Monday, March 06, 2006

On A Lighter Vein

Most people would have never heard of Busybee or his alter ego, the very real late Behram Contractor. This is very unfortunate indeed. For 36 years, every single day, he wrote a column called 'Round and About' in the Times Of India from Mumbai. In just about 500 words, he communicated to a cross section of the society with the best satire.
You ought to read his columns, which are also out in book form. Log on to and be entertained!

For Your Assignments!

You ought to check It is one good site about journalism giving a number of links to government figures, journalism tools, ethics, statistics and other helpful areas that would come very much in handy for your assignments!! You could also sign up for free updates and get Roy Mathew, the owner of the site, to send you alerts on scholarships, workshops, etc.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Take a Picture!

Photo-journalism has today acquired a star status. The glamour associated with shooting celebs and capturing intense political drama may well mask the technical difficulties and the hard work behind a good picture. Unlike in reporting, the photographer does not have the chance to go back to the scene of action to get a better shot.

Whether as a hobby or as a profession, it always helps to know how to take a good picture. There are excellent online tutorials. We recommend where you can sign up for free. The site sends a photo everyday and discusses the technical aspects. You can also contribute and participate in their photo fests.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Yin and Yong of Indian Journalism

by Prof K V Nagaraj

When India gained Independence from the British rule, the face of Indian journalism changed from a mission of political independence to partnership in national development. The role of constructive opposition to the ruling class and the watchdog function of the press in a developing democracy were stressed in a changed environ. The new owners had other businesses and newspapering was an adjunct for the promotion of their other ventures. The initial bonhomie with the political leadership gave way to a love-hate relationship that had an off and on conflict element.

The investigative stories of political scandals started appearing in the press. The towering personality of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was dented with the Sino-Indian War in 1962. The period between 1966 and 1976 has many a benchmark in the history of Indian Journalism. It was an era of confrontation between the press and the Congress party controlled by Mrs Indira Gandhi that culminated in the imposition of internal emergency and press censorship in 1975. The duration of emergency lasted 21 months and the period saw the emergence of soft news getting prominent place instead of political news. However, the political news syndrome returned with a vengeance once the emergency was lifted and the fundamental rights were restored. Today, Indian journalism is a classic case of contradictions.
The emergence of internal terrorism in several parts of the country, especially the Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and also North Eastern states posed a serious challenge in 1980s and 1990s, to the Indian press. Several journalists had to lay down their lives while discharging their duties, a new phenomenon in Indian journalism. The situation is no better now.

The post-Rajiv era saw the political scenario change in India. The process of economic liberalisation initiated had its tremendous impact on mass media. More than any other sector, coupled with a technological revolution in the field of information and communication, the Indian press underwent a sea change in contents as well as its administration. The first casualities were editors at the top and proof- readers at the bottom. While technology removed the latter, commercial considerations reduced the status of editors. The western phenomenon of advertising personnel, deciding the editorial policy spread to India also. Nor we have editors of stature any longer. Most, if not all, have become silent spectators to the dictates of business interests. At the same time, trade unionism took backseat with the onset of contract system. The hire and fire system destroyed a movement that was built over four decades by the hard work of scores of working journalists have been left to the mercy of newspaper owners. Imagine the plight of senior journalists, who were thrown out of jobs one fine morning in a State like Kerala, the so-called citadel proletariat! If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere in India. Newspapers are raking moolah, but journalists are losing their ground. The Working Journalists Act has become redundant against the onslaught of market forces. Reach and profits on one side, the Indians want media economic a reform with a human face, but in their own backyard, the situation is grave. If this is the case of people working for large newspapers, less said the better of the press in small cities and towns. Technology has made possible the publication of multi-editions with local content. The fact that the Times of India, The Hindustan Times, the Indian Express and to some extent even The Hindu, are truly national as they have their editions in many major cities of the country. The affected are small and medium newspapers that cannot compete with big sharks. The titans monopolise both circulation and advertisement revenue. Large newspapers have their profits running into crores of newspapers. They are financially strong, but editorially weak! On the other hand, small newspapers have to cringe for government patronage and naturally their independence cannot be visible. This is a country where media persons beg for bus and railway passes, freebies and foreign junkets. If not all, many of them deliver sermons on public morality and ignore when it comes to the self-practice.

