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Maya “Bush”: Goa Sting Operator Who Gave Up Anonymity

The multiple exploits of Mayabhushan Nagvenkar, the journalist who exposed Goa’s paid news racket, pulled off a prank by planting a fake Nazi story in several well-read dailies, and has held up a mirror to the media in other ways. He is known in Goan media circles as Bhushan, or The Bush. He has written an hilarious article titled  ‘Pimples on Paradise’ about the various corrupt activities of media in Goa in newslaundry.com:

“Bhushan gives the home minister too much tension. He gives the chief of police too much tension as well. He is too straightforward.”

Mayabhushan Nagvenkar

I live in Goa. In a small corner in that paradise.In that corner, where I live, there aren’t any dancing virgins. There’s only journalists. And crimson trails of torn professional hymens.

And the story I have to tell is not new. It isn’t even a big story.Like the one which spilled out with the Nira Radia tapes. There’s no Barkha Dutt. There’s no Vir Sanghvi. Not even a relatively low-brow, shrill Prabhu Chawla.

The story is about a small place. The heroes here are a lot smaller in scale. So are the villains. But the stories from this small place are as interesting as the ones which come from the big cities. Trust me. The sweet, warm smell of purification reeks the same everywhere.

As the author of this piece, I will reserve stories involving me for later.

The first story’s a comparison between two opposite journalistic poles.

This is the story of Ash. And the story of Pats.

Ash has been a journalist for nigh two decades. He’s conscientiously worked on the newsdesk and reported extensively in Goa. He’s anchored newspaper editions for all three local newspapers in Goa.

Ash has been a journalist for nigh two decades. He’s conscientiously worked on the newsdesk and reported extensively in Goa. He’s anchored newspaper editions for all three local newspapers in Goa. But then he went on and did three things over the last few years – not necessarily in the order listed. He became a founding member of a newspaper employees union seeking fair working conditions. Later, he contested civic elections after putting in a legit leave of absence. Third, he befriended me.

Result: He has been virtually unemployed for the last four of the eight years. There are four daily English newspapers in Goa. One monthly news magazine. And several other news, feature and lifestyle magazines. But no jobs to be had for him. In my honest opinion, he has the professional wherewithal to fit into any newspaper set up across the country.

The one reason which editors and newspaper managements in Goa give him for rejecting his job application, is his ‘voluble’ support and perceived involvement in an anonymous media critiquing blog I ran by the name of Penpricks. And he wasn’t even part of it.

Directorate of Official language organized a book release function on 31st May 2010 at Maquinize Palace, Panaji at the hands of Shri Digambar Kamat, Hon’ble C. M./Minister of Official Language in the distinguished presence of renowned music director Shri Ashok Patki, following three books were released in the function, one of which was “Vikas Khara Khota” written by Goa’s most prominent, resourceful, respectful and seniormost journalist, editor Shri Raju Nayak (extreme right) in Marathi
(note: This picture is not suggestive of any imaginative character in the article. It is only published here to show how Goa governments has been encouraging prominent literary personalities from all walks of life to promote art & culture.

Now, Pats has also been around a bit. He’s on the vernacular end of things. His honest cherry popped early and was perhaps replaced by a big red plum. He was caught using a ruling Congress politician’s credit card for wardrobe shopping. Took paid-news suparis regularly. Bought a few mining trucks. Started real estate projects. Until one fine day he was asked to leave by his newspaper management, when they discovered that he hadn’t withdrawn from his salary account for several years. Within a month he was snapped up by another vernacular newspaper and his cycle of corruption renewed once again.

The second story has no central characters. There were just too many of them during the run-up to the assembly elections in March this year, for any one in particular to take centre stage. Early during the campaign, both the Congress and the BJP came in with war chests to cultivate the media. Well, there’s still no confirmation of the exact monies doled out to the media here. But then there’re things you see for yourself. While one political party offered journalists covering the polls tablet phones along with money, another party simply offered cash on the barrel. So if you see media folk in Goa who suddenly flaunt a tablet phone and tell-tale signs of a sudden flush of cash, chances are you may have just spotted a bad egg.

The deal struck between journalists and newspaper managements and poll contestants these last elections was relatively uncomplicated, but also had a sheen of innovation.

Conventionally, the concept of paid news involves payment of money for publishing of favourable content. During the March elections however, the paid-news deals involved not just writing favourably about one candidate, but also blanking out news involving his opponents. Paid-news emerged as an evolved and a matured entity this time round.

Those interested in looking up lop-sided reportage, could scan the poll coverage in the Herald for a comparative analysis of assembly constituencies like Fatorda, Curchorem, Quepem, etc, where the coverage has been extremely ‘unusual’ to say the least. There were other newspapers who did it too, but none with the élan of the above-mentioned newspaper.

And then there’s this little story about me.

