Posts Tagged ‘Kasturi & Sons’

Hindu’s longest serving editor G. Kasturi: RIP

21 September 2012

sans serif records the demise of Gopalan Kasturi aka G. Kasturi, the longest-serving editor of The Hindu in Madras, early today. He was 87.

Although he was the helmsman of a supposedly “orthodox, conservative” newspaper, Kasturi was renowned in the industry as a torchbearer, showing the way with his knowledge of fonts, photography and printing technology, and using aeroplanes and satellites to make copies available from multiple centres.

N. Ram, the former editor-in-chief of The Hindu, who noisily squabbled with his uncle before the two joined hands in the Hindu boardroom, paid a glowing tribute on the paper’s website:

“Earlier and more clearly and determinedly than most of his media contemporaries and fellow Editors, he saw the need for the newspaper industry and journalism to embrace new and state-of-the-art technology and adapt it to our conditions while preserving the core values of journalism.

“Many a leap in newspaper technology – offset printing, facsimile transmission of whole newspaper pages, photocomposition, full-page pagination, colour scanning – found its first Indian champion in my uncle, who was always hands-on, side by side with the technical experts.

“He was enthusiastic about internet journalism and digital technology and almost till the end was regularly on his iMac working on page design and photographs and savouring the best of international newspaper websites. He believed that Indian newspapers had to raise their game in terms of production values and must not take their readers for granted.”

***

A low-profile editor of the old school, Kasturi also, sadly, suffered from the perception of being seen as an “establishment” man through much of his tenure, especially during the darkest phase of the Indian media, the Emergency.

In a 2010 article, Kuldip Nayar, the veteran editor and author, wrote that The Hindu under Kasturi (alongside The Hindustan Times) was the worst offender under Indira Gandhi‘s censorious regime:

“Hindu’s editor G. Kasturi became a part of the establishment. He headed Samachar, the news agency that was formed after the merger of PTI, UNI and Hindustan Samachar. He obeyed the government diktat on how to purvey a particular story or suppress it. He could not withstand government pressure.”

***

In 1989, when the Bofors scandal was at its peak, Kasturi got into a public spat with his nephew and then associate editor, N. Ram, as the shadow of the scam lengthened.

In October that year, The Hindu published the first part of a three-page article (authored by Ram and Chitra Subramanian) with the promise “To be continued”. However, Kasturi blocked the second instalment and published a front-page note explaining the discontinuation.

It read:

“Enough has been written supported by extensive documentation in The Hindu to establish the face of the cover-up and the non-serious pursuit of the investigation by the official agenies and give the lie to the government’s latest assertions.”

Miffed, Ram went public and issued a statement against his uncle (G.Kasturi is Ram’s father, G. Narasimhan‘s brother) for acting “arbitrarily, capriciously and in a manner highly derogatory of the traditions, norms and values of independent, ethical journalism,” and calling the editor’s note “a conspicuous insult to the traditions of independent, intellectually and socially serious, and ethical journalism.”

***

In 2003, Kasturi backed Ram in overthrowing his brother N. Ravi and their cousin Malini Parthasarathy as editor and executive editor, respectively, of The Hindu.

And in 2010 and 2011, Kasturi again backed Ram in a messy board-room battle for “professionalising” the paper that resulted in the exit of his brothers N. Murali and N. Ravi from their positions in the family-owned newspaper—and stalled Malini Parthasarathy’s bid to become the paper’s first woman editor.

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Graphic: courtesy Forbes India

***

Also read: The four great wars of N. Ram on Hindu soil

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

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

EPW, the ‘Economist’ of emerging countries?

26 November 2011

The former West Bengal finance minister, economist and left ideologue, Ashok Mitra, in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“Gentlemen do not engage in public brawl; if they have a grievance to air, they write to the London Times. That was the British code…. The Indian gentry, as could only be expected, inherited the code of the ruling nation….  For all of them, the British convention of unburdening one’s point of view in letters to newspaper editors became the accepted mode.

“A geographical distribution of the load of the letters that got written took place almost in the natural course. Gentlemen in the south — and occasionally ladies — would write to the stodgy Hindu owned by the Kasturi family. Those in the west wrote to The Times of India, managed by the Bennett Coleman group, which had already passed on to Indian hands.

