9 lessons in Journalism from Tweets

Peter Griffin is Editor, Special Features, at Forbes India and ForbesLife India. He always considers himself as a student. He also handle social media for both publications. Last week the magazine carried a cover story on Flipkart and created a “HO HO” !! Based on the last week’s brouhaha on the cover story and that Peter being a late convert from advertising into journalism, he has listed nine lessons he learnt about Journalism practiced today. He writes in his column in Forbes India magazine :

Being a late convert from advertising, I’m probably the least experienced journalist in the Forbes India team aside from our interns. So I’m always grateful for the lessons the world can teach me.

• It is possible to pronounce judgement on an article based purely on a headline and/or tweets about it.

• A critical cover story must be a marketing gimmick by the subject of the article in collusion with its “critics,” because, after all, as Mr Barnum said, bad publicity is still publicity.

Read the full piece by Peter in Forbes 10 lessons on #journalism from Twitter

Note from Jeetu Shah: Yesterday the full text of the post was published here, but the author objected to that terming it as unethical and directed me to just include part of it and give the link to read the remaining post, which I did. However, I think how grave the crime was it, if the full piece was posted? So, I wrote back to Peter and tried getting some education from him.  ” Lesson # 10 in Journalism”.

Below is, what I wrote back to an Editor, Special Features of a globally acclaimed publication:

Peter, It depends on how we interpret ethics in a certain profession. However, since you are the author and I have committed a sin of letting know the readers of my blog about the 10 lessons you learnt, I shall honor your wish.
I still do not understand though, what difference will it make if I go back to the post, edit it, just include a short excerpt and a link and tax the readers to click the link and visit your whole post? If blogging was my profession (money making) it would be 100 % unethical to earn my livelihood on somebody labour (here writings). And is it really unethical that on a non-money making blog even after I have extended all due credits (authors name/fame, picture, magazine’s name, its link, etc) to the related post, even tendering an unconditional apology, for the “sin” I have committed, instead of just taking it lightly, you are so insistent on making me edit the post and update it again? What will one achieve out of it? Can’t we, as a fellow journalists, just be cool about it? Forbes & you are now globally acclaimed identity and people already know you and admire your work.
Even though you are an Editor, you are so down-to-earth & modest to write that you are ‘always a student’, I was inspired to include the full text of your post (instead of making the readers travel on the net), so that people who know & do not know you, can also admire you (especially after the brouhaha about your Flipkart cover story). In many of my other postings, I normally do what you ordered me to do with your post. But this was a relatively small piece, so I thought an honorable journalist of your stature won’t mind.
But, now I know it’s not you, the designation after your name who is hurt. Thanks for teaching me lesson # 10th.
But, my dear friend remember, it’s always good to get respect by one name and work, as the “belt”(designation) doesn’t remain permanent. Though, I am also a journalist (25+ years), I am also from the trader community being a Gujarati. We usually have a signboard in our shop which says,” These days will also Pass” (whether good or bad). I wish you well, Peter. ~ Jeetu

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Singhvi Sexcapade: India Today Group folded its tent without resistance!

India’s Gutless Media

Achal Mehra writes in LittleIndia

That a deep pocketed media house like the India Today Group folded its tent without resistance in the face of Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s legal threats, while an obscure activist with a checkered free speech history dared to resist, is a permanent blot on a storied media house, for which it owes its readers and the public an apology and an explanation.….But the notoriously inept, reckless and wimpish Indian media elected to censor the video, huffing and puffing about press freedoms, prurient interests and privacy rights instead to obscure their own failures at being scooped by activists and the social media. As a result, few Indians have actually seen the video, even though nearly a million people have viewed it online on YouTube, Twitvid and other social media sites.

…..The conduct of Aaj Tak, Headlines Today and India Today, among the country’s preeminent media companies, who were in possession of the CDs, is especially troubling. The India Today Group, which controls these three media houses, raised no public objection to the blatant censorship attempt, seemingly advanced no defense on behalf of the public interest, and instead, by all accounts, consented meekly to the court order and surrendered the CDs. 

