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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query editorial. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query editorial. Sort by date Show all posts

Sunday, October 27, 2013

'NaMo Cannot Lead India Effectively': New York Times

By Esha Dhillon / New York

Narendra Modi, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, cannot hope to lead India effectively if he inspires “fear” and “antipathy” among many of its people, the New York Times has commented in an unusual move.

“Modi has shown no ability to work with opposition parties or tolerate dissent,” the Editorial Board of the New York Times said in a stinging editorial on the 63-year-old BJP leader.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Beyond Words - Ramp on Ground Realities

By Surabhi Pudasaini

Turning a spotlight on a ubiquitous but often ignored genre of journalism: dispatches from the first Southasia Cartoon Congress.

In the minds of many, cartoon is a word synonymous with funny. This is not an unreasonable linkage; readers’ first responses to an effective cartoon is often, hopefully, laughter. At the same time, however, there needs to be some distinction drawn here with specifically editorial, or political, cartooning. After all, to simply label the editorial cartoon as amusing is to do it a great injustice.

Certainly, humour is an integral part of the editorial cartoonist’s craft, thriving as it does on mocking the absurdities of political leaders, laws and social norms. But scratch the surface, and it becomes difficult to distinguish who exactly is the victim of the joke. At first glance, the politician is the injured party, parodied by the cartoonist’s brutal pen. In fact, though, it is the common citizen who suffers the consequences of, for instance, communal violence, economic meltdown and government corruption. It is the leaders who allow these events to occur, either purposefully or otherwise, and it is for this that they are lampooned. Editorial cartoonists entertain by giving tragedy a comic spin; but all the while, readers are really laughing at their own pain.

While a picture may be worth a thousand words (at least with reference to images used in visual media), this would be an understatement for the editorial cartoon. Through its many layers, rife with ideas communicated through symbols and metaphors, a cogent cartoon offers sharp commentary on and critique of the politics and issues of the day. But despite its power, cartooning remains an understudied genre in Southasia. It was with this in mind that, during mid-November, political cartoonists were brought together for the first time by Himal Southasian. The Southasia Cartoon Congress, held on 14-15 November, brought to Kathmandu 36 cartoonists from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The idea was to meet, talk, perhaps lampoon each other, and put under the microscope this omnipresent but little-studied world of political cartoons.

As cartoonists are wont to do, throughout the two days of the meet, pens scribbled on sketchpads, with the conference participants busily caricaturing their colleagues across the table. Funny as some of the illustrations were, it was clear that the role of the cartoonist is that of a critic, rather than that of a comic. Also clear was the fact that cartooning in Southasia continues to occupy a stepchild-type position in our journalism. As Sabir Nazar, a cartoonist with the Friday Times in Lahore and one of the Cartoon Congress participants, put it, journalism has always been and remains a field marked by the “supremacy of words”. Many participants reported the experience of having their cartoon reduced to a minuscule size in order to accommodate an article’s text or a late-coming advertisement. Meanwhile, on slow-news days, the cartoonist is essentially called upon to fill up the print space.

There has, however, been some progress in recognising the cartoon as a serious medium for critique and commentary. Sadanand Menon, professor at the Asian College of Journalism in Madras, shared a story about the first cartoonist to make his way onto an Indian newspaper’s edit page – the sanctum sanctorum in print journalism – as a tangible example of how to bring the cartooning stepchild into the family. In 1992, the well-known cartoonist E P Unny was in the process of joining the Indian Express, where he continues to work today. Testing the waters, he asked that his work be included on the edit page, a request that was surprisingly granted. This happened to be the time of the Babri Masjid incident in Ayodhya, when words seemed less able than drawings to grasp the complex public sentiment. Unny’s work grabbed the imagination, and today a number of other cartoonists, such as Keshav at The Hindu, are to be found on the edit pages across the Subcontinent.

Like the editorial writer, who has more leeway on subjects, the cartoonist is asked to continuously comment on highly sensitive contemporary issues. Drawing a balance between incisively parodying a situation and not causing offence becomes a daily tightrope walk. That a cartoon has the ability to stir deep emotions and ignite passions has been proven time and again. According to Keshav, “Visuals have a turbulent impact on the reader; they tend to remain in the mind for a very long time.” The cartoonist thus has a great responsibility, and ingrained in the process of drawing is the divide between what can and cannot be expressed. As such, it is somewhat unsurprising that the muzzling of the press, whether by governments or armed groups, has often prompted creative methods of subversion, particularly among editorial cartoonists. To take one example, Nepali cartooning entered its most inventive phase after a strong censorship regime was imposed following then-King Gyanendra’s seizure of state power in February 2005. The monarchy, previously a largely off-limits subject, suddenly became a subject of study and ridicule, and the fact that Gyanendra had decided to run the government became fair game for cartoonists. Caricatures of the king mushroomed, his dark glasses, jowls and dour demeanour becoming signatures, and cartoonists helped to turn the political tide. In the process, cartooning became dramatically more important in the Nepali context.

The raw nerve
When discussing editorial cartooning, however, the conversation about freedom of expression and censorship cannot remain solely one of good against evil. In touching on inherently sensitive subjects such as religion or ethnicity, nearly all cartoonists are forced to rein in their muse and engage in a certain amount of self-censorship, simply out of respect for the sensitivities of particular communities. For instance, when the Sri Lankan cartoonist Gihan de Chickera portrays the ethnic conflict on the island, he sticks to lampooning political leaders and key decision-makers. “It is not acceptable to target ethnic groups as a single entity in a negative light,” he said. A supporting argument for self-censorship is that cartoonists should be mindful that they occupy the public sphere, and that their reaction to events should come, as Keshav suggests, from “the mind rather than the heart”. Still others feel that the mind, at times, needs to be prodded. Kunda Dixit, editor of the weekly Nepali Times, argued that “because of intolerance and chauvinism, cartoonists and columnists are not using the full freedom given to them by their constitutions.” Speaking specifically on the Nepali context, he observed that even though ‘ethnic politics’ is highly charged and so much a part of the national discourse, few, if any, cartoonists are currently using this thematic area, thus suggesting that an important potential for the political discussion of the day is being lost.

The reality is often somewhere in the middle, with cartoonists forced constantly to find ways to reconcile the call for restraint without surrendering to restrictions (imposed or otherwise) on free speech. A case in point comes from 2004, when the strongly nationalist Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), the Sinhala Buddhist monks’ party, was formed in Sri Lanka. The situation presented a conundrum for the country’s cartoonists. With monks held in great esteem by the public, portraying them in a negative light had always been taboo; yet with the JHU’s growing influence in Colombo, a political commentator could certainly not afford to ignore them. De Chickera talked of how he worked around the problem by using a conch, the symbol of the JHU, in his illustrations. This allowed for a critique of JHU leaders and policies to proceed, but without any direct reference to the clergy itself.

Still, despite the many successful ways of walking this line, there is an ever-present, in-built danger that the cartoonist’s attempt to expand boundaries will touch an overly sensitive nerve, instigating anger and violence. Indeed, it is impossible to ignore the fact that cartooning flourishes on stereotyping and exaggeration. Boldly drawing prominent leaders with elephant ears, generous pot bellies or as a frog (as with former Indian Prime Minister Narasimha Rao) certainly does not endear the cartoonist to those individuals, nor to their supporters. While there are even situations in which politicians are distressed when they are ignored by the lampoonists, it is on the commentary on sensitive issues that cartoonists face challenges. Many cartoonists in Southasia have suffered threats on their lives, in addition to interrogation, detention and torture, for their drawings.

Several of the participants at the Cartoon Congress had experienced threats from a range of groups, while others had experienced arrest and abuse. The best-known recent case is that of the Bangladeshi cartoonist Arifur Rahman. In his allegedly offensive cartoon published in the satire magazine Aalpin in 2007, an old man asks a young boy his name. When he answers, the old man reprimands him, saying that ‘Mohammed’ must be added before all names. Later, the old man points to a cat, asking its name. The boy replies, “Mohammed Cat”. Rahman was arrested for blasphemy after the cartoon’s publication. Ironically, added Syed Rashad Imam (‘Tanmoy’), the same cartoon, which is based on an old joke popular in Bangladesh, received little attention when it was first published in 2002, testifying to the growing religious intolerance in the country. After narrating his story at the Congress, Rahman deftly drew a cartoon depicting his arrest.

Malik Sajad, a cartoonist with the daily Greater Kashmir, reported of numerous instances of harassment. His cartoons have been burned in Srinagar, and he has been threatened with arrest under the draconian Public Safety Act. Such experiences beg the question: why are cartoonists specifically targeted for harassment? Manjula Padmanabhan, a Delhi cartoonist, suggests that one of the reasons for this might be that while staff reporters are often anonymous, the cartoonist’s product is easily understood and highly identifiable. As it is easier to harass an individual, rather than an idea, an institution or an editorial position, the cartoonist is inevitably targeted.

