This hilarious illustration is the Ravi Shastri of journalism cliches

This hilarious illustration is the Ravi Shastri of journalism cliches
Photo Credit: Karl Sharro
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The stage is set. There’s a keen contest on the cards. At first glance, this might serve as a cautionary tale forcing us to think outside the box. But if you probe the matter and upon deeper reflection, you might conclude that this is just what the doctor ordered.

Confused? Most print journalists would find the lack of any semblance of meaning in the previous paragraph oddly comforting (or infuriating), because its made up of some of the most common cliches of newspaper copy.

A couple of years ago, the Washington Post‘s Sunday Outlook attempted to collect all the far-too-familiar phrases and idioms that journalists keep falling back on. That list, from “at a crossroads” to “only time will tell,” is now at 200 cliches and counting.

India has its own overused phrases, the most famous of which (at least for those of us on Twitter) is keen contest on the cards, a headline used so commonly by the Hindu that a Google search turns up more than 2,000 pages with that title.

India also has its own Ravi Shastri, a cricketer-turned-commentator who turns the form into an exercise in mouthing as many cliches as possible in the shortest period of time. Googling Ravi Shastri cliches, from electryfing atmospheres to a cracker of a game, will give you many more results than the keen contest.

Now Karl Sharro, an architect, satirist and blogger, has designed a house that brings together some of the most common elements of journalism and political punditry.

Some of the are a little more foreign – smoke-filled rooms and blue-sky thinking would be rather exotic references in Indian news copy – but the writing on the wall and the moral high ground are far too familiar. And don’t even ask about the elephant, um, in the room.

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What explains the astonishingly high number of accredited journalists in Andhra Pradesh?

What explains the astonishingly high number of accredited journalists in Andhra Pradesh?
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Information obtained by way of a Right to Information query shows that Andhra Pradesh has an astonishingly large number of journalists who have been given official accreditation by the state government: more than 15,000.

Compared to this, Karnataka has 815, Bihar 770, Punjab 450, Orissa 157, Jammu and Kashmir 81, Himachal Pradesh 76 and Goa 72 accredited journalists. Those figures are lower than the number of officially recognised journalists in any single district in Andhra Pradesh: upward of 900.

Accredited journalists are entitled to concessions on trains and buses and health facilities, among other benefits .

What explains this?

Some argue that the number of accredited journalists in Andhra Pradesh is high because of the large number of dailies in the state. Amar Devulapalli, secretary-general of Indian Journalists Union and consulting editor of Sakshi TV, brushed away allegations that Andhra Pradesh was accrediting journalists indiscriminately. “There is no hanky-panky,” he said.

However, according to a 2014-’15 report of the Registrar of Newspapers in India, the largest number of publications are published in Uttar Pradesh (5,506), followed by Madhya Pradesh (2,494), Delhi (2,465) and Uttarakhand (1,847). Andhra has only 1,648.

While the number of accredited journalists for some of the above states was not readily available, it is instructive to note that the number of accredited journalists in Rajasthan is 1,631, which has about the same number of publications – 1,660.

So what accounts for this high number?

“No qualification or experience is needed,” says TVR Rao of a channel called 6 TV. “I know a journalist who is 19 and got his accreditation card in three months.” Rao, who has been a journalist for 12 years, was accredited in 2005, after around a year on the job.

A journalist with a Telugu daily, who has worked in the state for past 30 years, said that political leaders attempt to ensure favourable coverage by giving journalists the benefits of accreditation.

Andhra’s mediascape

But why isn’t this happening in other states too?

Andhra Pradesh has a mix of TV news channels – mostly owned by politicians and businessmen. The Hoot, a media watchdog website, reported that out of 24 TV channels in Andhra, 21 are in the hands of corporate and political giants. “A few try to be neutral, but are hardly objective,” says the report.

For instance, Sakshi daily and its sister TV channel are owned by politician YS Jaganmohan Reddy. Chief minister Chandra Babu Naidu’s close aide Vemuri Radhakrishna owns ABN Andhra Jyothi. T News belongs to Telangana Broadcasting Private Limited, the official mouthpiece of the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti.

Email queries sent to P Krishna Mohan, Andhra Pradesh’s Commissioner of Information and Public Relations Department, did not elicit any response.

Benefits of an accreditation card

According to the website of the Information and Public Relation Department, accredited journalists get access to several government facilities, including an employee health card that gives them and their families medical coverage of Rs 2.5 lakh every year.

Besides, accredited journalists get fare-waivers in Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation buses. They get free bus rides within the district and only have to pay 33% of the fare when travelling to other districts in the state. Accredited journalists also get 50% waive-offs in trains.

“Waive offs in trains and buses help journalists immensely,” said Suribabu S, a reporter with Eenadu in Visakhapatnam. “Journalists mostly apply for accreditation to avail these two benefits, health and travel.”

It is also possible for journalists to get a plot of land at a subsidised price: accredited Andhra journalists are entitled to 3.5 cents of land (around 1,500 sq ft) at less than market price.

