us avoid invading Iraq, shall we?

27 July 2005

The Horseshoe Syndrome

The Indian Express has an interesting human interest story in its Bangalore edition about a woman who faked her own death to elude her husband, with the knowledge of her daughters. The woman has returned after 7 years in hiding. The story says the woman "disappeared" on an outing to a waterfall with the family--without him in tow. Family members informed the man that his wife was dead, and he even performed her last rites before becoming suspicious. She has now re-appeared, lives with her daughters and wants to file for divorce.
Great story, I thought. But it is simply not clear why she left him.
The story mentions how the woman's disappearance was like the Hollywood movie, "Sleeping With The Enemy" in which the main character (played by Julia Roberts) escapes the "clutches of her possessive but tormenting (sic!) husband".
The story does not say how this man was similar! There are pictures of the woman, her daughters and her husband, and quotes from both sides. Still that does not answer the basic question: What was his fault? Did he drink? Did he beat her up? Did he ask for dowry?
Also the story keeps oscillating between the past tense (the way a news story is told), and the present tense (the way drawing room anecdotes are recited). It mentions the name of "Vivekananda Kendra at Jigani in Anekal Taluk" where she stayed. Do we really want to know if she also had idli for breakfast?
The newsdesk, it seems, was snoring.
Sometimes, wonderful, slogged-out stories get lost for want of a vital detail--which should be easily available. A bit like the kingdom being lost for want of a horseshoe.

Mumbai Live: Washed out by Kargil !!

NDTV's nightly show on the financial capital should logically have freaked out on the rains that lashed Mumbai and paralysed the city. But the Maximum City headed for Minimum Coverage at the usual appointed hour.
Mumbai Live was washed out by an anniversary programme on the Kargil war. NDTV assiduously nurtures the army as a constituency of keen viewership, but it certainly raised an eyebrow (mine!) when I saw a rehash of the war when I wanted to see Aamchi Mumbai awash in the monsoons. A breaking news channel with a programme brand like "Mumbai Live" on a night when most of the city was huddled home watching TV, should probably have brought more of the city's floating and swimming troubles, one thought.
But Tiger Hill triumphed over the ditches of Mumbai. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that NDTV's own brand was solidly built during its coverage of the Kargil conflict.
Was that a debt of gratitude or intertia at work?

Gurgaon Again: When brands bely promise

Gurgaon erupted again, and, as this blog noted early, the story became bigger, taking in economic reform, politics and law and order issues. The visuals were stark, and Aajtak nicely established how a political worker had joined the hullabulloo at the hospital where Honda workers were admitted. It seems the media tends to get used on such occasions, where a lone protester can divert the story's focus.
NDTV had Brinda Karat of CPM who made the fine point that seemed to be lost in many places: That Indian laws do allow outside support for trade unions in companies...and that went against the grain of others who spoke of outside interference...Also, the Deputy Commissioner at the heart of the controversy seemed unfazed. The basic question remains: What is the civil administration's real responsibility and purpose?
Visuals carried the day, but analysis was largely lacking.
The Japanese ambassador stuck his neck out by saying the clash threatened foreign direct investment prospects.
In such a context, one would have expected a bigger play in business papers. But Business Standard, despite having the image/positioning of a quality leader, did not discuss the policy implication until the third para of the story. This only showed that between a brand and the fulfillment of the promise made by the brand falls a long shadow.
The Economic Times did a good job but screwed up the headline: HMSI, it said, when it should have said Honda, and one wondered what the story was about for a second.
When you have a nice, simple word like Honda, why would you spoil a good story with an off-colour headline?

26 July 2005

Sex And Sports:Endomorphinus Interruptus?

Channel 7 on Monday featured Ajay Jadeja, he of the wicked grin and match-fixing-tainted career, hold forth on the subject of Sex And The Sportsman. It was all about Aussie coach Greg Chappell's plans for the Indian cricket team, and whether sex is good or bad for sport. Ah, I love that topic as a debating proposition (no pun intended), but caught only two minutes of it.
The anchorwoman, with a smile that nearly looked sly, wondered if the players got vital endomorphins by way of escapades on the Night Before The Big Game.
Good question, no easy answer.
More important, it shows even Hindi channels addressing seedhey-pallu-wali aunties in the Semi-Dehat are asking naughty questions at Prime Time. This prude is somewhat scandalised!

