Posts Tagged ‘Arun Shourie’

Shekhar Gupta’s farewell letter to Express staff

2 June 2014
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Shekhar Gupta, left, holds up a drawing by illustrator Prakash Shetty, after addressing the editorial staff of the Bangalore-based newspapers Praja Vani and Deccan Herald, last week

The following is the full text of the letter sent by Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of The Indian Express, to his colleagues, announcing his exit from the paper he helmed for 19 years.

Gupta’s resignation as editor comes 10 months after he relinquished his corporate duties as CEO at the paper—and a week after the Narendra Modi-led BJP government came to power in the 2014 general elections.

Gupta’s no.2 Raj Kamal Jha had been elevated as editor of Express in the middle of 2013.

***

Goodbye notes can be heartwarming or heartbreaking. On a rare occasion they can be both. This is one such.

It is time for me to say goodbyes at the Express — for the second time. The first was exactly at the same time of the year in 1983 when most of you were not born yet.

I say goodbye now with joy because I leave behind a wonderfully vibrant newsroom with very good hands of home-grown leaders. And a newspaper that defines its value and power in terms of its depth, credibility and respect. There is no higher currency, no fairer denominator of a newspaper’s stature.

And also a wrench precisely because we are such a fun gang, topped by a large-hearted proprietor who pretty much distributes all that the company earns back to us. As generous compensations, great working conditions, never a resource spared in pursuit of a story. No call ever to kill a story once it passes our highest and the most exacting editorial bars and filters.

I can do no better than paraphrase what Gen Krishnaswamy Sundarji, my friend and mentor in an area of journalism that fascinated me, had said at his farewell parade when cameras caught a hint of mist in his ever-smiling eyes.

He said he didn’t know whether to sob or smile. Because he was leaving behind the world’s finest army that God gave any human the gift of leading.

There isn’t a daily newspaper in India greater than the Express. Or a greater gift that a journalist can ask for than to lead it.

I have been doubly blessed. I started at the same paper as a reporter in 1977 and worked here for a full 25 years in two innings.

Leadership is its own teacher. In fact, the finest. It gives you an opportunity to learn from the many brilliant people that you have been given the honour to lead. I know, many of you by now would be tired of my three-example rule in editorial writing. Yet, here are my three leadership lessons.

First, you must have a big heart. You can be a competent manager, a powerful boss, the wealthiest owner. But never a leader without a big heart. Because there is an essential moral dimension to leadership.

Second, always connect with the universe of those you lead. In our case, it is exhilarating as, across our teams, we trawl the worlds of politics, government, economics, science, culture, cinema and sports. Even markets and advertising, our roti-dal and EMIs.

And third, find that instinct to choose the most talented and diligent, give them space, and then trust them. I confess this defies conventional logic. Or advice on your usual leadership manual’s back-flap. But trust with your heart and not merely, clinically with your head. This is the one gift I take away from Viveck through a two-decade professional relationship, and a friendship that endures.

This concludes my farewell sermon. So back to myself.

When life becomes cosy for too long, you need to disrupt it. Smugness is the beginning of old age, even if you are in your teens, which I, regrettably, am not.

I am embarrassed to lean on the wisdom of Neale Donald Walsh, a contemporary pop-spiritualist/philosopher so juvenile that had he been born in India, he would be a star on Aastha channel with his nutty Conversations with God. Life, he said, begins at the end of your comfort zone. I am checking him out.

In any case, I am an incorrigible reporter and thereby a terminal adventure junkie. By the way, even at the risk of being charged with crass tribalism, I shall write something more specifically for my fellow reporters at the Express. But a bit later.

I had said at my book release by Arun Shourie in Mumbai earlier this month that he taught me many things, but never to write anything short, an article, a letter, even a farewell note. So I can continue to indulge myself today as well. But you have to bring out tomorrow’s paper.

And I must write my first in this series — my last at the Express — of First Person/Second Draft — on time. Heard that before?

I so love you all, friends, colleagues, much younger, brighter and with a great future. I am proud of you and cherish the time we spent together. I will be generally in my office until June 15. There is a fair bit of pending writing. So please be forewarned: you will still have to endure the corridor addas on my compulsive breaks from spells of writing, bare feet and all.

Postscript: One antidote to compulsive rambling is to steal a poet’s lines. Let me sign off, therefore, with Gulzar, whom we all so adore…

Din dhale jahan, raat paas ho,
Zindagi ki lau, oonchi kar chalo,
Yaad aaye gar kabhi, jee udaas ho,
Meri awaz hi pehchan hai,
Gar yaad rahe…

We will always be in touch….

Shekhar

***

Photograph: courtesy K.S.N. Kumar

***

Also read: Shekhar Gupta gives up his managerial role

To all Express employees. From: Shekhar Gupta

From Viveck Goenka. To: Indian Express employees

The Indian Express, Shekhar Gupta, Gen V.K. Singh

Are journalists already poised to ride Modi wave?

