Mukesh Ambani, Modi and Media

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I start my blog on the first Sunday after Narendra Modi has become the Prime Minister and the Gandhis have become irrelevant.
Some of the Modi critics have changed their tunes, some are singing a new song and many are blaming their contact lenses or spectacles for not being able to see the writing on the wall.
Mukesh Ambani has acquired Network18 Media & Investments and TV18 Broadcast (TV18) for Rs 4,000 crore. This includes In.com, IBNLive.com, Moneycontrol.com, Firstpost.com, Cricketnext.in, Homeshop18.com, Bookmyshow.com and broadcast channels like Colors, CNN-IBN, CNBC- TV18, IBN7 and CNBC Awaaz.
I remember a line I wrote in one of my columns in the early nineties. My line was: if they can’t buy the journalist or the reporter, they buy the editor and if he is not for sale they buy the newspaper!
But much before that, even before Deepak Neogi the Chief Reporter of Free Press Journal joined Ambanis – I don’t know where he is now – Dhirubhai Ambani had asked me about the economics of running a Daily newspaper. I didn’t know anything about the business side of the newspapers. For that matter, I didn’t know the editorial side either and realized that unlike freelance writing, editing a newspaper or a magazine for that matter was like walking a razor’s edge.
And I knew The Razor’s Edge only as a short story by Somerset Maugham.
This is why I never got to be the editor of Sunday Observer, the paper Ambanis brought out.
To be fair to Dhirubhai Ambani, Sunday Observer was a good and non-partisan paper. Vinod Mehta even published my grilling interviews of Sharad Pawar and Ramarao Adik who had to resign after he was accused of molesting an airhostess while travelling under the influence of alcohol.
Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghosh have resigned – or will be resigning soon – and some others will do the same.
This doesn’t mean that they are more honest than the others. You can be dishonest while supporting UPA and you can be crooked while supporting the Modi Sarkar too.

*****

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The Dying Indian Book

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Authors don’t crib about editors and publishers in their columns. It has to do with the survival instinct. This is why I took notice of the recent column of Vanita Kohli-Khandekar. Writing in Midday about her experience, she lambasts the entire community of book editors. She had written one-third of a book and now thought of approaching some book editors and publishers. She had a hard time fixing a meeting with the editors of Penguin India, and even after she got an appointment, she had to wait for 45 minutes before she could meet the bored-looking book editor. Within two minutes of listening to her, he told her that “Short stories don’t sell.” She had a similar experience with at least three other people who were ‘rude, unresponsive and put her down’. Vanita is not some tyro author. She is the writer of ‘Indian Media Business’ and writes at least two columns, one each in Midday and Business Standard. And if a lady with her background had this experience, the fate of a tyro writer can only be imagined. Like she says, the publishing industry is staring at annihilation, if not extinction, because of this attitude. Yet, according to Vanita, the editors working for the publishing houses don’t care, are incapable of reading and running through several manuscripts and book proposals they get every day, and they are not trained. Not surprisingly, the most successful books have not come from regular publishers but from self-published authors or small publishers.
I have known this for a very long time.
MD for the blog (smaller)

I’d go several steps ahead and compare the bunch of editors in Penguin, as well as in other bigger publishing houses, with the army of salesmen in malls and the waiters in the mushrooming coffee shops – uninterested, untrained, insecure and jealous. You can see them huddled in one corner of Croma or Reliance, or other outlets where the ‘boss’, two rungs above the huddled staff, was once a part of this group.
Continue reading “The Dying Indian Book”

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