“Letters from the northern region would crowd into the office of the Hindustan Times, owned by the Birlas and edited by the Mahatma’s son, Devdas Gandhi. For the East, the preferred destination was the Chowringhee Square address in Calcutta of the still-British-owned Statesman, slightly hoity-toity, but at least continuing to be jealous of the elegance of its language and grammar.

“The habitué of the writing-letters-to-the-editor club are miffed to no end by the steady plebeianization of the entire lot of what were once described as national newspapers; these look more and more tabloid with every day and have ceased to be ambassadors of daily tidings from all over the country and the world. The intellectual community, in particular, is disconcerted; it is, it feels, beneath its dignity to have its contributions besmirched by being printed next to pictures of damsels in G-strings and money-crazy cricketers caught red-handed for spot-fixing — those pearls of wisdom deserve a better receptacle for display. It is now increasingly turning to the Economic & Political Weekly. A weekly publication with its limited circulation is not quite the same thing. Even so, the EPW has at least the imprimatur of respectability; it is supposed to be the leading social science journal coming out of Asia; it is, some say, the Economist of the emerging countries.”

Read the full article: If the price is right

Also read: EPW journalist bags Appan Menon award

EPW: Top-6 dailies devote 2% coverage on rural issues

The Economist: How to get from B to A

The Economist: A newspaper that’s a genuine viewspaper

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

21 July 2011

This is the full text of Nirmala Lakshman‘s July 20 letter to the board of directors of Kasturi & Sons, the holding company of The Hindu, on why she can no longer continue as the joint editor of the paper, following the elevation of Delhi bureau chief Siddharth Varadarajan as the next editor of the paper.

Unlike her cousin N. Ravi and her sister Malini Parthasarathy, who have consistently opposed the decisions of N. Ram & Co, Nirmala went along with last year’s”demotion” of N. Murali, which entailed the controversial appointment of her son Narayan Lakshman as the paper’s Washington D.C. correspondent.

The nearly identical tone of the resignation letters of Ravi, Malini and Nirmala give the indication that it is part of a strategy as the company law board prepares to hear The Hindu on a daily basis, as directed by the Supreme Court. They are also, in a sense, a hint that it will not be all smooth sailing for the professionals.

***

Dear colleagues,

It is with a deep sense of disappointment and sadness that I write this letter. The present board of directors has used a tenuous majority to force me out of my position as joint editor of The Hindu.  With the appointment of Siddharth Varadarajan as editor it has become untenable for me to continue as joint editor of The Hindu.

I would like to state for the record that I strongly protest this manner of trying to reorganize the company; with little foresight, complete insensitivity, and a lack of grace and decency. Opportunistic factionalism has taken precedence over concern for the institution’s welfare and progress as demonstrated in recent months.

Under the guise of professionalizing, experienced and professionally trained family members who have worked conscientiously and tirelessly for this institution for decades have been jettisoned to serve the self interest, the misguided perceptions and the personal agenda of a few.

With competitors making alarming inroads into our territory, functioning in this cavalier manner and playing the numbers game does not bode well for the future of The Hindu.

I would like to also reiterate that I am not “stepping down” as per the majority propelled board diktat but resigning of my own accord as joint editor. I will however continue as whole time director of the company.

Please take this letter on record.

Nirmala Lakshman

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

Malini Parthasarathy quits as Hindu exec editor

Malini Parthasarathy: Why I quit Hindu as executive editor

The four great wars of N. Ram on Hindu soil

Why N. Ravi quit as Hindu’s editor after 20 years

21 July 2011

This is the full text of N. Ravi‘s July 20 letter to the board of directors of Kasturi & Sons, the holding company of The Hindu, on why he can no longer continue as the editor of the paper, following the elevation of Delhi bureau chief Siddharth Varadarajan as the next editor of the paper.

***

Dear colleagues

I write this letter with a deep sense of distress over the unsavoury happenings in the company that we and generations before us have nurtured with great care and dedication.

You are all aware that I have been working in a professional capacity in The Hindu since 1972.  The period when I was in charge as Editor between 1991 and 2003 saw the unprecedented expansion in the reach and coverage of The Hindu, and its transformation into a truly national newspaper that engaged in a lively and interesting way with the issues of the day.

The Hindu was then occupying the second position among the English language newspapers in terms of circulation.  The primacy of the editorial side was firmly established, fair coverage and diversity of opinions were ensured and the newspaper stood up to the pressures from governments as well.