27 February 2014
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M.J. Akbar (extreme left) and Swapan Dasgupta (second from right) at the release of the book on Moditva

As the 2014 general election campaign gathers steam, the masks are beginning to come off, as journalists who make no pretence of their political and ideological inclinations (without disclosing it publicly) walk over to the other side, just as they did in previous elections.

Ashutosh of IBN-7 is officially the Aam Aadmi Party’s candidate from Chandni Chowk; Manish Sisodia of ex-Zee News has already done a stint as Delhi education minister; Shazia Ilmi of ex-Star News could stand against one or the other Congress or BJP heavyweight.

The buzz is a number of scribes are being tapped by AAP to make the switch.

Both in the 2004 and 2009 elections the BJP had no shortage of journalists, columnists and editors advising it from inside and outside. And 2013 is proving to be no different.

At a recent event in New Delhi to release a book titled Moditva, former Telegraph editor M.J. Akbar and former India Today managing editor Swapan Dasgupta  (both columnists for The Sunday Times of India) were helpfully at hand, making no bones about where they stand.

The Telegraph, Calcutta, reported the BJP president Rajnath Singh‘s address thus:

“When I first heard of the book, I was certain it was authored by a politician or someone wanting to get to the Rajya Sabha or acquire a post when our government is formed….

“I was amazed to know that this young man [Siddharth Mazumdar of Columbia] was not a politician or a political aspirant” added Rajnath, before looking long and hard at a group of panellists who had taken their seats for a discussion.

For the record, the other members at the book-release panel were economist Bibek Debroy, former Delhi police chief Kiran Bedi (a likely BJP Lok Sabha candidate), the BJP’s stormy petrel Subramanian Swamy, and BJP treasurer Piyush Goyal (who is already a Rajya sabha member).

Also for the record, M.J. Akbar is a former Congress member of Parliament from Kishanganj, Bihar. His name was mentioned in 2008 as a potential BJP member of the upper house along with former India Today editor Prabhu Chawla.

Photograph: courtesy The Pioneer

Also read: Who are the journalists running, ruining BJP?

Don’t laugh, do journalists make good politicians?

Why the BJP (perhaps) sent Chandan Mitra to RS

Kanchan Gupta versus Swapan Dasgupta on Twitter

For the BJP, is the pen mightier than the trishul?

Ex-Star News, TOI journalists behind ‘Arnab Spring’

When the gang of four meets at IIC, it’s news

Shekhar Gupta storms into India Today powerlist

19 April 2013

Thirteen out of India Today magazine’s 2013 ranking of the 50 most powerful people in India have interests in the media, but only two of them (former Indian Express editor Arun Shourie, Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta) are pure-play journalists.

The chairman of the press council of India, Justice Markandey Katju, is a new entry at No. 50, just as Gupta is at No. 45, Hindustan Times bosswoman Shobhana Bhartia at No. 39 and Star India CEO Uday Shankar at No. 26.

***

No. 1: Mukesh Ambani, chairman, Reliance Industries and “virtual owner” of TV18 (up from No. 3 in 2012)

No. 4: Kumaramangalam Birla, chairman Aditya Birla group, and 27.5% stake holder in Living Media (up from No. 5): “sings Hindi film songs, although only in close family circles”

No. 7: Samir Jain and Vineet Jain, The Times of India, down from No.6 last year

No. 26: Uday Shankar, CEO, Star India (new entry)

No. 28: Kalanidhi Maran, chairman and MD of Sun Group (up from 49 last year)

No. 31: Mahendra Mohan Gupta and Sanjay Gupta, chairman and CEO, Dainik Jagran (No. 31 last year)

No. 35: Subhash Chandra, chairman, Zee television and DNA (No. 35 last year)

No. 39: Shobhana Bhartia, chairman and editorial director, HT Media (new entry): Her home in Friends Colony (West) in Delhi was acquired from the erstwhile royal family of Jind.

No. 36: Raghav Bahl, MD, Network 18 (up from No. 44)

No. 38: Arun Shourie (new entry): His dictum: “We must learn to be satisfied with enough and enough is what we have at the moment.”

No. 41: Arnab Goswami (up from 46): “Plays loud music on his iPod before every show to unwind.”

No. 45: Shekhar Gupta (new entry)

No. 50: Justice Markandey Katju, chairman, press council of India (new entry): The Ph.D. in Sanskrit asked Lucknow lawyer S.K. Kalia who entred his court, ‘Ab tera kya hoga Kalia‘?