Tabla maestro gets off-rhythm cover

Ustad Shafaat Khan, whose death was reported on Sunday, was arguably the sexiest tablachi alive after Zakir Husain. Yet his demise at the age of 51 was played down in single paras by Deccan Herald and the Times of India on Monday. The latter managed a small pic. The Hindu carried no story at all! At least in the Bangalore edition that deserved cover, because Karnataka is home to Dharwar, the music capital of the Hindustani tradition. None bothered with an obituary. While I am all for pop stories and good strategies, I do believe big figures in the field of classical arts, bureaucracy or academia deserve some more press. My guess is that sub-editors were busy ogling at Brad Pitt pictures on the Net, and could not care less about a tabla maestro. Gen X/Y makes bad sub-editors and I would love to be challenged on this issue.

Video Days In Gurgaon

9 p.m. on Monday was real hot-hot, with the news of violence and street clashes in Gurgaon between police and Honda workers. The story was well played by most TV channels, thanks perhaps to the sheer visual appeal of the shots of policemen bashing up hapless workers. Aajtak and Channel 7 took clear sides for the wounded workers, while NDTV's anchorwoman repeatedly bludgeoned labour-friendly George Fernandes and Gurudas Dasgupta with questions on whether workers who hit police will be punished.
There is a deeper human rights angle to the story. In the name of controlling the crowd, how much leeway can police have, really? How high up did the order come from? The sight of workers with fingers gripping their ears and walking on their haunches--called "murga" in the north--was pathetic. There was more to this than mere crowd control. I don't think your average Haryana officer knows the basics of civil administration.
Surprisingly, there was no mention of this story in the business papers, which ought to know better. The story concerns economic reforms and their future, because Honda and labour are involved in a frothy environment. With Sensex touching 7500 ,there is a market risk. And then, the fact that Left parties were enraged makes it a national political story, when they are lending crucial support to Congress.
Business papers tend to work in silos, blissfully unaware of law and order stories that have a strong economic angle, just because they don't cover crime on a sunny day!

25 July 2005

Dilruba Dubaiwalli: Damp Squib in the desert

There I was, rubbing my hands in glee, looking forward to some great stuff from Dubai.
Mahrukh the girl wed Junaid the boy, and India's Most Wanted Dawood Ibrahim became father-in-law, hitching his bhai khandaan to one of cricket's glorious subcontinent icons, Javed Miandad.
So I thought I would get some crime, diplomacy, wedding details.
But, as they say in Hindi, it was taaain,taain, phissss. (We must get that expression to the OED, one of these days).
I saw many on-the-spot reporters, and the blokes from Aajtak and NDTV stood out. I am not talking about their performance, but the fact that all they seemed to do was stand outside the hotel where the action was. NDTV managed to get the Indian ambassador to the UAE say predictable things. And that passed for the exclusive justify-the-travel-bill bit.
If anyone of you saw or heard anything hot on the following, please post me:
--Failure of Indian diplomacy in making the event a failure and/or catching the man
--The food on the menu, not broadbrush, but real detail
--The dresses worn by guests
--Why reporters could not walk in as hotel guests and just eat to get a story.
Even meaningful street-quotes went a-missing.
The bhai still rules, it seems.

