N. Murali: ‘Hindu’ is run like a ‘banana republic’

10 August 2011

N. Murali, the managing director of The Hindu, has retired after a 40-year career in the Madras-based, family owned newspaper.

Below is the full text of his farewell letter to employees of the paper, in which he minces no words in describing the current phase of the paper, under the current editor-in-chief N. Ram, as a blot, second only to that during the Emergency under Ram’s mentor and uncle, G. Kasturi.

***

10 August 2011

Dear Colleagues

Sub: Farewell communication

As the curtain comes down on my forty-year-old career at this institution, it is time to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the affection, support and goodwill extended to me.

Our committed and loyal employees are our 132-year newspaper’s most valuable assets.  They have stood by the institution through all the ups and downs, taking immense pride in a newspaper that over a century has become a way of life with successive generations of loyal readers.

The Hindu has acquired the status of a public trust in which tens of thousands of its  readers have placed their utmost faith, looking up to it as a moral force against wrong doing and an authentic voice of reason,  objectivity, truth and fairness.

These are the core values on which The Hindu was founded and which constitute the kernel of its soul and philosophy.

Looking back over the last 40 years that I have been fortunate and privileged to have served this great institution, it is indeed heartening to see our iconic newspaper and the organization grow from strength to strength, while maintaining the unwavering trust and loyalty of its employees and its readers.

My long career has been one of satisfaction and fulfillment but has also seen extremely challenging times with some ups and downs.

I have always stayed focused and brought a lot of intensity and passion to my job.

I have pursued unwaveringly what I strongly believed in and stayed true to my core values and beliefs and core competency.

I always strove to pursue ethical business practices.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been an integral part of the impressive growth and development story of The Hindu during these decades along with its dedicated employees.

***

In accordance with my intention to retire from any active role that I communicated to all the directors on September 25, 2009, I have now formally communicated to the directors of honouring that word when I complete 65 years of age on August 11, 2011.

While it sums up my feelings of the horrible happenings in our institution for the past eighteen months, I owe it to all of you to take you into confidence and elaborate on them in this farewell communication.

I strongly believe that as a matter of good corporate governance there should be institutional mechanisms and norms like entry norms, qualifications, career progression and retirement norms, applicable to all shareholding family members in this organization just as all other employees are subjected to these rules and norms.

When I had proposed 65 as the age of retirement for a Director from any active role, it was with a view to ensuring a smooth succession at the top leadership of the company and of the newspaper while giving professionally qualified younger family members an opportunity to move to the top most echeleons.

That suggestion was accepted by all concerned including the Editor-in-Chief who convened an informal meeting of all the five editorial directors on the same day i.e., 25 September 2009.  An editorial succession plan was also agreed upon as follows: N. Ram to step down from any active role on May 4, 2010 and N. Ravi who had been the Editor between 1991-2003 would take over as Editor-in-Chief; Malini Parthasarathy would become Editor of The Hindu, Nirmala Lakshman would become Editor of the Sunday Magazine, features and Frontline, and K.Venugopal, the Editor of Businessline.

Ram confirmed his commitment to retire and also this succession plan to me not once but twice shortly after.  When everyone took his word at face value and in good faith, in the month of February 2010, he reneged on his commitment to retire to my utter shock and dismay.

That act of breach of faith triggered a whole series of unsavoury events which have taken an ugly turn and which are all now in the public domain.

In these 18 months matters have reached a very low point indeed—with a brazen and crude display of factionalism, opportunistic and vote-bank politics, quid-pro-quo deals, bad faith, vindictive acts, selective targeting of individuals and pursuing personal agendas by some board members all combining  into a messy ‘slugfest’ among the Board members.

There is no question that these anti-institution actions by a coterie of the Board have seriously eroded the quality, reputation and credibility of The Hindu and have also severely impaired the competitive ability and profitability of the whole enterprise.

***

It is indeed unfortunate that editorial primacy has been sacrificed at the altar of excessive commercialism and vested interests to pander to the wishes of some of the directors who have a crass disregard of the values The Hindu has always stood for.