***

Photograph: courtesy Indian Express

***

Also read: 12 media barons worth 2,962, 530,000,000

10 media barons in India Today 2010 power list

26% of India’s most powerful are media barons

An A-list most A-listers don’t want to be a part of

Blogger breaks into Businessweek most powerful list

***

The Indian Express power list

2012: N. Ram, Arnab Goswami crash out of power list

2011: Arnab Goswami edges out Barkha Dutt

2010: Arun Shourie more powerful than media pros

2009: 11 habits of highly successful media people

N. Ram, Arnab Goswami crash out of power list

24 February 2012

Despite stitching up one of the biggest media deals in recent times, TV18’s Raghav Bahl is among four  media persons who have crashed out of the Indian Express list of the 100 most powerful people in the year of the lord 2012.

N. Ram, the former editor-in-chief of The Hindu (No. 73 in last year’s list) finds himself in the doghouse having remitted office recently, as does Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami (No. 90), who had edged out NDTV’s Barkha Dutt in the  2011 ranking. Also out is Sun TV boss Kalanidhi Maran (No. 38).

One media figure makes a lateral entry: the new press council chairman, Justice Markandey Katju.

The number of media people in the Express list of India’s most powerful continues to drop. There are seven media people in the 2012 power list, as opposed to 11 in 200912 in 2010, and 10 in 2011.

As in the past, the list contains a bit of trivia.

#No. 67, Samir Jain and Vineet Jain, The Times of India group: “The elder brother is an ardent follower of a Bombay-based guruji, whom he calls ‘bhagwaan’.”

# No. 69, Sanjay Gupta and Mahendra Mohan Gupta, Dainik Jagran: “Sanjay loves watching Hollywood films while M.M. Gupta likes Hindi film songs of the sixties.”

# No. 71, Shobhana Bhartia, Hindustan Times: “She is a fitness freak.”

# No. 72, Uday Shankar, Star India: “He enjoys cooking Indian food. He loves experimenting so much that he never repeats a dish.”

# No. 73, Arun Shourie: “The prolific writer’s next book is an ‘expanded’ edition of Falling over backwards, which he had written in 2006, arguing against the reservation policy and judicial populism.”

# No. 80, Aveek Sarkar, Ananda Bazaar Patrika group: “He is passionate about art and has a large collection of works from the Bengal school of art and the Raj era.”

# No. 83, Justice Markandey Katju, press council chairman: “It’s not just Urdu poet Ghalib whom Katju likes, he is equally fond of Sanskrit poet Kalidas.”

As in previous years, Indian Express does not reveal how the list was arrived at or who the jury members were, although it asks readers to write to the jury (ie100@expressindia.com) “if you disagree with our jury”.

The tabloid supplement carrying the 2012 list has been “presented” by Central Park, a developer, and Campus shoes.  The lead sponsor like last year is IRB infrastructure developers.

Among the advertisers is Nobel Hygiene which makes adult diapers.

***

2011 list: Arnab Goswami edges out Barkha Dutt

2010 list: Arun Shourie more powerful than media pros

2009 list: 11 habits of highly successful media people

N. RAM: caustic, opinionated, humane & sensitive

14 January 2012

Thursday, 19 January 2012, is a red-letter day in The Hindu calendar. After an eight-year tenure as its helmsman, Narasimhan Ram will step down as editor-in-chief of South India’s largest English newspaper; a tenure pockmarked by several professional highs and as many personal lows.

While N. Ram can justly claim to have played a role in making The Hindu top-of-the-mind reading by his stewardship of the WikiLeaks India cables among other stories, there can be little doubt that the paper’s openly partisan coverage of the Left parties, China and Sri Lanka have not quite cast the “Mount Road Mahavishnu” in great light.

Above all, while Ram was merely the custodian for eight years of the 133-year-old newspaper, his actions in undercutting his brothers and cousins under the alibi of “professionalising” the family-owned media house have the potential to have long-term implications on the family-owned Hindu in a competitive market.

What cannot be doubted is that while the former Tamil Nadu wicket-keeper invites intense dislike among his baiters, and there are many, the dog-breeder is also intensely loved by his admirers, and there are many of them too. Here, a former Bangalore correspondent of Frontline, the fortnightly owned by The Hindu, pens a panegyric to his former boss.

***

By CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY

In the early 1990s, as eager students pursuing journalism studies in Mysore’s historic Maharaja’s College, our class was vertically split in its choice of the two main heroes who were blazing a new trail in India’s lively media arena.

While one bunch supported Arun Shourie, who, among other things, in the late 1980s had launched a campaign against the introduction of the defamation bill, an instrument introduced by the then Rajiv Gandhi government to curtail a free media, especially the Indian Express of which he was the editor.

The other-half idolized N. Ram.

Ram, we believed, was the true anti-establishment hero who, through his trenchant and hard-hitting writings had exposed the Bofors scandal. For us ‘hungry cubs’ fed on antediluvian and archaic theories, this was a potent manifestation of the true power of independent and ethical journalism, of impactful journalism.

Further underlining his fiery credentials was his defiant rebellion, in October 1989, against his own editor-uncle G. Kasturi of The Hindu.