I’ve been a working journalist since 1997. I have worked for The Asian Age in Mumbai, Herald in Goa, Tehelka in New Delhi and have also been part of a band of journalists who produced investigative news software for television channels. And then I’ve done some writing on and critiquing of the media in Goa over the years. There’s the story about editorials for sale. Then there was the fake story about a holocaust varmint Nazi being arrested by a fictitious secret German police unit floated by me which was published in several newspapers across India and the globe. Then there was another story about newspapers publishing sex advertisements promoting prostitution, where instead of listing the pimp’s number, I inserted phone numbers of the same editors whose newspapers published these lewd and solicitous adverts. There was also the story of how the Goa Editor’s Guild (GEG) set out to gag the media critique blog, by listing the item on the agenda of an official Guild meeting. And then another one establishing paid news in these assembly elections in Goa.

Result: I’ve had to do my bit of scrounging. I have been at the bottom of the barrel for a spell. In the course of exposing the above-mentioned stories, I’ve been out of a job for a long while. There was no money coming in so I resorted to all sorts of odd writing jobs, since writing is the only paying skill I possess. I did some cheap sweatshop commercial-writing by pitching to postings on craigslist. I’ve written and rewritten about yoga mats. About turd-cleaning devices, which help you clear dog poo off the floor, without leaving stains. I’ve even written tasty little descriptors for websites hosting porn films and sleazeclips, sometimes making $2 for 500 words.

All this, until a friend and fellow journalist Fredrick Noronha voluntarily and graciously gave up his job writing for a news agency from Goa, so that I could pitch for it.

So now every story told through the ages has had its morals. And I am still looking for the morals in mine.

But like I said earlier. The story is the same everywhere. Journalistic corruption is not special to Goa. Dammit, it’s not even as big as the big metros. So why did I do the things I did and say the things I have over here?

Things come across a lot clearer in smaller places. There’re fewer people. Fewer buffers. Fewer layers of camouflage. There’s lesser intrigue. The smaller journalistic microcosm of Goa is representative of the profession’s ills and helps one understand the depravity of the broader journalistic setup in India in an easy way.

A shot of Goan feni in a Goan tavern works as well as the finest scotch in Delhi’s tony, well-heeled clubs. But what would cost you ten bucks here could cost you a few hundred quid in Delhi, with perhaps a Bangkok junket thrown in for good measure.

Jammu Tribune: ‘National Press’ Ingress

Shujaat Bukhari
The Chandigarh based leading newspaper, Tribune recently made an entry into the media market in Jammu and Kashmir by launching its “Jammu Tribune” supplement. During the launching ceremony, the Governor N NVohra hoped that it would also reach to Srinagar with a similar mission. 

Dedicating a few pages to the affairs of the state by the regional and national newspapers is not new but the way Tribune has started presenting it, is something significant. With the unprecedented revolution in Information Technology in last over one decade, conflicting trends have emerged in the media scene. In contrast to shrinking space for newspapers in United States and other western countries, more newspapers have started appearing on the news stalls in India. Notwithstanding fast advancements in dissemination of news through social media viz Facebook and Twitter, only 3 percent population in India has direct access to the internet. That is why Hindi press in India is getting stronger and there is hardly any decline in the readership of English newspapers through the hard copies.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the scene is no different. From not more than 30 registered newspapers in 1989, the number has already crossed 800. It is afact that only a handful of newspapers in English and Urdu have a stable readership but the trend of becoming “Editors” has not shown any sign of discouragement.

While the problems of local newspapers (except a few) have not ended, the national newspapers have started looking towards closer connection with the readers in Jammu and Kashmir. Launch of “Tribune Jammu” is part of that experiment. One cannot jump to the judgment about the failure or success of Tribune in eating up the space of other leading English newspapers in Jammu but it certainly would depend upon how the newspaper would deal with the local issues. Jammu is already tasting the local editions of Amar Ujala and Dainik  Jagran, two leading Hindi newspapers of mainland India. After expanding their bureaus, both launched full fledged editions from the city thus making a huge dent into the circulation base of once the “king” of Hindi journalism in the north – Hind Samchar – and to an extent to Dainik Kashmir Times. With a variety of material, from local to national and international affairs, both newspapers have made a difference in the market.

The English newspapers such as Hindustan Times, Times of India and Indian Express had started devoting few pages to the state much earlier. Indian Express had gone ahead by having tie up with a local newspaper. However, the experiment failed to the extent that the circulation with which these newspapers had command in the market went down to a considerable level. Since readers had developed a taste to read a national newspaper for what was happening in rest of India as also how the national media would cover the happenings in the state, they started losing the interest. This was precisely the reason The Indian Express reverted back to catering the market with Delhi edition. Even as Jammu does not have much problems with the political discourse the national media would set in, this surely would not strike a chord in politically volatile Kashmir.

