Saturday, 29 September 2007


Folks, for a change, the CCOC (Chicken Chilly Officer's Choice) network's working overtime these days.
No... not at journalism, but at blocking a certain story from being published in newspapers.
Some days back Tarun Bharat broke a story alleging that Goa Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education's procedures were flouted to ensure that the son of Shyam Zambaulikar -- who's the influential Margao correspondent of The Navhind Times -- cleared his 11th standard examination.
The story also claims that in an unprecedented move the Board appointed an external examiner to correct the particular student's papers in the 11th standard exam. One of the more serious discrepancies reported by the newspaper was that the correspondence in this regard was penned by the chairman of the Goa Board L M T Fernandes, instead of the secretary who is the designated authority. LMT Fernanedes is alleged to be a close chum of Shyam Zambaulikar.
This is the crux of the story that Tarun Bharat broke.
But was there a follow up done by any newspaper?
Shyam has been networking with his journo friends and senior newspaper bigwigs asking them to block the story. He's also managed to get his few MLA and ministers from South Goa to make these calls too.

And he has been successful. He is now encashing on the trove of favours he has bestowed on some editors and senior journos in the past... Shyam is in a way the Raja Harishchandra of South Goa, but with a bit of a difference. Raja Harishchandra could have carved out a piece of flesh from his own body, had you asked him for it. Shyam, on the other hand, will will 'arrange' it for you. Oh he is good at that... He even helped pull some strings to get an editor off the hook, when the latter was facing severe criminal charges.
We had profiled Shyam some time back, you guys can check up this link for it.
For years now Shyam, Minoo Fernandes (ex Herald, now with The Navhind Times) and Sushant Concolienkar (Tarun Bharat) have held journalism in Margao to a ransom. There was a time when a particular teacher-cum journo would walk into a police station, fib shamelessly to Police Inspector Umesh Gaonkar that he's lost his purse and claimed he wanted some money. And Umesh used to indulge freely. This used to happen unerringly
each month. Umesh didnt mind, cause it wasnt his salary he was dishing out anyway.
We are attaching scanned images of the Tarun Bharat story... Do look it up.
You could also call up these numbers to question the newspaper/correspondent and register your protest or to hear the other side of the story, if you wish to:
Arun Sinha -- Editor, The Navhind Times -- 0832-6651120 and 0832-6651123 (direct line)
The Navhind Times news desk -- 0832-6651119
Shyam Zambaulikar -- 09890246907
The Navhind Times (Margao bureau) -- 0832-2700997


A film on TV sting journalism is releasing on October 5. Aaj Tak covered it in detail, and had a panel discussion on it. The channel kept stressing that Koel Purie played the main role. They might have told us in the interests of disclosure that she was Aaj Tak proprietor Aroon Purie's daughter. It brought back memories of the film Amu being promoted on NDTV. The director of that film, Shonali Bose, is a niece of proprietor Prannoy Roy, whose sister-in-law, Brinda Karat, also starred in the film. (courtesy

Thursday, 27 September 2007


We think Herald completely missed the drift in this story.
Perhaps even Franky Fernandes aka Gerard did not realise how big it actually was. Instead of publishing it in the Herald, we really think Frank should have pitched it to the NDTV. It was that big.

In the story we have reproduced below, Herald has preferred to use the Jamir-tata-Naga peg, but in doing so, they probably missed out on the big one.
Somewhere later in the story, Franky claims that his sources (check the story out, he has them all over the place, Raj Bhawan, Intelligence Bureau in Delhi, everywhere) told him that..

"...frontline Naga rebel group, the faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland headed by Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah (NSCN-IM), began peace negotiations with Union Minister Oscar Fernandes and K Padmanabhaiah on July 30, for the first time in almost a decade of ceasefire..."

Now is the largest website on terrorism and low intensity warfare in South Asia, and creates the database and analytic context for research and analysis of all extremist movements in the region. (courtesy
The site carries a chronology of peace talks the state has had with the NSCN-IM. According to this data former union home secretary K Padmanabhaiah has held talks with the IM faction of the NSCN around 15 times since 1999. Oscar Fernandes has held parleys four times since 2005. Hmmm... strike one... the Delhi source not up to the mark.
Then Franky's source drops the bomb. This other source Franky claims in nestled somewhere in Raj Bhawan. The source tells Franky that the Goa Governor S C Jamir called on Congress president Sonia Gandhi to apprise her on Goa's political developments... These are his words...

In fact, Jamir did also show his willingness to the Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi, when he called on her last month to apprise her on Goa’s political developments.

Since when did Governors drop by the homes of party heads to talk politics? In our form of democracy, a Governor is an apolitical constitutional authority, which reports only to the President of India.
If Jamir has at all done what Franky's source in the Raj Bhawan has alleged, this is a scandal. Someone copy this story to NDTV please... It would run as prime time's lead story at least for a day.
Or on second thoughts, maybe the source was just thinking aloud and Franky caught it and stuffed it in his pockets. Or maybe it was Franky thinking aloud and his gun-mike caught it. hehehe
Remember that impish weirdo Marcelius Dsouza who used to work for the Herald sometime back, whose 'eavesdropping interview' made history, when Maharasthra governor C Subramanium earned the ire of P V Narasimha Rao and had to resign... even wikipedia has a bit about this...
Hey Franky... tighten up buddy... too many cracks in it to hold any water...

C. Subramaniam was appointed Governor of Maharashtra in 1990. He transformed the Raj Bhavan into a beehive of activity by holding frequent meetings with leading academics, industrialists, representatives of non-governmental organisations and prominent citizens on issues crucial to the community. He had to resign after a newspaper reporter overheard and published an informal remark of his criticising the style of functioning of the then Indian Prime Minister, Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao.


Guys… the newspaper/s which we did not do justice to during the run up to the last assembly elections was Dainik Gomantak and The Gomantak Times (taken over by the Sakal group sometime back). One of the major reasons is its virtual absence on the web. And the absence of a scanning machine made it difficult to put things up. In fact, their ready availability on the web, is one of the reason why we are so regular with posts on The Navhind Times and Herald.
Flashback… a political storm looming. And a lot of our journo brethren and the newspaper owners alike, are all ready on their respective terraces stretching out their lungis, loincloth, shirt fronts, all ready to harvest the windfall that should come their way any moment. Herald had already grabbed the pole and had begun the stripping act by publishing political ads under the BY HERALD REPORTER byline. The Navhind Times had followed suit, using a similar bylines.
The jingling tornado had already reached the doorsteps of the building that houses both the Dainik Gomantak and The Gomantak Times offices in St Inez, Panaji. And these guys didn’t just join in, they jumped in with a very San Joao fervour.
Instead of pushing in those drab anonymous bylines, Dainik Gomantak chief reporter Sadguru Patil went the whole hog. Advertorial plugs which appeared in The Gomantak Times and the Dainik Gomantak carry Sadu’s bylines. This is the header of a plug on Vishwajeet Rane… (we’ve translated it from Marathi) Vishwajeet! ‘Top-class leadership’… You wanna know how the lead up to the interview went…
Here goes…
--‘Vishwajeet Rane is the altar of hope to the youth of Sattari. With his special skills he has managed to harness the youth to strengthen the hold of the Congress in the region. That is why the pradesh Congress has given him the responsibility of general secretary. He has done justice to this office. Now he is contesting as an independent candidate. He claims he will win from Valpoi. He also assured that he would work hard for the Congress in Bicholim and Sattari taluka.’