Ram, who was then associate editor of the paper and second in command in the editorial structure, rather disillusionedly, wrote of The Hindu’s editor:

… Every time the question of publishing something major and original on the Bofors scandal arose, he [Kasturi] countered the idea of publication with the question. ‘What is really new about this? Isn’t what we have already published enough to make clear to everyone who is involved?’ He also repeatedly stated that while he personally was convinced of the guilt of the government in the Bofors affair, he was afraid that “the institution is in great danger.” This was his perspective on The Hindu which was founded in 1878 and has seen many trials and challenges in its history. (I repeatedly pointed out to the editor the failure to understand the significance of history which underlay his statement.) Kasturi also expressed serious concern over the impact of the fall-out from the Bofors expose on the interests of the “family” behind the newspaper.”

Ram took the extraordinary step of venturing out of the “four walls of The Hindu” to explain the situation to the public at large.

I decided to speak to my colleagues in the profession and ask for the hospitality of their columns to throw light on this vital national and ethical issue. I wonder whether this expose of what has happened within one major journalistic institution would be kept away from the readers of The Hindu through editorial censorship…,” Ram added.

In college, we conducted seminars on Indian journalism’s reigning deity and in our own, sometimes half-baked way attempted to analyze his brand of journalism.

Despite the ideological slant, his writings were direct and factual. It was strident and appealed to our activistic fervour.

***

Fortunately, during the course of my studies, I had established an indirect connection with Ram through the writer R.K. Narayan (my grand-uncle and mentor) who had moved from Mysore to Madras by then, and at whose Eldams Road residence Ram was a “welcome intrusion” almost every evening.

RKN diligently read through all the articles that I had written for Mysore’s local newspaper Star of Mysore and would occasionally give me Ram’s positive feedback with whom he obviously shared my clippings sometimes.

Needless to say, I was thrilled and motivated me to stay the course.

After securing my degree and encouraged by a gold medal and the Sampemane Krishnamurthy award for “excellence in journalism”, I went to Madras for an interview with the then deputy editor of Frontline K. Narayanan, a venerable journalist in his own right.

“KN” spoke to me for some time and on learning that I was just 22 years old, said that I should come back after a few more years of academic rigour. He said I was “underaged and underqualified”.  Frontline did have a reputation of hiring erudite scholars and seasoned journalists, and I didn’t quite fit the profile.

Later, KN conferred with Ram, and on the condition that I pursue my post graduate studies simultaneously was given the job. At that time, I was probably the youngest reporter on the rolls of the magazine.

***

The magazine had demanding standards and I was put through the paces.  However, my first assignment for the magazine came directly from Ram and was relayed to me by KN: it was to be a detailed article on the renowned artist S.G. Vasudev.

I went about it with the single minded dedication of a hardworking debutant and gave it all I had. For me, it was a fulfilling first, and Frontline gave it solid coverage.

A few more months into my job and I got my first cover story for the magazine. The feeling was heady:  Ram was very inspiring, and kept regular tabs on how I was coping with my job and on one occasion even wanted to know whether I had procured a two-wheeler to cover my beat.

Ram’s journalistic principles were exacting. For instance, a reporter could not take chances while spelling names of people and had to prefix even the initials correctly. You were expected to be accurate when you put down statistics. No guess work, no approximation.

Once, I was anchoring a special supplement on KSFC or the Karnataka State Financial Corporation. All through the supplement I had inadvertently called it Karnataka State Finance Corporation. The desk had apparently overlooked this ‘minor’ aspect and the pages were sent for printing. However, in due course this error was noticed and the pages had to be recalled at the last minute.

For my shoddiness, I was issued a written reprimand by the then deputy editor V.K. Ramachandran.

In Ram’s scheme of things fastidiousness had to be a habit not a virtue.

During his visits to Bangalore, I would meet him at The Hindu guesthouse for a few minutes, when he would enquire about the prevailing political equations, and give me a passing perspective of his thinking on the issues.

***

In another instance, I was chasing a ‘scoop’ involving the then Union food minister Kalpnath Rai. Sources intimate to the then cabinet secretary Zafar Saifullah had promised to provide me with incriminating documents that clearly indicted Rai in a scam involving the import of sugar at a price higher than that of the market, apparently causing a loss of Rs 650 crore to the exchequer.

The minute I got whiff of the scandal, I discussed it with RKN over the phone.

“Why do you want to get into all these fancy issues? You will only get into trouble and nothing will come out of it. Look at Bofors, even after so many years nothing has happend,” he cautioned me with concern.

That night, as was his habit, Ram dropped into RKN’s Madras house for their routine chat, which usually covered a range of subjects and extended late into the night. RKN informed him about this overzealous young chap who had called him earlier in the day.