It was also a period when people went about their work with total commitment and dedication with little inclination for boardroom politicking.  A fair degree of harmony was established among family members in 2000 which, however, lasted only until 2003.

Recent events have shown that deceit, lack of probity and bad faith have come into the dealings among family members on the board with a clique being formed through exchange of unmerited favours.

The turn of events since September 2009, and particularly since February 2010, have been marked by reneging on commitments made and agreements reached, benefiting from favours but not honouring reciprocal obligations and the vindictive removal of responsibilities from some and handing them to inexperienced and unsuitable family members to humour them and shore up support for a clique.

After having sworn by tradition and continuity for so long, to suddenly seek to remove highly qualified shareholder family members from the posts they have been holding for decades reeks of vindictiveness and the pursuit of colourable personal agendas.

A combination of megalomania and a crass disregard of the values that The Hindu has always stood for has brought the institution to this sorry state. It is shocking that some of the board members should want to run a media institution like a company producing plastic buckets with purely commercial considerations and unethical practices overwhelming editorial interests and values, thereby damaging the credibility of the newspaper.

The whole exercise of removal from posts on the editorial side is sought to be carried out in the guise of professionalisation as if the family shareholders holding positions on the editorial side are not in themselves qualified professionals.

Also, any claim of professionalisation is a sham as the separation of ownership from management is being applied selectively to some shareholders even as some other shareholders including wholly unqualified persons are being allowed to continue in high positions.

Ironically, the board clique that now speaks of professionalisation has been resisting suggestions to frame norms for the selection of family members to different posts and has been continuing to distribute responsibilities as largesses arbitrarily and without regard to qualifications.

The same arbitrary, non-professional procedure was followed even in the case of the appointment of Siddharth Varadarajan: his name was announced for the first time at a board meeting and passed without any discussion in a few minutes.

There were no selection procedures or prior consultation or evaluation of candidates that are normally followed in any well run company. In other words, the start of the so called professionalisation process has itself been carried out in a wholly arbitrary, non-professional way.

You are all aware that the board clique that removed the responsibilities of N. Murali was indicted by the Company Law Board in CP 25 of 2010 as lacking in probity and good faith. The same lack of probity and good faith is on display now in dealing with the reorganization of the editorial side and the actions of the board clique have been challenged in a company petition.

While the SLP before the Supreme Court stands disposed of without a stay but with directions for expedited hearing, the company petition is still pending before the CLB.

In the circumstances, the unseemly hurry in pushing through the appointment of Siddharth Varadarajan as Editor has made my continuance as Editor untenable. I hereby resign as Editor of The Hindu to which post I was designated in 1991.  However, I will continue as a wholetime director.

Sincerely,

N. Ravi

Also read: Malini Parthasarathy quits as Hindu exec editor

Malini Parthasarathy: Why I quit Hindu as executive editor

The four great wars of N. Ram on Hindu soil

 

 

Malini Parthasarathy: Why I quit ‘The Hindu’

21 July 2011

This is the full text of Malini Parthasarathy‘s July 20 letter to the board of directors of Kasturi & Sons, the holding company of The Hindu, on why she can no longer continue as executive editor of the paper, following the elevation of Delhi bureau chief Siddharth Varadarajan as the next editor of the paper.

***

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing this letter with a strong sense of hurt and anguish.

I have served this newspaper for the last 28 years with great earnestness, faith and a real sense of commitment in various capacities, starting as a staff reporter in Madras, and despite tremendous resistance from vested interests in the establishment, strong family and gender prejudice, have managed to make a substantive contribution to this newspaper’s glorious editorial heritage and reputation.

I was proud, as a granddaughter of Kasturi Srinivasan, a great Editor of The Hindu, to have risen through the editorial ranks and established a strong presence in the public arena even as I worked tirelessly to help build on the Hindu’s primary strengths—its editorial integrity and its commitment to journalism in its real sense, telling the news story as it really unfolds, without fear or favour.

In 2003, the strong family jealousies and prejudice intervened to pull away all my editorial responsibilities reflecting in an extremely personal and vindictive hate campaign, tarnishing my reputation, making me out to be “extra-constitutional” a “usurper” despite my more than two decades of editorial service, my academic qualifications and ground experience and despite the fact that I was an editorial functionary appointed by the Board of Directors.