.…According to Singhvi’s legal pleadings, several political leaders contacted him on March 23 and 24 about the CDs being in the possession of journalists. If true, why didHeadlines Today and Aaj Tak not broadcast them or disclose that they possessed them during the three weeks before Singhvi went to court to have them censored?

Click here, to read the full article..

Singhvi Sexcapade: Social media did not violate any high court order

Singhvi in Catch-22 situation: If Singhvi claims right to privacy (in this case),he will he would have to admit the contents of the clip was correct.

Video clippings allegedly featuring Senior Advocate and former Congress Spokesperson, Abhishek Manu Singhvi has quite literally been all over the internet. Although Singhvi was quick in securing an ex parte injunction from the Delhi High Court against three media houses who were in possession of the CD, by then the damage had already been done with the video going viral on the internet.

social media did not violate any high court order..” 

says, Apar Gupta, Partner at Advani & Co, a reputed law firm. He said in an interview given to  Bar & Bench (http://www.barandbench.com), a legal matters related website that,

“… the Delhi High Court granted an interim injunction against the driver who captured and morphed the footage.., and some television news broadcasters ( Aaj Tak, Headlines Today and the India Today Group). The interim injunction was not a John Doe injunction and would not have been applicable against any other parties except the ones, which were named as defendants in the suit…”

Pranesh Prakash of Centre of Internet and Society, another legal expert in these matters opined that:

“…. sites such as YouTube are not broadcasting sites, rather they are being used to broadcast. This distinction, which is not important when it comes to television, is critical when it comes to user-uploaded content and user-generated content. Given that there are thousands of video-sharing websites, there is no way of ensuring that all of them comply with an Indian court order. “

Asked whether public figures have a right to privacy, Apar Gupta said:

“…If (in Singhvi’s case)  privacy would have been claimed, Dr. Singhvi would have been in a unique catch-22 where to claim privacy he would have to admit the contents of the clip (if not the clip in its entirety) was correct. Hence, defamation is an easier ground where he can claim the clip was morphed and hence untrue….”

Can Abhishek Manu Singhvi file a case of defamation against the social media websites for posting the contents of the CD on their websites, Apar gupta says:

” ….Social media websites are only a platform. The case would be on firm legal footing if he gave notice to the social media websites as to the precise URL which contained the defamatory contents and they failed to act within 36 hours to take it down as per the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011. I would also anticipate that if such a case was filed, social media websites would plead innocent dissemination as a defense.”

To the same question Pranesh Prakash says:

Again, I must clarify that social media websites have not posted the contents of the CD on their websites. Users of social media websites have done so.Should Mr. Singhvi be able to? The answer, I believe, should depend on whether the social media platforms were informed about the conduct of unlawful activity on their platforms and still chose not to remove it. The determination of unlawful activity should ideally be from a court. This, I believe is the correct interpretation of Section 79(3) of the IT Act, which deals with intermediary liability.

Read the full interview : Bar & Bench 

Pul-e-Jawan in India: How talks can bring peace

Results can’t be seen overnight but talking peace is part of making peace. PHOTO: CITIZENS MEDIA FORUM, DELHI

The Pul-e-Jawan country forum in India, organised by the Citizen Media Network, convened in Delhi on April 14. It was a follow-up to an event in Kabul where citizen journalists and young peacemakers from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India had met in February.

This  event was organised just two days after the Pul-e-Jawan forum in Pakistan, which was hosted by Bytes for All in Islamabad on April 11 and April 12.

So, where does the name Pul-e-Jawan come from and what is its aim? As their website states,

“Pul-e-Jawan literally means ‘Bridges of Youth’ in Dari, as well as in Urdu and Hindi. The aim of Pul-e-Jawan is to transform the conflict in South Asia by highlighting youth perspectives on common challenges and aspirations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.”

In addition to on the ground work, campaigns and meetings, this forum intends to use the power of social media to exchange ideas and reach out to people across national boundaries. It also looks to finding ways of carrying conversations without feeling limited by the difficulty in attaining visas.