The overcentralised and autocratic management of the editorial side sharply contrasts with the chaotic fragmentation of the non-editorial side.

While conditions have been created by this faction of the Board to ease out professionally qualified and senior editorial directors, all the directors on the non-editorial side, an overwhelming majority of whom, are not adequately qualified and also lack the necessary experience, continue to hang on to their positions that were earlier dished out as part of exchange of favours.

Shockingly, N. Ram, the Editor-in-Chief continues in his all powerful post for an indefinite period.  There is again no word yet on K. Venugopal’s stepping back.

The Editorial side is run like a ‘banana republic’ with cronyism and vested interests ruling the roost and finding space in the editorial columns.

Murdochism’ with some of its most undesirable and sinister features has taken firm hold of the newspaper.

***

Quite apart from the blatantly pro-CPI(M) and pro-China tilt in coverage, Ram’s abuse of his position in The Hindu and influence peddling has been unrestrained by any ideology.

Two recent events have brought this to the fore.

The first is the coverage or non coverage of the 2G scam and turning The Hindu into a mouthpiece of accused A.Raja, going out of the way to organize an interview with him and  publishing it on the day of his resignation.

The second and most recent incident has been brought out by the Gujarat police officer Sanjeev Bhatt in his affidavit filed in the Supreme Court which shows Ram as being the recipient of an e-mail on a matter as sensitive and serious as the investigation and related matters of post Godhra 2002 riots in Gujarat.

Sanjeev Bhatt has annexed an email to his affidavit which is very revealing.  In that email that S. Gurumurthy sent to Ram on February 17, 2010, he had annexed a note on the investigations into the Gujarat riots case. “Here is the note, I would like you to go through it that you understand the issues before you talk to the person concerned,” goes the email.  We all know who the “person concerned” that Ram was supposed to talk to is.

The periodic and extensive friendly interviews of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksha done by N. Ram and carried in full op-ed pages served only as a smokescreen to hide the alleged war crimes that the UN committee indicted the Srilankan government on.

In my book, the two major blots on the journalistic record of The Hindu over the last forty years relate to its stand on the Emergency that was in force between June 1975 and March 1977 and on the largest scam in the history of independent India, the 2G scam.

Under its then Editor, G.Kasturi, The Hindu disgracefully extended tacit support to and even collaborated with the Emergency regime.  On the 2G scam, under the Editor-in-Chief N. Ram, The Hindu shamefully acted as an apologist and mouthpiece of the prime accused A.Raja.  It had only muted coverage of the 2G scam.

While The Hindu editorially asked for the resignations of Ashok Chavan, Suresh Kalmadi and B.S.Yeddyyurappa, there was not even a whisper about A.Raja’s resignation.

On the other hand, two obliging interviews of A.Raja were specially arranged to be done, not by the correspondent covering telecom, but shockingly by R.K.Radhakrishnan who used to cover matters relating to DMK.  After A.Raja’s resignation and arrest, a change in stance reflecting a shameless and seamless U-turn is all too obvious even for a school kid to miss.

***

When media is used as a means to achieve private ends it undoubtedly becomes a calamity.

Primacy of editorial on which The Hindu has always prided itself has been sacrificed at the altar of vested interests and crass commercialism pushed by some directors who have scant regard for the legacy and larger calling and ideals of The Hindu.

Any claim of professionalisation in the appointment of Siddharth Varadarajan as Editor of The Hindu is a sham as professionally qualified and experienced family members on the editorial side — N.Ravi, Editor, Malini Parthasarathy, Executive Editor and Nirmala Lakshman, Joint Editor — have been selectively targeted for removal.

Double standards of the worst kind are at play.

The unfairness of it all is evident from the fact that some next generation family members, with little or no experience have been fast tracked into plum senior foreign postings with huge financial outgo, that normally only very senior journalists aspire to.

The so-called theory of separation of ownership from management was suddenly sprung only to vindictively and selectively target a few individuals. As stated earlier, N. Ram and K.Venugopal continue in their positions even as the so-called principle is not applicable to a few next generation family members and even as the business side directors continue in their positions for an indefinite period.