Whose voice?
Suspended between being an artist and a columnist, the cartoonist communicates through a visual language based on metaphor. This optical dialect transcends language, often rising above the need for words, and thus making the genre of cartooning available to much larger spectrums of readers than print reportage and analysis. The power of the visual was illustrated by Sadanand Menon, who described the strategy of master cartoonist R K Laxman while dealing with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L K Advani. Laxman depicts Advani’s growing authoritarian ambitions as the BJP’s fortunes expanded in the course of the rath yatra of 1992 by showing his head becoming bigger and bigger, as the crown upon it becomes smaller and smaller. Another very interesting process was displayed by many Indian cartoonists following the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. The rightwing fundamentalist challenge was represented by the lotus, the BJP’s symbol, and converting that very quickly in their visual work into the trishul trident.

BJP party symbol transforms into a trident after the Babri Masjid demolition
At the same time, though, the graphic frequently plays on words and their cultural nuances; somewhat paradoxically, this can work to make the image less understandable to certain readers. For example, when Keshav uses metaphors in his drawings that are rooted in the English language – ‘revolving door’, for instance, or ‘wine glasses’ or ‘whitewashing’ – he takes the risk of many among the average readership not understanding the implied subtext. The reader is assumed to be familiar with the multiple connotations inherent in the language, as well as the social context within which it functions, in order to comprehend the abstract idea to which it is alluding. On the other hand, in Kathmandu, cartoonist Raju Babu Shakya (‘Sarab’) draws a daily cartoon that is included in both the Nepali daily Kantipur and the English Kathmandu Post. There are naturally some technical difficulties in translating the Nepali captions, usually replete with common idioms, into English, but he said that the symbolism of the visual message was generally strong enough to communicate to the audience.

Even without captions or text, however, the visual language is often treated differently in the English-language versus the language press in Southasia. In all of the countries of the region, English-language publications have a smaller audience than, for instance, the Hindi, Bangla or Urdu ones. English-language papers are also, for the most part, read more often by the privileged, and therefore are not always the best means of gauging the public mood. On the other hand, newspapers published in Nepali, Tamil or Malayalam are often more attuned to local sensitivities. Speaking of the English versus the Urdu press in Lahore, Sabir Nazar saw the two languages as having a different character altogether. Broadly speaking, Nazar saw English as the language of “science, investigation and research” and Urdu as that of “decorative emotion, poetry and fiction”. Though the cartoonist is less constricted than the writer by this distinction, it is a difference that cannot be wholly ignored. Although there was some disagreement with Nazar’s classifications, Muhammad Zahoor, from the Daily Times in Peshawar, agreed that some of his cartoons could not have been published in an Urdu newspaper.

Dealing with different groups of people inherently means different political considerations, as well. In the Pakistani context, the real reason behind the cartoonist being more restricted in the Urdu press has more to do with political considerations than with inherent differences in language. Keeping in mind the wider reach of the vernacular press, authorities control the content of the Urdu papers more than that of the English-language media. Similarly, Partha Borah, with the fortnightly North East Voice, spoke of the grave threats faced by the media, particularly what he called the ‘dialect’ press, in the Indian Northeast. Caught between the Centre, the state government and the numerous militant underground groups, cartoonists face constraints from all directions, with the non-English press nearly always at greater risk. It was generally agreed that cartoonists faced the most physical threats from ‘non-state actors’, including insurgents and communally oriented militants.

Local vs global
Given the cartoonist’s task of packaging political events in a visual format that is relevant to the reader, variations arise in the level of non-national news in every country. Provided that the graphics are not obscure or overly specific to a particular area, the visual language of the cartoon is understandable across the often fiercely guarded borders of Southasia. Afghanistan, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are close enough to be relevant to Indian readers, and therefore are close enough to be subject to parody. For example, Nepalis and Indians would share a laugh at Sudhir Tailang’s parody of Nepal’s Gyanendra as a blind dunce, or Rajesh K C’s drawing of Manmohan Singh dipping his toes in the Mahakali River on the Nepal-India border. On the other hand, what happens in Bhutan is less relevant to even nearby neighbours, such as in the Indian Northeast, because of the lack of day-to-day coverage of Bhutanese politics. As the region becomes smaller in the minds of Southasians, however, this trend could easily change, as coverage of societies increases across frontiers.

As difficult as it is to illustrate national events for the wider world, it is at times more challenging to analyse global politics for the local audience. Nevertheless, the cartoonist’s commentary of these world events carries more punch when localised. Recently Ismail Lahari, of the Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar, amply proved this possibility. In Indore, the term barik is a somewhat derogatory term for the children who perform such jobs as taking tickets on a bus or serving tea at roadside stalls. When commenting on the US elections, Lahari drew President-elect Barack Obama with the caption, “Barik, you try too.” With this clever word play, Lahari underlined the significance of Obama’s win for the local audience, without resorting to lengthy explanations of American history. Cartooning is a profession by which the far-away can quickly become immediate: through simple yet dedicated strokes, a message is passed on to the reader.

Beyond Words - Ramp on Ground Realities

By Surabhi Pudasaini

Turning a spotlight on a ubiquitous but often ignored genre of journalism: dispatches from the first Southasia Cartoon Congress.

In the minds of many, cartoon is a word synonymous with funny. This is not an unreasonable linkage; readers’ first responses to an effective cartoon is often, hopefully, laughter. At the same time, however, there needs to be some distinction drawn here with specifically editorial, or political, cartooning. After all, to simply label the editorial cartoon as amusing is to do it a great injustice.

Certainly, humour is an integral part of the editorial cartoonist’s craft, thriving as it does on mocking the absurdities of political leaders, laws and social norms. But scratch the surface, and it becomes difficult to distinguish who exactly is the victim of the joke. At first glance, the politician is the injured party, parodied by the cartoonist’s brutal pen. In fact, though, it is the common citizen who suffers the consequences of, for instance, communal violence, economic meltdown and government corruption. It is the leaders who allow these events to occur, either purposefully or otherwise, and it is for this that they are lampooned. Editorial cartoonists entertain by giving tragedy a comic spin; but all the while, readers are really laughing at their own pain.

While a picture may be worth a thousand words (at least with reference to images used in visual media), this would be an understatement for the editorial cartoon. Through its many layers, rife with ideas communicated through symbols and metaphors, a cogent cartoon offers sharp commentary on and critique of the politics and issues of the day. But despite its power, cartooning remains an understudied genre in Southasia. It was with this in mind that, during mid-November, political cartoonists were brought together for the first time by Himal Southasian. The Southasia Cartoon Congress, held on 14-15 November, brought to Kathmandu 36 cartoonists from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The idea was to meet, talk, perhaps lampoon each other, and put under the microscope this omnipresent but little-studied world of political cartoons.

As cartoonists are wont to do, throughout the two days of the meet, pens scribbled on sketchpads, with the conference participants busily caricaturing their colleagues across the table. Funny as some of the illustrations were, it was clear that the role of the cartoonist is that of a critic, rather than that of a comic. Also clear was the fact that cartooning in Southasia continues to occupy a stepchild-type position in our journalism. As Sabir Nazar, a cartoonist with the Friday Times in Lahore and one of the Cartoon Congress participants, put it, journalism has always been and remains a field marked by the “supremacy of words”. Many participants reported the experience of having their cartoon reduced to a minuscule size in order to accommodate an article’s text or a late-coming advertisement. Meanwhile, on slow-news days, the cartoonist is essentially called upon to fill up the print space.

There has, however, been some progress in recognising the cartoon as a serious medium for critique and commentary. Sadanand Menon, professor at the Asian College of Journalism in Madras, shared a story about the first cartoonist to make his way onto an Indian newspaper’s edit page – the sanctum sanctorum in print journalism – as a tangible example of how to bring the cartooning stepchild into the family. In 1992, the well-known cartoonist E P Unny was in the process of joining the Indian Express, where he continues to work today. Testing the waters, he asked that his work be included on the edit page, a request that was surprisingly granted. This happened to be the time of the Babri Masjid incident in Ayodhya, when words seemed less able than drawings to grasp the complex public sentiment. Unny’s work grabbed the imagination, and today a number of other cartoonists, such as Keshav at The Hindu, are to be found on the edit pages across the Subcontinent.

Like the editorial writer, who has more leeway on subjects, the cartoonist is asked to continuously comment on highly sensitive contemporary issues. Drawing a balance between incisively parodying a situation and not causing offence becomes a daily tightrope walk. That a cartoon has the ability to stir deep emotions and ignite passions has been proven time and again. According to Keshav, “Visuals have a turbulent impact on the reader; they tend to remain in the mind for a very long time.” The cartoonist thus has a great responsibility, and ingrained in the process of drawing is the divide between what can and cannot be expressed. As such, it is somewhat unsurprising that the muzzling of the press, whether by governments or armed groups, has often prompted creative methods of subversion, particularly among editorial cartoonists. To take one example, Nepali cartooning entered its most inventive phase after a strong censorship regime was imposed following then-King Gyanendra’s seizure of state power in February 2005. The monarchy, previously a largely off-limits subject, suddenly became a subject of study and ridicule, and the fact that Gyanendra had decided to run the government became fair game for cartoonists. Caricatures of the king mushroomed, his dark glasses, jowls and dour demeanour becoming signatures, and cartoonists helped to turn the political tide. In the process, cartooning became dramatically more important in the Nepali context.