I guess, Ram gave in to his journalistic instincts and immediately spoke to me on the lead that I had picked up. He flew me down to Madras the very next day and encouraged me to work on the story from there. As luck would have it, my source who was supposed to deliver the documents by a flight from New Delhi backtracked even as I was waiting at the airport.

I was completely devastated.

Moreover, the embarrassment of facing Ram, who was waiting patiently at his residence, to study the documents was even more unnerving. Before leaving to the airport, I had boasted in all my youthful enthusiasm that the scale of the scam was bigger than that of the Bofors.

Ram had also given me permission to travel to Delhi if the story warranted it.

When I mumbled an apology to Ram that evening, he immediately understood the situation, gave me a quick pep talk, and ensured that I didn’t feel low or disheartened.

That same fortnight, a rival magazine carried the full story with the documents reproduced in print. It was obvious that my source had provided it to the rival magazine at the very last minute. Minister Kalpanath Rai was arrested in 1994 jailed in connection with the swindle but was later acquitted by the courts.

***

On another occasion, on the last day of a grand Madras vacation, I decided to visit The Hindu office and meet all my colleagues on the desk. Towards evening, just before heading out to catch my train, I gathered courage to pay an unscheduled visit to Ram’s office hoping to brief him about my work.

On learning that he was busy in meetings, and as time was running out, I decided to leave. Just then, he called me into his cabin.

At the end of our discussions, Ram queried how I was returning to Bangalore. I told him that I was originally scheduled to leave by the train but it would have long left and I would instead depart by the night bus now.

Ram looked at me almost guilty that he had made me miss the train. “Night buses can be quite tedious and unsafe,” he told me. He directed his secretary to lead me to the finance department and disburse money required for an air ticket. “We have had discussions related to your work. Your trip is official now, ‘’ he told me before packing me off.

I have never been able to forget that generous gesture.

My aunt Rajni still talks about how Ram went about mobilizing blood donors for my cousin Sudarshan, who was recuperating from a bad scooter accident that I had caused during that time.  Ram ensured that Madras’s leading orthopedic surgeon Mohandas attended on him.

Ram could be overweening, sometimes caustic and opinionated but deep down, he came across as being humane–and sensitive.

***

There is one last anecdote that I should probably narrate. After I did a piece on Mysore’s famous motorcycle manufacturer Ideal Jawa,  Ram contemplated moving me to Bombay as a business correspondent. Once I got to hear this, I was confused and excited.

I called my other famous grand-uncle, the cartoonist R.K. Laxman, with the intention of requesting him to get me a PG dig, and naively told him about Ram’s proposed plans to transfer me to Mumbai.

To my surprise,  Laxman reacted rather sharply and said Bombay was no place for youngsters. He hyperbolically ventilated that people were dying of plague and pestilence and Ram shouldn’t be sending me into this city.

That evening when I spoke to RKN all hell had broken loose. Laxman in his inimitable way had called Ram and restated all the things he had told me. Narayan mentioned that this had irritated Ram as he thought that I had  deliberately cribbed to Laxman.

In hindsight, I feel quite amused that I took out all my frustrations in a long letter that I wrote to Ram. I told him how the distinction between my personal and professional lives seemed to have progressively blurred.  I had mentioned something in good faith, and quite unintentionally to a family member and it had triggered of a professional crisis for me, I indicated in my letter.

Probably, Narayan and Ram would have had a good laugh over my letter. I don’t know what happened. I was forgiven, and stayed on in Bangalore.

In 1997, I quit to join The Week magazine from the stables of the Malayala Manorama.

***

As a journalist who enjoyed and value my tenure at Kasturi & Sons, I genuinely wish that its stakeholders sink their differences and surface as one strong family.

If not for anything at least for the future of good journalism in this country.

The family, as I have known, would still be among the more decent and fair minded employers.

These are rare attributes in the Indian media industry.

File photograph: N. Ram, the outgoing editor-in-chief of The Hindu, at a lecture in New Delhi in April 2011 (courtesy Kanekal Kuppesh)

Also read: N. Ram to quit as The Hindu editor-in-chief on Jan 19

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

N. Murali: The Hindu is run like a banana republic

N.S. Jagannathan, ex-editor, Indian Express: RIP

26 December 2011

sans serif records with regret the passing away of N.S. Jagannathan, former editor-in-chief of The Indian Express and Financial Express, in Bangalore on Saturday, 24 December 2011. He was 89 years old.

NSJ, as he was known to friends and colleagues, succeeded Arun Shourie in the Express chair and held the post till 1992 after which he shifted to Bangalore.

T.C.A Srinivasa Raghavan writes in The Hindu Business Line:

“NSJ started his working life as a member of the Indian Revenue Service, a calling that soon palled on his finely developed senses. So he quit and became a writer for a small economic journal in Calcutta.