***

I am happy to recall that I stood vindicated by the Company Law Board order of December 22, 2010, which indicted the board faction that removed my responsibilities, as lacking in probity and good faith.  I am thus stepping down with my head held high and with my self-respect and dignity intact.

I am also extremely happy and proud that I have been able to keep my word of honour, which unfortunately has not been the case with N. Ram who ought to have stepped down on May 4, 2010.

I am deeply pained that The Hindu that I grew up with and which I was proud to be an inseparable part of during the last four decades is not The Hindu that we see today.  The Board faction that has perpetrated the gross injustice and vindictive acts must bear the cross for the current sorry state of affairs.

It has only succeeded in pushing The Hindu deep into an abyss.  It requires the combined efforts of those sections of family members who are still yearning for its return to former glory and all its dedicated employees to pull the newspaper out of this abyss.

It is now time to bid adieu to all by wishing you the very best in your life and saying how fondly I cherish my long association with you.  My thoughts will always be with everyone of you and your well being and with the great institution I am proud to have been an active part of.

Yours sincerely

N. MURALI

***

Also read: Why N. Ravi quit The Hindu after 20 years as editor

Nirmala Lakshman: I didn’t step down; I resigned

Malini Parthasarathy quits as Hindu‘s executive editor

The four great wars of N. Ram on The Hindu soil

The Hindu, Hindustan Times were worst offenders in ’75

About these ads

26 Responses to “N. Murali: ‘Hindu’ is run like a ‘banana republic’”

  1. Sam Says:

    ” In that email that S. Gurumurthy sent to Ram on February 17, 2010, he had annexed a note on the investigations into the Gujarat riots case. “Here is the note, I would like you to go through it that you understand the issues before you talk to the person concerned,” goes the email. We all know who the “person concerned” that Ram was supposed to talk to is.

    Does anybody have an idea of what this is about? Is he implying that N. Ram was helping the Modi government?

  2. Ashok Kanjilal Says:

    The “person concerned” seems to be a former director of a special police branch who has a column in Frontline and writes regularly in the Hindu.

  3. srivatsa Says:

    hmmm i am also wondering who he is referring too..N.Ram is not known to be a modi supporter..

  4. Mahesh Vijapurkar Says:

    As a member of the staff of The Hindu for 30 years, I had known N Murali from close quarters, interacted with him and found him to be patient, wiling to listen to the other point of view and respond. Was a good person to work with.

  5. Rama Rao B Says:

    I consider Hindu as the best newspaper in India without a runner up anywhere nearby. Hope these family factionalisms don’t end up in a rift like Indian Express.

  6. Thingala Mama Says:

    I love to see fight among seculars. Serves them right.

  7. Kris Says:

    N Ram’s close affinity with the CPI(M) leadership and his allegiance to the ideology of that party is no secret. The party general secretary post has no retirement age. No wonder he doesn’t consider it incumbent upon him to retire at 65.
    A friend of mine who used to be a correspondent of the Business Line was an active participant in a major environmental struggle that took place a decade ago in Kerala inviting national attention. The struggle was against a polluting pulp industry owned by Birla. Ram personally saw to it that the correspondent was chided for his participation and transferred to outside of Kerala. The correspondent refused to buckle down and resigned. The Hindu was the only paper that failed to carry reports of the struggle even as it published the polluter’s version prominently.

  8. v.sankaran. ias (retd) Says:

    what about the anti hindu attitude of of “hindu” ? over the years. who was responsible for that?
    viswanaatha ayyar sankaran a patron of hindu over sixty years

  9. Jay Ravi Says:

    I had written to the Hindu in Feb/2009 about its duplicity, addressing it to the Editor, the managing director, the ombudsman and members of the Press council. None of them replied — however, the ombudsman resigned few months later. For readers interest, I am pleased to put my letter. below.
    ========
    The Managing Director
    The Hindu

    Feb/08/2009

    Dear Sir,

    Since Mr.Ram took over as the Editor, certain unsavoury changes have taken place in our revered newspaper.
    Please allow me to elaborate on these.