The raw nerve
When discussing editorial cartooning, however, the conversation about freedom of expression and censorship cannot remain solely one of good against evil. In touching on inherently sensitive subjects such as religion or ethnicity, nearly all cartoonists are forced to rein in their muse and engage in a certain amount of self-censorship, simply out of respect for the sensitivities of particular communities. For instance, when the Sri Lankan cartoonist Gihan de Chickera portrays the ethnic conflict on the island, he sticks to lampooning political leaders and key decision-makers. “It is not acceptable to target ethnic groups as a single entity in a negative light,” he said. A supporting argument for self-censorship is that cartoonists should be mindful that they occupy the public sphere, and that their reaction to events should come, as Keshav suggests, from “the mind rather than the heart”. Still others feel that the mind, at times, needs to be prodded. Kunda Dixit, editor of the weekly Nepali Times, argued that “because of intolerance and chauvinism, cartoonists and columnists are not using the full freedom given to them by their constitutions.” Speaking specifically on the Nepali context, he observed that even though ‘ethnic politics’ is highly charged and so much a part of the national discourse, few, if any, cartoonists are currently using this thematic area, thus suggesting that an important potential for the political discussion of the day is being lost.

The reality is often somewhere in the middle, with cartoonists forced constantly to find ways to reconcile the call for restraint without surrendering to restrictions (imposed or otherwise) on free speech. A case in point comes from 2004, when the strongly nationalist Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), the Sinhala Buddhist monks’ party, was formed in Sri Lanka. The situation presented a conundrum for the country’s cartoonists. With monks held in great esteem by the public, portraying them in a negative light had always been taboo; yet with the JHU’s growing influence in Colombo, a political commentator could certainly not afford to ignore them. De Chickera talked of how he worked around the problem by using a conch, the symbol of the JHU, in his illustrations. This allowed for a critique of JHU leaders and policies to proceed, but without any direct reference to the clergy itself.

Still, despite the many successful ways of walking this line, there is an ever-present, in-built danger that the cartoonist’s attempt to expand boundaries will touch an overly sensitive nerve, instigating anger and violence. Indeed, it is impossible to ignore the fact that cartooning flourishes on stereotyping and exaggeration. Boldly drawing prominent leaders with elephant ears, generous pot bellies or as a frog (as with former Indian Prime Minister Narasimha Rao) certainly does not endear the cartoonist to those individuals, nor to their supporters. While there are even situations in which politicians are distressed when they are ignored by the lampoonists, it is on the commentary on sensitive issues that cartoonists face challenges. Many cartoonists in Southasia have suffered threats on their lives, in addition to interrogation, detention and torture, for their drawings.

Several of the participants at the Cartoon Congress had experienced threats from a range of groups, while others had experienced arrest and abuse. The best-known recent case is that of the Bangladeshi cartoonist Arifur Rahman. In his allegedly offensive cartoon published in the satire magazine Aalpin in 2007, an old man asks a young boy his name. When he answers, the old man reprimands him, saying that ‘Mohammed’ must be added before all names. Later, the old man points to a cat, asking its name. The boy replies, “Mohammed Cat”. Rahman was arrested for blasphemy after the cartoon’s publication. Ironically, added Syed Rashad Imam (‘Tanmoy’), the same cartoon, which is based on an old joke popular in Bangladesh, received little attention when it was first published in 2002, testifying to the growing religious intolerance in the country. After narrating his story at the Congress, Rahman deftly drew a cartoon depicting his arrest.

Malik Sajad, a cartoonist with the daily Greater Kashmir, reported of numerous instances of harassment. His cartoons have been burned in Srinagar, and he has been threatened with arrest under the draconian Public Safety Act. Such experiences beg the question: why are cartoonists specifically targeted for harassment? Manjula Padmanabhan, a Delhi cartoonist, suggests that one of the reasons for this might be that while staff reporters are often anonymous, the cartoonist’s product is easily understood and highly identifiable. As it is easier to harass an individual, rather than an idea, an institution or an editorial position, the cartoonist is inevitably targeted.

Whose voice?
Suspended between being an artist and a columnist, the cartoonist communicates through a visual language based on metaphor. This optical dialect transcends language, often rising above the need for words, and thus making the genre of cartooning available to much larger spectrums of readers than print reportage and analysis. The power of the visual was illustrated by Sadanand Menon, who described the strategy of master cartoonist R K Laxman while dealing with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L K Advani. Laxman depicts Advani’s growing authoritarian ambitions as the BJP’s fortunes expanded in the course of the rath yatra of 1992 by showing his head becoming bigger and bigger, as the crown upon it becomes smaller and smaller. Another very interesting process was displayed by many Indian cartoonists following the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. The rightwing fundamentalist challenge was represented by the lotus, the BJP’s symbol, and converting that very quickly in their visual work into the trishul trident.

BJP party symbol transforms into a trident after the Babri Masjid demolition
At the same time, though, the graphic frequently plays on words and their cultural nuances; somewhat paradoxically, this can work to make the image less understandable to certain readers. For example, when Keshav uses metaphors in his drawings that are rooted in the English language – ‘revolving door’, for instance, or ‘wine glasses’ or ‘whitewashing’ – he takes the risk of many among the average readership not understanding the implied subtext. The reader is assumed to be familiar with the multiple connotations inherent in the language, as well as the social context within which it functions, in order to comprehend the abstract idea to which it is alluding. On the other hand, in Kathmandu, cartoonist Raju Babu Shakya (‘Sarab’) draws a daily cartoon that is included in both the Nepali daily Kantipur and the English Kathmandu Post. There are naturally some technical difficulties in translating the Nepali captions, usually replete with common idioms, into English, but he said that the symbolism of the visual message was generally strong enough to communicate to the audience.

Even without captions or text, however, the visual language is often treated differently in the English-language versus the language press in Southasia. In all of the countries of the region, English-language publications have a smaller audience than, for instance, the Hindi, Bangla or Urdu ones. English-language papers are also, for the most part, read more often by the privileged, and therefore are not always the best means of gauging the public mood. On the other hand, newspapers published in Nepali, Tamil or Malayalam are often more attuned to local sensitivities. Speaking of the English versus the Urdu press in Lahore, Sabir Nazar saw the two languages as having a different character altogether. Broadly speaking, Nazar saw English as the language of “science, investigation and research” and Urdu as that of “decorative emotion, poetry and fiction”. Though the cartoonist is less constricted than the writer by this distinction, it is a difference that cannot be wholly ignored. Although there was some disagreement with Nazar’s classifications, Muhammad Zahoor, from the Daily Times in Peshawar, agreed that some of his cartoons could not have been published in an Urdu newspaper.

Dealing with different groups of people inherently means different political considerations, as well. In the Pakistani context, the real reason behind the cartoonist being more restricted in the Urdu press has more to do with political considerations than with inherent differences in language. Keeping in mind the wider reach of the vernacular press, authorities control the content of the Urdu papers more than that of the English-language media. Similarly, Partha Borah, with the fortnightly North East Voice, spoke of the grave threats faced by the media, particularly what he called the ‘dialect’ press, in the Indian Northeast. Caught between the Centre, the state government and the numerous militant underground groups, cartoonists face constraints from all directions, with the non-English press nearly always at greater risk. It was generally agreed that cartoonists faced the most physical threats from ‘non-state actors’, including insurgents and communally oriented militants.

Local vs global
Given the cartoonist’s task of packaging political events in a visual format that is relevant to the reader, variations arise in the level of non-national news in every country. Provided that the graphics are not obscure or overly specific to a particular area, the visual language of the cartoon is understandable across the often fiercely guarded borders of Southasia. Afghanistan, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are close enough to be relevant to Indian readers, and therefore are close enough to be subject to parody. For example, Nepalis and Indians would share a laugh at Sudhir Tailang’s parody of Nepal’s Gyanendra as a blind dunce, or Rajesh K C’s drawing of Manmohan Singh dipping his toes in the Mahakali River on the Nepal-India border. On the other hand, what happens in Bhutan is less relevant to even nearby neighbours, such as in the Indian Northeast, because of the lack of day-to-day coverage of Bhutanese politics. As the region becomes smaller in the minds of Southasians, however, this trend could easily change, as coverage of societies increases across frontiers.

As difficult as it is to illustrate national events for the wider world, it is at times more challenging to analyse global politics for the local audience. Nevertheless, the cartoonist’s commentary of these world events carries more punch when localised. Recently Ismail Lahari, of the Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar, amply proved this possibility. In Indore, the term barik is a somewhat derogatory term for the children who perform such jobs as taking tickets on a bus or serving tea at roadside stalls. When commenting on the US elections, Lahari drew President-elect Barack Obama with the caption, “Barik, you try too.” With this clever word play, Lahari underlined the significance of Obama’s win for the local audience, without resorting to lengthy explanations of American history. Cartooning is a profession by which the far-away can quickly become immediate: through simple yet dedicated strokes, a message is passed on to the reader.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

How Much In Web Traffic Changing The News You Read?

If you’ve ever thought that the quest for more clicks is affecting the sorts of articles that get published in the media, a renowned marketing professor Pinar Yildirim wants you to know that you’re right. But it’s not quite the overarching impact that you might expect.

