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Look out, Chiro’s coming!

This is an early heads-up for all photography fans.

Chirodeeph Chaudhuri, a photographer friend in India, is finalising his book that takes him back to his village of Amadpur in Bengal, India.

Chiro has a great eye for photos, seeing things one normally misses. And that’s the mark of a great photographer!

The book is in black and white, with many stunning pictures like the cover below.

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Cover-up a daily affair in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia prides itself as a strict and conservative Muslim country with sharia laws which demand amputation for thieves, beheadings for murderers and stoning for adulterers.

And so newspapers have to follow the rules strictly, never mind if they flout all journalistic ethics.

Newspapers throughout the desert kingdom regularly cover up celebrities in photos, particularly when women wear skimpy clothing.

What is skimpy clothing in Saudi eyes? Anything that reveals a woman’s flesh. And that includes bare shoulders, midriff, thighs, legs, and, of course breasts!

I’ve seen newspaper artists using Photoshop to add extra clothes on celebrities on a daily basis.

Brad Pitt cover-up

The back page of Gulf News’ tabloid section on Sept 4 had a very interesting photo of Brad Pitt with a camera.

But a closer look shows that the paper has done a Photoshop job on it.

Look at the photo:

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Did you notice that the camera brand has been digitally touched up? And unprofessionally, too!

Why would newspapers do this?

In the Middle East, it is rather common for newspapers to black out names of sponsors in photos. For example, some Saudi Arabian newspapers black out advertisers’ names from sports photos because they are deemed to constitute “free advertising”.

I suspect this is the same reason at Gulf News.

But newspapers would have a major problem with many sporting events which big-name sponsors use to promote their products. How would they deal with Tiger Woods sporting Nike gear? Or Formula One race cars with brand names splashed all over their cars and driving suits?

Someone’s got to teach Middle Eastern newspaper editors a thing or two about journalistic ethics.

Booming market

Newspapers in the Middle East are experiencing a huge boom.

Just take a look at any paper in Dubai, and publishers and editors in the USA and Europe will weep! Papers there are chock-a-block with advertising. For example, Gulf News has four tabloid sections each averaging 72 pages with classifieds and real estate advertising.

Better still, many newspapers are in full colour, with back-to-back printing on every page every day! Saudi Arabia’s biggest-selling Arabic paper, Okaz, is one of them. Dubai’s Gulf News and Khaleej Times, the No. 1 ABC-certified English language paper in the region, are also in full colour.

Best of all, many newspapers in the region are published on glossy paper – something which US editors can only dream about.

On any given day, many of the papers come with separate sections and/or glossy magazines.

To read more about papers in the region, go to the SND Region 20 website by its regional director, Douglas Okasaki (www.snd20.org).

Ifra India 2007 conference

More than 570 delegates, mainly from India, attended the 2007 Ifra India conference held in Chennai from Sept 5-7.

It was also the first time that the Ifra Expo has been held outside of Europe, with the next one scheduled for Vienna from Oct 8 to 11.

The conference had three strands – the Expo, a Publishers’ Forum and one for the technical aspects of newspapers.

I spoke on design at the Publishers’ Forum. Other speakers included Jim Chisholm, a principal at Imedia Advisory, a joint venture consulting firm with Ifra, and Pieter Liejten, a senior editor from nrc.next, the tabloid paper for young people in the Netherlands.

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Associated Newspapers in India

UK’s Associated Newspapers, which publishes the Daily Mail and the London Metro, is coming to India.

It has tied up with the publishers of India Today, to launch a tabloid in the nation’s capital of Delhi.

The new paper is to be called Mail Today, and has been in the pipeline for some time. No launch date has been set, but the paper is entering a very competitive market with leaders Hindustan Times and Times of India battling it out already.

Mid Day from Mumbai has also entered the market after buying back its title from an independent publisher.

India Today’s publisher, Living Media, previously published a tabloid called Today but closed it down some months ago to prepare for its new baby.

Zero to 400,000 on Day 1

Where in the world can you start a newspaper from scratch and get an immediate circulation of 400,000?

The answer: India.