In search of the Indian tabloid

Mumbai Mirror looks good. My first look at the recently launched newspaper gave me a feeling that India had finally got an English tabloid, but then, only two cheers for that.
The lead story on Aishwarya Rai seeking Lord Ganesha's blessings in Siddhivinayak Temple, was certainly juicy, peppered with nice gossip, but inside, there was not too much. In fact, it resembles old Mid-Day a tad too much. I doubt if this old belief in mimicking British tabloids will work too much in India....We could do with sharper writing and tangier ideas suited to the local milieu. There is a tiredness when journalists are not part of the real strategy. Between the positioning of a publication by the managment and the execution of the content by the editors falls a huge chasm....it is explained by the fact "management" is often used as if it was different from editors. That is not good for the paper, the reader, the editors or the managers! Gauche journalists end up doing shoddy hatchet jobs, when meticulous editorial planning is called for.
Ah, I am still waiting for the perfect Indian tabloid!

22 July 2005

Media fellowships, anyone?

The Centre for Science and Environment invites applications for its fifth media fellowship on "Mining, Environment and People's Protests." The title is self-evident, and I have a letter from the organisation asking me to recommend a colleague for the fellowship which would enable the person to travel to remote places, research and unearth new facts.
Interested people may check out http://www.cseindia.org.
I find the idea of fellowships interesting as publishers don't want to spend money on this kind of stuff. But the trouble with this kind of "sustainable development" journalism is that a lot of it ends up enlightening the already informed. Is there a way to get this to a wider audience and in an interesting way, without harangues or tear-jerking stuff that few will read?
The letter does not talk money. I hope/presume it is enough.

21 July 2005

Nuclear = Unclear

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to the United States has raised a lot of questions on the civilian nuclear deal. Fine pieces in the Hindu and Asian Age are questioning the costs/compromises involved. Most newspapers and TV channels are too busy quoting the prime minister and gushing over his visit's apparent success to even take a solid look at the details. Brajesh Mishra, former National Security Adviser and the (first) father of the N-policy after the nuclear tests in 1998, says this deal means a stop to diverting nuclear material for weapons use from civilian use.
The coming parliament session will likely witness a big furore on the issue. Much of the media, when it finishes gushing and taking stenographic notes, will report next on the walkouts and the noise.
Facts will still go missing, one suspects.

Studying colleges: Tax raids show the way

Less than a week ago(16 July) , this blog had called for a hard look at the education sector, which seems to be concealing some scams and atrocities. Now comes the news of income-tax raids on Maharashtra's engineering colleges. It is only a question of time before other states will see similar action. The Times of India recently carried a nice story on how the same management was running 3 or 4 colleges from the same building in Karnataka. State-level politicians are big operators in the game which the media has not done justice to. Like stock scams and irregularities in non-banking financial companies and cooperative banks, educational scandals are happening, under the cloak of giving employment opportunities to youths ( a favourite political cliche).
Pertinent questions: What kind of faculties do these mushrooming engineering/medical/dental colleges have? What kind of teaching do they do? How much do the teachers earn--especially in comparison to the fees charged?
Young journalists can mine this sector.

Abandoned daughters, moving stories

Channel 7, the sleekly branded Hindi news outfit from the Jagran group, had a nice human interest story last night about a woman, Shweta Bhandari, who was apparently abandoned by her biological parents (because she was a girl!) and brought up by an uncle. Married, and 29 years old, she is now fighting for recognition by her parents, but they--even the mother- are turning away still, even holding out veiled threats, she said.
It was fascinating to see this story just a day after the History Channel broadcast a biography of Hollywood star Clark Gable, whose illegitimate daughter Judith Lewis spoke of how her father had met her only once, and even stayed away from her wedding despite being invited. Gable, famous for his role in "Gone With The Wind" had thrown his discretion often to the winds in a series of affairs which would make our own Raj Kapoor or Gemini Ganesan look like amateurs in serial romancing. Judith Lewis's mother was actress Loretta Young who died in an air crash.
Channel 7's story was right on the pulse as a moving human interest story but it did not seem to have contacted Shweta's mother. But such stories are welcome.
The channel's anchors are impressive in a dignified way, especially the crisp, earnest-sounding Monica Kshatriya, earlier a familiar face on Aajtak.

19 July 2005

Headlines--Without Comment

Amazing how headlines say a lot about the papers, when they cover the same ground.