And here's how Sadu goes about setting the mood for the Manohar Parrikar interview...

--He has been referred to as the chief minister in waiting -- all set to take over the reigns of the state in just a matter of days. The countdown has begun! Opposition leader Manohar Parrikar, in a free wheeling interview with Sadguru Patil highlights the achievements of his government and plans for the state.--

This is not journalism. This is prostitution with identity cards pinned to the chest.
Its small mercy, that The Gomantak Times carried a small little ‘sponsored supplement’ tag to save them the blushes. Dainik Gomantak did not. But does a ‘sponsored supplement’ (check out the size of this caution on the scanned image with Parrikar’s pic) tag help? It may even have helped, had the story been credited to a name that has nothing to do with journalism. Some amateur enthusiast. But when a chief reporter’s byline (or that of a staffer associated with the newspaper family) claims ownership to such an article, it is just not healthy.

Contact nos
Chief reporter (Gomantak) Sadguru Patil: 9823312963/0832-2422701-04 (Gomantak board numbers)
Editor Dainik Gomantak, Sanjay Dhavalikar: 09822129348
Editor Gomantak Times, Derek Almeida: 09850209604
Gomantak Times board numbers:

Tuesday, 25 September 2007


We've been looking back...
It's been a short while since we ran our CASH FOR EDITORIALS story. And we were completely thrown off balance by the response it evoked in the journo community in Goa. Oh we were stunned. Completely caught off guard by the avalanche of... SILENCE that followed the story.
For all the chatter that journos are known to create, there is none on this issue.
We had been contemplating all these days, whether we should be going ahead with this piece. Folks have been reading this blog. Journos have been reading it too. We've put this story on the other-wise busy goajourno mailing list and have also made sure it reaches the mailboxes of most journos in Goa. We made sure guys in Goa Union of Journalists (GUJ) read it, so also the members of the Goa Editors Guild (GEG).
Now we didn't expect editors to shed their clothes, make the underwear switch on the outside, twirl a cape and jump out of their windows like Superman, but we at least expected a discussion. Some sort of brainstorming on the state of affairs.
Not a word.
Goajourno played dead. GUJ's trying to do the same, but we can still hear it breathing on the sly. The GEG's GAGGED. Probably cause it's one of their own guys who's caught holding the smoking gun.
The only guys who picked up the story was a newspaper whose yellow content we really despise... GOAN OBSERVER. Our story appeared to serve it's editor... Rajan Narayan's purpose of rubbing it into Robin and Raul, his former boss, nothing more.
So here's what we've decided to do.
Guys, you've been reading this blog for a while now. If you really think something at all needs to be done, try and pitch in with this please. This is what we'll try to do.
Each time we feature a significant story where an individual or an institution has crossed the line, we'll try and accompany that story with the phone numbers of the person or the institution concerned.
Guys, there's two things you could do.
1) There's those around here, who complain about us ignoring the other side of the story. You could listen to the other side of the story by calling the number we will try to provide for you, if you wish to.
2) Of, if you guys are convinced with what we write, you could make your feelings known to him/her. You guys could call in as readers of the fare they sell you in newsprint. Call them, ask them for their version and if it's lame lambaste them. Do your own bit of Gandhigiri. No roses, just pick up your phone and express your dissatisfaction with what's happening. Suggest corrective methods and make sure they listen to what you say. Make your protest known to them.
We begin this initiative (let's see how this works... it may seem foolhardy, but harebrained ideas have triggered chain reactions before) by providing you with Herald Editor Robin Abreu's numbers, both his cell phone 09822122325 and his direct line 0832-2433373. Robin has been featured so often on this blog for his exploits in the CASH FOR EDITORIAL and rampant an unceasing acts of plagiarism. Its only fair that we begin with him.
If any of you guys do call up these numbers at all, do not forget to tell the blog later, about the experience.
Other numbers to the Herald:
board numbers: 0091-832-2224202,2224460,2228083
And of course Harry Mann:


Here's a story from a Goan journo called Armstrong Vaz...
Its about a journo who Vaz claims is being muscled by the government to give up his cultivated land in Margao city... Vaz also claims that chief minister Digu has a grudge against this farmer journo Vithal Sukhadkar. Digu had earlier complained to the management of the newspaper that employs Vithal against him for some of the reports filed in the last elections.


Margao September 24, 2007:
On one hand our politicians talk about lack of interest in farming and the paddy fields lying barren in Goa. They talk about plans of reviving agriculture and making farming more economical, but without any concrete results. But the next moment they are off the public platform, the same politicians will stoop to such low levels as to harass true blooded Goenkar farmers who are cultivating his paddy field to part away with his land.
Strange it may seem. But this is true story, and it is happening not in the distant past but has been unfolding in last few weeks. And yes we have not travelled far from our land to find them, politicians who indulge in double talk. They are a stone's throw away.
Politicians invariably have two faces – one for public viewing and the other the private. The public face involves giving fiery speeches pledging to protect the environment and sundry stuff while privately the same politician who had pledged support to save the environment is plotting the means in raping the environment; quick to lap up on an opportunity to strike a deal ready with their money bags.
And most politicians in the state have become land sharks and if you don't bend to their whims and fancies, they try to brownbeat you at their game. And that is what our journalist friend ardent die-hard agriculturist Vithal Sukhdkar is experiencing in Navelim village.
Our friend, who is cultivating his paddy field just behind the Navelim church for last several decades is at a point where his paddy field is to be snatched from him. AS the government wants to acquire his paddy field for a public purpose. What is the public purpose for his paddy field acquisition is not known, but the verdict is out.
The Chief Minister who also happens to be the Agriculture Minister and Margao MLA has selectively chosen Vithal's paddy field for acquisition.
And for more on Vithal and his affiliation to farming, the Sukhdkar's family is the only one who have carried on the challenges of cultivating the paddy fields in the face of modernization taking place all around them.
The paddy fields surrounding them and the ones opposite to their property have all been lapped up by the monsters of construction. Yet they have carried on farming with dignity and have been an inspiration for many to have a second look at their barren paddy fields.
Coming back to the selective victimization of Vithal, the journalist in Vithal is in serious conflict with Digamber the politician. Both are voters from the Margao constituency. The two have enjoyed a love-hate relationship in the last few years.
Vithal's reports have not been taken in the spirit of constructive criticism by the Margao MLA. And earlier as Power Minister, Kamat had complained to the management of the paper that Vithal works for about the reports which Vithal had fielded from Margao and specifically in the ones which Kamat figured.
The bye-election wherein Kamat resigned from BJP and also the membership of the party and joined Congress party saw a few fireworks from both sides. Then the fodder for the smoking gun was provided by the municipal elections.
But in the last assembly election of June 2007, a truce was struck albeit for a short period.
Vithal who only had a Power Minister's might to take on in his earlier writings, was now challenging the might of the Chief Minister. And if sending a quiet word through the management failed to cool the ruffle feathers, there were more sinister plans in store for Vithal to checkmate him and in the game of cat and mouse his paddy field has come handy for the Chief Minister.
The story of Vithal is more a case-history lesson for others. Toe our line, otherwise face consequences at your peril.
And if politicians can do to people who wield the pen and one arm of democracy what will be the fate of the ordinary citizens who have no one to turn to. And if journalists are subjected to submission, who will be the voice of the people suppressed by the powerful.
A journalist brings the wrong-doing to the surface and lends the weak and the timid a voice of their own.
In recent times we have seen a dearth of good journalists coming through the line and if regular journalists who carry out their beat duty are harassed, it is a sad reflection on the way things are moving in our society, press included.
And if watching Rajan Parrikar's Death of Goa, a photo essay on the destruction unleashed in Odxel and Taliegao a few months ago was a grim reminder, Vithal's tale reinforced the general perception that politicians of all shapes and sizes are out to rape Goa, the quicker the better for them.
Till then Vithal is gearing for a bigger and mightier fight to take on the powerful politician head-on in a lingering battle of no holds. Who wins round one remains to be seen. (ENDS)


Hi... a reader sent us this mistake... It's a real funny error.
All of us journos seek to carve out a piece of history... some make obvious efforts, for some the need is on a more sub conscious level... But the deskies at The Navhind Times seem to have taken it upon themselves, to make a niche for themselves in the other social science... Geography...
September 23 will go into the records as the day when a newspaper desk under the leadership of dear-devil editor Arun Sinha carved out a nation called 'Paraguency'...
Check out the bold word in the excerpts...