    * The “letters to the Editor” is filled with letters that totally agree with the editor’s views and many sing paeans to his wisdom. Letters critical of the editor/paper are almost never published.
    Also, certain readers have their letters published very often (possibly because they agree with the editor always). The reader Kassim Sait comes to mind – we readers are condemned to read his jaundiced remarks, sometimes twice a week!

    * The letters supporting the views of the editor are self-righteous and strongly expressed, while the very few critical letters are meek, almost apologetic (possibly due to heavy editing).
    I have been watching this trend for years now and I have analyzed this – please find attached an Excel file for your kind perusal. This file has analyzed the “ letters” and the editorial sections for 100 days – from Sept/17/2008 to Jan/12/2009. On average, each day has about 14 letters with one letter criticizing the editor/paper’s stand – on most of the days, there are NO dissenting letters!

    * All the leading English dailies have provisions for the readers to post comments on
    editorials/op-eds/front-page stories etc that allow for active reader participation. Abusive remarks/postings are removed periodically even by other readers.

    Unfortunately, the Hindu does not have this feature. Your readers have to be content with the editor’s views/opinions/beliefs/values/prejudices presented as news and the gospel truth with no discussion or debate – so important for lively exchange of ideas and free speech, things which the editor often professes to cherish.

    * The ombudsman is content to clarify on clerical errors, grammar and syntax mistakes. Please give him the authority to be the true conscience-keeper of the paper.

    * Biased reporting – we see this as the basic philosophy of the editor: Samples:
    • The general news coverage, the editorials and the opinions sell the premise that the BJP/center-right parties in India and the world/the U.S.A can do nothing right and they are the fountain-head of all evil. Equally, the Left (especially the CPM!!!) in India & abroad, and Russia/China can do no wrong and these are the epitome of the combined wisdom of the human race and are the torch-bearers of righteousness.
    • According to the editor, nationalism in India/Japan/rest of the world is fascism, but one-party dictatorship seamlessly integrated with nationalism in China is perfectly acceptable.
    • Certain public individuals are above board for the editor – Karunanidhi, Karat, Bardhan, Yechuri, Chandrachoodan, Jayalalitha, several others of the Left and selected regional chauvinists are never criticized.
    • Sonia Gandhi was referred to by her full name – then it gradually became Ms.Gandhi and now it is only Gandhi – possibly this is meant to convey to the young readers that perhaps she is related to the Mahatma.
    • Issues are deliberately reported partially with malicious intent – in a recent example, the BJP was (as expected) castigated for the Mangalore incident, but utterances against the “pub culture” by Gehlot and Ramdoss were not reported. Another example is the vitriol poured by the editor on CEC Gopalaswami’s recommendations. He was ridiculed, chastised, and his motives were “exposed” by 2 articles on the same day! The CEC’s other recommendations (of not giving government jobs to the commissioners and not allowing them to join political parties after retirement) were published two days after the other English dailies reported it!
    • Under the present editor, the Hindu has become a spokesperson for the CPM – he is perfectly entitled to his party membership, but the paper should not be a vehicle to propagate the ideology of one party (any party for that matter). If the editor persists in this, the Hindu is not a national newspaper but merely a party mouthpiece.
    • Under Mr.Ram’s editorship, certain issues affecting our country are never discussed: examples:
    a) the burgeoning cost of Admiral Gorshkov (the free warship now to cost $2bn) – possibly not to offend “the time-tested friendship”.
    b) China’s claim of Arunachal Pradesh
    c) Bangladeshi infiltration into India – possibly not to expose their participation in polls to elect the Left parties in west Bengal and Tripura.
    d) China’s back-stabbing in the NSG – believe it or not, Siddharth Varadarajan actually supported their actions!
    e) Riots in India whenever instigated by the Congress and the Left (Delhi riots and Nandigram pogroms come to mind).
    f) Corruption in the Left parties – SNC Lavalin issue is a recent example.

    We can go on and on.
    The central issue is that under the present editor, the Hindu has lost the stature it had in the past. We remember the halcyon days when it was the beacon of free unbiased reporting during the Bofors issue.