On the U.S. visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Hindu has a seven-column banner that screams
"Manmohan expresses satisfaction over talks"
And then, in a teeny second line in double-column

"U.S. to cooperate with India
in civilian nuclear energy."

The Times of India:
"India, US now N-buddies."

Vijay Times:
"US gives India N-recognition"

Indian Express:
"Singh, Bush press civilian nuke button"

Don't write off Doordarshan, yet

It does not have big ads, raucous anchors or the glamour of some trendy brands. But look hard, and you find Doordarshan News has its own charms (apart from its sizeable reach to yet-uncabled homes). State-run DDN has a wonderful show called Statescan on weekday mornings. It belongs to the old age, but holds your attention like a trendy vintage car. What impressed one was that the anchor sounded smart and intelligent, while regional correspondents had a natural flavour of their states. The accent was gauche and the content was rickety, with local cultural events getting some predictable government touch. But such programmes fill a crucial void in serving viewers on the goings-on in remote parts of India. The much-marketed English media tends to ignore some genuinely newsworthy events, perhaps because its influential correspondents are not invited to samosa-and-chai press conferences in remote areas.
NDTV used to have a nice show called The Nation Tonight or something like that (Apologies if it still exists, am a bit lazy/busy to check now) but it was more of a talk shop with regional corros. Indian media in general does not do full justice to coverage from the states. Statescan seem to be at least trying.
And DD's correspondents and anchors are getting smarter and slicker because India abounds in talent.

18 July 2005

A Burqa Over Democratic Love

Deccan Herald carries a cute little story, except that it is not so cute.
From Ranchi, its correspondent reports that some young college student women in Jamshedpur, apparently not Muslim, wear black-veil burqas as they secretly rush to meet their lovers. It seems shopkeepers rent out cell phones and chador-veils to help these women who seem to be eluding the eyes of stern parents and nosy neighbours.
Did we did we hear you say all the world loves a lover?
Hmmm, evidently not. The newspaper quotes a deputy superintendent of police, no less, saying that shopkeepers have been "warned" against continuing with their rental business. Just when we thought that an entrepreneurial culture was alive and kicking in India. Tch,tch!
The reporter does not mention as to what law the girls who wear burqas violate, or which criminal act are the shopkeepers guilty of. All we can say is that in India's vast hinterland, women fall in love at their own risk.
In a country that promises liberty, equaity and a free press, where Bollywood starlets fall over each other to say shocking things to get into print, poor, hapless lovers have to cope with a police force which would be better off catching thieves. And you have a media that reports this police statement as if it was the perfect thing to happen.

The Curious Case of Showtime Tricks

There is an old, cynical industry saying: A smart journalist never lets facts come in the way of good copy.
A news report says a television actor sues his former producer because she did not pay him. She says something about him being a nice guy but the headline says she has sued him for defamation, and the body says she plans to sue him. The story says she refutes his claim, but it does not make anything clearer. Does she claim he was indeed paid? If so, there is no mention of any cheque or draft, which would give some evidence. If he was not paid, what is her claim anyway?
Here is the story:

Time to make a soap on TV serial politics and tricks of the trade?

Is this reportage? Or is this just a half-baked story with which struggling actors or has-been producers get some cost-free branding?
Media critic Sevanti Ninan recently had a nice piece about how movie producers and directors get some cheap publicity with non-events. Like the one about cricketer Shoaib Akhtar being offered a Bollywood role. No role is formally offered, but both the offer and his denial make it to the front page--just at a time when a movie by the maker is being released.
Ram Gopal Varma and Mahesh Bhatt somehow manage to stay in the headlines with stories that often turn out to be non-starters (in retrospect). Is the media being used/abused?
We are not mentioning Mallika Sherawat here. She deserves special treatment.