In this interview with INNLIVE, she talks about a new paper, “Clicks and Editorial Decisions: How Does Popularity Shape Online News Coverage?” The paper, which was co-authored by Ananya Sen, a doctoral candidate in economics at the Toulouse School of Economics in France, teases out the differences in how high-traffic stories get treated in terms of longer-term coverage.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bypass Surgery: Harder Operation, Safer Option

New Study Says Bypass Surgery Is Better Than Angioplasty For Heart Patients With Diabetes. Surgery or stent? Bucking the popular trend, a comprehensive study shows surgery is better, particularly for diabetics suffering from advanced coronary heart disease (CHD). Such patients are more likely to live longer, healthier lives after a heart bypass than after an angioplasty. The finding is particularly significant for India, the diabetes capital of the world, where one-third of all heart patients are diabetic. 
    
The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) following a trial funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health in the US. The trial, one of the largest till now on the subject, involved 1900 patients with diabetes, all in their early sixties. While half of them had bypass surgery — medically known as coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) — the rest underwent multivessel angioplasty with drugeluting stents (also known as percutaneous coronary intervention or PCI). These patients were followed up for five years. 
    
The study concluded that for diabetic patients with advanced (predominantly three-vessel) CHD, bypass surgery was superior as it significantly reduced rates of death (10.9% vs 16.9%) and heart attack (6% vs 13.9%). However, of those undergoing a bypass, 5.2% suffered a stroke compared to 2.4% of those who underwent an angioplasty. 

“These results are consistent with the findings of multiple previous trials comparing CABG and PCI in 
patients with diabetes,” stated an NEJM editorial on the subject. Prof Balram Bhargava of the cardiology department at AIIMS was one of the authors of the study. He says the trial, involving such a large number of patients and such a long follow-up, finally lays the debate — open heart versus stenting — to rest, at least for diabetic patients with advanced CHD. “Open-heart surgery is not as daunting an option as it used to be and has evolved greatly over the years. In AIIMS, we have 11 operation theatres where we do three open hearts per theatre or 33 surgeries every day. It is a robust alternative,” he says. 
    
An angioplasty specialist himself, Dr Bhargava points out that the study shows the importance of “team approach” in diagnosing and treating coronary disease rather than just the cardiologist deciding which patient he would send for surgery and which one he would do stenting on. It has to be a combined decision of the cardiologist and the cardiac surgeon, particularly in the case of diabetics, he adds. 
    
There have been major advances in stenting procedures. Yet, studies have consistently shown a trend towards more frequent “major adverse cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events” in diabetics who underwent stenting. In spite of this, the procedure is becoming increasingly the more preferred option, observed the editorial. 
    
Why is this so? “Many PCIs today are ad hoc procedures, performed at the time of diagnostic coronary angiography, with the same physician making the diagnosis, recommending the treatment and performing the procedure. There is little time for informed discussion about alternative treatment options, either medical therapy on the one hand or CABG on the other,” stated the editorial, adding that diabetic patients ought to be informed about the potential survival benefits of open-heart surgery for treatment of severe heart disease. 
    
Ideally, the discussion ought to start before the angiography so the patient has time to digest the information, discuss with family members and also with a multidisciplinary heart team before making an informed decision, advised the NEJM editorial. 
    
“The patient should not be taken in for an ad hoc angioplasty. At the time, he/she is under too much pressure to make an informed decision. It has to be a more elective procedure,” explains Dr Bhargava. 
    
But for now, most patients are harried and hurried by their doctors into getting one or more stents soon after an angiography. The profit margins may leave little scope for discussion. 

MATTERS OF HEART 
  • LETHAL MIX - 61.3 million people over 20 are diabetic in India More than one-third of India’s heart patients are diabetic 
  • TAKING THE BYPASS - First performed in India in 1975 In mid-1990s, 10,000 surgeries annually; now 1 lakh per year 
  • BALLOONING OPTION - In 2011, 1.2 lakh angioplasties performed; 2 lakh stents placed Stent market growing at 22-25% per year in India Docs say chances of blockage recurrence higher in angioplasty than after bypass. In diabetics, chances 3 times higher Surgery considered better in cases where all three major arteries are involved

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Focus: Did BJP Endorsed By India’s Leading Intellectuals?

By Sukhwinder Singh / Delhi

If there’s one thing that has hit home with the Congress in the past couple of months, it is this: peddling the RTI Act or what Manmohan Singh might have done for the economy more than 20 years back, will not win them the upcoming elections.  It’s a fact the party is acutely aware of and the result of the realisation is a Rs 500 crore campaign that they are reportedly lining up to blow the voters’ mind. It is important to remind ourselves that the party had long known that only aggressive whitewashing of their image can save them and hence produced the Bharat Nirman ad a while back.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Spotlight: Islamic State Readies For Fall Of 'Caliphate'

By SARAH WILLIAMS | INNLIVE

Even as it launches waves of terrorist attacks around the globe, the Islamic State is quietly preparing its followers for the eventual collapse of the caliphate it proclaimed with great fanfare two years ago.

In public messages and in recent actions in Syria, the group's leaders are acknowledging the terrorist organization's declining fortunes on the battlefield while bracing for the possibility that its remaining strongholds could fall.

Monday, July 11, 2005

OUTSOURCING: ARE MAGAZINES NEXT?

By M H AHSAN

"We move medical writing offshore. And for that, I apologize to all the freelance medical writers I have worked with in the past (and paid handsomely!) because now my company can do what they do, but for half the price," writes Lombardo, whose post-Whittle positions have included editor-in-chief at WebMD. "I won't be speaking at the American Medical Writers Association meetings anytime soon because I don't own a Kevlar vest."

Another American entrepreneur, Ted Fong, sends out letters to small publishers soliciting clients for his Manila-based company, Boma, offering "design, layout, content development and advertising telesales," at a price that's half of what it typically costs to have the work done in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Office Tiger, a New York-based publishing services company that does most of its work in Chennai, India, is building a design studio in India and bringing over a designer from the U.S. to run it. The firm hopes to attract more U.S. magazine clients for its full range of production work. "I think where publishers would most likely use us as a starting point would be design execution, where we are working with designs that have been established," says Michelle Breault, senior vice president of content and prepress services. She expects more publishers to turn to the firm for original work "as we migrate to that broader design capability."

It's an increasingly familiar picture: the transfer of work that was once done by full-time employees in the U.S. to overseas contractors for a fraction of the price. It's a fait accompli in customer service, direct marketing and information technology. Now, it's the magazine business's turn. Editorial, design, production and advertising functions are all being performed cheaper - and some contractors and publishers claim better - overseas.

The move abroad is just beginning, but experts believe the shift overseas is inevitable. For publishers that have already slashed staff, reduced editorial pages and shifted work onto freelancers in place of full-time staff, this represents the next frontier in cost-cutting. "I think the opportunity is that one can inherently make a new magazine start-up less expensive," says Atul Vashista, CEO of outsourcing consultancy firm NeoIT. "One can reduce the production costs of putting a magazine out."

Clearly, magazine production presents many of the same conditions that provided the offshore opportunity for other industries. Publishers are already accustomed to telecommuting sales reps, near-virtual editorial staff, outsourced art direction and design, outsourced Web programming, outsourced circulation fulfillment, etc. That can put magazine jobs into the great pool of the potentially offshored. According to a report published by the University of California, Berkeley last fall, as many as 14 million jobs could be shifted outside the U.S. by 2015. None of the research focused exclusively on the magazine business, but the report made clear just how vulnerable jobs in the industries that have the following characteristics are: "The lack of face-to-face customer service, work processes that enable telecommuting and Internet work, high wage differentials between countries, a high information content, low social networking requirements and low set-up costs."

That list applies to a number of jobs in an industry that is increasingly migrating online - especially for a freelance copy editor or proofreader working out of his home for editors he's never met. Copy editors and graphic designers are among the employees listed as being at moderate risk of losing their jobs to overseas competitors by job counseling Website careerplanner.com. "I was using a copywriter to write a couple of pages for me and I found she was farming some of it out," says Michael Robinson, founder and owner of careerplanner.com. "Her proofreader was local, but there was no reason she couldn't send it to India."

Threat or Opportunity?The current face of magazine offshoring can be glimpsed in the moist puppy dog eyes staring out from the cover of the latest issue of Fido Friendly Magazine, a quarterly for people who travel with their dogs. The magazine's co-founder and editor-in-chief, Nick Sveslovsky, who started the publication with his mother in 2001, answered a solicitation from Boma last year. He says that since the magazine was created, "I had been doing the design and production all myself, and we just didn't have the resources financially to outsource to someone in the U.S. where the prices are ridiculous." Sveslovsky estimates that by using Boma he pays about half what it would cost him to have the work done stateside. He sends Boma the raw material - including a photo of the next issue's "cover dog" - and designers in the Philippines do the rest. The arrangement frees him up to concentrate on editorial and increasing the magazine's frequency. "With Boma, it'll happen a lot sooner than I would have thought, hopefully pretty soon," Sveslovsky says.