The circulation wars have their own story to tell. Reduction in the newspapers price is a marketing play to consolidate the position and increase the circulation at the expense of weaker publications. No doubt, it leaves only a few giants in the field. What is happening in the Western world is replicated here also. Media monopoly, decrease in the number of publishing houses, disappearance of old war horses, amalgamations and corporate take-overs have contributed for the oligopoly in the West, who in turn, determine the nature, quality and quantity of the communication products.

The cross-media ownership, a strong trend in the West, is slowly expanding its tentacles in India also. A newspaper establishment owing a TV channel, a radio station, and a movie production company is a common phenomenon. Today media business is rather aptly described as mind management. In fact, the effects of globalisation on Indian culture and heritage have been intensely debated for more than a decade. The considered ‘intervention’ of international financial institutions like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank into the policy formulations and strategies for the development of the country has generated a substantial amount of heat and dust. With every government either at the Centre or in the States, vouchsafing for further reforms, the issue never seems to have any natural conclusion. With all sectors of polity in line for scrutiny mass media in India can be no exception.

Let us first honestly admit that globalisation is not a new phenomenon. Trade and colonisation were two dimension of the process. Mark Polo’s Silk Route was a part of the globalisation or the concept of a global village is true in patches. The one-way flow of information from the developed countries to the developing countries has resulted in the clamour for the reversal of the order. In a unipolar world of communication, conflicts of interests are common. The American monopoly over the production and distribution of communication and cultural products has demonstrated its stranglehold on intellectual and creative process.

From the historical perspectives, many similarities exist between the Indian Press and the American Press. What all happened in American journalism decades ago are taking place in India right now under our nose. The circulation wars of our newspapers are reminiscent of a similar fight that existed between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst at the end of the nineteenth century in the United States. The price war will definitely extend the cultural hegemony of the West directly.
Priced culture!

No doubt that communication is considered as a cultural product, and the culture as a communication product, in reverse. The commoditisation of communication and culture started in a big way with liberalisation of Indian economy in 1990s. Almost 40 years after we gained Independence, the journalistic system went on for and overhaul for the second time. From an adjunct business, media became a fulltime business for the owners who discovered a golden goose. News values, already imported from the west, became totally westernised.

Have a look at any English daily newspaper, its very appearance is Western. The contents and the language style are also alien. Language newspapers have also started imitating their English counterparts without any reservation. Stories of Hollywood and Indian actresses, fashion shows, beauty tips and health columns in addition to counseling have invaded our newspaper columns. In a way, the MacDonaldisation of Indian Journalism is taking place at faster pace. Mass media are accused of promoting a hybrid culture, much to the detriment of Indian heritage. Today, like man Western newspapers, the Indian newspapers have also opted for advocacy, ignoring the traditional value of objectivity while the conservatives among the media persons are depressed ay the untimely death of old values in journalism. As contents are converted into infotainment and edutainment or simply entertainment, trivialisatioon of serious issues has become the norm, rather than an exception. The so called editorial freedom has vanished from Indian journalism. The tribe of conscientious journalism has also made for market forces. News as a commodity for market and profit is the latest trend in India. Every inch of space is today sold, whether it is editorial or commercial since the survival strategies demand total marketisation of the product being offered. As a strategy, more and more newspapers and magazines are focusing on young readers with contents tailor-made for them. It is especially true to electronic media. Even serious contents are made slick and sleek, packaged superfine. Large pictures, multi-colour splash, racy style and ultra-modern designs have magazinised the daily newspapers. Slowly but surely, specialized magazines on different areas have found their place in the market. Journalism has started reflecting the trends in the other fields of human activity.