Battling this tremendously debilitating hate campaign spearheaded by the present editor-in-chief, N. Ram and a cabal which tried every trick in the book to discredit my work for The Hindu, caricaturing me, making stinging references to my past personal difficulties, I still tried to make a contribution these last eight years to the editorial structure.

I spent all my evenings in the newsroom, tried to make constructive interventions only to be overruled and ridiculed in public. Although the daily humiliations were unbearable, I endured all this with the faith in this Board, that ultimately fairness and justice would prevail.

I did believe that this Board believed in equality of opportunity and it would recognise the work I had done for The Hindu but this was clearly not to be.

In bringing in Siddharth Varadarajan, an outsider with no familiarity with the Hindu’s rich editorial inheritance and no particular institutional loyalty, in the guise of “professionalising and contemporising”, what is sought to be done is to eliminate qualified successors from the family.

I deeply regret that my legitimate professional aspirations, especially as I had no hidden personal agenda nor any other stake in The Hindu were so belittled and so rudely rebuffed.

I am also deeply worried for the future of the newspaper given the scheme that is being contemplated by a group of directors who want to reduce the role of the Editor to another functionary in the company, sitting along with business side executives, treating the editorial operations as another branch of the corporate banyan tree.

By no  means is this contemporising or professionalising editorial operations. This is only legitimizing the incursions of personal agendas into editorial operations. While being market-friendly is certainly necessary, succumbing to a range of dangerous personal agendas including gross self-promotion is not in the interest of this great newspaper.

I am resigning from the post of executive editor since my continuance has become untenable with the Board seeking to humiliate me by putting a junior professional like Siddharth Varadarajan over me as editor.

I, however, remain a wholetime director of the company.

Sincerely

Malini Parthasarathy

Also read: Malini Parthasarathy quits as Hindu executive editor

The four great wars of N. Ram on Hindu soil

Kuldip Nayar: N. Ram stalling Malini Parthasarathy‘s ascent

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

23 April 2011

G. Kasturi (left), with editor-in-chief N. Ram (centre) and his younger brother, managing director N. Murali, at the 125th anniversary celebrations of The Hindu, in September 2003

ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from Madras: As if to prove the old adage that blood is thicker than water, there have been four rounds of internecine strife in the last 22 years in the undivided Hindu family that owns and runs India’s “most respected” newspaper.

To no one’s surprise, Narasimhan Ram aka N. Ram, the card-carrying Marxist who drove CPI (M) strongman E.M.S. Namboodiripad around town, and was a college mate of current CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, has been the central figure in all four of them.

Equally unsurprisingly, the warring parties in the first round have found themselves on the same side of the war in the next three skirmishes.

***

The first great HINDU mahayudh of 1989

At war: Editor G. Kasturi and associate editor N. Ram

The issue: Discontinuation of Bofors investigation

The war: Uncharacteristically, The Hindu which prides itself as a “newspaper of record”, goes ballistic about the Bofors scandal, thanks to Chitra Subramaniam, who has hopped over to the paper from The Indian Express, carrying the Bofors legacy. Chitra and N. Ram, then no.2 in the editorial hierarchy, do a number of jointly bylined stories. In October 1989, The Hindu publishes the first part of a three-page article with the promise “To be continued”.

However, Kasturi blocks the second instalment and publishes a front-page note explaining the discontinuation. It reads, “Enough has been written supported by extensive documentation in The Hindu to establish the face of the cover-up and the non-serious pursuit of the investigation by the official agenies and give the lie to the government’s latest assertions.”

Miffed, Ram goes public and issues a statement against his uncle (G.Kasturi is Ram’s father, G. Narasimhan‘s brother) for acting “arbitrarily, capriciously and in a manner highly derogatory of the traditions, norms and values of independent, ethical journalism,” and calling the editor’s note “a conspicuous insult to the traditions of independent, intellectually and socially serious, and ethical journalism.”

At a press conference, Ram also freely distributes the unpublished second-part of the Bofors investigation, with all the relevant documents, and invites newspapers to carry it. Ram also approaches the Press Council of India with a 15-page complaint against G. Kasturi.