17 July 2005

Harry Potter And the Half-Blood Reports

One hundred thousand copies of Harry Potter's latest adventure sold on the first day in India. Sunday newspapers gave us a nice heads-up on the schoolboy who has made global waves.
The Sunday Times of India and the Economic Times carried between them five front page stories on the subject.
The Hindu also carried a big story.
But I could not find in them the price at which the book is being sold in India. Deccan Herald mentioned the price--in the last para or so.
In most stories, there was a lot of nice stuff from book-stores....banter about not revealing to the readers the secret of the new book, and about print orders for more.
Would it not have been better to have or play up the price to serve the reader better?
Better still, it would have been nice to get some details on the English publishing and book sales in India. How much does a best-seller by Shobhaa De really sell?
Is the Potter sale outrageously above average? By how much? (Looks plausible, since 100,000 copie at nearly 900 rupees a copy would put the revenue at a high range by any standard)
Maybe a Ruskin Bond, who writes India-based stories for children, could tell us something interesting.
Many set-piece events elicit some enthusiastic reportage, but they fall short of some interesting research or vital detail which would make them stand out.

16 July 2005

The Education Game--Is anybody keeping scores?

Outlook magazine has disowned the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (Planman) from its rankings of business schools, and has taken an ad to that effect. It says Planman is using its 2003 slot to advertise itself, conveniently ignoring a later survey, and also that it did not disclose facts properly to enable proper ranking.
This comes on top of Tehelka's revealing story on the Amity group and its founders, questioning their credibility to run an educational empire.
It is quite clear that India's booming education industry deserves a hard look from journalists. Most leading newspapers carry education supplements but most of the articles are yawn material. ("What to wear on your interview? "or"21 ways to clear the GMAT.".. stuff like that).
When parents pay huge sums to get their students into mushrooming schools and colleges, and some even take loans, it makes sense for the media to take a hard look.
We are quite sure publishers would love that, given the war to woo the young demographic.

Exclusive Story vs Exclusive Access

TOI has an exclusive interview with Salman Khan. Yipppeee! HT, go eat your hawkers! DNA, put on your blue genes!
Excuse me, but what was so exclusive?
This Khan bloke took the chance to take a swipe at the media, and did not seem to clearly confirm or deny that he was indeed the voice on the tape featuring Aishwarya Rai and mentions of underworld dons. He did not say: "That was not me speaking." Instead he said he could not recognise the voice, which sounded like that of a drunken man.
So Sallu is not denying enough, it seems.
On the other hand, the self-same TOI has on its colour pullout a fascinating story by Bhupen Patel on how the crime branch had warned Aishwarya to stay off the Khan, meeting her in a Bandra hotel before The Hunk and The Angel fell out with their warts showing.
Wow! That IS interesting.
And that's what we call an exclusive story! Front page candidate. On the same TOI.
If somebody gives you access to talk, and repeats pretty much what his lawyer said the previous day, is that an exlusive story? We are not sure.
An exclusive story is about stuff others really have not heard of.

15 July 2005

"Now that we don't have a story, let's print it!"

The Times of India has an Ahmedabad-datelined story about a student claiming to be working for Bill Gates. It meticulously examines his claim, and carries denials from Microsoft and backs it up by saying that an email ID said to be of Gates as claimed by the boy ended up bouncing back a mail. The reporter has done a good job in cross-checking a claim by someone who is obviously a fraud/crank.
But what was the story doing there in the first place?
There is double-column display, complete with a photo of Mr. Gates.
If the claim was true, the story was a frontpager. If it was not, it did not deserve to be printed.
Of course, there could be a nice social psychology story on a number of youngters in India claiming some kind of a genius status. Recently, a youth from Ballia in eastern U.P. claimed he had cleared some NASA exam (the same one, he said, which President Abdul Kalam had cleared in 1960 or thereabouts. It was not true of course, and the president, one recalls, had nothing to do with it either).
Poor, hapless small town reporters fall for such tricks (the ones from the big cities aren't a lot better, but that is another story!)


Bad English, Interesting stuff. This blog raises interesting issues.


Is Salman Khan A (Drunken!) Double Agent?