The same offer from Boma evoked a far different reaction when it arrived on the desk of Samuel Pennington, publisher of Maine Antique Digest. "I live in a small town and have employees who have been with me 25 years and longer," he says. "I just couldn't see downsizing." With employee pay and benefits making up more than one-third of his costs, he acknowledges that he probably could save money by outsourcing. But he considers such thinking shortsighted. "If everything is overseas, who's going to be able to buy anything?" asks Pennington, rhetorically. "Henry Ford shocked everyone by paying his employees a living wage, but he did it because he wanted people to be able to buy his cars."

Fido Friendly and Maine Antique Digest are typical of the publications Boma is targeting to build its magazine business (until now the company's main focus had been on preparing marketing materials), in that they have circulations under 40,000 and serve a strong niche market. "Right now we go after the smaller magazines because they're the ones who have the biggest needs and are the most cost-conscious," says Fong, who mailed a solicitation to 350 U.S. publishers in January and is preparing to send another.

Boma charges $50 per page for layout and design, a price that includes sending the pages electronically to clients three times for proofing. Fong can afford to keep the price low because he typically pays his employees a fraction of what they would earn for comparable work in the U.S. - about $12,000 a year on average for a job that might pay $60,000 in the states. So far, with only three magazine clients, Boma is tiny, but Fong says he's in discussions with others and has turned down some interested publishers whom he didn't consider financially viable. He also has begun offering advertising services to magazines, including design and telephone sales.
With Fido Friendly, he's using call centers to qualify leads by contacting hotels to find out details, such as whether they allow pets and what kind of accommodation they offer. From there, it's up to the two full-time telephone sales people Fong employs to close the deal. He admits his sales staff is on a learning curve, but claims he can dramatically cut the costs of bringing in advertising. "The kind of customers we're going after are not going to hire sales people and send them out on calls," says Fong. "The way of the future is to close business over the phone, especially for ads that are less than $4,000 or $5,000 a page."

Offshore Company Has Designs on U.S. MagsIf U.S. magazine workers only had to contend with Boma, there wouldn't be much to worry about. But there are bigger players moving into this field. Office Tiger, for example, has a staff of 1,650 in India, and offices in New York and London. It was founded in 1999 to provide research, analysis and production services for law firms and investment banks, among other companies. Tiger quickly moved into the production of annual reports and prospectuses. From there, it's not much of a leap to provide the same type of support for magazines and, in fact, the company has started to do so on a limited basis, says co-CEO and co-founder Joe Sigelman.

With its new design studio, the company will be able to perform many of the functions traditionally done in-house or outsourced to a domestic company, says Breault. That includes high-end creative work. She adds that the company expects to gain a publisher's confidence by starting out providing routine design and production work, which magazines have plenty of. "If you look at creating a directory, for example, what you do is very much take a style and develop scripts to lay that out and what you're doing is really merging data to a predefined layout," she says.

Boma and OfficeTiger reflect a pattern among companies building up a business in offshore magazine work. They have established themselves in other fields - marketing, advertising and financial analysis - that require skills that are transferable to magazine publishing, such as writing, researching, copyediting, layout and design. By the time these companies begin courting magazine publishers, they have not only built up a track record demonstrating those core skills, they have already set up their facilities and technology and their sales and customer services staff. Their ability to transfer their success from related fields into magazine publishing will likely encourage competitors to make the same jump.

But how much of it really translates to magazine work? Can a copy editor in India understand the nuances of style well enough to make the words flow smoothly in, say, a magazine for wine connoisseurs in California? Can a graphic designer in the Philippines create a pleasing look for an American hotel chain's custom publication? And what about the intangibles - the trust and communication that only comes from face-to-face contact.

"Most of the time, even among bigger accounts that we've gone after, you're really dealing with someone in a very personal one-on-one relationship," says Rob Sugar, president of Aurus Design in Silver Spring, Md. "So it matters to them that you're not that far away." Aurus designs and produces custom publications for organizations including the American Bus Association and the American Film Institute.

He says it would be logistically possible to perform the functions Aurus does offshore (he has clients in other states that he rarely sees in person), but he doubts overseas workers would have the right cultural sensibility for the job. "Knowing [a client] in a more intimate way is something that's very important. I think there's no substitute for understanding what their needs are."
Boma's employees in the Philippines ran into a cultural barrier when they began producing Fido Friendly. The concept of traveling with dogs was alien to the designers. Fong, who was born and raised in California, says it's his job to explain such cultural differences to his staff.

Journal Work Migrating OverseasProfessional journals such as Molecular Cancer Research (from the American Association of Cancer Research) and the APG Bulletin) from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists) are already flocking to offshore vendors. Just ask Inera, a Massachusetts company that sells editorial and production software to publishers. "We have one competitor and it's not another software product. It's outsourcing," says Ken Carson, Inera's vice president. In the last year and a half, the company has lost several big potential deals because publishers found that instead of investing in software, they could outsource work to India or the Philippines and still save up to 80 percent off what it would cost to do the work in-house. Outmatched on price, Inera tries to compete on quality, appealing to publishers who insist on the control of keeping the work in-house, says Carson.


One of the companies giving Inera competition is SPI Publisher Services, which does prepress services such as layout and copyediting, as well as file conversion from print to electronic format for professional and scholarly journals in Manila. SPI's revenues have been growing 50 percent a year for the past two years and are on track to hit $15 million this year.

"The economy being what it is, the attractiveness of offshore vendors is growing," says Frank Stumpf, president and COO of the company, which has its U.S. headquarters in Ashland, Va. He maintains that offshore doesn't just mean cheaper; it can also mean better because overseas companies can afford to put more workers on a project to get a job done faster and with greater attention to detail. So far, the company has not expanded from journals to consumer or trade magazines, but Stumpf says SPI is eyeing such publications for future growth. "I think there's more and more opportunity," he says. "Copyediting is one of the more labor intensive parts of the magazine business, so it's a highly likely thing for people to consider moving offshore."
But Barbara Wallraff, a language columnist for the Atlantic Monthly and editor of the Copy Editor Newsletter, says copyediting is too sophisticated a function to be farmed out to someone in another country. "If it's quality that the companies care about for the great majority of copyediting applications, offshoring wouldn't be the way to go," she says. "So we need to do a good job of explaining why good, solid domestic editing does have value."

Wallraff may be right - certainly a top literary/current events magazine like The Atlantic is unlikely to trust the nuance of language of top writers to unseen contractors. But many magazines are looking for something far simpler: clear, error-free copy. For example, Dowden Health Media, a custom publisher of medical information for both professional and consumer audiences, says it is happy to hire doctors in India to fact check its consumer publications.
The doctors check the stories against the medical literature to make sure the articles are scientifically accurate. "There's an extra level of scrutiny, putting an extra brain on the case for each article," says Mark Dowden, senior vice president and publisher. "It's not so much a matter of keeping absolute errors from going through, as it is providing extra editorial input that can be used in final editing to confirm that everything in the article is just so from a scientific viewpoint." Dowden declined to say how much he pays for the service, but said it's less than what it would cost to hire a freelance fact checker, let alone an M.D., in the U.S.

Those doctors come by way of MD Writers, the company started by Lombardo. Lombardo says he has six Indian physicians under contract who write, research, copyedit and fact check material for consumer and professional audiences. MD Writers supplies content for Websites, ghost writes articles for peer-reviewed journals and prepares material for continuing education courses.

For one client, a Website for physicians, the doctors under contract with MD Writers review the professional journals each week and write summaries of their findings. Lombardo, who says the company has six clients including Dowden (but declined to name the others), says the only thing medical journalists do that the doctors he works with don't is call sources to report on a story.
To find doctors who could write, he advertised on two Websites: Monsterindia.com and Timesofindia.com. He got 120 responses. Doctors typically make $1,200 to $2,000 a month in India, so the moonlighting offers an attractive way to supplement their income, says Lombardo. He gave the applicants writing tests. "I thought it would take me 100 tests to find four good writers," he says. "After 70 tests I stopped. I had a pool of 15 writers."Granted, the Indian doctors wrote with a British accent, but Lombardo says it took him only three months to train them to write American-style copy. And he did it all by e-mail from his office in Atlanta. Lombardo has never been to India.

OUTSOURCING: ARE MAGAZINES NEXT?

By M H AHSAN

"We move medical writing offshore. And for that, I apologize to all the freelance medical writers I have worked with in the past (and paid handsomely!) because now my company can do what they do, but for half the price," writes Lombardo, whose post-Whittle positions have included editor-in-chief at WebMD. "I won't be speaking at the American Medical Writers Association meetings anytime soon because I don't own a Kevlar vest."

Another American entrepreneur, Ted Fong, sends out letters to small publishers soliciting clients for his Manila-based company, Boma, offering "design, layout, content development and advertising telesales," at a price that's half of what it typically costs to have the work done in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Office Tiger, a New York-based publishing services company that does most of its work in Chennai, India, is building a design studio in India and bringing over a designer from the U.S. to run it. The firm hopes to attract more U.S. magazine clients for its full range of production work. "I think where publishers would most likely use us as a starting point would be design execution, where we are working with designs that have been established," says Michelle Breault, senior vice president of content and prepress services. She expects more publishers to turn to the firm for original work "as we migrate to that broader design capability."