“From there he moved as Assistant Editor to the Hindustan Times in the late 1960sand to Delhi…. But in the mid-1970s the paper made a series of misjudgements, one of which was the summary removal of the Editor, B. G. Verghese, because he had the temerity to utter some home truths about Indira Gandhi’s style of governing.

“NSJ was appalled and chose to quit as well. He joined the Statesman and stayed there till 1980 when he retired. A few months later, he became the editor of the Financial Express where he stayed till he became the editor of the Indian Express for a few months preceding the death of Ram Nath Goenka, the owner.”

Mr Jagannathan edited Kamba Ramayana, the 12th century version of the epic, translated by his friend, P.S. Sundaram.

Photograph: courtesy The Indian Express

External reading: N.S. Jagannathan on Tambrahms

N.S. Jagannathan on the year 2003

Vinod Mehta on Arun Shourie, Dileep Padgaonkar

7 November 2011

“India’s most independent, principled and irreverent editor” Vinod Mehta has just published a memoir. Titled Lucknow Boy, the editor-in-chief  of the Outlook* group of magazines, recaptures his four-decade journalistic journey via Debonair, The Sunday Observer, The Indian Post,  The Independent and The Pioneer.

With trademark candour often bordering on the salacious, the twice-married but childless Mehta reveals that he fathered a child in a tryst with a Swiss girl in his 20s, and that as a young copywriter in Bombay, he posed as a prostitute’s boyfriend to get her sister married off (and was paid Rs 500 for his services).

Along the way, Mehta also slays two very holy cows of Indian journalism, Arun Shourie and Dileep Padgaonkar, revealing their hypocrisy and duplicity in the way they dealt with colleagues while grandstanding in public as suave, softspoken, scholarly men of letters.

***

By VINOD MEHTA

Over the years, Arun Shourie and I have not seen eye to eye on many issues—something I don’t regret. Shourie, as editor of the Indian Express, had broken the big Antulay story, ‘Indira Gandhi as Commerce’ [in the early 1980s].

The expose revealed that the Maharashtra chief minister, A.R. Antulay, had started an organisation called the ‘Indian Gandhi Pratibha Pratishtan’ through which he collected illicit funds from builders. The corruption scandal forced Antulay to resign.

Arun Shourie and the Express, now implacably opposed to Indira Gandhi and the Congress, had bagged a big Congress scalp. Among journalists and sections of civil society Mr Shourie was flavour of the month—or shall I say many months.

A young reporter in the Free Press Journal with friends in the Express came to see me. He said he had a story, but was not sure if a recently launched paper like the Sunday Observer had the nerve to publish it. According to him, the chief reporter and several other senior reporters in the Express were sulking because Arun Shourie had hogged all the limelight.

While they acknowledged Shourie’s contribution, much of the legwork for the scoop had been done by the Express bureau, a fact which was never acknowledged in the story. Staff morale apparently was at an all-time low.

‘Shourie and the Penthouse conspiracy’ duly appeared. ‘Penthouse’ was mentioned because Mr Shourie allegedly sat in the Express penthouse with Ramnath Goenka and wrote the expose.

It did not take long for Arun Shourie to come back. He demanded a full rebuttal in the form of an extended interview with him. ‘Your story is a complete fabrication,’ he charged.

Kumar Ketkar, then a young and pugnacious Bombay journalist, jumped into the fray. In a letter to the editor [of The Sunday Observer], he noted: ‘The self-righteous breast-beating of Shourie is a fast spreading gangrene in the profession of journalism. If not checked in time, it could acquire the dimensions of witch-hunting and Macarthyism.’

And concluded: ‘Free from any constraint of veracity, Shourie is always able to provide exclusive stories.’ The debate on our letters page continued for many weeks.

***

On 19 October 1989, The Independent published an eight-column banner headline, ‘Y.B. Chavan, not Morarji Desai, spied for the US.’ For two days the story went largely unnoticed. Except for Mid-Day which carried our Chavan report almost verbatim, the rest of the media kept away.

That did not suit the perenially insecure editor of The Times of IndiaDileep Padgaonkar.

While the other editors in the Times group were troubled by my presence, Dileep had a special and urgent reason to feel troubled. I and my team were producing an English paper every day which looked infinitely better than the paper Dileep was editing, and on many mornings it even read better.

Mr Padgaonkar’s insecurities when word got around that, at a meeting with his senior managers,[Times bossman] Samir Jain mentioned me as a possible editor of The Times of India.

Dileep and the Maharashtra Times editor, Govind Talwalkar, got together to ensure the Chavan story did not go unnoticed. In an editorial on 21 October, the Times viciously attacked me and the Independent. It went so far as to incite physical violence against me, suggesting that if it did occur, it would be my own fault.

Departing from its pompous, lofty, measured tone, the Times launched a series of vituperative onslaughts targeting me, which observers found astonishing since the two papers were ‘sister publications’. One opposition leader told the media that while the (Chavan) story was indeed objectionable, it was the Times group which created the ‘hysteria’ around it.

