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Wednesday, May 27

The Pen, the ink & the colours PART II

Continued from Part I...

A day in Kerala starts with the suprabhatham, a cuppa & a newspaper. The papyrus has become such a part & parcel of mallu life that Malayala Manorama is the lone regional daily in India to cross 1.5million copies.

Logically, the comprehension of the late news by Keralites are clearly influenced by the colour of the ink in those newspapers, with each leading daily speaking a variant of the story at most times. I read the online version of Kerala Kaumudi, Deepika and Malayala Manorama regularly, and also brush through Mathrubhumi, and it is interesting to note the starking differences between the leading dailies.

Kerala Kaumudi
is a newspaper with a background of nearly 100 years. It was started with a noble aim, like all old newspapers, has its name etched in the history of Kerala state. But Kaumudi still lags behind Manorama and Mathrubhumi in circulation, some data indicating it is still behind Deshabhimani.

Kaumudi has been a torchbearer for the state's socially backward communities, especially the Ezhava, Muslim and the scheduled castes. KK, as we'll call it from now, has a tradition of toiling for the poor and oppressed, against exploitation, harassment and injustice and has done a fairly good job until now.

KK is still orthodox in its outfit; it hosts a modest online paper, hasn't yet evolved any sporty looks and fills itself with more news than ads (+1 for that) . It is not much interested in news about development initiatives (though there are welcome signs of change), flaunts a totally sub-par sports page and is an embarrassment when it comes to reporting business news.

Appreciably though, Kaumudi has been able to balance itself while doing political reporting, with an arguable, yet understandable soft corner for the left parties. Saying so, its not possible to close our eyes towards the aggressive campaigning to ouster the A.K. Antony led Congress Govt in 1996 after the Sivagiri incident. While Antony was politically at fault in ordering Police action in the revered shrine, Kaumudi went on an open and merciless offensive against the Chief Minister which eventually led to his downfall in the succeeding elections.

It may be a coincidence, but KK is a bit too quick at arriving to conclusions, especially if a subject (in person) falls in their pamper-list. When the Nalini Netto- Neelalohithadasan Nadar scandal broke out, KK reported the breaking news as "Upper-class lobby trying to scuttle a backward-class minister". Neelan has been acquitted by the courts now, all right, and we all know under what circumstances, but Kaumudi's 'early-judgement' in this case left me guessing.

Curious enough, Kaumudi never said a word about the recent infamous dog-remarks by our big-mouthed CM Achuthanandan in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attack. A couple of days after the storm started to rage, Kaumudi had an interesting piece in its editorial page supporting the wacky CM, (without any mention about the real incident) criticizing the other media for blowing out of proportion a 'trivial and colloquial use of phrase' and that Kerala print & visual media were foot-lickers of the National media...and so on...

If there is one single chronicle which could underscore this hasty state-of-affairs and jumping to conclusions at Kaumudi, it is the Sr. Abhaya Murder case. It will be unfair and unjust to comment on this issue because very few really know what happened on March 27th 1992, but Kaumudi guys are dead sure about the murderers. Don't ask how.

Perhaps Kaumudi hosts the creme of the investigative journalists in India, who can rival Sherlock Holmes in their profession. Kudos.

Kaumudi has been all over the accused, with explosive, extravagant and extensive tales about the crime and has literally sentenced the accused to death. On the other hand, Deepika has been ferocious against any attempts to point a finger at the defendants; for them its a conspiracy against the Church. But what about the poor public?

The one truth remains that there can't be two sides to the tale: the accused are either guilty or innocent. Let the truth prevail at the end, but Kaumudi acted the self-appointed solicitor of the plaintiffs by turning the case into a spectacular tabloid tale, whilst it was still on court tables. KK also landed in hot water through a patriotic editorial with severe remarks about Justice Hema, and had to fall on the court's feet with an unconditional apology.

This may be news for you if you're a Kaumudi reader because the contempt of court case against Kerala Kaumudi didn't appear in the newspaper. Why? If you were so bold to take on the courts why hold back from the readers what really transpired??

So in a nutshell Kerala Kaumudi has been fair, except for patches. It wont stink, if you open up the archives. Between, want to experience real third rate journalism? Welcome abroad MalayalaManorama, the most widely circulated newspaper in Kerala.. *cough* Read about it here in Part III...

Saturday, May 16

Tharoor of Trivandrum

The D-day is over!

And Trivandrum has chosen Dr. Shashi Tharoor as its representative to New Delhi.. and whoa, what a refreshing change!

The margin, of 1,00,000 has literally floored me, and a good bulk of the Tharoor supporters as well. Shashi Tharoor himself is lost for words at this Himalayan victory. Well, I don't hear any fair complaints, excusez moi dear commie supporters and well-wishers.

Apparently, the tough work is now over and Tharoor is well on course to handle one of the crucial portfolios in the new Manmohan Singh ministry, the rumour stuck on with the Foreign Affairs. With Congress heading for the magic number on its own, ruling out the usual parasitic infestations in our coalition set up, Tharoor is almost certain to occupy the chair until the scheduled ballots in 5 years time.

