Prabhu Chawla out, M.J. Akbar in at India Today

23 September 2010

There is change at the top of the totempole of India’s largest English newsmagazine, India Today.

After several false rumours of his impending mortality as helmsman, editor Prabhu Chawla has been sent off to look after the language editions of the magazine.

Author-editor-columnist M.J. Akbar has been named editorial director of India Today and the English news channel owned by the group, Headlines Today.

The appointments were made public in an email sent by group editor-in-chief Aroon Purie to staff last night. The changes will take effect from Friday, September 24.

Below is the full text of Purie’s circular flagging the changes:

***

“It gives me great pleasure in announcing the formation of a brand new SBU (strategic business unit) within Living Media, which will become an independent company very soon, that will address the burgeoning opportunity of Indian language publishing and all related extensions in the Indian language domain. To begin with, all current India Today language brands will be assigned to this new SBU.

This new company will be placed under the leadership of Prabhu Chawla, who will be designated Editor (Languages) and CEO. Prabhu Chawla will report into a Board. Given the tremendous opportunity of this space and in view of his new responsibilities, Chawla will give up the editorship of India Today – English edition and India Today – international and all their related extensions.

“As editor of the magazine for the last 14 years he has done great work in turning it into a weekly from fortnightly and maintaining its position as India’s leading newsmagazine. He will also be consulting editor to Business Today.

“Prabhu’s new mandate will be to address the business and editorial opportunity of Indian language publishing in an aggressive and focused manner. His efforts will be directed towards growing the existing language publications and to launch many more new language publications in the future. In collaboration with ITGD (India Today Group Digital) he will be addressing digital opportunities in the language space as well.

“Prabhu will continue to be associated with Seedhi Baat in Aaj Tak and will spearhead the group’s initiative in setting up a media/journalism institute. He will also continue to lead the group’s content archival project and the library resources. This comes into effect from September 24th, 2010.

“It also gives me immense pleasure in announcing the appointment of  M. J. Akbar as editorial director of India Today (English) and India Today (international) and their related extensions.

“He will also have the additional charge as Editorial Director of Headlines Today.

“MJ, as he is popularly known in the industry needs no introduction, given his rich and long experience in launching, managing and leading several top print publications in the country. MJ comes on board effective September 24th, 2010 and will report to me.

“As you can see, these are significant changes in the editorial leadership of our group’s flagship brands, which I am sure will be transformed by them to meet the challenges of the fast changing world that we live in. They will explore new opportunities too.

“Please join me in wishing Prabhu and MJ the very best and I also seek your active support in making this a smooth and successful transition.”

***

Till The Week was launched in the early 1980s (and Outlook* in the mid-1990s), Akbar’s Sunday magazine, published by the Ananda Bazaar Patrika (ABP) group, was fortnightly India Today‘s main competitor. Akbar currently has a stake in the weekly newspaper The Sunday Guardian and writes a column for The Sunday Times of India.

Under Chawla, a former ABVP volunteer who used to cycle to the offices of India Today delivering press releases, India Today took a shine for the BJP and the magazine’s  anti-Congress vibe reportedly earned the displeasure of the ruling dispensation.

Akbar, a former Congress MP, too has been vehemently anti-Congress and anti-UPA. Dislodged in 2008 as editor-in-chief of The Asian Age which he helped found, Akbar has gone so far as to accuse prime minister Manmohan Singh of “sabotage” by signing the civilian nuclear deal with the United States.

Ironically, both Akbar and Chawla were in the running for a Rajya Sabha seat on the BJP ticket in 2008, but their ambitions were nixed with the nomination of another journalist turned politician, Balbir K. Punj. Chawla who figured in the Indian Express 2009 power list at No. 71, didn’t figure in the 2010 edition.

* Disclosures apply

***

Also read: Don’t laugh: do journalists make good politicians?

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13 Responses to “Prabhu Chawla out, M.J. Akbar in at India Today”

  1. twistleton Says:

    yaaaay!

    congratulations to Mr. Akbar.

  2. Andy Says:

    Super work – Sans Serif.

    Nice move by Aroon Purie..wonder what Prabhu Chawla will do next..obviously he continue after this snub..

  3. a reader Says:

    A cat has nine lives. MJ has ten

  4. Subhash Bakshi Says:

    The best move by Mr Aroon Purie to bring in MJ the best in Indian journalism. With him at helm of affairs India Today will be worth reading and eagerly awaited weekly.
    I wish MJ the best of luck.
    Subhash

  5. Jugaad King Says:

    best of luck to Mr. Akbar.

    I highly doubt a separate company will be formed. So a sayonara is in order.

  6. Pushpa Divecha Says:

    MJA will be re energised with his latest well-deserved editorial responsibility. Its a task he has always performed with aplomb in the written media. Much credit goes to him for popularising and bringing credibility to journslism in a long and eventful career. His ouster from Asian Age was a low-point in the integrity of media houses. It was shameful.

    India Today is the premier news magazine of the country. It is lucky to have a very capable, successful, and literary luminary such as MJA on board.

    With Outlook magazine climbing up the popularity charts, India Today has picked a winner. I wish Aroon Purie all success.

  7. NKSingh Says:

    kudos to akbar and shame for prabhu

  8. vanjeevan Says:

    Hi,

    I am great fan of Prabhu Chawla. He has done credibly great for India Today Group. I wish him on the Behalf of our NGO Vanjeevan best of luck for his future.

    Regards

    PB Tiwari
    Vice President
    Vanjeevan NGO
    (MIssion to Plant & Save trees)

  9. Chandan Says:

    I wish all the best to Mr. Prabhu. I am his fan, I liked his ways of putting questions in front of the great people.
    Every one has to understand that journalism is a mission and all journalists are the social workers.
    Chanda Singh Ghughtyal
    Almora
    Uttarakhand

  10. Srikant Panda Says:

    Mr. Akbar,

    I hope unlike others, you be impartial while interviewing. Instead of money, you work for the country. Dont favor any political party.
    Dont favor any religion but your consciousness and inner voice.

    Mr. Prabhu,

    Sad to see you with no clean face.
    The only thing left behind for you is “Prayaschita”. And yes, never be ashamed of dong it.

    Srikant Panda
    Pune

  11. Puneet Says:

    I am a great fan of Prabhu Chawala, he has done a tremendous work in the field of Journalism in India. even in abroad he is so popular. I do not think that India today will survive for a long time in his absence. India Today is known because of Prabhu. A very blunt and wrong decision of Arun Puri.

  12. wakeel Ahmad Says:

    M J Akbar’s style and creativity in writing has immensely benefited me.But what ails and and pertuebed me is that he keeps hopping from one place to another.While with “The Asian Age”,by dint of hard effort,he brought about much honour for himself.Hope we will keep quenching our literary and and the kind of writing he weilds in through his pen.Prabhu chawla deserves appreciation for his uniqueness and hard hitting questions.
    Wakeel Ahmad

  13. prerna Says:

    goooooood luck


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