It's an increasingly familiar picture: the transfer of work that was once done by full-time employees in the U.S. to overseas contractors for a fraction of the price. It's a fait accompli in customer service, direct marketing and information technology. Now, it's the magazine business's turn. Editorial, design, production and advertising functions are all being performed cheaper - and some contractors and publishers claim better - overseas.

The move abroad is just beginning, but experts believe the shift overseas is inevitable. For publishers that have already slashed staff, reduced editorial pages and shifted work onto freelancers in place of full-time staff, this represents the next frontier in cost-cutting. "I think the opportunity is that one can inherently make a new magazine start-up less expensive," says Atul Vashista, CEO of outsourcing consultancy firm NeoIT. "One can reduce the production costs of putting a magazine out."

Clearly, magazine production presents many of the same conditions that provided the offshore opportunity for other industries. Publishers are already accustomed to telecommuting sales reps, near-virtual editorial staff, outsourced art direction and design, outsourced Web programming, outsourced circulation fulfillment, etc. That can put magazine jobs into the great pool of the potentially offshored. According to a report published by the University of California, Berkeley last fall, as many as 14 million jobs could be shifted outside the U.S. by 2015. None of the research focused exclusively on the magazine business, but the report made clear just how vulnerable jobs in the industries that have the following characteristics are: "The lack of face-to-face customer service, work processes that enable telecommuting and Internet work, high wage differentials between countries, a high information content, low social networking requirements and low set-up costs."

That list applies to a number of jobs in an industry that is increasingly migrating online - especially for a freelance copy editor or proofreader working out of his home for editors he's never met. Copy editors and graphic designers are among the employees listed as being at moderate risk of losing their jobs to overseas competitors by job counseling Website careerplanner.com. "I was using a copywriter to write a couple of pages for me and I found she was farming some of it out," says Michael Robinson, founder and owner of careerplanner.com. "Her proofreader was local, but there was no reason she couldn't send it to India."

Threat or Opportunity?The current face of magazine offshoring can be glimpsed in the moist puppy dog eyes staring out from the cover of the latest issue of Fido Friendly Magazine, a quarterly for people who travel with their dogs. The magazine's co-founder and editor-in-chief, Nick Sveslovsky, who started the publication with his mother in 2001, answered a solicitation from Boma last year. He says that since the magazine was created, "I had been doing the design and production all myself, and we just didn't have the resources financially to outsource to someone in the U.S. where the prices are ridiculous." Sveslovsky estimates that by using Boma he pays about half what it would cost him to have the work done stateside. He sends Boma the raw material - including a photo of the next issue's "cover dog" - and designers in the Philippines do the rest. The arrangement frees him up to concentrate on editorial and increasing the magazine's frequency. "With Boma, it'll happen a lot sooner than I would have thought, hopefully pretty soon," Sveslovsky says.

The same offer from Boma evoked a far different reaction when it arrived on the desk of Samuel Pennington, publisher of Maine Antique Digest. "I live in a small town and have employees who have been with me 25 years and longer," he says. "I just couldn't see downsizing." With employee pay and benefits making up more than one-third of his costs, he acknowledges that he probably could save money by outsourcing. But he considers such thinking shortsighted. "If everything is overseas, who's going to be able to buy anything?" asks Pennington, rhetorically. "Henry Ford shocked everyone by paying his employees a living wage, but he did it because he wanted people to be able to buy his cars."

Fido Friendly and Maine Antique Digest are typical of the publications Boma is targeting to build its magazine business (until now the company's main focus had been on preparing marketing materials), in that they have circulations under 40,000 and serve a strong niche market. "Right now we go after the smaller magazines because they're the ones who have the biggest needs and are the most cost-conscious," says Fong, who mailed a solicitation to 350 U.S. publishers in January and is preparing to send another.

Boma charges $50 per page for layout and design, a price that includes sending the pages electronically to clients three times for proofing. Fong can afford to keep the price low because he typically pays his employees a fraction of what they would earn for comparable work in the U.S. - about $12,000 a year on average for a job that might pay $60,000 in the states. So far, with only three magazine clients, Boma is tiny, but Fong says he's in discussions with others and has turned down some interested publishers whom he didn't consider financially viable. He also has begun offering advertising services to magazines, including design and telephone sales.
With Fido Friendly, he's using call centers to qualify leads by contacting hotels to find out details, such as whether they allow pets and what kind of accommodation they offer. From there, it's up to the two full-time telephone sales people Fong employs to close the deal. He admits his sales staff is on a learning curve, but claims he can dramatically cut the costs of bringing in advertising. "The kind of customers we're going after are not going to hire sales people and send them out on calls," says Fong. "The way of the future is to close business over the phone, especially for ads that are less than $4,000 or $5,000 a page."

Offshore Company Has Designs on U.S. MagsIf U.S. magazine workers only had to contend with Boma, there wouldn't be much to worry about. But there are bigger players moving into this field. Office Tiger, for example, has a staff of 1,650 in India, and offices in New York and London. It was founded in 1999 to provide research, analysis and production services for law firms and investment banks, among other companies. Tiger quickly moved into the production of annual reports and prospectuses. From there, it's not much of a leap to provide the same type of support for magazines and, in fact, the company has started to do so on a limited basis, says co-CEO and co-founder Joe Sigelman.

With its new design studio, the company will be able to perform many of the functions traditionally done in-house or outsourced to a domestic company, says Breault. That includes high-end creative work. She adds that the company expects to gain a publisher's confidence by starting out providing routine design and production work, which magazines have plenty of. "If you look at creating a directory, for example, what you do is very much take a style and develop scripts to lay that out and what you're doing is really merging data to a predefined layout," she says.

Boma and OfficeTiger reflect a pattern among companies building up a business in offshore magazine work. They have established themselves in other fields - marketing, advertising and financial analysis - that require skills that are transferable to magazine publishing, such as writing, researching, copyediting, layout and design. By the time these companies begin courting magazine publishers, they have not only built up a track record demonstrating those core skills, they have already set up their facilities and technology and their sales and customer services staff. Their ability to transfer their success from related fields into magazine publishing will likely encourage competitors to make the same jump.

But how much of it really translates to magazine work? Can a copy editor in India understand the nuances of style well enough to make the words flow smoothly in, say, a magazine for wine connoisseurs in California? Can a graphic designer in the Philippines create a pleasing look for an American hotel chain's custom publication? And what about the intangibles - the trust and communication that only comes from face-to-face contact.

"Most of the time, even among bigger accounts that we've gone after, you're really dealing with someone in a very personal one-on-one relationship," says Rob Sugar, president of Aurus Design in Silver Spring, Md. "So it matters to them that you're not that far away." Aurus designs and produces custom publications for organizations including the American Bus Association and the American Film Institute.

He says it would be logistically possible to perform the functions Aurus does offshore (he has clients in other states that he rarely sees in person), but he doubts overseas workers would have the right cultural sensibility for the job. "Knowing [a client] in a more intimate way is something that's very important. I think there's no substitute for understanding what their needs are."
Boma's employees in the Philippines ran into a cultural barrier when they began producing Fido Friendly. The concept of traveling with dogs was alien to the designers. Fong, who was born and raised in California, says it's his job to explain such cultural differences to his staff.

Journal Work Migrating OverseasProfessional journals such as Molecular Cancer Research (from the American Association of Cancer Research) and the APG Bulletin) from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists) are already flocking to offshore vendors. Just ask Inera, a Massachusetts company that sells editorial and production software to publishers. "We have one competitor and it's not another software product. It's outsourcing," says Ken Carson, Inera's vice president. In the last year and a half, the company has lost several big potential deals because publishers found that instead of investing in software, they could outsource work to India or the Philippines and still save up to 80 percent off what it would cost to do the work in-house. Outmatched on price, Inera tries to compete on quality, appealing to publishers who insist on the control of keeping the work in-house, says Carson.


One of the companies giving Inera competition is SPI Publisher Services, which does prepress services such as layout and copyediting, as well as file conversion from print to electronic format for professional and scholarly journals in Manila. SPI's revenues have been growing 50 percent a year for the past two years and are on track to hit $15 million this year.

"The economy being what it is, the attractiveness of offshore vendors is growing," says Frank Stumpf, president and COO of the company, which has its U.S. headquarters in Ashland, Va. He maintains that offshore doesn't just mean cheaper; it can also mean better because overseas companies can afford to put more workers on a project to get a job done faster and with greater attention to detail. So far, the company has not expanded from journals to consumer or trade magazines, but Stumpf says SPI is eyeing such publications for future growth. "I think there's more and more opportunity," he says. "Copyediting is one of the more labor intensive parts of the magazine business, so it's a highly likely thing for people to consider moving offshore."
But Barbara Wallraff, a language columnist for the Atlantic Monthly and editor of the Copy Editor Newsletter, says copyediting is too sophisticated a function to be farmed out to someone in another country. "If it's quality that the companies care about for the great majority of copyediting applications, offshoring wouldn't be the way to go," she says. "So we need to do a good job of explaining why good, solid domestic editing does have value."