CM expresses concern over negligence of farmers NT News Desk
Panaji, Sept 23 India is an agrarian country, recognised by the world but we are not self reliant in the agricultural production, said the Chief Minister, Mr Digambar Kamat.

Mr Guillermo Alcarac, Director General of Investments and Export, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, government of Paraguency, expressed the need to strengthen cultural and commercial relationship.


Hi... its the 25th and the pricks are back in full force... see you around ... Penpricks

PPP is just crap! Why? Well who decides the private partner? In a corrupt country like India that's not tough to figure out, is it eh?
Ok... Let's talk about journos... Recently, the Sports Journalists Association of Goa tied up with Geno and gave away some awards ... nothing wrong with that.
Sameer Anil Salgaoncar won the award for the "best organiser"...(hehehe)... Someone please inform the Department of tourism... They could use an organiser like him to tow away the River Princess!!
On the topic of PPP(Public Private Partnership)... Don't you, after listening to the PPP hype machine, say to yourself, "what?!"Now, why have these sports journos tied up with Geno? Mr. Salgaocar's (of Geno) wife tried hard to get nominated as the Congress candidate for the Mapusa seat, in the recent assembly election. She along with MLA Dayanand Narvekar were implicated by Mr. Shirish Naik, in the Cash for jobs scandal. (Margaret Alva wiggled her way out)
Penpricks... come the next elections... watch out for Geno, leveraging sports journos who in turn use their clout on other journos in their companies to get free media coverage during elections.

Monday, 24 September 2007


Hey man, wonder what were our journo amigos doing, when D Subbarao and Arvind Mayaram, were in our backyard.
Both big names in the union ministry of finance, the former nation’s finance secretary and the latter India’s joint secretary infrastructure and ADB, were down in Goa late last week attending a workshop on public private partnership. Probably, our indolent scribos were chasing our local political idols, if not trying to schedule their beats for some lucrative business press conferences.
While our chums including, those from the revered Times of India or the Indian Express and the news agency guys, won’t bat an eyelid to scamper for an opening of a `Red Tape’ showroom in Margao or say a `Khaitan’ press conference late in the evening in far flung Canacona, a more cerebral debate on PPP is given a go by. Cause a workshop is generally followed dinner or tea, while these commercial press conference end with drinks and cocktails.
A debate on a topic of national importance, right here in Goa. And not a word of it in the other two local English dailies. Can you beat that? Business pages here are only for silly press notes in which news value is next to nothing.
Hey, come on guys. You need to get your priorities right.And of course yes, yes, this NT chap must have attended it more out of compulsion, we suppose? Read its front-page report, especially the part continued in and you’ll know, what we mean.

BTW, CII has presented a nice chic bag to those who attended the workshop. Go get it guys, those of you who missed it (he he he …)

Sunday, 23 September 2007


Hey... isn't this photo a treat for guys studying body language. The prime minister of our country Manubhai, shrinking away from the hulking Alemao, who's so obviously leaning on him? Mannu almost acts like a demure woman in a crowded bus, who's shying away from a muscular pervert who's trying to peek at her cleavage. One the left you have this former smuggler, pronounced goonda, detainee under the National Securities Act, also former chief minister, former Member of Parliament and now a PWD minister Churchill Alemao asking the prime minister for a Rs 700 crore dole for patching up roads in Goa... Rs 700 crore... what's he going to patch up our roads with? Gold mesh?

Hang on are you sure that its these guys sitting at these peculiar tilting angles or is it some drunk department of information photographer taking these pics? No no it cant be the latter, cause the photo was taken in Delhi... probably the PMO. Very honestly... doesn'tMannu look scared here?

Saturday, 22 September 2007


Vow!! Press freedom initiative coming from Goa Marathi Patrakar Sangh. That’s very interesting?!
They are doing something. The same Marathi press guys, who indulge in worst kind of journalistic malpractices and ethical aberrations. We all know about it, don’t we?!!
Vernacular press guys in Goa are at the pits when it comes to journalistic pro.........(yuck we don't want to spell the word).
During the recent assembly elections, there was this notorious journalist from Mapusa of a popular vernacular (TB) broadsheet.
We tell you guys, this chappie really, really sucked up to all and sundry in the fray.
This chap even managed to catch hold of a `deskie’ (sub-editor) to get all his `PR’ stories published. (Wonder how the top rung fellas did not smell a rat, then).
But what cooked his goose was his intense greed to make a fast buck. Easy money na!
He alone swallowed Rs 50,000 which he was supposed to distribute among his other colleagues in Mapusa.
And the cash-for-publicity was coughed up by an equally notorious (dudhsagar) politician living at the periphery of Mapusa.
Of course we will give it to the daily. After a good one month, post elections, an enquiry followed and prompt action was taken on the erring scribe.
He was transferred from his cozy place of work in mapusa to the head office, Panjim.
Don’t take our word. Ask any of the Mapusa-based scribes. Or better ask the Mapusa PI, Mr Chennappa L Patil or any of the Mapusa-based politicians.
We deliberately don’t mention the scribe’s name.
Oh, where were we? Yes on the seminar, even more interesting was the panel of speakers and moderators for the various sessions.
Looks like the patrakar guys have done their homework well.
Thankfully the organizers have chosen the rather non-controversial, a guy who has an impeccable record as a journalist, the editor of GT, Derek Almeida to chair the session on ethics of journalism.
About the flag-bearers of the Goa Marathi Patrakar Sangh, the less said the better.
Some of them have already figured on the PP.
That the seminar has come at a time when four Mid-day fellas were sentenced for stretching their freedom a bit too far, is purely coincidental, uh??

Friday, 21 September 2007


Hi guys... a bit of bad news... Penpricks won't be regular next few days... till the 25th perhaps cause of a few issues one of us pricks needs to redress on a personal front... We should be back on the 25th for sure...
In the meantime we will try and upload stuff as and when we can... pls bear with us... And don't tear your hair out ;o)
This is the article which we wrote for We are reproducing it here, just in case.

Indian Blog Stings Newspaper
By Dj Varma
At many levels, this was a first in India. A blog ( run by professional journalists does a sting operation to expose unethical practices in mainstream media. At a more subtle level, it exposes the ‘cash for favorable’ stories being done by a few journalists. While respected media like Tehelka are doing a number of stings in public interest, no one had ever turned the spotlight on the journalists themselves. More long term, this will strengthen the trend of blogs breaking big stories. At a more pressing level, this is another manifestation of the ideas and energy of the new media and young India pressing for positive change in the old media and establishment which are often a clique of cozy equations. contacted the journalist who writes under the pseudonym penpricks for his views on how blogs are empowering the average Indian, and playing an important role in the public’s right to know.In the spirit of the blog itself, techgoss has not edited a single word of the email interview. Many mainstream journalists writing for techgoss prefer to use pseudonyms and we have no problems with anonymity. After all, the right of the Indian public to be informed about the machinations of the rich and powerful overrides many rules and regulations set by same establishment.Check out the blog itself to see how it masterminded the sting on a leading newspaper in Goa.


