Nothing is what it appears to be in the thicker-than-water but funnier-than-fill-your-metaphor-here world of family-owned newspapers.
Siddharth Varadarajan, installed as editor of The Hindu in a G.Kasturi-N.Ram putsch in 2011, ostensibly to professionalise the paper but allegedly to prevent Malini Parthasarathy from ascending the throne, has resigned dramatically via a Twitter announcement.
“With The Hindu‘s owners deciding to revert to being a family run and edited newspaper, I am resigning from The Hindu with immediate effect.”
The resignation came after a meeting of the board of Kasturi & Sons removed Arun Anant as CEO, and redesignated editor Varadarajan as “Contributing Editor and Senior Columnist”.
Only two days ago, on 19 October 2013, the well-regarded Varadarajan had posted a picture of his renovated office in Madras, in what seemed likely a preparation for the long haul.
At 3.40 pm, roughly two hours before Varadarajan announced his decision to quit, the Janata Party-turned-BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, whose petition on Varadarajan, an American passport holder, helming a newspaper is hanging fire, tweeted:
“Will US citizen turned Naxal survive as editor. Just read Company law which states even NRI editor is FDI for a newspaper.”
The reactions were mixed.
Siddharth’s elder brother, former Newsweek International editor Tunku Varadarajan, who called thambi “the best journalist in India” in a recent magazine interview, tweeted on his brother’s exit:
“The only decent editor The Hindu has had in nearly a decade has been ousted in a squalid boardroom putsch. Hey Ram!”
In contrast, Anant Goenka, the scion of the family-owned Indian Express, tweeted:
“Happy the family seems to be sorting their issues out—stability at The Hindu, especially before elections, will benefit India.”
A statement put out by N. Ram, who was appointed chairman of Kasturi & Sons Limited at Monday’s board meeting, read:
“N. Ravi has taken over as Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, and Malini Parthasarathy as Editor of The Hindu. Arun Anant is no longer the Chief Executive Officer of Kasturi & Sons Limited, the company that owns and publishes The Hindu Group of publications. N. Ram has become Chairman of KSL and Publisher of The Hindu and Group publications; and N. Murali, Co-Chairman of the company. These decisions were taken by the Board of Directors of the Company at its meeting on Monday.
“In consequence, Siddharth Varadarajan, who was made Contributing Editor and Senior Columnist, The Hindu, has submitted his resignation.
“The Board also decided to allocate specific responsibilities to other Directors.
“The decision to make deep-going changes was made chiefly on the ground that there were recurrent violations and defiance of the framework of the institution’s longstanding values on the business side, and recurrent violations and defiance of ‘Living Our Values’, the mandatory Code of Editorial Values applicable to The Hindu. The whole effort is to restore employee morale, good industrial relations, and the trust of this newspaper’s more than two million readers.
“The existing editorial arrangements for Business Line, Frontline, Sportstar, and The Hindu (Tamil) will continue unchanged and the process of professionalisation, now involving a mix of shareholder-Directors and other professionals, will continue.
“The 135-year-old institution reaffirms its commitment to its core editorial and business values, and excellence in journalism.”
Below are the facsimiles of the board resolution:
For the record, G. Kasturi, who played a pivotal role in the last round of blood-letting in the paper (several members of the family including N. Ram’s brothers N. Murali and N. Ravi, and cousins Malini Parathasarathy and Nirmala Lakshman resigned at Varadarajan’s appointment), passed away in September 2012.
At the time of quitting, Malini Parathasarathy (who now runs The Hindu centre for policy and public policy) had tweeted:
“Siddharth [Varadarajan] far junior to me appointed as Editor makes it untenable to continue“… “Tremendous family jealousy and misogyny“
Kasturi’s sons—K. Balaji and K. Venugopal—have, among others, reportedly put on record their opposition to the latest changes.
Also, for the record, the Bangalore-based family-owned newspapers Deccan Herald and Praja Vani have seen a similar rearrangement of the editor, depending on board-room dynamics, but all within the family.
First, the eldest of the three brothers K.N. Hari Kumar was ousted as editor after his younger brothers K.N. Tilak Kumar and K.N. Shanth Kumar joined hands. Then the first and second joined hands to remove the third. Eventually, the second and the third joined hands to restore status quo ante.
Photograph: via Facebook
Also read: N. Murali: Hindu is run like a banana republic
N. Ravi: Why I quit The Hindu
Malini Parathsarathy: Why I quit The Hindu
Nirmala Lakshman: Why I quit The Hindu