    Now the credibility and professionalism have been lost – it reads like a handout from the CPM’s office. In the process, the Hindu has only succeeded in misleading its readers, especially the young minds – and that hurts.

    Please excuse me for intruding on your busy schedule.
    I have also attached this letter as a Word file for your kind perusal — I look forward to receiving your valuable comments.

    Yours sincerely,
    Jay Ravi

    • Tabrez Khan Says:

      Your dissatisfaction seems to stem from primarily just one fact-that The Hindu is rightly criticizing the communal actions of some political parties and individuals. Your own political leaning seems to be Right of centre and from that vantage point whoever is not on your side to you seems on the left or wherever you choose to see him/her. I have been exposed to N Ram’s philosophy and thinking while taking lectures from him at a journalism course I was part of several years ago. Believe me, he did not seem to be a leftist even one bit. But then what’s being said by people like you about N Ram is symptomatic of the crisiticsm that strong secular truth-upholding public figures have to face here.


  10. Hindu has already lost its charm and became a very useless news paper under a most useless editor in chief who’s name is unfortunately Mr.Ram. God save Hindu and its employees

  11. narasimhan Says:

    I endorse the views of Jay Ravi. My usually critical letters have never been published. Only those supporting its opinion have been. I open the paper only for two things: Obituary notices and cultural programmes. It receives pats from ‘liberal’overseas correspondents for its ‘admirable’ stance and coverage. I hope the glorious newspaper closes down soon, so that other patriotic dailies come into their own.

  12. raghavan Says:

    These guys couldn’t even envision the changes taking place in the media habits of people despite being around for so long and were late in entering electronic media – and that too in collusion with NDTV! Some of the Tamil channels run by small timers with limited media exposure have done a much better job than the stupid NDTV-Hindu. NDTV-Hindu is a classic example of how a TV channel shouldn’t be. As far “The Hindu” itself, its governance and issues that it takes up/ doesn’t take up have always left a lot to be desired. But this paper only truly reflects the thriving of mediocrity and marked abhorrence for excellence in the entire state of Tamil Nadu in all walks of life! The only person with whom I would associate excellence in journalism in this part of the Vindhyas is one Jawahar of Mylapore (and other areas in Chennai) Talk….

  13. remo Says:

    I have stopped subscribing to this useless paper for last 4 months having been a reader of English newspaper for 4decades.see their editorial biased to the core siddhart v BJP baiter fan of prince of Arcot letters to editor accepts 8 letters out of 10 from regular muslim and xian contributors. one kasim sait e.g.


  14. he is referring to R.K Raghavan

  15. KVKS CHOUDARY Says:

    After having been consistent reader for more than 40 years, I gave up reading THE HINDU & BUSINESS LINE a few years ago.
    For more than a decade I have been suggesting to THE HINDU that they change their name to ANTI HINDU – As they they had given up independent thinking of their own, and become shameless appendage to the congress pseudo secular stance.
    Perhaps like most media houses their objective is not ‘objective journalism’ any longer, but what serves them or their masters as most news papers ( & TV channels) seem to depend these days on business and politicians payments through back door, than on subscribers and advertisers.

  16. vijay Says:

    The problem at present in THE HINDU is due to too many seniors in the
    KASTURI family are – waiting in the wings to become EDITOR – IN –
    CHIEF – one after the other and inscribe their names for posterity
    in the HINDU roll call of editors .
    Like the saying ‘’ Too many cooks spoil the brodth,’’ , with too many
    professionally well qualified editors in the family with an equal
    number from next generation of the family waiting already or on the
    threshold of joining the ranks , the ego clash and other family petty
    politics are bound to crop up . Already 5th or 6th generation from
    the family have come to the front line to manage the Hindu and in the
    following years , the infighting is only bound to increase .

    N.Ram , under these circumstances did the correct thing to plan for
    bringing in outside professionals to manage the hindu group . Now he
    has only brought in a new editor for THE HINDU . But FRONTLINE ,
    BUSINESS LINE , Sportstar also need a complete revamp under an
    individual editors .