Then, are we not crowing too much of social responsibility of the press in particular? Is not the concept of partnering national development old-fashioned? In reality, the Indian press has remained urban-centric all along. Not that the Indian has not done any service o the society. Some of the language newspapers have excelled in exposing the social evils the political machinations. However, on a large canvas, the performance needs a clinical analysis. An introspection will definitely help to adopt corrective measures. Like the country itself Indian journalism is of extreme characteristics. The good, the bad and the ugly co-exist. The Chinese say that the contradictory phenomena are essential for the survival of the world. They call the term yin and yong. The whole civilization or humanity survives because of the co-existence of these two contradictory or opposite phenomena. Perhaps, Indian Journalism has its quota of yin and yong.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Online Newspapers

India may be a hot IT destination for the rest of the world but statistics show that the use of internet in the country is still pathetically low. This is all the more true in case of online newspapers. The charm of these newspapers lies in the fact that they can be constantly updated to give breaking news, minute by minute and as it happens. Online newspapers are a boon to the Indian Diaspora to keep up with the country.

Almost all major dailies in the country have online versions and are all very easy to find. For most, just key in the name of the and there you have it. is a good stop to look for dailies from around the world.

The Pakistani daily Dawn which was started by Mohd Ali Jinnah can be read at
The famous New York Times is at
Washington Post, much remembered for its reporters Bob Woodward and Karl Bernstein and the Watergate scandal, can be accessed at
The prestigious Wall Street Journal is at though you would need a subscription to read details in the site.

In India, we have our very own Tehelka at, the first online publication started by Tarun Tejpal. His former associate Aniruddha Bahal's Cobrapost at is a good stop too, being in the news these days for their Operation Duryodhan into the question scam in Parliament.

Online newspapers are not yet big business these days. It is to be noted that a number of these require you to sign in as subscibers to completely access the sites.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Bridging the Digital Divide

by Dr Waheeda Sultana

The phrase 'digital divide' is used by many politicians, commentators and activists. It is the subject of numerous conferences and research papers and a growing number of government and private sector initiatives have been set up to deal with it. The digital divide is an amorphous term encompassing a number of discussions about inequality and the lack of access to Information Communication Technologies (ICTs). More...

Friday, November 11, 2005

Limits of the Cyberspace

The Internet is no doubt a wonderful product of information technology. It has many possibilities. While the euphoria about the Internet’s potential to solve many of our problems has not subsided it is important to critically look at its limitations. Understanding its limitations will only help us evaluate its social and economic consequences. While the great potential of the Internet has received much attention the views critical of it seldom find space in the discourse on new media. Examining certain questions is, thus, necessary. More...

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Who Says the Print Media is Dead?

Remember that old song that went, 'Video killed the radio star?' Every new entrant into the media arena has led to renewed fears of the older medium slipping into oblivion. This happened when television appeared and when the internet took on the world. The most advanced technologies apart, the newspaper industry is thriving as never before.

The latest media statistics for 2005 are out. Reports say that three-quarters of the world's best selling newspapers are now published from Asia, with an increase in the sale of Indian newspapers by upto 8 per cent. On the whole, the global newspaper sales were up by 2.1 per cent over the year, according to World Association of Newspapers ( The data was released from WAN's annual survey of world press trends that is conducted in nearly 215 countries.

The figures showed that the global sales of newspapers were at a new high of 395 million copies daily. The total number of daily titles were up 2 per cent from 2004.

India stands second in the list of top five largest markets for newspapers with a sale of 78.8 million copies every day. Newspapers are published in 18 languages from the sub-continent and this includes bi-lingual and tri-lingual publications.

For the full story, you can log on to

This just reaffirms the strength of the traditional media amidst the onslaught of newer technology. Reminds us of an old joke that was doing the rounds in the early 1990s when cable television was new. Two men are discussing how TV might finally replace newspapers. One of them says that that might not happen, for they could not wrap up chips or fish in TV! The print media is very much alive and kicking! And you have the statistics to prove that too!



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