Robert's Feed
Feb 15, 2011

Don’t hate me because I read the Bangalore Mirror

My hotel delivers the Economic Times and the Times of India to my door every day. Both are owned by the Sahu Jain family, and according to Wikipedia, the Times is the mostly widely circulated English-language newspaper in the world. Most people who learn that I’m reading the Times and its Bangalore insert, the tabloid paper-sized Bangalore Mirror, exclaim, “But it’s a tabloid!” They mean it in the sensibility of its news, not its paper size.

I lack context about many things in India, and certainly in Bangalore, and that includes its press. I read what people hand me, whether it’s the Indian Express, the Telegraph, the Times, Mint or a variety of other papers. In the case of the Bangalore Mirror, I find plenty to chew over in the morning. The headlines are a little New York Post/New York Daily News, but there’s a reason people read those papers. More importantly, they’re jumpy and flashy because they often herald good journalism — the kind of stuff that people want to read. No doubt, they likely contribute to the tired “India! Ancient yet vibrant and modern!” PR campaign that has entranced my U.S. media colleagues.

Feb 14, 2011

Jet lag no bar to journalism, scientists discover

I spent my first day in the Reuters Bangalore newsroom discovering that jet lag does catch up with you after a while. Most of our reporters work from 4pm-1am and 9pm-5am, but I came in at 10:30am to meet some people whom I wouldn’t otherwise see, and to get a start on seeing where things stand so I can make the training mission as interesting as possible.

I met one of our commodities reporters, who works with five other people who, unlike most of our other colleagues, do their job 24 hours a day, five days a week. That includes sending out all those notices about chemical and gas leaks at U.S. oil refineries, the ones where everybody’s happy that the release of poison gases don’t force people to stay in doors and possibly injure or kill them. Talk about yeoman’s work!

Feb 12, 2011

Welcome to Bangalore, Bobby Mac

I arrived in Bangalore on Saturday morning on British Airways flight B119 from Heathrow. I spent about four days in London last week after arriving there from New York. My stay in Bangalore will end on April 12. In the next two months, I will teach a journalism course that I created to our staff of several hundred reporters, editors, pollsters and newsletter writers in the Reuters Bangalore bureau.

I will post updates on the journalism course on my Reuters blog, for the most part, while leaving personal impressions of this city and of southern India, both of which I visit for the first time, on Tumblr. I will cross-post some entries to both blogs, and all of that will show up on Facebook and Twitter.

Feb 1, 2011

I had written about verbs earlier on Tuesday

The world of the verb in Indo-European languages boasts a vast tracts [TRACT, you fool –ed.] of probability and possibility, promises of the future and echoes of the past, and nuances of time thanks to a variety of tenses. In some news writing, I watch that world tilt on its axis, weighed down by journalists who overuse the “pluperfect” tense, also known as the “past perfect.”

To my grammar-averse readers, the pluperfect tense is the one that takes “had” as a helping verb. It describes an event in the relatively distant past, as opposed to something happening now or that happened recently. It also helps set a timeline of activity in a compact space that already includes a verb describing something more recent.

Jan 24, 2011

Save the ‘environment,’ spare us the ‘experience’

When I read the phrase “uncertain regulatory environment” in news articles, I sense that I’m living in a climate of loathing. Read enough news about the government or business, and you will encounter the words “environment” and “experience” as extra nouns, riding behind other, better nouns.

Here is a recent example:

“Company X named Chairman Y as its chief executive officer after asking Z to leave the top post as it rejigs its business to deal with an uncertain regulatory environment.”

Jan 19, 2011

Washington Post Co unleashes dynamic purple prose for Facebook fun

PR purple prose positioned throughout. Highlighted, as usual. (If you wonder why The Washington Post Co is building such things for Facebook, remember that Post chief Don Graham is a Facebook board member and an early investor. In the interests of full disclosure, he is my former boss.)

Washington, DC—January 18, 2011—The Washington Post Company announced today the launch of SocialCode [;], a full‐service agency focused on helping brands leverage the most advanced advertising and marketing techniques on Facebook®.

Jan 13, 2011

Hairballs: Not quite a PR selling point

My colleagues Abhiram and Jochelle sent this to me today, offering it as another candidate for PR purple prose. Yes, I did spot purple prose in here. But a larger question looms over this press release: why the thematic locus on the hairball, that disgusting, wet package of hair that cats like to vomit onto your floor and your furniture after they’ve been tongue-bathing themselves for a while? They’re a good argument against walking around in your bare feet at night in the dark.

Someone presumably familiar with the creeping horror of hairballs then thought: that would be an awesome idea for a press release. If I squint just perversely enough, I think I get it.

Jan 13, 2011

What is “the enterprise” anyway?

I first heard the word “enterprise” as a business and technology term in 1996 when I was working for Business Research Publications, a newsletter publisher, in Washington, D.C.

“Ideal paradigm changing, revolutionary solutions for the enterprise!”

“SAP enterprise applications that drive growth across the supply chain!”

And so on.

I covered Cisco Systems Inc, Juniper Networks and several other companies for months. “Enterprise customers” mean a lot to these large companies, yet I feared telling anyone that I had no idea what the hell they were talking about because I didn’t speak network equipment-ese. Fortunately, I was more familiar with publishing jargon – “run-0f-press,” etc – so when I started covering the newspaper business, I felt much better.

Jan 11, 2011

How Elvis Costello made me spend all my money (Sensorial marketing solutions)

Why does my friend leave stores as soon as their stereo systems play The Eagles? Why do I automatically spend a million billion dollars on melba toast and chutney when the grocery store public address system plays “Every Day I Write the Book?”

You can thank “sensorial marketing solutions” for that.

Learn how Stingray360 of Montreal is learning new ways to get you to march to a capitalist beat with musical “solutions” tailored to your desires. Though in this case, since it involves Walmart Canada, it could mean hearing Stompin’ Tom Connors when you least expect it. As long as it’s not Anne Murray

Jan 11, 2011

Goldman Sachs and the Natural Persons club

This is not a press release in the strict sense of the term. It is an excerpt from Goldman Sachs’s new efforts at “transparency,” another fun word that doesn’t mean anything. Can someone tell me who “natural persons” are? Does this exclude zombies with investable net worth? (Thanks to my colleague, friend and co-raconteur Joe Rauch for point this my way) –

18. To strengthen client relationships and reputational excellence, the Business Standards Committee recommends redefining the firm’s approach to segmenting clients for suitability purposes into one of the following three segments: