Indians in US journalism

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Indians in US journalism

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Indians hit the highspots in American journalism

By Chidanand Rajghatta, The Times of India, 2013/03/17

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Who was the first major Indian-American star journalist in the US media? If your answer is foreign affairs pundit Fareed Zakaria or CNN’s medical maven Sanjay Gupta, or even further back, Time essayist Pico Iyer, you are off the mark — by a few decades.

That honour goes to Gobind Behari Lal, a 1937 Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and science editor emeritus of Hearst newspapers who engendered specialized science coverage in the US in the time of Edison and Einstein. A staunch Indian nationalist and Ghadr Party activist, Lal died in 1982 having worked right till the end his came at 92, just about the time a few Indian faces were starting to show up on the US copy desk and in newsrooms.

In the two decades since, it is a rare that a major publication in the US doesn’t have scribes of subcontinental stock on their rolls, with many of them in the higher echelons of editorial and management. Over the weekend, the Indian inroads into such top level journalism found public expression with changes in Time Magazine and Newsweek, two hoary publications all too familiar to Indian readership.

Time Inc announced that Bobby Ghosh, who started his career at the Deccan Chronicle in Vishakapatnam, would be Editor of Time International; and over at Newsweek, and its new avatar Newsbeast, head honcho Tina Brown announced that Editor Tunku Varadarajan was leaving the magazine “to move on to a new phase in his life” including writing a book and spending time in India, “a country he left when he was 16, and which he wants to get to know again”.

Ghosh’s elevation was greeted with delight among his many friends and fans who have followed his sparkling career from the time came to TIME in 1998 after 10 years as a journalist in India and two on the staff of the Far Eastern Economic Review in Hong Kong. In a staff memo shared with the media, Martha Nelson, editor-in-chief, and Rick Stengel, managing editor, said “Bobby, quite simply, is a magnificent journalist who has done the highest level of work that one can aspire to in our profession.”

Ghosh served five years as Time’s Baghdad bureau chief throughout what the editors called “the worst of the Iraq war”, writing what they said was “two of our most unforgettable cover stories” — Life in Hell, and Sunnis Vs Shi’ites. “He was not only fearless in his work in Iraq but he was the guardian of all who worked for us in Baghdad. The breadth of his interests and the depth of his expertise is reflected in a sampling of his recent international covers, from soccer star Leo Messi to Bollywood icon Aamir Khan to a profile of Egyptian president Mohamad Morsi,” the memo said.

Ghosh, Varadarajan, and Zakaria are among the scores of Indian-Americans in key editorial positions in US media outlets, including such vintage publications such as New Yorker and TV networks such as ABC and CBS where there are growing number of anchors & reporters of subcontinental origin.

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