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NOT FIRST AMONG EQUALS

Uneasy lies the head that wears an editor’s crown in The Times of India. It’s been said before, but Times bosses are again busy getting the point across. A change of guard took place in Delhi in April and in Calcutta in May. Its Hyderabad editor put in his papers last Saturday and bets are on about the person at the helm of its flagship Mumbai edition. In the trademark Times style, the transfers of power are anything but smooth. Even editors steeped in the Times culture of unquestioningly following conflicting, confusing, even humiliating orders from the all-powerful managers sitting on the fourth floor of the Times House in New Delhi are run ragged trying to cope with the growing volume of managerial demands.

But when Khushwant Singh recently wrote “editors were dispensable” at the Times, the denial was swift and lengthy. It came last week from Bachi Karkaria, the four-month-old Editor, Delhi Market. It has all to do with changed times, redefined roles of editors, an “altered status quota” that is “of a piece with the rainbow coalition of reality that contemporary newspapers reflect”, making them “more democratic, both in the way they are produced and in their content”, says Karkaria, uncharacteristically sententious.

Okay, given her post she couldn’t possibly cavil at the fact that in this new “democratic” regime the editor is not even the first among equals. That the primacy given to “knowing what the reader wants” has translated into editors carrying out the bidding of managers who are supposedly more market-savvy. No wonder Karkaria says, “The New Editor is a very different species from his predecessor.” Which would also explain away the current turmoil in the editors’ chambers. A sign of the Times desperately seeking suitable specimens. It’s an unfolding saga. Watch out for this space for more.

Veggies will do as well

It didn’t have to be Coke or Pepsi. Veggies would’ve done just as well. There are pesticide residues in all that we eat and drink, even in the purest of pure daaber jal and gangajal.

But imagine the Centre for Science and Environment holding a press conference to tell us that. In fact, it had. A July 8, 1998, press release reads: “Did you remember to take your dose of pesticides today'” The response from journalists: “Where’s the story yaar'”

When it comes to evidence of danger from pesticides or emissions or pollution — as opposed to, say, Pakistani nukes — it’s not just the people who run this country who are “callous and unimaginative”.

In the journalistic biosphere, ecology just doesn’t sell, as one leading editor once famously told his aides. But the CSE needs the media. Like most green groups in India, it believes in using public opinion to force governments to bring about change. So bring on an Arundhati Roy if you want to make people aware of environmental concerns. Or two of the biggest brands in the world.

And be very clear that the current spate of reports flooding the media on health hazards in our food and water will recede, soon, like any other flood. Until the next cloudburst.

Whom the star unites

It was written in the stars. That’s how the engagement between son Amit (27) of Zee supremo Subhash Chandra and daughter Neha (21) of Manoj Sonthalia of New Indian Express happened last month. While their fathers joined hands in the Indian Media Group to lobby government and scuttle Star.

In the swarm of media moghuls, the man who set up India’s first private TV network and the owner of the southern empire of the Indian Express group of newspapers and magazines, Marwaris both, suddenly realized they could come together in a more permanent way.

Boy from Mumbai met girl from Chennai, rings were exchanged and the wedding date fixed for next January — all in Delhi.

“Marriage is a matter of destiny. It is not that two media families decided to come together,” said Laxmi Goel, the man responsible for sprucing up of sagging Zee News operations.

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