Oprah, Rushdie rob limelight in Jaipur

Ms. Winfrey,  the one and only Oprah Winfrey,  says she was flummoxed to find that India, a country that prides itself on its close-knit families and respect for elders could also need shelters to house widows shunned by their families.  After her visit Oprah called  Maria Shriver,  and both of them  resolved to help fund the organization that runs the widows ‘shelter.

The audience applauded. The audience comprised mainly writers,  critics and other participants at the  Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF).   Ms Winfrey was being interviewed for telecast by  NDTV’s  Barkha Dutt.   Viewership for the show  telecast, prime time,  was  high.  And Oprah  was at her scintillating self;  said a lot of sensible things.  Loved the show.

My issue, however, is with the Jaipur festival folk who hosted the Oprah show.  Someone  with  celebrity status such as Oprah needs no promotion; she commands media attention wherever she goes.  The same cannot be said for many others at the literature  festival who deserve to be heard by a wider audience.  I wish the organisers programmed their proceedings in ways that enable lesser known participants gain much-needed media exposure. I know,  festival organisers can turn around and say they host varied programmes . They can’t be faulted if such festival proceedings  go unnoticed in the media. Organisers cannot tell newspaper reporters  and TV channels whom or what to cover at the festival.

And the media always  goes after celebrities.  The reason why persons of social stature and celebrtiy status are invited to such events is understandable. The festival organisers need participation of the likes of Oprah and Rushdie much more than their need to participate at Jaipur.  In the process  the celebrity invitees take up virtually the entire space, and media attention,  leaving most other  participants  crowded out of the limelight.

The Oprah show at Jaipur took up media time/space that could have otherwise gone to other participants  who could do with some publicity to further their career. The factor that drives lesser known,  but promising,  writers to Jaipur is the possibility it holds for  networking and for media attention.  A person of  Oprah’s calibre and celebrity status has scores of platforms open to her. Ms Dutt could have done her interview in a studio setting.  The festival  organizers could have hosted a round-table format, with Oprah interacting with  a group of writers who deserve to be heard and seen on TV .

What dominates  media coverage at Jaipur is  the protest-reading by four writers , of passages from The  Satanic Verses,  and the controversy over the proposed  visit to Jaipur of author  Salman Rushdie.  And then we had him  announce that he wasn’t coming, after all.   Rushdie’s announcement came with a much publicised statement,  citing intelligence report that held him back from Jaipur. Apparently,  Rushdie  knows  how to gain publicity mileage  even  in absentia.

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Ad. intrusion in news space

The Hindu, Sept. 29, 2009

We know about the increasing hold ad. sponsors have on our newspapers. But doesn’t this appear a bit intrusive ? Or is it thinking out-of-the-box in page-designing?

That this can happen in The Hindu speaks of desperate times for the print media. The newspaper’s managing director N Murali speaks of  excessive reliance of the print media on advertising  revenue.  He reckons the ad. component accounts for an ‘unsustainingly staggering’  85 percent of the total revenue of an English newspaper.

HinduSept29 001No wonder we have  the ad.agencies making newspaper pages, such as this one – back-page of The Hindu of Sept.29, 2009.  If editor has a say in how  news items are to be displayed in a given page,  it doesn’t seem very evident. Editor still retains editorial freedom; he/she is free to endorse  ad. manager .

 We have a media group where a  newspaper is termed a ‘product’;  and its editor reports to  the ‘brand manager’.

A case of Nigerian con trick

The e-mail, I made out right away, was a con trick. What gave the game away was the sender’s name – Srihari Ramakrishna. It was an SOS for money, 1,750 pounds, to be sent to London, where my friend Srihari was supposedly stranded.

Srihari is a friend,  but we are not that close for him to e-mail me for money. Besides, the e-mail English was somewhat fractured;  not the language one associates with a newspaper editorial writer that the Srihari I know is.  As the e-mail read:

How are you today, I am in hurry writing this mail to you, I had traveled to London yesterday to visit a new Researchers’ Complex at Imperial College London…..all my money was stolen at the hotel where i lodged, I am so confused right now…didn’t bring my phone here and the hotel telephone line’s was burnt during the robbery incident…the police only asked me to write a statement…directed me to the embassy, but they are not responding to the matter effectively…

…can you send me 1,750 Pounds today so i can return home,  As soon as i get home i would refund it immediately…send it through western union outlet…to Srihari Ramakrishna, 53 FREEMASONS RD,  London E163NA…Please help me write out the reference number given to you by the western union official and the details you used in sending me the money,or help me scan the receipt and attached it for me…

Not the  construction  that Srihari would be proud of.  But then,  the e-mail message came as news to him. When I called him on his cell phone  Srihari said he was visiting Pune,  not London as the e-mail said. He suggested that if I had the cash and wanted to part with it, I could send it to him at his son-in-law’s address in Pune. Srihari said another friend from Mysore, Madhuri Tatachari, had also called him a short while ago, after geting a similar e-mail.

Apparently,  the message seeking 1,750 pounds had been bulk-mailed to all his e-mail contacts, after they had hacked into Srihari’s yahoo acccount. They call this the Nigerian con trick,  also known as the 419 fraud. Section 419 of the Nigerian penal code pertains to fraudulent schemes. One short of our 420 IPC.  The 419 scam  is said to be the third largest industry in Nigeria.

Making sense of a semicolon

Ancient Greeks used semicolon for a question mark. In London, it first appeared in a 1568 chess guide. Shakespeare, it is said, grew up in an era that scarcely recognized its worth. Two law professors in 1837 dueled, with swords, over its usage. The wounded advocated a semicolon to conclude a given passage; the winner favoured a colon.

However, recent years have seen a decline usage of the punctuation mark; possibly because of widespread ignorance about its proper role. In his piece on using semicolons Robert Harris says that by using semicolon instead of a period between two sentences you show that these two sentences have a closer relationship to each other than they do to the sentences around them.

An article posted in Slate refers to an April Fool’s hoax themed on the French passion over a semicolon. A French online publication, credited with the hoax put out a story claiming that the Nicolas Sarkozy government stipulated that there should be “at least three semicolons per page in all official documents”.

Reporters were taken in, since, like every great hoax, it was plausible enough to be true. Le Figaro has proclaimed, “The much-loved semicolon is in the process of disappearance; let us protect it,” and there was even a brief attempt at a Committee for the Defense of the Semicolon—a modern update on the Anti-Comma League that France had back in 1934. French commentators blame the semicolon’s decline on everything from “the modern need for speed” to the corrupting influence of English and its short, declarative sentences.

So says the Slate, which runs an engaging piece on the rise and decline of semicolon. Link to the Slate story…Has modern life killed the semicolon ?