Shivam Vij, journalist and founding member of Kafila put it quite aptly when he said at the Pul-e-Jawan country forum in India:

When you think of the other country, you first think of the border. You don’t imagine it as a country full of people, roads, street signs, food and conversations. You imagine it through images you can access, through state narratives and media narratives, and also narratives of people who have come from there.

However, social media allows you to drop into internal conversations between Pakistanis. You get to see the country in a nuanced way. You get to know a place without visiting it.

He also shared numerous examples of cross-border friendships, some of which are documented in a piece he wrote for First Post last year.

Dr Madanmohan Rao, Research Project Director of Mobile Monday, also spoke at the event about the significant role social media has played in countries like Iran, Israel, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. He shared a number of case studies and hoped for the possibility of using social media to express, question and critique.

His ardent faith in the potential of social media like Twitter, Facebook and blogs was refreshing, especially since the speakers who preceded him seemed rather sceptical of the new media. They kept harping on the time-honoured importance of traditional forums like newspapers, magazines and television channels. What they didn’t take in to account was that traditional media and new media could work together and support each other.

Of course, one cannot overlook the fact that only a tiny percentage of India’s population has access to computers and the internet. However, using this gap as an excuse to undermine the potential of social media is unfair .

At the same time, it is important to remember what journalist, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, said at the forum:

Social media does push the boundaries of freedom of expression. That’s great but in the midst of all this optimism about the internet, I’d like to sound a word of caution. Let’s remember that there is no substitute for going to the field and meeting people.

All these speakers at Pul-e-Jawan’s India forum gave the audience a vibrant range of examples and ways in which citizens can become media practitioners and contribute enthusiastically to public dialogue and social change.

Two other highlights of the day are worth mentioning; a talk by Dilip Simeon, Chairperson of Aman Trust and the performance of Dastan-e-Taqseem-e-Hind by Ankit Chadha and Darain Shahidi.

Dilip Simeon gave a spirited talk, emphasising the importance of speaking out and standing up against injustice and human rights violations. He introduced the audience to the concept of ‘collective guilt’, whereby the onus of acts committed by individuals is seen as synonymous with what the whole community should take responsibility for.

For example, if a politician is assassinated by the people of a certain religion, all members of that community are seen as guilty and avenged for the crime. It was a powerful concept and struck a chord with many. This was mainly because it came only a few hours after the performance of Dastan-e-Taqseem-e-Hind; a story spun around the partition of British India into India and Pakistan. It was presented in the tradition of Dastangoi, a lost art form of Urdu storytelling currently being revived by Mahmood Farooqui and Danish Husain.

The performance was very moving and got a hearty applause from the audience. It became even more poignant when Shahzad Ahmad of Bytes for All joined us on Skype from across the border. Shahzad spoke of the need to build bridges and work together on online and offline initiatives. He focused on pressurising governments for a more relaxed visa regime to enable greater inter-personal contact, which is crucial to a more humane understanding of the demonised other across the border.

Did the forum yield any tangible results?

Can one make peace seated in a plush auditorium?

Did our voices reach the people who make decisions?

These questions are bound to come up.

But there are no easy answers for them. The best one I’ve come across was uttered by Shivam Vij:

Talk shopping is very important. Chai and charcha (tea and talks) can bring aman and chain (peace and calm).

I believe in this. We can’t expect to see results overnight, but talking about peace is a part of making peace. In today’s circus of competing and conflicting voices, it is important to stand up for what you believe in. And when there are so many people believing in the same thing, a difference is a certain reality. It is just a matter of time.

I came back really inspired from the Pul-e-Jawan gathering, and I have a feeling that many others did too. (courtesy: Chintan Modi/tribune.com)

Follow Chintan on Twitter @chintan_connect

Indian cyber law miles behind the realities of social media

Need to amend Information Technology Act, 2000 to put it in sync with the requirement of times

The last few months has seen a lot of hectic activity in India in the context of legal issues around social media. Last year, the statement by the Union minister Kapil Sibal pertaining to pre-moderation of social media generated a lot of flak.