By Penpricks
By and large, the media in Goa is like a bowl of set jelly.

Firm and glossy in appearance, but the slightest tremors can make it quiver. Until recently, six out of the eight newspapers in the state were owned by mining magnates, who control the iron and manganese ore mines is Goa. For almost half a century now, the miners-politician-media (and now realtors) nexus has led Goa around its coarse ore orbit. Journalists have only been incidental, anaemic and underweight meteors flitting about haplessly.
We started this blog on the eve of the state assembly elections.
Things looked bad.
A leading newspaper, the O Herald O had kick-started a trend, which virtually institutionalised the unethical practice of publishing advertising material as in-house reportage. Other mainstream newspapers like The Navhind Times and the Gomantak Times too had started following suit. Politicians had started slipping in currency notes along with press notes with a sort of nonchalance. Articles and news reports on prospective electoral candidates became tools of strategic investment for journalists covering respective political beats. We aren't saying that these trends began this year, what we are trying to say, is that during the 2007 polls, such practices had slipped around that no mans land, which isolates the exception from the norm.
But there were still some chaps slugging it out. It is to one such fellow, Goan journo Frederick Noronha that we owe the beginning of Put in very coarse terms, what we are trying to do, is navel gaze. Try it yourselves, gazing at your own navel is not as easy or pleasant as it may appear to be. Navel-gazing is exactly what the media has forgotten to do. Take this for example. Goa has a very financially viable media atmosphere. For a population of 13 lakh, Goa has nine mainstream newspapers and three news magazines, but none of these spare a single column reviewing the media. While there is talk of evolving a code of ethics amongst the mainstream national media, anyone making such a suggestion to the tight-knit circle of media bosses is likely to be ostracized and banished from the breed. Hence we prefer to function under this cloak of anonymity.
There is a real need for us to look at our mistakes and learn from them. We are trying to do just that. And where the dearth of capital and wherewithal has denied us, technology has come to our rescue. If the mainstream media does not allow space for self introspection in its pages, there is space to be had on the web. All it takes is a bit of time to earn your credibility pips. We would love to look forward to a scenario where more anonymous journos could step in and devote at least one blog reviewing one newspaper.
Over the last few months, we have managed to have our fair share of readers and we've had our critics too, who sledge at our being anonymous. That's fine with us, as long as we believe we have been doing the critiquing in the right spirit. Are we happy with what we are doing? Is it yielding results? Yes in a way... Our sustained campaign against plagiarism in local newspapers has resulted in putting the brakes on the sorry trend, where editorials picked up from remote newspapers like the Denver Post were being identically reproduced in the O Herald O. Although we must admit that plagiarism hasn't stopped fully. But these guys know, we are on their trail.
But we are not in a hurry. We are going to be around for a while.
Penpricks has managed in -- a very small way -- to develop a forum for critiquing. If a newspaper has erred, a surfer has a place to come to and figure out where and how. Now, newsprint is not the only white spread of holy grafitti that is more often than not guarded by self-consumed and vain journalistic zealots.
There is space to be had, if you have the time and gumption to write.

Thursday, 20 September 2007


Hi guys... an Australia based website that focusses on the happenings in the Indian IT industry had requested us to write a 600 odd word piece about this blog... They's read a link about our CASH FOR EDITORIAL story on, a website devoted to media related issues and had gotten in touch with us.
The piece will be uploaded sometimes tonight on their website... do look it up if you guys can...


Noted Hindi writer and Editor of the Hindustan
Mrinal Pande
(the one wearing a shawl) speaks well when on TV. She really does speak well when asked to comment on her pet subjects like... you know... how the media ought to behave, media ethics, media insensitivity to women, gender issues and such... Television doesn't miss out on such opportunities. A smart attractive face, blunt hair, modern outlook, plus such excellent bytes... good good. Her boss... another woman Shobhana Bharatiya vice chairman and the editorial director of the Hindustan Times Group... Also a member of parliament... Now how do these guys allow such ads to be printed in a newspaper whose operations they are directly in control of? Are we supposed understand that Mrinal Pande really does not know that such blatant ads promoting prostitution appear day in and day out in her newspaper? If Mrinal Pande doesn't, she had better start looking through the pages of the newspaper she heads. Cause we know Shobhana Bharatiya won't... she'd probably be busy organising a LUXURY CONFERENCE for those who can afford to buy more than just their daily share of newspapers.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007


The late Umesh Mahambre in every sense represented the old school Goan journalist.
A servile, petty closet carnivore, with a penchant for networking for non-professional ends. For a large part of his career, Mahambre slaved for the Dempos and The Navhind Times.
We really do not wish to embarrass the dead and would have honestly preferred to fit the term ‘yeoman service’ somewhere in the earlier line, but we couldn’t get ourselves to describe Mahambre’s efforts as “a yeoman service”. A yeoman has some pride.
He worked his heart out for the newspaper and the company, which runs it. Take our work for it. He did. Come rain or shine, Mahambre was out slugging it out for his paper or his numerous bosses.
Need some permissions to organise an event or say some urgent networking with some government official or say some NOCs (No objection certificates) from the cops or some friends/clients need to be shown about Goa… some movie tickets to be arranged… some passes to be conjured… the Dempo house called either Arun Sinha the editor or if matters were desperate Mahambre was sought, roused, hunted…
Mahambre was just that sort of a guy, who’d generally be tough to find, but always loved to be found.
For years he woke up every morning in his flat located at the St Inez government quarters, to find two carrots hovering around his eyes.
The smaller carrot hanging by a slender thread, was the one tugged by The Navhind Times advertising boss Vijay Kalangutkar, who’d promise that he’d put a good word about him to Srinivas Dempo, the big boss at Dempo Group of Companies. The bigger carrot was yo-yoed by the editor Arun Sinha. This lure was the position of chief reporter he was forever vying for in vain.
We are pretty sure that Mahambre would have made for a remarkably incompetent chief reporter, considering the little respect he commanded and his spineless traits, but this fantasy had been slipped like a potion into his gullet.

Why are we writing about him?
Like we said Mahambre died last year, leaving behind his wife Tanuja.
Tanuja holds a temporary job at the Saraswati mandir library. Tanuja was publicly promised a job somewhere in the Dempo group of companies and institutions by a senior Dempo trustee. A guy called Sunil Prabhudessai, who’s Srinivas Dempo’s ManFriday in more ways than one.
Oh… she was relieved. Cause from what we know Mahambre died almost a pauper.
Normally, we wouldn’t have pursued this story. It goes against our stated position of journos accepting philanthropy.
But her journo husband’s dead. And a promise was made to her. A promise made at a time when Mahambre’s soul was perhaps still slipping past the troposphere.
The promise has not been fulfilled for whatever reasons. And she’s been waiting. And petitioning. And waiting.
Nothing’s coming through.
What’s coming through and past the Dempo House gates is the slipstream caused by Srinivas Dempo latest acquisition, a third Mercedes in his fleet.