Industry sources tell me that a new newspaper is to be launched in the state of Andhra Pradesh next January.

The paper’s owner is apparently the Chief Minister of the state, Dr Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, who wants the paper to counter attacks on him and his government by Eenadu, the leading language paper in the state.

The new paper will be launched and printed simultaneously in 18 sites on January 18. It hopes to have an initial circulation of more than 400,000. Presses have been or are being installed at these locations.

Eenadu is the Telegu-language paper owned by Ramoji Rao, who also owns Film City in the state  capital of Hyderabad, a TV station, an Indian version of mutual funds, and other businesses. It has a circulation of more than 600,000.

India is one of the few countries with growing readership. Newspaper circulation there grew by an average of 9 per cent last year, according to the World Association of Newspaper while in the USA, it declined 2.6 per cent.

Two years ago, a new newspaper, Divya Bhaskar, was launched in the state of Gujarat with a first-day circulation of more than 400,000.

India is indeed, a vibrant newspaper country, thanks to the growing affluence of its population for whom one rupee (less than US2 cents) for a newspaper is nothing.

For example, in the central Indian city of Nagpur (population no more than 1 million, http://maps.google.com.au/maps?q=Nagpur,+Maharashtra,+India&sa=X&oi=map&ct=title), there are 13 daily newspapers. Four are in English and the rest are in Hindi, Mahrathi (the language of the state of Maharashtra) and other languages. Lokmat, the biggest paper there, has a circulation of about 700,000.

The figures in India are sure to make American and European papers weep!

Why doesn’t Indian Immigration get it?

It’s frustrating getting out of India, even in the big airports like Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.

Last Friday, I nearly missed my flight to Singapore and Sydney, no thanks to the idiotic Immigration Department at Chennai airport.

I waited in line for a little more than an hour to get through Immigration.

There were hundreds of people in two queues but the immigration counters were manned by four in one queue and six in another. And they were so painfully slow, taking more than a minute per passenger.

Worse of all, there were several senior officers standing nearby and talking among themselves, as if nothing was happening. It was clear they knew that the process was taking a long time, and there was the possibility that some people might miss their flights if they didn’t speed things up.

But they blithely carried on talking, causing lots of aggro and frustration all round.

It is all the more amazing considering that this could have been so easily solved, with technology being so readily available to speed the process of checking passports and other things.

Getting to the check-in counters is another story altogether!

Most airports are too small to handle the large crowds, so only travellers are allowed into the terminal. But first you have to bulldoze your way through the normally dense crowds, show your passport and ticket to some cops (which is fair enough).

Once you’re through immigration, there are more checks, but the irritating thing is that once is NEVER enough at Indian airports. You’d have to show your passport and boarding pass at least three times!

Not only that, you got to have a baggage tag with each hand-carry luggage. And each of them has to be scanned at least twice and then rubber-stamped by an officer.  If the tag is not stamped somehow, it’s too bad for you because you’d have to go through the process all over again, no questions asked.

Indian airport authorities obviously don’t trust their scanners because at some airports, they do physical checks of your luggage just before you board the bus to the aircraft!

What a hassle this is!

But what’s even more amazing is that this has been going on for years, and the airport authorities and government obviously do not care about efficiency.

They probably consider it a privilege for you to be in India rather than the other way around.

I love India, but this airport madness drives me insane!

Ahhhh… rain!

It’s my third day in Chennai, and it’s pouring down in sheets. I have not experienced such a torrential downpour for years, Australia being in a state of drought.

So it was such a delight to be caught in the thick of it during a huge dinner party for delegates attending the Ifra India gala dinner at the beach resort of Taj Coromandel.

How I wish the rain were in the outbacks of Australia where there are many kids who have grown up without having ever seen rain in their lives!

Condomotel! Or bed, breakfast and a bonk!

How many hotels do you know provide condoms at the most strategic spot – the beside table?

I can tell you Marriott Hotel at Juhu Beach in Mumbai does!

This afternoon, readying to check out, I opened the drawer to find four unused condoms. How thoughtful!

Let me know if you come across other hotels that think the 3B’s – bed, breakfast and a bonk!