Rules for accreditation

The accreditation process is theoretically governed by strict norms, and by that token is limited to journalists who fulfil those conditions.

According to Information and Public Relation Department, of Andhra Pradesh, there should be a two-tier accreditation committee – the state media accreditation committee and the district media accreditation committee to issue official recognition to journalists.

Rules laid down by the Information and Public Relation Department clearly state:

“he/she (journalists) shall have spent not less than five, three and two consecutive years in the profession of journalism for accreditation at State Headquarters, District Headquarters and at Mandal level respectively.”

But in practice, the management of the publication decides who should be given the card and sends names to the department, said Eenadu reporter Suribabu. Qualifications and experience do not matter much.

Devulapalli of the Indian Journalists Union admitted that there are loopholes in the accreditation process. “Sometimes the lower-level officials in Information and Public Relation Department take bribes for giving accreditation,” he said.

The outcome

Not everyone is pleased with the situation. “To say the least, it is extremely unethical on the part of journalists,” said former Deccan Chronicle journalist VS Krishna. “Some kind of racket is going on in the state.”

However, others argue that the benefits don’t amount to much. “The small favour one gets from government accreditation doesn’t really count for much,” said the bureau chief of an English national daily based in Visakhapatnam, requesting anonymity. “They mainly ensure better operations for a reporter working on the ground.”

Added a senior Telugu journalist based in Delhi: “You guys are barking up the wrong tree. Journalists don’t count. When the government already has media barons in its corner, who needs journalists?”

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‘Shamelessness abounds!’ Woman who accused Pachauri of sexual harassment responds to his promotion

'Shamelessness abounds!' Woman who accused Pachauri of sexual harassment responds to his promotion
Photo Credit: Eitan Abramovich/AFP
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On Monday, RK Pachauri, the former head of The Energy and Resources Institute or TERI, was promoted as the organisation’s executive vice chairman, even as he faces sexual harassment charges from a former colleague.

Pachauri is the first person to hold the newly created position of vice chairman, reportedThe Indian Express. His new job was announced the day TERI’s new director general, Ajay Mathur, took charge from him.

Last February, a junior colleague had accused Pachuri of sexual harassment and he was asked to go on leave. In May, an internal committee report found him guilty of misusing his position and breaking the norms of the organisation’s sexual harassment policy. The investigating committee also noted that the 29-year-old complainant’s health had been “adversely affected” because of the stress caused by Pachauri’s conduct.

But Pachuri was back in the office in July, after a court stayed the report.

The woman later resigned from TERI.

Since charges were filed in February, other women have also spoken up, recounting how they were harassed by Pachauri over the years. They painted a picture of a repeat offender who used his power to enforce silence on his victims and win immunity for his actions.

On Tuesday, the woman released this open letter.

Shamelessness abounds! The news of promotion of a man who stands booked on charges of sexual harassment at a workplace, stalking and criminal intimidation by the country’s who’s who makes my flesh crawl.

While a prayer lay in the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi seeking suspension of RK Pachauri (in compliance with the basics of the SH [Sexual Harassment] act so that my rights to work are unaffected), TERI’s Governing Council held a meeting around the same time because the man was looking to maintain his foothold in TERI. It was around 03 Oct, 2015, that I first heard of this from some current and former colleagues. I was sceptical in thinking that the organisation would not pour cheap, third rated oil to the existing smouldering fire.

I was so wrong!

I was then made aware that the esteemed Governing Council of TERI is due to meet again in the same month and this time, as per some genuine well-wishers, the plan was to throw mud on me as well as the entire process and thus facilitate a promotion for RK Pachauri. The Governing Council of TERI met twice within a month to address insecurities of RK Pachauri and could not even hold a meeting over my complaint or my letter to them (dated 03 April, 2015) nor could they meet to discuss the ICC [internal complaints committee] report presented on 19 May, 2015. They had the time and the will to convene two board meetings in a span of one month. This was very unheard of considering that TERI GC would only meet once every year per Rules and Regulations of TERI.

For a research organisation, priority was given to meetings held by Senior Directors and Area Convenors to corner my colleagues, to get them to have me agree on a reconciliation, saying things like “Ask your lady friend to settle out of court. That would be best for her as she has nothing more left to achieve.” Not a day passed without a message showing up on my mobile, warning me or bringing forth concerns. One told me: “We are hearing that ‘Victim’ has settled. I told them clearly that the complainant has not settled and she wouldn’t. But they don’t seem to believe me.” Another said: “They were asking me about your family background.” Yet another: “My computer is always watched by the IT Department because they know that I support you.”

The ICC was dissolved. The ICC president resigned from her job at the Institute. The external member of the ICC is a woman who has expertise in the said field and a novice was brought in as her replacement for matters of convenience. The current ICC has his people. TERI and RK Pachauri are inseparable.

Was I really hoping that the hostility would end? It only went from bad to worse.

