A surprising first at employee-friendly Hindu

11 March 2007

ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from Madras: In what should go down as a first in the 128-year-old history of The Hindu, a senior member of the paper’s staff in Bangalore was last week given the option of an “honourable exit” during a long-distance telephone call from Madras.

Arakere Jayaram, the former chief of bureau of the paper in Bangalore, was told over speaker-phone by editor-in-chief N. Ram that his output and conduct in recent times were not quite in sync with the Hindu‘s needs and that the time may have come for the organisation and the individual to shake hands.

Three other staffers of The Hindu, Bangalore—Parvathi Menon who replaced Jayaram as the person in charge of the Karnataka edition, news editor M. Baba Prasad, and city editor Sugandhi Ravindranath—who had been specially called to Madras for a discussion with Ram, were present as Ram switched on the speaker phone.

After his ouster as the head of the Bangalore branch, Jayaram, a long-time political correspondent, is said to have gone to slumber, contributing little to the paper by way of journalism. More importantly, an impression had gained ground that he was unhappy over being replaced and was “inciting” some staffers against Parvathi Menon.

Jayaram’s reported participation in a “press conference” at the Press Club of Bangalore on the Cauvery issue is also said to have drawn the editor’s ire.

Ram’s speaker phone call to Jayaram was preceded by a one-on-one discussion with Menon. After the one-on-one meeting, Ram and Menon walked in to the room where Prasad and Sugandhi were sitting.

“I want you to listen in on this,” Ram told the threesome, and then called Jayaram.

Ram said it might be best for everybody if he left immediately. Jayaram attempted to justify his actions, but when Ram seemed unrelenting, Jayaram asked if he could take voluntary retirement at the end of the month. Ram conceded and gave the veteran the “honourable exit” he was seeking.

Hindu insiders say this is the first time a senior staffer has been shown the door “with such drama” in an organisation that prides itself on the graceful and dignified manner in which treats its employees. Retired employees get the group’s publications free of cost, and a dhoti is delivered at the time of the annual bonus every Pongal.

RAMYA KRISHNAMURTHY adds from Bangalore: At a seminar on “Media and Social Responsibility” in Mysore on Saturday, Jayaram left no one guessing on where he stood vis-a-vis Ram and Menon, and some of the paper’s recent activist postures.

Although he did not name The Hindu, Jayaram is said to have questioned the media’s blind support to Eenadu during its recent strife with the Y.S. Rajashekhara Reddy government in Andhra Pradesh on the Margadarsi Financiers issue.

(Ram is a signatory to the Special Leave Petition that some leading lights including Kuldip Nayar have signed.)

During the course of the speech, Jayaram also hintingly questioned the manner in which the arrest of Mangalore editor B.V. Seetharam, who has been jailed for inciting hate against the Jain community, has been turned into a freedom of expression issue.

It is a strange turn of events for Jayaram. Five years ago, at a seminar on investigative journalism, shortly before he took over from S.K. Ramoo as chief of bureau, Jayaram repeatedly kept referring to N. Ram as the man who broke the Bofors scam till somebody in the audience stood up and demanded a correction that it was Arun Shourie not Ram .

And now this.

Also read: Is freedom of press a license to do anything?

Cross-posted on churumuri

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8 Responses to “A surprising first at employee-friendly Hindu”

  1. ravi Says:

    Jayaram repeatedly kept referring to N. Ram
    AFAIK, wasn’t Chitra Subramaniam who reported it first and was subsequently sacked from The Hindu because of it!?

  2. aramugam r k Says:

    how naive to say this is the first in the hindu!

  3. boringjournalist Says:

    For The Hindu, the development is surely first of its kind in the recent years. It had long a traditon of taking everybody, the good bad and indifferent with it in its stride and is used to treat the retired employees with hnour and grace.
    For a such a management to take such a decision as to ask a senior man to quit, the things must have really come to a pass, with the magnanimity of management being misused or abused.
    I dont understand how a journalist of a standing like Mr Jayaram can afford not to write for months while getting the regular salary alright, after being replaced by Menon.
    For any journalist, it is a greatest punishment, if somebody were to ask him to stop writing. In this case, Mr Jayaram had inflicted the punishment on his own.
    Mr Jayaram did not protest when he replaced a senior, who had been given a short shrift and made the chief. If he was dissatisfied with the way he had been replaced by Menon, the most honourable course for him would have been put in his papers immeidatley on a matter of principle, instead of waiting for the Editor to tell him to put in his papers.

  4. ramu Says:

    We think similar first(s) should happen in Deccan Herald too. At heads of some sections should be either sacked or shifted in the interest of the newspaper, which is unable to tap its potential due to the presence of persons who tied themselves to their chairposts. One could find more crucked politicians in some of the sections heads of Deccan Herald. Home that KNTK realises the need to appoint good section heads who have vision for the newspaper and not for themselves.

  5. boringjournalist Says:

    Ramu is right. Not only the DH but many papers not only in Karantaka but elsewhere in the country too need this kind of surgery.
    Journalists as a fraternity are the confirmed cynics. The more years they spend in the profession the more cynical they turn out to be.
    Another occupation hazard is that every senior journalist regards the junior or the new entrant as a potential rival and goes out of the way to pull down and discourage the initiative. If they succeed, they apprehend the youngsters may overtake them in the profession.
    As a consequence, the youngsters who have no role model to look forward have a tendency to fall prey to the mood of the cynicism.
    the seniors either should come out of their shell and be at east with the reality and love the job or they should honourably make way for others instead of being asked by the management to get lost.


  6. Hey Ram! finally some justice has been done. There many more Jayaram’s in Bangalore. Will they be shown doors in the interest of creating a good atmosphere in journalistic circles, if not generating a great journalistic work.
    Once the bad blood is thrown out, automatically, the fresh blood gives way for fresher ideas that could bring some better outlook!

  7. gatekeeper Says:

    Jayaram’s exit is not awe-inspiring. Anyone who thinks The Hindu is a safe haven for journalists is mistaken. In fact, it is the other way round. It kills journalists intellectually by not creating any scope for growth, and by making their job absolutely mechanical. Its impetus on English explains this. If it gave a fraction of this importance to other things, The Hindu would be a lot more better.
    And what is to be observed is how the newspaper is neoliberal while it rhetorically disowns the same. Look at the way this guys bring out Opportunities on Wednesday. Isn’t cultivating the IT cacus embracing neoliberalism?
    What is surprising about Jayaram’s exit is the crass way in which it was done. Ram could have just called Jayaram and asked him to leave. What was the need for all this theatricals? But then, how would Ram had otherwise got the message out that he is the big guy and people better take him seriously?
    This also points to another important factor: the corporatization of the paper is complete and Ram is strictly in command. Dissent (against the management’s decision) wont be tolerated. Also, look at how productivity (or non-productivity) of journalists will determine their stay in the newspaper (another trait of neoliberalism).

    Waiting for more shakeups.
    Gatekeeper

  8. Curious Onlooker Says:

    Did Jayaram’s exit really help?

    So, how is Parvathi Menon doing? How is the employee morale at The Hindu? Has her arrival shaken things up or has she become N Ram’s puppet?


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