I hold no grudges against Dileep Padgaonkar. He is who he is. However, the man who once claimed he held ‘the second most important job in the country’ can be legitimately charged with single-handedly opening the door for the denigration and decline of the Editor as an institution.

When Dileep’s bosses asked him to bend, he crawled. Since then it has been downhill all the way for other editors.

(Lucknow Boy by Vinod Mehta, published by Penguin Viking, 325 pages, Rs 499)

Read an excerpt: Vinod Mehta on Radia tapes, Vajpayee, V.C. Shukla

Buy the book onlineIndia Plaza offer prize Rs 299

File photographOutlook editor-in-chief Vinod Mehta, at home in New Delhi in 2008

*Disclosures apply

***
Also readS. Nihal Singh on Arun Shourie: Right-wing pamphleteer

Why Khushwant Singh fell out with Arun Shourie

‘Lone Hindu’ Dileep Padgaonkar gets it from M.J. Akbar‘s paper

How Dileep Padgaonkar christened a Pierre Cardin model

How the Sakaal Times dream became a nightmare

‘Arun Shourie: a Hindu right-wing pamphleteer’

3 October 2011

There are few more polarising figures in Indian journalism than Arun Shourie.

For many of his professional peers, he is everything a journalist should not be: a wonky-eyed, hired gun of the Hindu right, selectively and deviously using facts to push its ideological and political agendas.

Arrogant, intolerant, abusive, dictatorial, .

For multitudes more, he is the proverbial Sancho Panza, tilting at the windmills of political correctness, shining light on the dark corners of Indian political and business life, with his exposes and editorials.

Saying it like it is, without fear or favour.

In his just released memoirs, Ink in my Veins, the veteran editor Surendra Nihal Singh, who was Shourie’s boss at the Indian Express, dismisses Shourie as a pamphleteer who thought “a newspaper was a stepping stone to politics and political office… and used journalism to achieve his political ambitions.”

***

By S. NIHAL SINGH

My experience with Arun Shourie was not happy.

To begin with, he had got used to doing pretty much what he wanted because S. Mulgaonkar [who Nihal Singh replaced as Express editor at his recommendation] had been ailing for long and usually made only a brief morning appearance to do an edit if he felt like it.

To have to work with a hands-on editor who oversaw the news and editorial sections was an irksome burden for Shourie.

Our objectives collided.

My efforts were directed to making the Express a better paper, while he was basically a pamphleteer who was ideologically close to the Hindu right. Even while he oversaw a string of reporters’ stories, which drew national attention (for which he claimed more credit that was his due), his aim was to spread the message.

Goenka himself could be swayed by Hindu ideology. In one instance, he sent me a draft editorial from Madras full of all the cliches of the Hindu right. One of Goenka’s men in the southern city was S. Gurumurthy, a sympathiser of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a pro-Hindu organisation.

The issue was the mass conversion of Harijans to Islam at Meenakshipuram (in Tamil Nadu) in June 1981. I put two and two together and it added up to Gurumurthy’s handiwork. I threw the editorial into the waste-paper basket. And I did not hear a word about it from Goenka.

Shourie exploited his proximity to Goenka to terrorise the reporters and subeditors. As executive editor, he was the No.2 man in the editorial hierarchy but often assumed the airs of a prima donna. His office being twice as large as the editor’s room and far better furnished always puzzled me.

Shourie believe that rules were made for others, and our clash began when he took umbrage over my cutting his extensive opinion piece to conform to the paper’s style. On one occasion, I had to spike a piece he had written on Indira Gandhi, in language unbecoming of any civilised newspaper.

In an underhand move, he quietly sent it to the magazine section, printed in Bombay, without inviting a censure from Goenka.

To a professional journalist, some of Shourie’s arguments sound decidedly odd. He declared, “When an editor stops a story, I go and give it to another newspaper. I am no karamchari [worker] of anybody’s. Whether I work in your organisation or not, I really look upon myself as a citizen or first as a human being, and then as a citizen, and as nothing else. If I happen to work for Facets [a journal in which his extensive piece appeared as its January-February 1983 issue], I will still behave the same way. If you use my happening to work for you as a device to shut my mouth, I’ll certainly shout, scream, and kick you in the shins.”

Shourie told the same journal that he had no compunction in mixing his editorial and managerial function ‘because the Indian Express is in an absolutely chaotic state. Ther is no management worth the name. Anyone wanting to help it must also help solve the management problems.’

To give him his due, Shourie had many good qualities. He was a hard worker and often did his homework before writing. However, we could never agree on the paper’s outlook because, for him, a newspaper was a stepping stone to politics and political office.

For me the integrity of a newspaper was worth fighting for.

Goenka swayed between these points of view. He used to tell me: ‘Not even five per cent readers look at the editorials.’ He called Frank Moraes, a distinguished former editor of the Indian Express, ‘my race horse’. Shourie he once described to me as a ‘two-horse tonga‘ (horse carriage).