The media pounced on the Bollywood Underworld tapes (Yawwwwn! Haven't we heard them before?) after Hindustan Times made a grand entry into the Bombay market. Though one has not seen all the media coverage, a quick look at TV channels and newspapers left one wondering what value they tried to add to the story.
Salman Khan threatening former MissWorld Aishwarya Rai on an alleged police tape is great stuff, of course, but surely a bit of closer examination was called for.
The Hindu mentioned Ms Rai suggesting Salman Khan was drunk, which seemed in order.
He probably was drunk if the tape was true and his voice was any indication. More than that, no newspaper or channel we came across seemed to mention the biggest hole in the tape: That Khan claimed proximity to both Dawood Ibrahim and Chota Rajan, whose fallout and rivalry has even inspired a Bollywood movie, Ram Gopal Varma's "Company".
If the tape was true, and Salman was talking sense, he would be a double agent, like some were during the Cold War rivalry between the KGB and CIA.
If not, as is likely, Sallu Dear was deadly drunk and was an on bragging spree in keeping with his eminently adolescent character.
Or, are we to believe that mergers and acquistions have come to Bombay Underworld, Inc.?

14 July 2005

Who bombed the story?

The Times of India, at least the Bangalore edition, had its story on the Pakistani-born Brits involved in the London bombings on Page 7, while the Hindu gave it a lead splash in a reasonably well-written, comprehensive story on the front page.
Now, I can't believe that. Even if one is to assume that the paper was addressing suburban housewives out on a limbo, that story was a clear front-pager, if not the lead.

Zee's Crime Reporter is spicy slum pickle

10.30 p.m. on Zee News gets you some spicy stuff. Its candid camera has done a very good job of exposing charlatan tantriks, and stories like these are making a real impact in the lower sections of the society, it seems. (We have exposed 20 of them, said the cantankerously impressive anchor, like it was a cricket score).
On Wednesday, one saw a woman tantrik being cornered by a camera, first hidden and then in-your-face, as the reporter spoke up for a woman who got conned into having her fifth daughter after being promised a son. It seems the tantrik was assuring the poor mother as late as in the ninth month of pregnancy that it was a son.
It was a great sight to see the tantriquette in question looking blank and surprised at the digital intervention. She finally grovelled to an apology, and then meekly handed out to her intended prey 2,000 rupees (the amount spent by the Conned Customer on pujas and auto fares).
Of course, the story did not bother to question or mention even once the Aggrieved Customer's desire to have a "beta" at any cost.
In a subsequent story on sexual harassment of women from India's northeast, the story cited precautions for women that included a line: "Don't dress provacatively!"
Feminists may rant, and seminarists may fume, but in the slummy underbelly of India, women wear mini-skirts and short-tops at their own risk, and it is kosher for women to go Desperately Seeking Son.
The Times of India has a nice, well-written story by Malathy Iyer on a new technology that could help parents identify the sex of a foetus just five weeks into pregnancy. Can't seem to find the web link. Maybe they aborted it!

Gushhhhhh! Page 3 story gets a Page 3 touch

Madhur Bhandarkar's Page Three has won 3 national awards for his slickly sarcastic portrayal of Bombay's hip-n-happening parties. Headlines Today's entertainment reporter probably thought it fit that her reaction interview with the director must resemble a scene from the movie itself.
In between gush-gush-gushing about the awards that he won, she managed to smuggle in a question (Did you expect this?) and he managed an answer (I knew it had good ingredients...). But 3-5 minutes of airtime was largely spent in giggles and gushes, and the reporter finally thrust a laddu, not the mike, on to the director's mouth as she said:"This would be the first of your many sweets!"
Aah, the dubious charms of feelgood journalism!

13 July 2005

Coming Soon: Bhelpuri news, video and all !

They just stole your six o'clock, nine o'clock fix.
News is not what it used to be, but get ready now for more variety...and perhaps, more confusion.
For the moment, it is mix-n-match from existing news services, but the day, it seems, is not far off when competing feeds and Websites will offer the viewer/reader a mish-mash that would make news seem like do-it-yourself kits.