President of Cyberlaw.net, Advocate in Supreme Court of India and Asia’s leading cyber law authority Pavan Duggal, writes in his column in Financial Chronicle (http://www.mydigitalfc.com): 

I think there is an inherent problem if you’re going in the direction of over regulation of social media. India has to realise that the Arab Spring revolution had some learning for countries. If you try to stifle social media and stifle freedom of speech and expression therein, the chances of social media having a tremendous impact upon political and social institutions of the country cannot be ruled out. Instead, social media players need to be made clearer of what could be examples of online defamation or online harassment.

I believe Indian cyber law is miles behind the reality of social media and there is need for amending the Information Technology Act, 2000 to bring it in sync with the requirements of present times.

The approach towards more regulation of social media has to give way to more balanced realisation that first allows us put our house in order. Let’s look at our own Information Technology Act, 2000, that was last amended in 2008. There is sea of change in technology since then. The said law is not at all well equipped to deal with the several nuances pertaining to social media, social media crimes, mobile security, mobile privacy, data protection, and more importantly, cloud computing. The ball lies in the court of the Indian government.

Read the full column: http://www.mydigitalfc.com/it-enabled-services/indian-cyber-law-miles-behind-realities-social-media-549

Why Indian Mainstream Meda Wants Social Media Dead

In recent times Herman Cain, an Afro-American candidate, pulled out of the race for the Republican party’s nomination for US Presidential election in 2012. Three women from his past had alleged sexual harassment by Cain which eventually forced him to abort his campaign. In contrast, Abhishek Manu Singhvi (AMS), MP and Congress spokesman, resigned on April 23 from various posts after his alleged sexual adventures were leaked through a video on the internet. That was enough for the Mainstream Media (MSM) and even PCI Chairman, Justice Katju, to start screaming for controls over the social media. The sex CD which involves AMS and a female lawyer was reportedly made by AMS’s driver and according to AMS was “fake, doctored and morphed”. How a driver went to Darbangha (Bihar) and found enough money and support and morphed a tape will remain a technological wonder for a long time. His alleged motives are “dog-bites and low pay”. Seriously, many of us may complain about our salaries but going to the extent of morphing our bosses into sex videos is taking even revenge too far.

 The case was brought to public light not by the driver or by the MSM or by the social media. It came to prominence when AMS filed a police complaint against the driver and got an injunction from the Delhi HC against airing of the CD. On what basis the HC gave the injunction is another mystery and it almost sounds like pre-screening. Naturally, people wanted to know what was on the CD and what the facts were. This is where the MSM failed as it completely blacked-out the story. The court had stayed airing of the CD and not the reporting of the story. It was then that the story spread like wildfire on Twitter, Facebook and other social media and finally parts of the CD were uploaded by some on the internet.