The GC’s new candidate to lead TERI (into darkness) is in the middle of four court cases (yes, one ICC report snowballed into five court cases) and facing grave criminal charges. With such qualifications he is deemed fit to lead an organisation. If that was not enough, the Governing Council is considering giving him operational powers. Reason being, it is required for foreign funding.

Right, the act of persistence is best performed by a man who doesn’t understand meaning of the word “no”.

For someone in my position who has had zero support from the organisation, being made made privy to such developments was most disturbing. What in the world was I to expect and why would I risk more than what is lost already. Not just the Governing Council but others in TERI have shown where their conscience leans (if any). If quitting was not enough, TERI Media Executive went ahead and publicised information leading to my identity to the press. Those women who did not testify to the ICC were “rewarded” with unjust promotions in designations, projects and travel approvals (to name a few) and continued to remain quiet, remain involved.

I spoke up and was quarantined from work. Not allowed to resume work and no earnings for a long time. No money and a tainted Curriculum Vitae gave me sleepless nights. It was getting beyond my dignity to be associated with such an organisation and in the best of my interest, I quit. I felt most lighter in my mind and body on quitting TERI.

I deserved better.

I use this platform to further convey that the case stands as it is, I assure I will take it to its logical conclusion.

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India vs Sri Lanka: Boys in Blue aim to bolster credentials ahead of World T20

India vs Sri Lanka: Boys in Blue aim to bolster credentials ahead of World T20
Photo Credit: Craig Golding/AFP
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After the convincing 3-0 win in last month’s Twenty20 series in Australia, the home series against Sri Lanka that starts on Tuesday must seem like a mere formality for an Indian side high on confidence. However, if history suggests anything at all, this series will be anything but a stroll for the home side.

India have a 3-3 record against Sri Lanka in this format, but it is their World Cup record against the islanders that will prove worrisome for MS Dhoni’s men. Rewind to the 2014 World T20 final – it was Lasith Malinga’s men who broke their final hoodoo to triumph over Dhoni’s boys in Dhaka.

The Indians did not fare much better in the 2010 World T20 when they succumbed to a last-ball finish in Gros Islet, St. Lucia in a group stage match. Being played a mere month before the World T20, this series against the world’s No 3 T20 side is a good chance for the home side to prove their title credentials, especially considering that they have been drafted into a tough group alongside Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan.

For one man in particular, this series will be more about redemption than anything else. Yuvraj Singh endured a horror show against the Lankans in the 2014 final, eking out a 21-ball 11 during the most crucial part of the innings, leading to India sub-par total.

Back in the squad and having had a fairly decent series against Australia, the Punjab left-hander will look to settle scores once and for all. The 33-year-old looks like he has got a new lease of life but he will still have to perform to retain hopes of getting into the final World Cup T20 squad. Fail to do so, and no doubt, the vultures will start circling again.

Finding the right combination

India’s best player in Australia, Virat Kohli, has been given a well-deserved rest. This will give captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni the chance to tinker with his middle-order to find his best combination. Although Suresh Raina, Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Dhoni pick themselves in the squad based on past exploits and current form, India’s middle order still remains a worry with the finisher’s positions – numbers five, six and seven far from settled.

Shikhar Dhawan for one will be looking to cement his place in the final XI for the World Twenty20. The opener has had an up-and-down season so far. With Ajinkya Rahane, Yuvraj Singh, Ravindra Jadeja and new boy Hardik Pandya all jostling for places, the competition is fierce.

Pawan Negi, the 23-year-old rookie who was selected for this series in place of Kohli, must be feeling confident after being sold for a whopping Rs 8.5 crore at the Indian Premier League auction on Saturday. Negi did well in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament, where he scored 173 runs for Delhi and bagged six wickets in nine matches. Rishi Dhawan, Gurkeerat Singh Man and Umesh Yadav miss out, while Manish Pandey and Bhuvneshwar Kumar get a look in.

A return of two veterans

This will also be an intriguing tale of two returning 36-year-old pacers. While Ashish Nehra played all the three T20 matches against Australia, Dilhara Fernando will return to the Sri Lankan squad after almost two years on the back of his performances in the domestic Premier T20 tournament. Fernando finished as the third highest wicket-taker with 11 wickets at an economy rate of 8.40.

His experience will be key considering that Malinga and Mathews are out owing to injuries and the Lankans just lost a recent T20 series to New Zealand 2-0. Leading the side in Malinga’s absence will be Dinesh Chandimal. An injury to Tillakaratne Dilshan also means that wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella has been called up to the squad and most probably will play the first match.

One player to watch out for will be middle-order batsman Dasun Shanaka, who set the domestic T20 tournament alight with his performances. Spinner Ajantha Mendis still does not find a place despite a good show with the ball (12 wickets) in the same tournament.

In comparison with the World Twenty20 and the Asia Cup thereafter, this may look like a low-key series. But, Dhoni will not mind – it gives him an opportunity to play around with his team and figure out his winning combination. In many ways, this will be the perfect starter for the delectable main course that is coming up next month.

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