Shane Warne Fears The Media Googly

Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne, after featuring in more than one news item concerning his naughty off-field behaviour, has split with his wife, and wants the media to stay off--so it doesn't get any tougher for him. Poor bloke finds out that off-breaks with leg-spin action do not necessarily work in personal life. He deserves a break, an off-break.
But his plea begs the question: Is the personal life of a celebrity out-of-bounds for journalists? Should it be that way?
Obviously, anything in bad taste is, well, bad. But celebrities need to ask themselves a question, a simple enough one at that: If they are ready to advertise a watch, a soap or a car because they play good cricket or something, is not a journalist entitled to enquire a bit on the side about them? More so, when you consider the fact that celebrity sporting figures are being roped in for social causes. From polio vaccine campaigns for poor children to seeking empowerment for women, sportspeople and movie stars are used as role models. It stands to reason, therefore, that the characters of role models are not a bad thing to examine.
Of course, it makes sense for tabloidal press to seek titiliatory business from celebrity gossip. Their ethics or business practices can always be open for debate.
That doesn't however, take away the fact that celebrities encourage trivia that gives them mileage. No one is asking questions about why the world should care about some obscure fashion designer's opinion on animal rights, or a little-known starlet's views on 9/11. I haven't come across a celebrity who says: "Don't ask me about 9/11...why don't you talk to someone in the police?"
They love it when the publicity suits them.
And what goes up, as they say, has a reasonable chance of coming down.

11 July 2005

I, Me and Media!

Interesting peep into a (presumably young) reporter's mind
I, Me and Media!

Sarkar And the Fine Art of Spin

"Sarkar," as movies go, is impressive. Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan in a Godfather-inspired tribute by Ram Gopal Varma does make your Sunday.
From the media point of view, however, some tricky issues remain.
We had newspapers reporting about a special screening for Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray, apparently to convince him that he was not the "Sarkar" as some might have thought. Subsequently, Shiv Sena's notorious cadres had no problems with the movie, which was running to full houses on the last count.
But we are tempted to examine closely the obligatory line with which Varma starts the work: that its characters bear no resemblence to real persons, living or dead (as they say).

Amitabh is in black robes, but the long-kurta and the lungi are in classic Thackeray style, though the colour is not saffron. The Rudraksh beads on his hand, and the middle-class Maharashtrian backrop of women and children complete the picture.And that does clearly bear a resemblence to the leader hated by his critics as a champion of anti-minority vilence.
And the "sarkar" don has two sons, one estranged and one dear. Sounds familiar?
So where is the catch?
As we see, "Sarkar" is a good man, even if he breaks a law or two, not to speak of legs and heads.
He helps the poor, fights the goons, and unlike your New York mafiosi, does not seem to have a passion for gambling dens or babes...but his married son tries to seduce a starlet.
Subliminal impressions conveyed by this film to Bal Thackeray's famous followers, would, of course, be positive.
In the old age of hypocrisy, vice was packaged as virtue.
In the new era of spin, it seems, virtue is packaged as vice.

10 July 2005

An Aussie gangsta in Bollywood Underbelly

Good journalism is like falling in love. It can happen anytime, anywhere. And in the least expected of places.
This Saturday night, my idle surfing brought me to a spot known more for shallow people mouthing what they call "attitude". I am talking of Zoom, our own TV version of Page 3 parties.
But it takes a Pooja Bhatt to bring out great minds....after all she has the right genes, among other things.
Pooja B interviewed Gregory Roberts, the author of Shantaram, a book on his own journeys now being made into a Hollywood movie.
Now, Greg B has peddled drugs on the streets of Bombay, before the city became Mumbai and he became a reformed criminal..an Australian Gangster Yogi of sorts. He was part of the underworld, and his work of faction, said to be 900 -odd pages ( I haven't read it, and I suspect the weight would put off most) is making waves as a work of literature-meets-pulpfiction-meets-philosophy. Part fact, part fiction, but all true, as it were.
The presence of Rahul Bose and Chunky Pandey, articulate, intelligent and dripping humour, completed a sumptous chat show.
Where else can you find an Aussie gangsta who talks of Moby Dick and admires Bollywood movies?
I don't know if other channels/journals have done justice to Greg Roberts, but Zoom and Pooja B certainly did!