    N.Ram should also initiate steps to launch language dailies beginning
    with Tamil as the future for newspapers in INDIA is in regional
    langusges only . Incidently , The Hindu is the only major english
    daily in the entire ASIA / SE ASIA not to have a regional language
    daily .
    Since independence , when the TIMES OF INDIA group came under Indian
    management , they are hiring editors and managers from outside the
    family only at regular intervals .The results are there for all to see
    .
    Till 1970s there was only one GENERAL MANAGER controlling TIMES OF
    INDIA with editions at Bombay , Delhi and Ahmedabad . When the next
    generation of owners like Samir Jain and his brother took over ,
    entirely a new set of ideas cropped up and consequently different
    managers , editors slowly came into the picture which resulted in TOI
    spreading its wings all over INDIA and even planning overseas ventures
    beginning with the yet to be launched Dubai edition . TOI GROUP grew
    at rapid rate only due to these various managers who were reporting to
    the owners who were silently driving them from behind giving them a
    free hand with set targets to achieve.
    Other newspaper groups in India are emulating the TOI way to grow .
    Dainik jagran , Dainil Bhaskar , Rajasthan Patrica , HT media groups
    are some of the examples .
    So far what N.Ram has done seems to be in right direction .Let him be
    a communist or a pro China guy . What matters is THE HINDU should be
    allowed to grow with its high quality standards and unbiased
    reporting . N.Ram lacks credibility only with his biased repoting on
    some occasions . If he becomes neutral for THE HINDU sake , keeping
    aside his personal communist views aside , every thing will be ok .

    • Sam Says:

      Thanks. That was well put and insightful.
      Personally, I feel credit should be given where credit is due – under N. Ram The Hindu did become, at one point, India’s 2nd largest english newspaper. And the way he outmaneuvered the others in board room shows that this wasn’t just plain luck, but good business acumen.

  17. Kerala Varma Says:

    What has been brewing in the Hindu was more evident in the inconspicuous silence on the shenanigans of the DMK ministers in the central cabinet in the paper’s backyard until it broke out as corruption under the 2G scam elsewhere and the downfall of the DMK Government at the hustings.

  18. V.Harish Says:

    I do not know why people are blindly attached to this newspaper and this blind support only has led to the present situation of this paper becoming a anti hindu paper.Once I understood that this paper’s leftist leanings in the year 1988 thereafter i never touched this paper even in a barber shop

  19. Dr Sushila Ramamurti Says:

    I don’t enjoy reading the Hindu any more but I continue to buy it only for the crossword….I agree with what somebody commented earlier that this paper ought to be renamed The Anti Hindu !

  20. Ramakrishna R.Gurrala Says:

    It is very unfortunate to say this but its true. Today in India every news paper or TV channel wether it is regional or national are attached to or support to one political party or a perticular religion or a caste.
    There is no single news paper or news channel which truly independent on their while reporting the true news in India.
    So there is no surprise to hear about THE HINDU.
    Most of the hindi and english news channels say that they are national channels, but unfortunately they never give importance to south news at all, if you want just watch any channel NDTV,AAJTAK,STAR NEWS etc., for a while all the news about haryana,delhi,UP nothing more..
    so we dont need to bother much to read any news paper or watch any news channel, as they dont provide you any news these days , just time pass !! so y to break our heads on THE HINDU here its a family power fight

  21. sastry c.h Says:

    I for one habituated to read HINDU for last 50yrs or more.It is an irony to know that RAM has lineage to communist idealogy,good but to support the politicians of tamilnadu who amassed wealth by unscrupulous means unlike communist MPS and Mlas all over india and not reporting anything good done in states like gujarat and bihar is utter nonsence.as some readers pointed out THE HINDU may one day be a past news paper.C.H.SASTRY.chennai.


  22. [...] Even Mr. N.Murali, the brother of Mr. Ram who had a 40-year association with The Hindu and retired as its managing director, said in his farewell letter to employees that under Ram, The Hindu’s editorial page was being run as a banana republic. [...]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,220 other followers

%d bloggers like this: