For most newspapers, “innovate or die” is the slogan when the times are bad. Plummeting sales and advertising figures have just driven The Independent in Britain to come out with a “twin-format” newspaper. The same paper at the same price is now available in two sizes — the regular broadsheet version and a new tabloid format for commuters — making it, The Independent claims, “the only newspaper in the world to offer its readers a choice”.
Not quite. Last week too saw The Times of India come out with its own twin-format that, it claims, “is a revolutionary attempt in newspapers worldwide”. In Delhi you can now get two types of Times — the familiar one and a lookalike Times of India Speednews. The difference is not in size or price or number of pages; the difference lies in the very essence of a paper, in the words. Brevity is the soul of Speednews. The same news in fewer words, more pictures, no lead article on the edit page — “A paper for time-pressed individuals,” which, the Times believes, most people are. Hence their hope that Speednews will “grow the market”.
Evidently, the Times bosses see little future in newspapers as reading matter. They’ve been cavilling about “verbiage” even in the regular edition. But instead of striving for better words, their solution has been fewer words. The last couple of years has seen news reports in the paper come down sharply from 600-800 words to around 350-400. Now, even that is too much for them. Hence the latest innovation.
If journalists, especially star journalists, don’t write autobiographies, who will' As eyewitnesses to great affairs, their stories are the stuff dreams are made of. They are known to lead exciting lives, crisscrossing in and out of trouble spots and remote places no one in their right minds would consider visiting. They are said to be on intimate terms with the heroes and villains who shape our times and the celebs who lighten up our lives. They are believed to have an inside track on fast-breaking events that are difficult to fathom even years afterwards. They are also supposed to be able to write (or at least have easy access to able ghost-writers).
So it is quite believable that both Prabhu Chawla, the editor of India Today, and Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of the Indian Express and formerly with India Today, are in the midst of writing their memoirs. Both are being published by HarperCollins India (a wing of the India Today group), both are slated for publication next year. Symbolizing the face of new India — driven, talented, socially uncouth small-town boys who made it to the top without the benefit of an English-medium education — both should have fascinating stories to tell.
But will they' Saying all without fear or favour may not be easy even for the biggest names in Indian journalism. With many years in the profession still to go (both are 50-somethings), can they afford to alienate the rich and the powerful by telling all' There are no signs yet that either is ready to hang up his boots.
It could have been fun. Last year, when Max Hastings, the editor of The Daily Telegraph (London) from the mid-Eighties to the mid-Nineties, published his memoirs, Telegraph owner Conrad Black himself reviewed the book in his paper: “Poor history.”
First the television channels went mad about Mumbai. Every channel now has a slew of programmes on, for and by Mumbaikars. Now, the magazines are trying to cash in on the mania.
Last week, India Today came out with Simply Mumbai, a quarterly sold along with the main magazine. Outlook too is coming out with its own nine-page Donwtown. Ironically, both the magazines had experimented with Metro sections which ended in failure. If Hindustan Times’s reported plans take off, the newspaper scene in the country’s commercial capital will soon hot up too. At least on this count Mumbai won’t be able to complain any longer that the city is ignored despite contributing 40 per cent of the nation’s revenues.