Shourie later distinguished himself in the political field under the banner of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP); he even achieved the position of a cabinet minister. In effect, he successfully employed journalism to achieve his political ambition.

***

(Editor of The Statesman, The Indian Express and The Indian Post, Surendra Nihal Singh served in Singapore, Islamabad, Moscow, London, New York, Paris and Dubai. He received the International Editor of the Year award in 1978 for his role as editor of The Statesman during the Emergency)

(Excerpted from Ink in my Veins, A life in Journalism, by S. Nihal Singh, Hay House, 308 pages, price Rs 499)

Also read: Why Khushwant Singh fell out with Arun Shourie

The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

Arun Shourie: ‘Intolerant, abusive, dictatorial’

How Arun Shourie became Express editor

Arun Shourie: The three lessons of failure

Why Khushwant Singh fell out with Arun Shourie

7 August 2011

Khushwant Singh, former editor of Hindustan Times and the now-defunct Illustrated Weekly of India, on why he is no longer friends with Arun Shourie, the Magsaysay Award-winning former editor of Indian Express, in the Hindustan Times:

“There was a time when I was a frequent diner in the Shouries’ household in Delhi…. At one of the Shouries’ dinner parties, among other guests was [editor, columnist, activist] Kuldip Nayar. The conversation was largely about L.K. Advani‘s Rath Yatra in 1990 from the temple of Somnath to Ayodhya.

“I had no doubt that the exercise was undertaken with evil intent to destroy Babri Masjid.

“Passing by, Arun remarked: “Who says it is a mosque?”

“I was taken aback.

“Kuldip Nayar said, ‘Professor Sahib, did you hear what he [Arun] said?’ (Both he and [former Delhi high court judge] Rajinder Sachar call me professor sahib since they were students of the law College, Lahore and I was a lecturer.)

“I could not hold back and said to Shourie, ‘Arun, have you ever seen any building with three domes and a wall facing Makka which is not a mosque?’ He did not reply. Since then we have been on opposite sides; he on the mosque breakers’. I wanted them to be arrested and punished for the criminal act of vandalism.

“I stopped associating with Arun Shourie. I read of his rise to eminence as a cabinet minister and a member of the BJP’s think-tank. His book on Dr B.R. Ambedkar offended Dalits. He was roughed up by them while presiding over a meeting in Mumbai. Being hurt himself he wanted to hurt other people.

“He has taken every opportunity to display his disadvantaged son in his wheel chair. I feel very sorry for him but no longer admire him.”

Read the full article: When telling the truth becomes a crime

Illustration: courtesy Rajneesh K. Singh

Also read: The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

Arun Shourie: ‘Intolerant, abusive, dictatorial’

How Arun Shourie became Express editor

Arun Shourie: The three lessons of failure

The Indian Express, Reliance and Shekhar Gupta

7 June 2011

The shadow of Mukesh Ambani‘s Reliance Industries (RIL) has hung heavily over the northern editions of the Indian Express for the last seven years, in a marked departure from the late 1980s when Ramnath Goenka‘s paper was seen as Dhirubhai Ambani‘s chief  bully and bugbear.

Tongues have wagged incessantly about how well paid Express staffers are given its insignificant circulation and non-existent advertising; about the kind of foreign tieups it stitches up (The Economist one day, Financial Times the other); about the about-turn the paper’s former editor Arun Shourie made as NDA minister; about how comfortable the paper’s current editor Shekhar Gupta looks wth the Reliance gang, and so on.

The bazaar gossip—does Mukesh Ambani have a stake in the Express?—barely evokes any surprise.

In an interview with Shuchi Bansal of Mint, Shekhar Gupta catches the bull by the horns:

“What is there to explain? The shareholding statement is published every year in the paper. Express Holdings and Enterprises Ltd, the holding company, is 100% owned by Viveck Goenka. Then there is Viveck Goenka himself and a small bit of shareholding is with me. The shareholding of every company is listed by every company with the ministry of corporate affairs.

“I am surprised this question gets asked.

“I have handled the management for this company for a long time. This company has gone through due diligence by the finest team of experts in the business. There is no question ever, ever of any corporate whether its name begins with R or T or B or XYZ owning a single share.

“Funding cannot happen under the table. The issue is that the fight between Reliance and Express was vicious that films are being made on it now.

“What is our challenge as editors? We cover Reliance as any other corporate. Sometimes difficult calls have been taken because Express has a campaigning mindset. The solution is to do straightforward classical journalism.

“We are instruments for nobody.”

Read the interview: No question ever of any company owning even a single share in IE

***

Also read: Is the Indian Express now a pro-establishment paper?

Have the Tatas blacklisted the Times of India again?

Why the Indian media doesn’t take on the Ambanis

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