Sunday, August 05, 2007

Sevanti Ninan on blogs

Sevanti Ninan, one of the better commentators on Indian media, has a report in Outlook on Indian blogs and bloggers (referred 'affectionately' as "cyborgs"). From the tone of her article, it's clear that she's not impressed by what she sees in the Indian blogosphere.

Yet, her own report is pretty pedestrian. It trots out the usual statistics about the total number of blogs (she doesn't even bother to estimate the number of Indian blogs or that of blogs in Indian languages), mentions some of the top blogs (Engadget and Boing Boing) according to Technorati, and makes rather dubious claims ("those who read blogs are turning away from mainstream media"). In Ninan's opinion, "the best part of a blog is its name." And she doesn't get the idea behind DesiPundit (Disclosure: I am a contributor to this group blog).

Heck, she even mistakes the websites of Arun Shourie and M.J. Akbar for blogs. The former does not host a blog, and the latter's blog is "edited" by an "official blogger" whose name is not M.J. Abkar. Sigh.

FWIW, here are some extracts.

Desi Pundit offers a daily collection of posts, from what it describes as the best that the Indian blogosphere has to offer. The more hyperactive ones write a post a day, the average frequency of an update is much less. A post could simply be a link to what someone else has written or a piece of soulful prose, or a travelogue. People with personal blogs also blog at group blogs like Caferati run by a group of writers who post poems, book reviews. The list of contributors exceeds 70. One of them describes himself as an investor in start-ups, another is an actor who describes his interests as theatre, literature, poetry, long drives, soulful conversations, outdoor adventures, people. Would a reasonably well-informed person, not looking for someone to tell them what to think, get very much out of a non-specialised blog? The answer is no.

Yet blogs have a charm of their own. Somebody is writing about the birth and death of stars, somebody else about the benefits of coconut oil or Kannada movies. Veiled4Allah brings you "the occasional thoughts of a Muslim woman". And an Indian woman in the UK uses her blog to tell you that it is alright to be a bad mother.


  1. Anonymous said...


  2. Unknown said...

    Sensationalism and Journalism Sevanti Ninan way:

    One among the top ranking universities in India today, BITS Pilani (Birla Institute of Technology and Science) is located in Vidya Vihar Nagar Palika which is one of the 13 Nagar Palikas in Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan. Sizeable population in Vidya Vihar Nagar Palika is made of students who come from the length and breadth of the country to study in BITS and other educational institutions including various schools at Pilani.

    As per 2001 census, total population of Vidya Vihar Pilani is 14366 out of which 11727 are literates working out to a literacy rate of 81.63 percent as compared to national average of 65.38. The total number of children in the 0-6 age group is 1310 out of which 700 are males and 610 are females working out to a Child Sex ratio (CSR) 871:1000 as compared to the national average of 927. CSR is number of female children in the age group of 0-6 years per 1,000 male children.

    Dated 16 March 2008, in one of India’s National Newspaper with circulation in millions, a news item The Hindu : Magazine / Columns : Grim Realities it is stated that Pilani the town which is home to the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) has a literacy rate of 97 percent and a child sex ratio of 327:1000! and draws a conclusion that the more educated and well off you are, the more you are likely to subscribe to foeticide. The exclamation mark seems to be intentionally put in the referred news to depict the gravity of the situation to ensure that crude sensationalism took precedence over responsible journalism. Several alumni of the Institute have expressed serious concern about how the CSR figure of 327 was arrived at.

    Emails to the Central Government Ministry of Women and Child Development at Delhi as well as Rajasthan State Government officials at Jaipur regarding the CSR value of 327 as reported in the media for Pilani brought no response.

    If it was written by some fly by night journalist in a stay in shelf newspaper no one would have cared. The article has been written in a column titled Media Matters in a newspaper of esteem by none other than a lady journalist and author of repute as well as respect Sevanti Ninan who also happens to be the Honorary Secretary for the media watch website, The Hoot which is an Internet forum to discuss media practice and media ethics. In the referred news, she had quoted one Mr Rajan Choudhary who heads the NGO Shikshit Rojgar Kendra Parbandhak (SRKPS) at Jhunjhunu which is forty kms from Pilani.

    A telecon with Mr Rajan Choudhary revealed that since he had never visited Vidya Vihar, he was not aware that several wards in Vidya Vihar Nagar Palika included hostels for the students.

    Today in journalism, there has always been a tension between getting it first and getting it right. In this age where old news is cold news, priority is to get it first from anywhere to everywhere and from anyone to everyone rather than get it right. No wonder Peter Mcwilliams said that the news media are, for the most part, the bringers of bad news and it's not entirely the media's fault as bad news gets higher ratings and sells more papers than good news. The current state of news media must take the blame for public’s general lack of information which is vital for responsible citizenship in a democracy.

    With potential to make the right wrong and wrong the right, media is the most powerful entity on earth as they control the minds of the masses. But media should remember that there is an age old saying that Sun, Moon and Truth are the three things that cannot be hidden for too long.

    The media fancies in the news if it makes a good story, without much regard for the factual accuracy and ensures that truth is lost in semantics and theatrics. Today’s jaundiced journalism finds fertile ground in would-be journalists whose motives have little to do with social conscience, disclosure of injustice, uncovering wrongdoing or giving voice to the voiceless.

    Despite repeated attempts, Sevanti Ninan has not found the time to clarify which only reinforces the quote of Graham Greene that Media is a word which has come to mean bad journalism.

    After all today journalism largely consists of saying that Johnny is dead to people who never knew that Johnny was alive.