That's a good five years that could rewrite the scripts for Trivandrum and Kerala.

Its not that we haven't had good politicians and visionaries in the past, but Dr. Tharoor has very well exhibited that he is the man for the times. He knows how to bring about 'development' , about which our past leaders have only spoken about. And he has already joined forces with the NGOs, groups like TDF and already has a plan in place for a Citizen's forum to usher in the thought molecules of growth.

Kowdiar Avenue Photo courtesy Sudheesh Nair

So here is a man who knows what he is doing and let's wish him luck folks. Lets give him a helping hand in turning his vision about our city into a reality... No, we dont want 45 storied scrapers all around the city, we dont want Metro trains buzzing all over, we dont want another Bangalore or Mumbai out of our sweet little Trivandrum in the next 5 years, but help him bring in things which this city really and realistically needs...

Tharoor knows it as better as we do, doesn't he? Dont tell me you havnt seen what he thinks Trivandrum needs.. And how about this gesture for a start?

As someone quoted here in webspace, its Tharoor-in-the-puram from toady! :)

Thursday, May 7

The Pen, the ink & the colours PART I

The millennium Bond flick "Tomorrow Never Dies" conceptualizes a media mogul who schemes up dicey stories for his news channel and turns them to reality. Keralites were introduced to this then seemingly wild concept of 'tomorrow's news today' by Mammooty in New Delhi, as early as in 1984.

Seems this idea has inspired a few newscasters of our times, in a different form though, where we get to see and hear pre-set, formulated news and even ingeniously manufactured scoops, totally dissociated itself from the real tale.

With a dearth of options, I've been jinxed to watch some of the crappiest of English/ Hindi newschannels over here. I don't know what drives the sense of purpose behind channels like Star News. Its like a Cricinfo + B4U mixture, with ads and current news as fillers. They air some of the strangest current events programmes dubbed as news, hosting a herd of amateur clueless journos. Oh, if you are a cricket lover don't be mulled into tuning into this frequency, because 'prolific' cricket experts like Saba Karim and Sandeep Patil will do your head in by scrutinizing, criticizing and exposing technical deficiencies in the front foot cover drive of Sachin Tendulkar and the foot movement of Herschelle Gibbs at Point. Saba Karim even takes an extreme step forward by exhibiting with a bat how Sachin should have really played the shot to pierce the gap. Ahem!

Up on the Bollywood half, its gossip, gossip and gossip for the Star nincompoops, on who's looking down the boobs of whom, speculations about the marriage blues of star couples and predictions about 'what will happen in a weeks time'.

I'm not sure if Aaj Tak has improved, it was one channel which had the maximum scope of improvement, in other words it sucked the most. I had the privilege of watching Aaj Tak breaking news a couple of years back; spooky, theatrical headlines and reports with ear-aching background scores which would put the lousiest of Saas-bahu dramas to shame.

NDTV, CNN-IBN and aamchi DD are some other channels in contention, and surprisingly Doordarshan has managed to maintain its previous standards, even though it has always been below-par. But it certainly is shocking that some of the mainstream news channels have stooped down to hit such lowly troughs.

A sigh of relief it is, to think that Malayalam Channels still maintain some sort of a gauge in telecasting happenings around us. Forget the tear-jerker mega-serials and eternal reality shows, the current dominant channels like Asianet, Surya, Indiavision and Amritha needs a pat on the back for commendable reporting of current events. These channels, in my opinion, have managed to strike a balance in voicing their own opinion against what actually transpired on mother earth, without of course turning the goat into the dog. Afterall media has evolved in such a way that the element of favouritism and bias cannot be wiped out fully.

Kairali Channel, with its background, has a greater affinity towards cherry shades and so the news reporting follows a predictable pattern. Kairali pits itself against the identical twin losers among Malayalam Channels, Jeevan and Manorama News.

Manorama News carries forward the saga of its elder sibling, the original Malayala Manorama newspaper. The channel, although hosts a few appreciable current events programmes, follows the same tradition of news invention, news twisting and news trading for which the papyrus MM is infamous for. Malayala Manorama has grown into such a legend that I need one full post to appreciate their finer qualities. You can read about it here, in a few weeks time.

But again the silver lining is that Kerala News Channels and journalists are still head and shoulders above their New Delhi counterparts in the quality of reporting, and the substance and reality in the reports.

Whereas, Malayalam channels are yet to realign themselves with the changes happening in this "Media Business", where 'as it happened now' is the new motto. Blogs, and lately microblogs like Twitter have brought live news to new unthinkable levels. The way BBC, Sky News and co reported Mumbai 26/11 with live tweets and links must be a reference for our local media barons.

The pen still remains mightier than the sword, but the current media has lost the prophecy attributed to it over the years. Its now just another business, with most of its divine qualities gone down the drain, forever.

How can I stop without a few words about our print media, which we compulsively gulp down with our morning cup of tea. Ever wondered what exactly you are reading? Continuing here in Part II