Wallraff may be right - certainly a top literary/current events magazine like The Atlantic is unlikely to trust the nuance of language of top writers to unseen contractors. But many magazines are looking for something far simpler: clear, error-free copy. For example, Dowden Health Media, a custom publisher of medical information for both professional and consumer audiences, says it is happy to hire doctors in India to fact check its consumer publications.
The doctors check the stories against the medical literature to make sure the articles are scientifically accurate. "There's an extra level of scrutiny, putting an extra brain on the case for each article," says Mark Dowden, senior vice president and publisher. "It's not so much a matter of keeping absolute errors from going through, as it is providing extra editorial input that can be used in final editing to confirm that everything in the article is just so from a scientific viewpoint." Dowden declined to say how much he pays for the service, but said it's less than what it would cost to hire a freelance fact checker, let alone an M.D., in the U.S.

Those doctors come by way of MD Writers, the company started by Lombardo. Lombardo says he has six Indian physicians under contract who write, research, copyedit and fact check material for consumer and professional audiences. MD Writers supplies content for Websites, ghost writes articles for peer-reviewed journals and prepares material for continuing education courses.

For one client, a Website for physicians, the doctors under contract with MD Writers review the professional journals each week and write summaries of their findings. Lombardo, who says the company has six clients including Dowden (but declined to name the others), says the only thing medical journalists do that the doctors he works with don't is call sources to report on a story.
To find doctors who could write, he advertised on two Websites: Monsterindia.com and Timesofindia.com. He got 120 responses. Doctors typically make $1,200 to $2,000 a month in India, so the moonlighting offers an attractive way to supplement their income, says Lombardo. He gave the applicants writing tests. "I thought it would take me 100 tests to find four good writers," he says. "After 70 tests I stopped. I had a pool of 15 writers."Granted, the Indian doctors wrote with a British accent, but Lombardo says it took him only three months to train them to write American-style copy. And he did it all by e-mail from his office in Atlanta. Lombardo has never been to India.

OUTSOURCING: ARE MAGAZINES NEXT?

By M H AHSAN

"We move medical writing offshore. And for that, I apologize to all the freelance medical writers I have worked with in the past (and paid handsomely!) because now my company can do what they do, but for half the price," writes Lombardo, whose post-Whittle positions have included editor-in-chief at WebMD. "I won't be speaking at the American Medical Writers Association meetings anytime soon because I don't own a Kevlar vest."

Another American entrepreneur, Ted Fong, sends out letters to small publishers soliciting clients for his Manila-based company, Boma, offering "design, layout, content development and advertising telesales," at a price that's half of what it typically costs to have the work done in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Office Tiger, a New York-based publishing services company that does most of its work in Chennai, India, is building a design studio in India and bringing over a designer from the U.S. to run it. The firm hopes to attract more U.S. magazine clients for its full range of production work. "I think where publishers would most likely use us as a starting point would be design execution, where we are working with designs that have been established," says Michelle Breault, senior vice president of content and prepress services. She expects more publishers to turn to the firm for original work "as we migrate to that broader design capability."

It's an increasingly familiar picture: the transfer of work that was once done by full-time employees in the U.S. to overseas contractors for a fraction of the price. It's a fait accompli in customer service, direct marketing and information technology. Now, it's the magazine business's turn. Editorial, design, production and advertising functions are all being performed cheaper - and some contractors and publishers claim better - overseas.

The move abroad is just beginning, but experts believe the shift overseas is inevitable. For publishers that have already slashed staff, reduced editorial pages and shifted work onto freelancers in place of full-time staff, this represents the next frontier in cost-cutting. "I think the opportunity is that one can inherently make a new magazine start-up less expensive," says Atul Vashista, CEO of outsourcing consultancy firm NeoIT. "One can reduce the production costs of putting a magazine out."

Clearly, magazine production presents many of the same conditions that provided the offshore opportunity for other industries. Publishers are already accustomed to telecommuting sales reps, near-virtual editorial staff, outsourced art direction and design, outsourced Web programming, outsourced circulation fulfillment, etc. That can put magazine jobs into the great pool of the potentially offshored. According to a report published by the University of California, Berkeley last fall, as many as 14 million jobs could be shifted outside the U.S. by 2015. None of the research focused exclusively on the magazine business, but the report made clear just how vulnerable jobs in the industries that have the following characteristics are: "The lack of face-to-face customer service, work processes that enable telecommuting and Internet work, high wage differentials between countries, a high information content, low social networking requirements and low set-up costs."

That list applies to a number of jobs in an industry that is increasingly migrating online - especially for a freelance copy editor or proofreader working out of his home for editors he's never met. Copy editors and graphic designers are among the employees listed as being at moderate risk of losing their jobs to overseas competitors by job counseling Website careerplanner.com. "I was using a copywriter to write a couple of pages for me and I found she was farming some of it out," says Michael Robinson, founder and owner of careerplanner.com. "Her proofreader was local, but there was no reason she couldn't send it to India."

Threat or Opportunity?The current face of magazine offshoring can be glimpsed in the moist puppy dog eyes staring out from the cover of the latest issue of Fido Friendly Magazine, a quarterly for people who travel with their dogs. The magazine's co-founder and editor-in-chief, Nick Sveslovsky, who started the publication with his mother in 2001, answered a solicitation from Boma last year. He says that since the magazine was created, "I had been doing the design and production all myself, and we just didn't have the resources financially to outsource to someone in the U.S. where the prices are ridiculous." Sveslovsky estimates that by using Boma he pays about half what it would cost him to have the work done stateside. He sends Boma the raw material - including a photo of the next issue's "cover dog" - and designers in the Philippines do the rest. The arrangement frees him up to concentrate on editorial and increasing the magazine's frequency. "With Boma, it'll happen a lot sooner than I would have thought, hopefully pretty soon," Sveslovsky says.

The same offer from Boma evoked a far different reaction when it arrived on the desk of Samuel Pennington, publisher of Maine Antique Digest. "I live in a small town and have employees who have been with me 25 years and longer," he says. "I just couldn't see downsizing." With employee pay and benefits making up more than one-third of his costs, he acknowledges that he probably could save money by outsourcing. But he considers such thinking shortsighted. "If everything is overseas, who's going to be able to buy anything?" asks Pennington, rhetorically. "Henry Ford shocked everyone by paying his employees a living wage, but he did it because he wanted people to be able to buy his cars."

Fido Friendly and Maine Antique Digest are typical of the publications Boma is targeting to build its magazine business (until now the company's main focus had been on preparing marketing materials), in that they have circulations under 40,000 and serve a strong niche market. "Right now we go after the smaller magazines because they're the ones who have the biggest needs and are the most cost-conscious," says Fong, who mailed a solicitation to 350 U.S. publishers in January and is preparing to send another.

Boma charges $50 per page for layout and design, a price that includes sending the pages electronically to clients three times for proofing. Fong can afford to keep the price low because he typically pays his employees a fraction of what they would earn for comparable work in the U.S. - about $12,000 a year on average for a job that might pay $60,000 in the states. So far, with only three magazine clients, Boma is tiny, but Fong says he's in discussions with others and has turned down some interested publishers whom he didn't consider financially viable. He also has begun offering advertising services to magazines, including design and telephone sales.
With Fido Friendly, he's using call centers to qualify leads by contacting hotels to find out details, such as whether they allow pets and what kind of accommodation they offer. From there, it's up to the two full-time telephone sales people Fong employs to close the deal. He admits his sales staff is on a learning curve, but claims he can dramatically cut the costs of bringing in advertising. "The kind of customers we're going after are not going to hire sales people and send them out on calls," says Fong. "The way of the future is to close business over the phone, especially for ads that are less than $4,000 or $5,000 a page."

Offshore Company Has Designs on U.S. MagsIf U.S. magazine workers only had to contend with Boma, there wouldn't be much to worry about. But there are bigger players moving into this field. Office Tiger, for example, has a staff of 1,650 in India, and offices in New York and London. It was founded in 1999 to provide research, analysis and production services for law firms and investment banks, among other companies. Tiger quickly moved into the production of annual reports and prospectuses. From there, it's not much of a leap to provide the same type of support for magazines and, in fact, the company has started to do so on a limited basis, says co-CEO and co-founder Joe Sigelman.

With its new design studio, the company will be able to perform many of the functions traditionally done in-house or outsourced to a domestic company, says Breault. That includes high-end creative work. She adds that the company expects to gain a publisher's confidence by starting out providing routine design and production work, which magazines have plenty of. "If you look at creating a directory, for example, what you do is very much take a style and develop scripts to lay that out and what you're doing is really merging data to a predefined layout," she says.

Boma and OfficeTiger reflect a pattern among companies building up a business in offshore magazine work. They have established themselves in other fields - marketing, advertising and financial analysis - that require skills that are transferable to magazine publishing, such as writing, researching, copyediting, layout and design. By the time these companies begin courting magazine publishers, they have not only built up a track record demonstrating those core skills, they have already set up their facilities and technology and their sales and customer services staff. Their ability to transfer their success from related fields into magazine publishing will likely encourage competitors to make the same jump.

But how much of it really translates to magazine work? Can a copy editor in India understand the nuances of style well enough to make the words flow smoothly in, say, a magazine for wine connoisseurs in California? Can a graphic designer in the Philippines create a pleasing look for an American hotel chain's custom publication? And what about the intangibles - the trust and communication that only comes from face-to-face contact.