9 July 2005

Over-the-Hill News, Down -valley Bloomers

The Hindu is said to be a staid, responsible national newspaper...and yet one can see rank acts of amateurish whims in it, all the time.
Today's Bangalore edition features a small story on a six-member team leaving for a trek in the Valley of Flowers. Why is that importantant??? Now, the Valley is just a trek, barely at the tough level. It's not a mountain, not a peak like your K2 or Everest, and is many a college student's early Himalayan high. (I have done it, too!). Why does that make news?
And then, the paper has a story on how "The Prince of Arcot" has condemned the London bombings.
Prince who?
Arcot is a small district in Tamil Nadu, and princes were kicked out in 1947, and their purses were off a couple of decades later...they are has-beens in the polity, and at best turn heritage hoteliers or wannabe fashion designers, barring the few who rehabilitated themselves in real, democratic politicsIs the Prince active in politics? Is he a significant community leader for Muslims across India...for that matter, at least in the south? How relevant is he to bombings made thousands of miles away? The story doesn't say why.

8 July 2005

When Hi-Tech Goes Page Three!

So I am at this party to celebrate 10 years of Java, not the island but the computer language that we were told now powers 708 million mobile handsets across the world. Sun Microsystems is facing the same challenge that Intel did when its chips got hidden inside computers branded by others...which resulted in the "Intel Inside" slogan...
Sun, thus, had us covered not with lines of gobbledygook code but in a happening-happening sort of do....so you had anorexic models toting the Java coffee-cup logo on their foreheads, with various outfits that passed for high-tech, and one, lone, male model looking lost as he struck a stud pose while holding a handset and stylo, or unfurling a laptop from his chest, as if it was a lepcha baby from up in the Himalayas.
Some tech CEOs, radio jockeys, and corporate presentations-meets-fashionshow stuff completed the line-up.
Of course, it is tough for the media to do a real story on this stuff, unless you are a Page 3 type just happy to drop the names and describe the hype. As a strategy, it is worth writing about...this is a bit like Sun trying to be more like its bete-noire, Microsoft.
The philosophical question still remains: Can a thermal vest pretend to be a T-shirt?

7 July 2005

Blogging On Blogs

I wonder what are the limits of the blog! I think content will determine the future. Some, like management guru Tom Peters, have power blogs (http://www.tompeters.com) that help in driving business. But I don't see blogs making money until they come up with ideas to identify great bloggers who are useful to readers. I am sure it is happening/will happen, somewhere. In general, blogs are likely to stay self-centred, glorified diaries-on-the-web with a total readership of One in most part. It can help small groups to stay in touch on niche topics or projects. If the stuff is really gee-whiz, the mass media will pick it up. The challenge would be for PR and journo folks, who will have to slog to find meaningful needles in a cybernetic haystack. Automation helps..but how far really can glorified keywords go?
I hope good writers and editors will be in demand, for genuine reasons. I don't know if that is a prediction, or wishful thinking.

6 July 2005

On the Murky World of Indian Media Chaos

As I start this blog, I find the Indian Media in ferment...and call it chaos, if you will. Add low-cost technologies to dozens of media wannabes--TV channels, newspapers, magazines, what-have-you--and you get loads and loads of people, faces, soundbites, stories, news.
Does all this make sense? Is there a Tower of Babel where there ought to be a well-designed symphony? Do readers/viewers care?
Internet will only make this more complex as the days go by. Media is in ferment everywhere, thanks to technology, but it is special in India, where there is a curious melange of professional values, business ambitions and sheer amateriushness co-existing. It is easy to bash the Times of India, trash the Hindu, banter about NDTV and wonder how and why Aajtak is a big hit. There are answers to all that, of course. But the real issue is whether those who are in the thick of it know them for what they are. It is common for journalists to make the same mistake as the viewers...which is to assume that the whole world thinks like you. And ought to think that way!