Looks like there’s a job for a driver vacant now…
Tanuja can wait maybe…

Monday, 17 September 2007


Guys... any of you watch the HEADLINES section on the Tonite Show? Jay Leno?
We dedicate these bloopers to Leno... now check this out... They sure don't make em as good as the one's that appear on his show.
What would you expect to learn from a former chief minister, alleged matka (a form of gambling) sympathiser (well... that's as far close as we can get) a former home minister and say... a pilot...
Here's what The Navhind Times thinks are nuggets of wisdom from our honourble cabinet minister Ravi Naik, who's had the reputation of being quite a ladies man for almost a couple of decades now...

'Ravi advocates use of latest methods in milk production'

This header appeared in the NT on September 13... Congratulations to Roger Figueiredo and his team... these vague press note issued by the department of information have found an equal and compatible match in you guys now... You could read the story on here.
We know passions and adrenalin runs low on the night shift... A glass of milk wouldn't be a bad idea at all, but make sure you don't let your fantasies out in print boys...
Then there's this one.
This reeks of such below-par work. The sub-editor probably still thinks he's done nothing wrong... And since postmortems happen in The Navhind Times only when the marketing department's Vijay Kalangutkar calls up to say that one's of the advertising clients' name has been misspelled, we'll just try and bring it to the subs notice.
Here's the header

'Pernem municipal staff yet to get salaries of 2 months'

'salaries of of 2 months', how pedestrian can one get?
The story if you guys wants to... can be read here...
And here's the finale... guess the Harry Mann episode psyched dear old Herald so much... check out how they spelled Liberhan, of the Justice Liberhan commission probing the Babri masjid demolition and the aftermath. Read this excerpt from an edit which was published a few days back. (check out the words in bold)

Wooing game
....Earlier it was the UPA government which set the ball rolling by asking for a report on the
Liberman Commission, asking Maharastra to implement the findings of the Srikrishna
Report and to table the Sanchar report in Parliament...

LiberMAN? hahahaha... and guess what... Sachar of Sachar commission is now 'Sanchar' and Maharashtra... 'Maharastra'... three mistakes in a sentence...
Is the printer's devil at work or the devil himself?


Hi guys some time back we carried a small photo feature about our Digu visiting gods and goddesses of varying hue and potency. Department of Information director Menino Peres certainly seems to be working in overdrive forcing to the newspapers to publish such 'three column divinity'. Here's the latest one in the NT... Chief minister Digu and Ms Digu seen with the 10 Janpath's Pasta devi. Seems like Digu's wife had prepared for this visit very very thoroughly. Notice the matching colours. Why do newspapers have such an obsession with publishing such photos? Are they of any newsvalue? Or is it about chumming up to the Dept of Info, so that the latter slips a couple of more govt ads their way?

Sunday, 16 September 2007


This is the final set of mails we are putting
up and we bet you've been freaked out by our shitty layouts on this blog ever since we started putting these mail images up. We are adept at the Pagemaker software, this blogger stuff freaks us out... Anyway... the mails we put up today more or less sum up the story. This last mail here is where the story is nailed... There's another couple of mails after this where Mann confirms that he's sending the reworked piece and all...
Today's first mail is a long-winded piece, written by one of us pricks who got inspired that day by the capitalist devil himself. When he wrote the mail, the bugger had probably shed those dusty jeans and wiped the grime from his unbathed forehead and put on a three piece suit (ironed) and tenderly mopped his brow with one of those frost tissues... The mail we're talking about was the last mail we wrote on the evening of September 3. We knew they had us boxed. Mann had primed us up and was waiting for us to make our move.
We played the high and mighty... We upped the money we were paying the Herald for publishing our editorials to Rs 3 lakh per editorial flat... We explained how important editorials were in our advertising strategy. We even told them that we would be slick when it came to pushing our business agenda through the editorials we would publish in the Herald. "We will slip in our business agenda so subtly, that no one would even notice that it is an advertising pitch."
We even told them that if need be, they'd be paid in cash (this was the saving grace... these guys asked for the payment in cheque... its all about what you see black and white ;o)
We had to wait for not more than a day to figure out that we had assessed the situation right. Mann, who just one day ago had claimed that "the newspaper does not allow 'anyone' to write editorials" now says he is "working on it" and asked us to send a sample....
How in blazes do we do that? We'd never written an editorial in our lives... We decided to follow the footsteps of the editor Robin Abreu. We invoked the assistance of Google. We almost reproduced one edit on tourism from the search engine, but then we thought otherwise... We wrote one on our own of course after plucking some facts from the web. And we send it to Mann. Mann writes back saying the stuff is good... and the rest is history... You could read the images for the rest of the story...
And guys thanks for the all the patience...

Comment from a reader...

We got to give it to this guy... The guy who wrote this comment... Dunno who the chappie is, but if there are any young journos (even some of the rubber bellied ones in Goa who believe they've done it all) reading this blog, observe the way this guys writes. That's an education in itself. Learn from it guys...
We are not saying this cause this anonymous guy speaks well about us. Take our word for it, that's not the reason we are putting this up here. This is one of the best written responses we've ever got... We may disagree with some of the things the guy says, especially the eulogy to a certain journo at the latter half of the comment (we are edited that portion).
The act counts, not the actor.


Hi Pricks
For quite some time, like many others, I have been discreetly reading the contents of your blog. The overwhelming response to your latest entry has, however, prompted me to come out of the closet, although behind a veil of secrecy. Your cash for editorials scam blog has all the makings of a Tarun Tejpal inspired Tehelka style eye-popper. In Goan journalism, this is as infrequent an occurrence as an eclipse is to astronomy.
What peeves and sometimes even amuses me are the comments that keep pouring in. Quite a number of them tend to digress and shoot off their mouths, throwing out a lot of spit in the process. What I'm beefing about here is that the minute the debate goes on a tangent,the purpose will soon be lost. The campaign against corrupt journalism must be sustained with the same frenzy with which it started. Public memory is brief and easily extinguishable.
There is a lack of good newspapers in Goa. Most of them are sanitary napkins or kitchen rags. Good journalists,like newspapers too, are a decaying or an extinct tribe in Goa. A good journalist is more than merely a great littérateur in a hurry. It means standing up for the truth and taking up social issues for the common good fearlessly.
Someone, once classified Ricoh and Derek as legends in Goa's journalist sphere. I beg to differ. Whilst I admire Derek's and Ricoh's inimitable writing styles, both of them lack the spine to set issues afire or to stir up public opinion. Great prose is a necessary hallmark of good journalism but not a sufficient one. Norman Dantas, Sujoy Gupta now belong to the breed of extinct good journalists, Goa once had.Rajan and Ervell, initially formidable stalwarts,belong to the decaying category.
(part edited)

Saturday, 15 September 2007


Here's four more letters exchanged between our non existent firm Acer Consultants and Harry Mann of the Herald.
The first mail of this lot we've reproduced today, was written on September 1, clarifying a small misunderstanding.
Harry Mann in the September 3 letter writes to us in the mail with the subject "A CORRECTION" saying "We allow adertisers to choose topics in their own choice in the editorial page sir, but we give schedule..."
Mann further goes on to say, "... if you want the write ups to be under "herald reporter" we don't have a problem with that, but we need to double check on our side..."
This is pretty incriminating in itself.
Mann categorically says that the newspaper does not have an issue lending the "BY HERALD REPORTER" byline for advertisers. Doesn't this amount to misleading readers? A reader knows how to discern between an ad and a news report, but if an ad is slipped in disguised as a news report, it does amount to cheating the reader of his right to know whether the story is a result of honest reportage or if its been paid for by a mercenary advertiser...
Mann reiterates the same thing in a much more emphatic manner, in the email which we have also uploaded.
We write back to Harry Mann again on September 3, after a brief telephonic conversation with him. We ask him for costing for the placing out editorial. We also ask him how much would it cost it to place our advertising material under the "BY HERALD REPORTER" byline.
Now in the fourth mail, we upload today, comes the masterstroke from Herald. Mann coolly writes, "... we won't allow anyone to make a write ups or choose in your own choice of topic in our editorial clm which is in the left side..."
He agrees to give us a 1000 word piece in the centre of the editorial page though.
And Mann offers us more.
"About the write ups , i can give you free of charge in putting articles to help you in enhance your business here in goa under the tag of "BY HERALD REPORTER". as a part of the package ..i can give you one month two write ups everyweek .. if you want more just let me know."
This was a classic bargaining manoeuvre.
You know what the client wants, so you play slick. You deny him the thing he wants most. You play cheeky and agree to the less important demands with an overt ferocity. That's exactly what Mann does.
Negotiations begin now... Those mails will be uploaded tomorrow.