"Most of the time, even among bigger accounts that we've gone after, you're really dealing with someone in a very personal one-on-one relationship," says Rob Sugar, president of Aurus Design in Silver Spring, Md. "So it matters to them that you're not that far away." Aurus designs and produces custom publications for organizations including the American Bus Association and the American Film Institute.

He says it would be logistically possible to perform the functions Aurus does offshore (he has clients in other states that he rarely sees in person), but he doubts overseas workers would have the right cultural sensibility for the job. "Knowing [a client] in a more intimate way is something that's very important. I think there's no substitute for understanding what their needs are."
Boma's employees in the Philippines ran into a cultural barrier when they began producing Fido Friendly. The concept of traveling with dogs was alien to the designers. Fong, who was born and raised in California, says it's his job to explain such cultural differences to his staff.

Journal Work Migrating OverseasProfessional journals such as Molecular Cancer Research (from the American Association of Cancer Research) and the APG Bulletin) from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists) are already flocking to offshore vendors. Just ask Inera, a Massachusetts company that sells editorial and production software to publishers. "We have one competitor and it's not another software product. It's outsourcing," says Ken Carson, Inera's vice president. In the last year and a half, the company has lost several big potential deals because publishers found that instead of investing in software, they could outsource work to India or the Philippines and still save up to 80 percent off what it would cost to do the work in-house. Outmatched on price, Inera tries to compete on quality, appealing to publishers who insist on the control of keeping the work in-house, says Carson.


One of the companies giving Inera competition is SPI Publisher Services, which does prepress services such as layout and copyediting, as well as file conversion from print to electronic format for professional and scholarly journals in Manila. SPI's revenues have been growing 50 percent a year for the past two years and are on track to hit $15 million this year.

"The economy being what it is, the attractiveness of offshore vendors is growing," says Frank Stumpf, president and COO of the company, which has its U.S. headquarters in Ashland, Va. He maintains that offshore doesn't just mean cheaper; it can also mean better because overseas companies can afford to put more workers on a project to get a job done faster and with greater attention to detail. So far, the company has not expanded from journals to consumer or trade magazines, but Stumpf says SPI is eyeing such publications for future growth. "I think there's more and more opportunity," he says. "Copyediting is one of the more labor intensive parts of the magazine business, so it's a highly likely thing for people to consider moving offshore."
But Barbara Wallraff, a language columnist for the Atlantic Monthly and editor of the Copy Editor Newsletter, says copyediting is too sophisticated a function to be farmed out to someone in another country. "If it's quality that the companies care about for the great majority of copyediting applications, offshoring wouldn't be the way to go," she says. "So we need to do a good job of explaining why good, solid domestic editing does have value."

Wallraff may be right - certainly a top literary/current events magazine like The Atlantic is unlikely to trust the nuance of language of top writers to unseen contractors. But many magazines are looking for something far simpler: clear, error-free copy. For example, Dowden Health Media, a custom publisher of medical information for both professional and consumer audiences, says it is happy to hire doctors in India to fact check its consumer publications.
The doctors check the stories against the medical literature to make sure the articles are scientifically accurate. "There's an extra level of scrutiny, putting an extra brain on the case for each article," says Mark Dowden, senior vice president and publisher. "It's not so much a matter of keeping absolute errors from going through, as it is providing extra editorial input that can be used in final editing to confirm that everything in the article is just so from a scientific viewpoint." Dowden declined to say how much he pays for the service, but said it's less than what it would cost to hire a freelance fact checker, let alone an M.D., in the U.S.

Those doctors come by way of MD Writers, the company started by Lombardo. Lombardo says he has six Indian physicians under contract who write, research, copyedit and fact check material for consumer and professional audiences. MD Writers supplies content for Websites, ghost writes articles for peer-reviewed journals and prepares material for continuing education courses.

For one client, a Website for physicians, the doctors under contract with MD Writers review the professional journals each week and write summaries of their findings. Lombardo, who says the company has six clients including Dowden (but declined to name the others), says the only thing medical journalists do that the doctors he works with don't is call sources to report on a story.
To find doctors who could write, he advertised on two Websites: Monsterindia.com and Timesofindia.com. He got 120 responses. Doctors typically make $1,200 to $2,000 a month in India, so the moonlighting offers an attractive way to supplement their income, says Lombardo. He gave the applicants writing tests. "I thought it would take me 100 tests to find four good writers," he says. "After 70 tests I stopped. I had a pool of 15 writers."Granted, the Indian doctors wrote with a British accent, but Lombardo says it took him only three months to train them to write American-style copy. And he did it all by e-mail from his office in Atlanta. Lombardo has never been to India.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Common 'Content Mistakes' Which Hurts Your Website

You finally have that perfect website design, and you’re anticipating what feels like an influx of traffic ahead when your doors open on the new design. Are you waiting and waiting, with dropping expectations, as your anticipatory hopes aren’t met? Unfortunately, you’re not alone. Many times new designs get released and a perfectly designed website fails attracting the huge audience hoped for.

A beautiful design is an excellent start, but what are you doing about content? Even if you’re an online business newbie, you’ve certainly heard the old but true cliché that content is king.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Tips for Writing an Op-ed Article

By M H Ahssan

If you have an opinion about current events-political, social, or otherwise-you have probably considered writing an op-ed article for local or national newspapers. Op-ed pieces allow writers, both amateur and professional alike, to participate in public discourse about the issues that are most important to them.

Writing an opposite editorial (op-ed) article is also a great way for an aspiring writer to break into the business and capture the eye of editors. Traditionally placed on the page opposite the editorial section, op-ed articles are written in the same tone as an editorial piece, but from the point of view of an individual writer. Often, this writer is not associated with the publication, or part of its regular staff of columnists and contributors.

The best op-ed writers are those who keep up with the news, and are able to write valid contributions to current topics. Newspapers focus on relevant journalism, and readers will not want to waste their time on articles that are based on outdated and tired arguments. If you have a fresh slant or new approach, go for it. Often, well-written op-ed pieces are the precursors to lively discussion in other media outlets, such as talk shows, news commentators, and news networks' round-table talks.

Below is a list of some of the basics involved with writing or editing an effective op-ed article:

1. Keep current. The easiest way to get your op-ed article published is to write about something that is currently relevant in headline news. After a story has been written about numerous times, editors-as well as readers-will tire of it and consider it old news. Additionally, an op-ed piece about the condition of the city's roads is hardly relevant when that same city is currently facing a crackdown on political corruption in the mayor's office. Op-ed editors know what readers want to read, and will be more likely to publish your op-ed article if you take the time to consider your audience's interests carefully.

2. Brevity is vital. Newspaper editors generally leave a space big enough for 700-750 words for an op-ed piece, and you have to be able to say a lot in that span to get their attention. A way to keep yourself on track is to remember to focus on one key point or argument, and save the multi-dimensional diatribe against all of society's woes for another outlet (or multiple op-eds). In many cases, if you send in an op-ed article that is considerably longer, the editor will immediately refuse it due to not having the time to go back and forth with you in cutting the word count.

3. Hook your reader. Academics, who are accustomed to writing scholarly papers, tend to have an especially hard time with this one. The opening sentence needs to capture the reader's attention, and this rarely happens in a roundabout way. The easiest hooks are the ones that begin a story, or make a blanket statement that someone might find humorous or intriguing. Think of Charles Dickens' opening lines in A Tale of Two Cities-"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Don't take time to get the ball rolling or get your point across-do it from the opening lines of your article. You'll find that this approach always works best in getting the readers (and editor's) attention.

4. Stick to arguing one point. The op-ed article is not the place to take on the world's problems. It's not really even the place to offer your own five-point plan for fixing the city's budget crises, or for bringing an end to corruption in government. Readers are drawn into op-ed articles because of the honesty of narrative, and simplicity of the argument, and the statements that will make them stop and think for a moment that maybe-just maybe-you have a valid point.

5. Avoid academic, stuffy, or jargon-filled writing. Newspapers around the world are generally written between and 8th and 12th grade reading level. Research has shown that when newspapers are distributed with articles written at higher reading levels, the circulation numbers tend to decline. Editors are aware of this, and will choose articles for publication that are clear and powerfully written without a lot of inside terminology and jargon that might elude much of their readership. If your chosen topic requires terminology that the average reader might not know, include a brief definition-either through context or one that is directly stated-to avoid confusion.

6. Use the inverted pyramid approach. Put the most important details-the "meat" of your article-in the beginning. This usually means to avoid meandering your way to what you are trying to say. As mentioned earlier, the editor will be concerned about space and word count. If the editor needs to cut your op-ed piece to fit and you've used the inverted pyramid approach, slicing off part of the end will not affect the overall intent of your article.

7. Publish locally. This is an often-overlooked method for aspiring writers to get their foot in the door. While national papers are often flooded with op-ed articles and requests for publication, local papers sometimes scramble to find new things to print. Think of it as the 'big fish in a small pond' phenomenon, and one that can work to your advantage as a writer. Later, you can query the larger publications with your previously published work as credentials, giving you a better opportunity to be noticed.