 In response to the public clamour for the story Rajdeep Sardesai even responded by calling them “EternalVoyeurs”. Such is his disdain for ordinary people. Rajdeep also asked why the Opposition was silent over the issue, as if they, or any political voice, should determine what the press or media should be reporting and discussing. A dead give-away.
Even so, when the cookie finally crumbled, the MSM wasn’t discussing the AMS sex incident, they were busy debating whether ‘Internet is above the courts’ (For uploading the CD against the court injunction) and some like Justice Katju andSagarika Ghose were discussing ways and means to ‘check’ the social media.
Nothing would please our MSM (and some politicians) more than to see the death of social media. It has come to challenge their monopoly, their bias, their spins, their lies, and their selective reporting. In the US the Internet media has seen the death of many newspapers and quite a few TV channels. Some 300 newspapers have died in a small country like UK. Unlike print and TV, social media requires the regular MSM and public figures to be interacting with people sensibly which is where they have failed in India. Public opinions can be suppressed in newspapers and TV but not on the social media. So while raging against the people on the social network and wanting to desperately ‘check’ them the Indian media really needs to understand the way social media works and harness it productively and profitably. Comments under the post “Media as cover-up artist for Seedy Singhvi” will reveal how even keen news-watchers were totally unaware of the AMS incident. That is how successfully the MSM blacked-out the story.
The Internet wasn’t created in India. The Internet didn’t evolve in India. None of the major social media engines were created in India. For all its other problems the US still remains a country with absolute freedom of speech. President, Pope and even religion are no exceptions to such freedoms. Books are not banned and books can be burned. Nazi group marches through Jewish localities to offend them is allowed. Protests at funerals against dead ‘gay’ soldiers, in bad taste, are allowed.Bad taste is not a crime. Therefore, for Internet and social media to thrive in the US environment wasn’t as big a challenge as it is in India. Mind you, the same laws that punish defamation or illegal activities otherwise also apply to social media in the US. It does in India too. It is just that in India free-speech is largely reserved for the powerful and the MSM. Now that the situation is changing it’s causing unease among many in the media and politics. US citizens over many years have grown used to and cherished their freedom of speech. Most of them know what to believe and what to ignore. The Indian govt and media simply doesn’t trust ordinary people to have the good judgement over issues.
Courtesy: Ravinar & Media Crooks (http://www.mediacrooks.com)
If the AMS CD was uploaded on the net it was because the media didn’t discuss it. It got uploaded because people generally believed that this level of gagging by a court and black-out by MSM can only mean there is truth in the story. That a prominent lawyer like AMS would seek an injunction and instead of continuing the FIR against the alleged conspirator reach a settlement with him further reinforces the belief that the CD is neither morphed nor doctored. Apart from the frivolous discussion; “Is Internet above courts” on CNN-IBN (who else but Sagarika Ghose?) and other channels, NDTV even discussed if ‘India is going the US way’ on the media issue. Among participants on NDTV was Shoma Chaudhury, editor of Tehelka, a near-gossip tabloid, and the same tabloid that famously used call girls to do their jobs. That is enough said for morality in media.
If there is evil in the social media, it is prevalent elsewhere too, particularly in the MSM and politics. It is how we respond to it that counts. It is not easy for someone to survive in the social network by constantly peddling lies and misleading information. In Indian media it is definitely possible and sometimes it even seems they are paid for it. For those screaming about morals so much in the MSM there is an example of a prominent journalist Keith Olberman who was suspended from his channel, MSNBC, for a small but undeclared donation he made to politicians. In contrast people like Barkha Dutt are celebrated in our media despite established wrong-doings. In the US Barkha Dutt would have been permanently trashed and out of the media for good. So people like Rajdeep Sardesai would do well not to sermonise on morality, which he often does. The likes of Shoma Chaudhary, Sonia Singh (NDTV), Sagarika Ghose should also be frequently reminded of the sordid NOTW affair in UK. That tabloid is what much of Indian MSM should be compared to and not values of ‘Freedom of speech’.
In the last US presidential election Youtube was successfully used by CNN to allow ordinary people to put questions to the candidates and have them debate the issues. Many other clips from Youtube are also used by US news channels in their reports. Why Indian media cannot find productive use for social media other than promoting egos of individual journalists is simply the fear of sharing their turf. Forget harnessing social media productively, the frequency with which our news channels twist and manipulate tweets to suit their agenda actually amounts to abuse of social media by them.
The MSM perceives a loss to the social media on the issue of AMS, his sexcapade and his final resignation. This is hardly the truth. Social media did not bring AMS down. In the final scene of the movie ‘All the President’s men’ WaPo editor Ben Bradley chides Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein thus: “You know the results of the latest Gallup Poll? Half the country never even heard of the word Watergate. Nobody gives a shit”. That’s right half the US didn’t know and didn’t give a shit till Nixon finally resigned. That was despite tremendous coverage by the Washington Post and a few more newspapers. Here we are, an entire MSM blacking out the AMS story and they want the world to believe it is the evil of social media that has to be ‘checked.
Social media didn’t bring AMS down. He brought himself down with his dirty deeds, social media just showed the courage that MSM did not just as Woodward and Bernstein didn’t bring down Nixon on their own. MSM, and Justice Katju, would do well to partner social media rather than try to check it. If ever ‘Power to the people’ made sense in a democracy it is Social Media. Celebrate it!