One of our readers had commented about this...
We have reproduced this piece from the ABOUT US section of the Herald's website... Its ridden with errors... BTW how about you guys, rewriting it and sending it back to us in light of the CASH FOR EDITORIALS story we broke. Make it witty, sans libel, sans personal comments and sans abuse... You could send it to us on or punch it in the comments section. The former would be preferable. We'll carry the best one on the blog...


For more than hundred years one paper has served the people of GOA like no other. It is an institution which represents the collective consciousness of the GOANS. Herald is GOA with in depth reach. It covers widest segment of GOAN readership and is the choice of decision makers and alike. People with purchasing power are its avid readers. When you advertise in HERALD whether you wait to promote your products or service, the response you receive is certain and most genuine.
Herald the largest circulated English Daily of Goa having a circulation of 44, 467 copies, aims to provide its readers superior premium paper both in terms or news coverage and superior paper quality which will match their aspiring lifestyle.
At HERALD our readers and advertisers are always come first and to meet their highest standards we have endeavored to provide the best. Herald edition carries all pages in color, giving quality news to our readers and advertisers.
The HERALD is the medium for consumer durables and non-durables, personal care and lifestyle products, financial services, investment opportunities, entertainment, leisure and pleasure facilities, travel and tourism etc.
HERALD have the following USPs
* Is Goa’s most popular English Daily
* Commands the widest spectrum of the local readership and enjoying good lifestyle and
meaningful per capital disposal income.

* Has the widest in-depth geographic penetration in addition to the largest circulation.
* Is processed and printed on the latest state-of-the-art printing equipment – a telling
advantage when color advertisements need to be published.

* Possesses a hard core of committed readers.


Here’s why we maintain Harry Mann is not the only guy responsible for the CASH FOR EDITORIAL scandal.
On September 4, we wrote to Mr Mann telling him that we would send him the sample editorial within the hour. Check out the jpeg image of the sample editorial. On September 5, Mr Mann wrote back a mail that said, “the sample letter is a good ONE BUT THE impact is not so strong as
our editor says, if you allow us to ad up something in the write ups .. we are okay with that... same title but there is something additional in your wirte ups”. Harry Mann has no reason to lie at this point in the negotiations. He categorically claims that Robin read the stuff we sent him and that the 'impact' wasn't as strong. (We almost fell off our seats here. Imagine Robin commenting on the quality of an editorial... The guy has the cheek!!!)
Check out the jpeg image of the sample editorial… Click the image… See… the editorial we had sent in has been altered…
The way Harry Mann has written in the series of email, we really don’t think he’s equipped enough to write a single line without a couple of lexical seizures. The corrected editorial has all the hallmarks of a Robin Abreu. For starters, it wasn’t written by him (sic). The use of the question and answer technique… You see this often in his editorials. The other hallmark of course is non-verification of facts. What we had done was just fibbed a hell lot about incorporation of locals in the tourism scene in Hawaii, Mauritius, Singapore and China. We just pulled this out our hats… We have no clue whether this is a part of the tourism policy in these countries. But this is the unverified, fibbed advertiser sponsored content that would have been a part of that editorial, you could have been reading, had we been real advertisers and the deal been through. And why we claim that the advertising boss was also in the know of the CASH FOR EDITORIAL scandal? Check out the subject tag in the first mail we sent to Herald. See, who its addressed to… You’ll figure out.
So Mr Raul... this is how your office functions doesn't it... Find something wrong, find a scapegoat and kill it, sell the hide and pickle the meat... And pack the skeletons in the cupboard. In a few months they'd stop smelling too...

Friday, 14 September 2007


We promised an input on development's in the Herald vis a vis our CASH FOR EDITORIALS story... It looks like this... Around Dussehra, the Herald management will smear a tilak on Mr Harry Mann's head, garland his neck, parade him around Goa before taking him back Raul for the final blow. Robin has already sharpened the axe and last we heard, (guys in charge of advertising... including some guys close to Raul (this sentence has been edited since the first time it was published) who are constantly looking out for pain-killers at Hindu pharmacy... Their stomach muscles ache from the constant laughing the ydoes secretly in the loo on the groundfloor.
The news is Harry Mann will be made the sacrificial goat. Why? Here's why...
The team that Harry and the other Philipinos landed in Goa with, at least had some semblance of professionalism. They had pointed out several discrepancies in the financial operations and had not earned many friends here. The Philippinos had also pointed out to several instances where money from Herald's coffers was being systematically pilfered by the newspaper middle and near-top rung employees.
There had been reports of tiffs the Philippinos had with Robin Abreu (the editor), the advertising guys and their sidekicks
(this sentence has been edited since the first time it was published). This was just the kind of excuse these guys were looking for to knock the South East Asian stuffing from the newspaper.
But there are a couple of things we'd like to state here.
The blame for the CASH FOR EDITORIALS fiasco should not rest on just one individual. It is a collective failure, or rather the failure of a system in the Herald which led to this scam. According to us, the shoulders on whom the blame should rest are those of (in order)
Harry Mann
Robin Abreu
Savio the main advertising guy cause obviously nothing can be cleared in the advertising section without his sanction
and most importantly the managing director Raul Fernandes.
If Raul is reading this he should take note.
(this sentence has been edited since the first time it was published) This shit has been going on for long now. Fix responsibility. But fix it responsibly. Bringing down one guy alone will not help. Put in corrective measures. Had you guys penalised Robin for all that plagiarism and other hanky panky, he would have thought twice before indulging in stuff like this.
Harry Mann in his emails clearly told us that he had taken Robin into confidence while approving the deal.
We tell you how...
This is something the guys who are shirking responsibility have not considered yet. Remember we had told you, that we had passed on a sample editorial to the Herald through Harry Mann, so that they could see if it was 'alright'... Harry Mann had suggested that some corrections had been made by the Editor to enhance it's impact. He sent us a scanned copy of the editorial, which he says was corrected by Robin...
This according to us proves beyond doubt that not just Harry Mann alone, but Robin too knew about this deal. He cannot shirk responsibility here. Robin must have known that an adverstiser was going to furnish him with 'pre-paid editorials' (sic). We had planned to upload the scanned editorial, which Mann had sent us, gradually as we played out the letters.
But this dirty blame game which has started in the Herald has made us prepone that... We'll upload both the sample editorial we sent and the corrected copy that Herald sent us back in the evening.