The only experiment done in Kashmir so far is of QuamiAwaz, the Urdu newspaper which happened to be the mouth piece of Congress. With its good quality news presentation and lay out it was launched in 1989. It carved a space and to an extent pushed aside Aftab and Srinagar Times – the two leading Urdu dailies of that time. However, it failed the test when armed rebellion broke out in same year and could not synchronise its editorial policy with the political aspirations of the people. The result was that it was closed down only after few months of its remarkable success in the market.

Launching an edition of a national newspaper from a place like Kashmir cannot be a cakewalk. Its success is caveated with the “compromise” on a dotted  nationalistic line. Like in pre-freedom era of United India, the newspapers such as Times of India, The Statesman and Independent were ahead in technology and presentation, but they failed to make a constituency among the public for being closer to the British rule.

In that vacuum the lesser quality papers like Harijan and Hindustan Times could reach to the people in a better way as they represented their wishes. So in Kashmir, a national newspaper has to take a stand and it remains to be seen whether it can compromise on the larger “national issues”. Coverage of day to day problems of governance and daily events is not a problem for any newspapers that comes from outside but to identify its stand on political issues is the real test. Even the local newspapers face ire on account of what many people think “they are going against the dominant sentiment”.

Entry of national newspapers in Valley is not a major threat to local journalism. The way the local media would cover the happenings in Kashmir, it is not expected that a national newspaper could devote that much of space. Besides highlighting the government activities there is not much scope for the issues thrown up as a consequence of the conflict. But their arrival in the market would definitely help them reach to their existing readers early in the morning. By any stretch of imagination the local advertisement market cannot shift to higher rate structure of national newspapers so easily. It will, however, open space for more young journalists to get better salaries, which in any case is good for the growth of the institution.
Shujaat Bukhari is editor of the Daily Rising Kashmir

Upcoming 6 new publications in English, Hindi, Marathi & Kannada !

National Dunia, a Hindi daily

SB Media has launched a new Hindi daily, National Dunia, today. The newspaper will be circulated in Delhi, NCR and Ghaziabad. National Dunia consists of 16 main pages and four supplementary pages. It has a cover price of Rs 3. The four-page supplement that will accompany National Dunia will be dedicated to health, education and entertainment. This will be an everyday affair with the exception of Sunday when a 48-page magazine consisting of current affairs and infotainment will be circulated with the newspaper without any extra charge.

Life 365

Pune-based Aaj Ka Anand Papers is all set to foray into the English daily space with its new launch, Life 365, from April 15. The group brings out a Hindi daily, Aaj Ka Ananad and a Marathi eveninger, Sandhyanand. As a promotional offer, Life 365 will be bundled along with Aaj Ka Anand. Life 365 has been doing test runs for the past 15 days and the feedback to the newspaper has been good.

 

 

Divya Marathi,  Solapur

Dainik Bhaskar Group launched the fifth edition of its Marathi newspaper, Divya Marathi, from Solapur, Maharashtra, on March 31, 2012. The first edition of Divya Marathi was launched from Aurangabad in May 2011. Thereafter, other editions from Nashik, Jalgaon and Ahmednagar were also launched. With five editions of Divya Marathi, the group now completes its coverage in the state of central Maharashtra. In the overall number of publications, this is the 65th edition of the group.

Kannada daily, Vijayavani

VRL Media’s Kannada daily, Vijayavani, hit the stands early this week. It is currently circulated to three prime markets, namely, Bengaluru, Mangalore and Hoobly and is priced at Rs 2.50. The daily is planning to expand its circulation to Bijapur and Mysore.

 

Following which editions from Gangavati, Chitiradurga, Shimoga and Gulbarga will be published in two months’ time. Vijayavani is the only all-colour Kannada daily in the market. Chinnappa Bhat will lead the editorial division of Vijayavani. Apart from the regular content, a four-page special supplement catering to various interests will be circulated with the main edition every day. The supplements will focus on a range of topics such as literature, astrology, lifestyle, movies, health, travel, education, etc.

Women’s Health

India Today Group launched its new magazine, Women’s Health, on April 2, 2012 in New Delhi. The magazine is a sister product of Men’s Health and is published by US-based Rodale. India is the 27th country to launch the magazine. Women’s Health will showcase doctors, celebrity fitness trainers, weight loss coaches, and sex and relationship counselors. The print run of the monthly magazine is approximately 45000-50000. It has a cover price of Rs 100. The magazine is targeted at women who are in their 20’s and 30’s. These are the women who came of age with a sense of confidence and belief that anything is possible. Women’s Health not only addresses issues such as health, fitness, weight loss and eating right, but also offers 360-degree solutions for a young woman’s life. It focuses on issues such as relationships, success at the workplace, etc. he cornerstone of all this is service journalism that puts the reader and upgrading her life ahead of everything else. But Women’s Health does it with boldness and verve. It makes health fun and easy to achieve. Women’s Health currently has 14 international editions and is present in 27 countries such as The United States, Italy, Germany, UK, Turkey, China, India, among others.