Tag Archives: Open Magazine

Barkha’s date with NYT a let down

Barkha  Dutt features in the Saturday profile of The New York Times.  Well not for the reasons she would have loved.

The Mediagate controversy which in many ways is being wrongly dubbed as Barkhagate by many outlets won the NDTV group editor this distinction which she would have liked to let go.

I was all excited to read how the NYT reported this, but it was a letdown.

Understanding that it was a profile even then it was over exaggerated, too over the top and flouted the basics.

There I go with what made me wonder if it was an NYT report.

1.       But last Tuesday Ms. Dutt, the most famous face of India’s explosively growing 24-hour cable news business, found herself the subject of the kind of grilling she normally metes out.  (Well she is famous but to call her the most famous is a bit too over the top. In J schools we are taught to mind our adjectives)

2.       Ms. Dutt the 38-year-old star reporter and anchor of the biggest English-language cable news network, has become the most recognizable face of this media explosion. (sounds like a bit too much)

3.         In the tapes, Ms. Dutt appears to offer to pass messages between Ms. Radia, who appeared to be trying to get a politician suspected of corruption reappointed as telecommunications minister at the behest of her clients, and senior leaders of the Congress Party. (it appears that the sentence is a bit too long)

4.       MS. DUTT has been called the Oprah Winfrey of India, but that description both overstates and understates her influence and reach. Ms. Winfrey, best known as an empathetic talk show host, cemented her place in the American media firmament with her shared narrative of personal redemption. Ms. Dutt blends the hard-charging bravado of the young Christiane Amanpour with the feel-your-pain empathy of Anderson Cooper. (Way too over the board, having been a journalist in India, let me tell you this is like breaking news to me. It’s certainly not like this)

5.        Her florid style would be familiar to most cable television viewers in the United States, long accustomed to reporters who put themselves at the heart of the action. But in India, where for decades the government’s subdued broadcasts were the only option, her breathless, from-the-battlefront dispatches were a revelation. (Agreed that her style has followers, but the bit about striking a relationship between state broadcasting and her style is again over the board. In my opinion what got her prominence was the mere fact that she was the first female reporter in a war zone)

Why I felt down by this for the simple reason that when you look at publications like NYT you look for information which is new and makes you take notice and say is that so. Even the writing is a thing to watch out for when NYT does a profile.

But this just looked like something picked from here and there. Also there were more quotes by others and very few from Dutt herself.

Wonder how it will work for an American audience, but for someone who is familiar with Indian media scene and even has seen bit of Dutt’s work this piece isn’t worth it.

Barkha’s date with NYT a let down

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Half baked truth served

The media onslaught on the 2G scam tapes continue though selectively.

Weekly magazine Outlook came with the story on their cover day after Open magazine put it out.

So far so good, but I have an issue with the way reports have come out.

They reveal conversations, and whole lot of them but they just give one side of the story; calls made.

There is no trace of what the journalists have to say, though outlook on its website has posted the letter by NDTV and provided a link to Barkha Dutts twitter, but that does not serve the purpose. From a seasoned editor like Vinod Mehta this wasn’t expected.

They also have more conversations including other journalists, Nira Radia, bureaucrats, industrialists etc. If they had a story as big as this they should have allowed a chance for these people to make their point.

I can understand Open magazine worrying about reports being curbed, but with outlook that looks unlikely?

Mail Today, too dedicated a page to the 2G tapes, but same issue no voice of Dutt, Sanghvi or Radia.

Credit does go to these media outlets for taking the issue up and pointing fingers towards fellow journalists, but a few more calls from tem would have held them in better position.

How will the ‘Phone a friend saga’ unfold is anyone’s guess, chances of it dying the slow death are high, but I feel media houses should participate and clean the rut in the system.

This looks unlikely for there are far too many skeletons in every closet.

However a good change to see, how those who pose allegations face them now.

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T(r)apped!!!

A phone taping incident has rocked the media circles in India.

Barkhagate as it is popularly tweeted across is an incident which points a finger at those who act as custodians of free speech.

Journalists despite all marketing tactics being applied by media houses to maximise profits are a respected lot in India, who are (and are perceived to be) noble individuals constituting the fourth pillar of democracy.

Having said that and living by the principles as a journalist myself, the exposes made by Open magazine against two prominent Indian Editors, Vir Sanghvi(senior journalist with The Hindustan Times, who I believe is also on their editorial board) and Barkha Dutt( Group Editor, NDTV) put journalists on back foot.

Prima facie the magazine seems to have got some meat and not merely tarnishing the image of two senior journalists. They put the transcripts involving the two online and those who watch and listen these people on air can make out that the voices sound familiar.

Making the conversation public, for me puts the journalist in a dock.

What is interesting is that those who pitch bodyline questions on similar lines to politicians are on a sticky wicket.

The NDTV have come out with an open letter backing their group editor and mentioning why Barkha Dutt’s version was not sought in the report. To this the magazine editor said, they were short of time and had they gone ahead and made contacts with Dutt, they feared that their reports might never see the light of the day.

That is a ridiculous justification by Open magazine, they could have called Dutt at the last hour and went ahead.

Past Imperfect

However, one should also bear in mind the clout senior journos like Dutt and Sanghvi carry.

Dutt’s infamous standoff with a blogger Chatinya Kunte whose blog it’s perceived widely she got of the net is an example. The magazine might have feared similar fate.

What is interesting and of no surprise is the fact that the incident hasn’t been played up by other media houses. Dutt and Sanghvi get a benefit of doubt from the fraternity so far.

How long will they get this support is a matter of how the scoop is dealt with.

This also reminds me of an incident wherein a senior bureaucrat in Rajsathan assembly told me in May this year that he has reports stating someone from state’s bureaucratic circle along with these two journalists was working for Nira Radia, whom I till then knew as a director of a public relations firm.

He showed me a report which he was reading and also shared that the website www.bhasdaas4media.com was carrying similar reports. I thought for a moment it might be a case of rivalry among bureaucrats, but later going through the website and speaking to other journalists in Delhi came to know similar things are doing rounds in Dilli Durbar.

While Dutt apart from the letter by NDTV CEO has tweeted in her defence saying , “Accused of favouring a man I have never met(Raja) and have always attacked in print and TV.” Sanghvi well has not commented.

But if the transcripts and their timings are something t go by, one fail to understand why so many calls to a PR person who is nowhere related to politics on the face of it? The talks (more with Sanghvi) smell a rat.

Will be interesting to see how it unfolds. But is certainly a charge difficult to disown.

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