In the set of mails we reproduce today, we write back to Mr Harry Mann informing him that our budget for the first phase of the advertising schedule is Rs 15 lakh, while the advertising expenditure for our phase two is Rs 20 lakh. This is apart from some humbug we give him about how the sort of schemes that 'Acer Consultants' has for visiting tourists and explains to him our rationale for a two phased marketing strategy. Then we go on to ask him three specific queries.
1) What are the newspaper’s policies making editorial space available to advertisers in return for ads placed in the newspaper.
2) We also ask Mr Mann specifically about Herald’s policies on editorials? Whether we, as advertisers could place an editorial (benefiting our range of business of course) for a price. We also promise to meet him in Goa, if we could work out an understanding over email.
3) And some bull about cutting slack over advertising commissions
In reply Mr Mann offers us space on the editorial page (not the editorial yet. He offers us a special package for advertising with discounted rates. He also gives us his sales pitch asking us to advertise on Herald’s Cable network and the website. The conversation steams up in the mails we will upload tomorrow. Instead of reproducing them in text form here, we are uploading the mails in image format… Let us know if its simpler… It looks much neater… We did mess around with the fonts in our big story… Just couldn’t sort that out guys.

Thursday, 13 September 2007


Guys...We are overwhelmed.
Thanks a lot for sticking by Penpricks. Our big story was incidentally the 200th entry on our blog. For us anonymous bloggers to have enjoyed such a committed readership, really pushes us on. We have tried to respond to most of the comments we've received. Apologies, if we've missed out some.
Now, let's get back to business.
We'd promised to run the series of emails exchanged between Herald's Corporate Development and E marketing head Harry Mann and Penpricks (posing as Manoj Rastogi of Acer Consultants... Hey BTW guys you wanna know why we called our fictitious firm ACER? Cause on the day we conceptualised the story, we were working on a friend's Acer laptop ;) Funny na...)
Here's the first few mails. We write first... and Mr Mann responds with lots of advertising spiel. We are doing this in order to bring forth the entire conversation before our readers so that there is no scope for ambiguity. We'll also try and guide you along, as the conversation progresses.
We picked up a couple of email IDs on Herald's website and punched in this mail. Knowing that someone would respond. We just looked up the Delhi map on the internet and decided that Connaught place was as good a place as any to set up our fictitious company 'Acer Consultants'. We started this company the 'word by word' way, rather than the more conventional 'brick by brick' method. PJ. We positioned ourselves as a business with an expertise in packaging and marketing vacations. Here's our mail.

From: Acer Consultants []
Sent: Tue, 28 Aug 2007 09:38:43 -0500

Dear Mr Savio,
We are Delhi based consultants speacialising in marketing vacation packages abroad, especially the South Asian and South East Asia region.
We are a 15 crore company based in Delhi with offices in the capitals of four South Asian countries, namely Sri Lanka, Thailand etc.
This Diwali and New Year we are in the process of making a strategic marketing thrust in Goa.
We'd like to know if you offer editorial space for write ups as a package deal with advertisements placed.
We'd like to know your editorial policies on the issue, we've stated above.
Our advertising spend for the forthcoming season vis a vis Goa is Rs 15 lakh approx. We are weighing options as to where we could get the best returns for our spend.
We have already written to your newspaper twice. once on this and the other on the address.
This is the last mail we write to you, before we seek other regional options. We request you to respond ASAP.
Manoj Rastogi
Manager -- Business Relations
A-54 Cannaught place
New Delhi 110001

And here was Mr Harry Mann's reply. Guys... we were shocked to see the way this guy writes. For a moment we thought this was some dumb sub editor from the Herald writing to us. Check out these errors in the mail. Hey BTW, some of your believe that Harry Mann does not exist (we believe beyond doubt that he does... We've seen him... met him too)... So guys who'd really like to know if Harry Mann exists, call him on 9975594535 and ask for him. And let us know on the blog...;) Hey and BTW Harry Mann claims that the acronym HCN stands for Hottest Cable Network... Didn't we know it as Herald Cable Network? ;)

hi, glad to hear from you and by way this is Harry Mann handling the corporate development of HERALD PUBLICATION for marketing improvement and emarketing campaign. We are interested to have business with you, I would be very happy to hear from you please contact me at my mobile number 9975594535 or 0832 242 22859. We can give you a package as what you need.If you can send me your promo schedule so that we can give the best offer.
However, we are developing our website and we are hitting an average of 118,000 viewers a day. We have this HERALD HOTEL PARTNERS and we are selling this internationally, HERALD ON BOARD this is for the airlines and HERALD TOUR PACKAGE our target are the travel agency.
This is a new concept and development of our WEBSITE to cater more customers traffic.
HERALD PUBLICATION is coming up a TV CHANNEL this coming SEPTEMBER 30, 2007 called HCN (Hottest Channel Network). This channel is all about hard news, entertainment, lifestyle, sports and a lot more. I would like to share with you about this channel also. We are having a PRE-SELLING right now,and we are giving good discounts
Here at HERALD PUBLICATION, HERALD WEBSITE AND HCN we offer you more than your ADVERTSING PACKAGE. Combine innovative design and ideas with the knowledge of exactly where to place your advertisement for maximum impact and that means ? the right media, the right position and the right price.

More mails follow tomorrow...

Wednesday, 12 September 2007



The purpose of this story is not to defame any particular individual or institution. Penpricks’ motive is to expose a shameful practice in the media, which has been going on for a while, albeit behind closed doors. During the 2007 assembly elections, journalism in Goa hit a new low with the Herald, and the other Goan English daily The Navhind Times, consistently publishing political advertisements under the garb of news reports. Such stray cases of journalistic impropriety have occurred before. But, never has a newspaper so unabashedly systemised such unethical trends. This outrage in fact, became the cornerstone of this investigative story. And to trace the extent of journalistic degeneration in a newspaper, became our only motivation. But there was still one brook we had to wade through, before plunging into this torrent. How do we define the extent of this degradation?

After some deliberation, Penpricks arrived at this conclusion. (We are putting down our thought-process on paper, so that our readers know the logic behind this investigation) An editorial was and continues to be the soul of a newspaper. In the age of commercial conquest of news-space, the free-flowing column on the extreme left of the editorial page still continues to be the sanctum sanctorum of a newspaper. It is still that organ in a ravaged journalistic carcass that’s shudders sometimes, to let folk know it’s still alive. An editorial today, still lends a saddened reader, a shoulder, a harried reader, hope and at times cracks a whip at outrage. Would any newspaper mortgage/sell an editorial to an advertiser? Is the soul still sacred, or is it already on the advertisers shelf? This is what we found out…

Editorials in the Herald are for sale… at a whopping Rs 3 lakh per piece.

Penpricks posed as business consultants and booked nearly a dozen editorials for Rs 3 lakh per piece for the tourism-frenzied months of October and November.
Penpricks posed as Manoj Rastogi, business manager of a fictitious Delhi-based vacation-marketing company called ‘Acer Consultants’, which was interested in writing and placing six commercially-driven editorials as part of its Rs 35-lakh advertising campaign in Goa.
Penpricks has been in email communication with a senior member of the Herald business development team Mr Harry Mann since August 28. Herald finalised the deal for the sale of editorials (at Rs 3 lakh per editorial, makes it Rs 18 lakh for six editorials) on September 5 with this email from Harry Mann. As part of the deal ‘Acer Consultants’ would write six commercially driven editorials for publication in the Herald, for which Acer Consultants would pay the newspaper Rs 3 lakh each for every editorial published.

(excerpt from Harry Mann’s letter)



Subject: RE: ATTN Mr Mann
Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2007 17:19:45 +0530

hi . yeah its a close deal already.. but please we need to keep
this deal between us !i mean between herald and your company . im
okay with the deal 3 lakh per release and plus the commercial
space.. you can issue check to us adress to herald publication pvt.
are you intrested with our tv also and our web ? il work with your
budget sir.

In return for ‘Acer Consultants’ placing of these half dozen commercially driven editorials and display ads, Herald also threw in another incentive to ensnare the client. Mr Mann assured us that we could use ‘free of cost’ the “By Herald Reporter” byline to publish any publicity and promotional matter we wanted.
Here’s an excerpt from an email by Mr Harry Mann stating the same.

Date: Mon, 3 Sep 2007 18:58:04 +0800 About the write ups, i can give you free of charge in putting
articles to help you in enhance your business here in goa under
the tag of "BY HERALD REPORTER". as a part of the package ..i can
give you one month two write ups everyweek .. if you want more
just let me know.

Not just this, we even sent a sample editorial to Herald’s representative. The editorial dealt on Tourism in Goa. We have clearly stated in our emails (we shall upload the emails gradually in the coming days) that all the editorials which the fictitious company would write and then publish in the Herald would be profit oriented i.e. crafted in such a way so as to earn the fictitious company, profit. We also made it absolutely clear that it was nothing else, but advertising. Look at how Herald responded to the editorial we had sent as advertising matter. (Look out for the part in bold)



Subject: RE: ATTN Mr Mann
Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2007 18:24:48 +0800

hi sorry for the late reply i was with my 5 clients today .. by
the way the sample letter is a good ONE BUT THE impact is not so
strong as our editor says, if you allow us to ad up something in
the write ups
.. we are okay with that... same title but there is
something additional in your wirte ups..after if ready to release
will call you or will give you schedule ..... if your okay with
this arrangement will go for it ... and for the second write ups or
the rest of it, you can also send it to.

We have to tell you how ‘good’ Herald was at the negotiations. Midway through our talks we received a mail from Harry Mann, which said that in Herald the editorial space was not for sale. (excerpts)



Subject: RE: hi...
Date: Mon, 3 Sep 2007 18:58:04 +0800
im so sorry we wont allow anyone to make a write ups or choose in
your own choice of topic in our editorial clm which is in the left
side ... but as i said we can give you the center page of the
editorial page at least 1000 words .

At this point of time during the negotiations, we had offered Herald Rs 1.5 lakh per editorial. But Mr Mann on behalf of the Herald appeared to be bargaining hard. We hiked our price on offer from Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 3 lakh. (excerpt from the mail we sent to Mr Mann)

From: Acer Consultants [mailto:

Sent: Mon, 3 Sep 2007 10:35:09 -0500
Dear Mr Mann,
I was frankly a bit taken aback by the response.
The editorial aspect is very crucial to us, because we understand the impact edtorials have on the readers. Its for this impact that we are willing to shell out a very high premium for placing a few editorials in your newspaper that would enhance our business. We have offered you 300 per cent permium of your advertising rates. We are filling to offer you 400 per cent or about there.
In sheer digits we are willing to offer you up to Rs 3 lakh per each editorial in the month of October. We are interested in a maximum of 4 tourism related editorials in the months of October and November.

And pat came the response. Mr Mann claims in his mail that he spoke to the editor about the deal and showed him the sample editorial we had sent him and that he was fine with it. The newspaper ‘okayed’ the deal.
The cherry had popped.
Guys… we reproduce here, the email from Mr Mann that clinched it for us.

----- Original Message -----


Subject: RE: ATTN Mr Mann
Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2007 17:19:45 +0530

hi . yeah its a close deal already.. but please we need to keep
this deal between us !i mean between herald and your company . im
okay with the deal 3 lakh per release and plus the commercial
space.. you can issue check to us adress to herald publication pvt.
are you intrested with our tv also and our web ? il work with your
budget sir.
i handle your account and il help you to promote your business here
in goa . il invite you also in our cafe talk and you can talk about
your business.. just ley\t me know if you need something more,,,,
9923112206 - Mesha
9823113530 - Iranna
9975534536 - Joan
9975534535 - Harry

The bottomline here... A newspaper has sold its soul. The 60:40 editorial:advertising ratio has long been junked by tie-choked management graduates. The editorial has always been the last line of defence in any newspaper. This code has been violated. There’s more. An editorial reflects the stance of a newspaper.
Penpricks’ investigation has proved that this adage is now mincemeat. Herald’s acceptance of the fictitious Acer Consultants’ deal to publish commercially driven editorials negates the raison d'etre of the venerated editorial.

The watchdogs of democracy have turned on to the very people they are to defend. Last assembly elections in Goa saw these very watchdogs salivating for advertorial tidbits thrown by major political parties their way. Penpricks was in fact, birthed in these revolting circumstances… if you check our archives, you’d see one of our first posts dealt with corruption in the media during the run up to the elections. This story is a sign that Penpricks is slowly finding its feet and has now uttered its first syllable.

went undercover posing as a business consultancy firm named ‘Acer Consultants’ based in Connaught Place, New Delhi, interested in starting an advertising campaign on behalf of its clients. We positioned ‘Acer Consultants’ as a multi-national firm worth Rs 15 crore that specialised in marketing vacation packages. We approached the Herald on August 28 as Manoj Rastogi, business consultant for ‘Acer Consultants’ using the email ID asked the newspaper for a package including display ads, ‘promotional write-ups’, ‘editorial space’ and asked them for their editorial policy. One Harry Mann from Herald’s Corporate Development wing responded and started the negotiations. We asked Mr Mann point blank, if the newspaper would allow us to write and place editorials ‘benefiting our business’ for a price. We suggested that we would pay a 300 per cent premium on advertising rates for each editorial the newspaper allowed us to write. A tough negotiator, Mr Mann replied saying, the newspaper does not allow advertisers access to the editorial slot. At the same time, the email from Mr Harry Man claimed that he would allow us to publish promotional and advertising matter under the “BY HERALD REPORTER” byline, ‘free of cost’!!!
This was the sort of theatre of the absurd that we were dealing wit. This obviously was a bargaining ruse forcing us to up our rates and we did.
The deal finally closed at Rs 3 lakh per editorial. We assured them that we had six editorials lined up to be published in the newspaper. Editorials that we clearly stated, would benefit our business. The conversation which we have on email began on August 28, 2007 and the deal was sealed on September 5, 2007.

We haven’t met Mr Harry Mann while we were negotiating this deal, nor have we met any representative of the Herald. We are merely an email ID to them. They do not know us. They haven’t seen us. They haven’t spoken to us (barring once on telephone). We have been in touch for barely a week before we sealed this deal. This only goes to show how brazen this malaise has become. Editorials sold across the counter, with a few complimentary bylines thrown in for good measure.

We were only bloggers interested in exposing a wrongdoing in the media industry, but imagine if we had ulterior motives… Just for a moment, imagine us as sophisticated lobbyists on the payrolls of the same gang of crooked realtors, who are trying to push controversial regional plan through. It would have been so easy to buy off editorials and cultivate public opinion.
And guess what guys, we are not the only ones who think something is fishy here. To sign off, here’s a line from Mr Harry Mann’s email, which goes to show that they know they are not indulging in something above board.

“but please we need to keep, this deal between us !i mean between herald and your company.”

We broke our word Mr Mann… but you’ve broken our hearts.