The fallout: Ram is divested of his responsibilities at The Hindu, and sinecured to take charge of the group’s fortnightly, Frontline, and the sports weekly, Sportstar. G. Kasturi makes way for N. Ram’s youngest brother N. Ravi, who takes over as editor in 1991. From the other side of the family tree, Ram’s cousin Nirmala Lakshman becomes joint editor, and her sister Malini Parthasarathy becomes executive editor under Ravi. Chitra Subramaniam exits The Hindu and has “many harsh things to say about Ram.”

***

The second great HINDU mahayudh of 2003

At war: Editor N. Ravi and executive editor Malini Parthasarathy, versus N. Ram (backed by G. Kasturi)

The issue: The editorial direction of The Hindu

The war: Against the backdrop of complaints that the paper was veering far too much to the left and alienating “loyal” readers with its anti-Jayalalitha and anti-Hindu stance, the board of directors of Kasturi & Sons passes a resolution appointing whole-time director N. Ram (till then editor of Frontline and Sportstar) as editor-in-chief of The Hindu, placing him over editor N. Ravi.

The change of guard comes just three months before the 125h anniversary celebrations of the “Mount Road Mahavishnu.

“It is true that our readers have been complaining that some of our reports are partial and lack objectivity. But it also depends on reader beliefs,” joint managing director N. Murali, the brother of N. Ram and N. Ravi, is quoted as saying. Ram takes charge, promising to keep news and opinion separate.

The fallout: Ram presides over the 125th anniversary, with neither Ravi nor Malini in the frame. In November 2003, the Tamil Nadu government turns The Hindu into a cause celebre by ordering the arrest of the publisher of The Hindu, S. Rangarajan, journalists V. Jayanth and Radha Venkatesan, and N. Ravi and Malini Parthasarathy for breach of privilege of the assembly for articles that had appeared in April of that year. Although they continued to be editor and executive editor respectively, neither Ravi nor Malini write for several years.

Tamil Nadu police enter the cubicle of editor-in-chief N. Ram at The Hindu offices, in November 2003

***

The third great HINDU mahayudh of 2010

At war: N. Ram (backed by G. Kasturi) versus N. Murali  and N. Ravi

The issues: Retirement norms for family member-directors; entry norms into the business for younger members of the family; overall corporate governance issues

The war: The two aggrieved brothers of N. Ram say he reneged on a September 2009 promise to retire by May 2010 upon turning 65, thus paving the way for N. Ravi to take over as editor-in-chief.

By a 9-3 vote, the Hindu board kicks N. Murali upstairs by making him senior managing director confining his powers to only the circulation department; simultaneously G. Kasturi’s son K. Balaji is made managing director with overarching powers. Ram tells Business Standard that Murali had been redesignated “with his consent at the board meeting” and that Balaji had been appointed MD “as part of succession planning, which has been actively advocated by Murali to his credit.”

But it is the appointment of family members—N. Ram’s daughter Vidya Ram, Nirmala Lakshman’s son Narayan Lakshman, and Nirmala’s (and Malini’s) sister Nalini Krishnan‘s son Ananth Krishnan—as foreign correspondents that has most tongues wagging.

Malini Parthasarathy, who is not married, is most aggrieved by this turn of events. The Indian Express reports that Ravi and Malini objected to the manner in which “Kasturi’s resources, financial as well as editorial, were used to further the interests of some board members.”

The fallout: Ram makes public the decisions taken by the board in a front-page announcement. The issue goes to the company law board (CLB), which in December 2010 orders the reinstatement of N. Murali as managing director but declines to interfere with new appointments made, including that of K. Balaji as managing director, or to implement a retirement age for family members on the company’s board.

Narayan Lakshman, Vidya Ram and Ananth Krishnan

***

The fourth great HINDU mahayudh of 2011

At war: Editor-in-chief N. Ram, versus N. Ravi, Nirmala Lakshman and Malini Parthasarathy

The issue: Separation of management from editorial

The war: Less than a month before he is to demit office upon turning 65, Ram breaks with tradition and announces that the board has decided to appoint a “professional editor” who will be responsible for selection of news under the PRB act. This, he adds, is to happen when N. Ram steps down as editor-in- chief and N. Ravi steps down as editor.

“The other directors working on the editorial side would also step down from their current editorial designations in such time as the board may decide and become part of a committee of the board of directors known as the editorial board,” the board decides in a 7-5 decision.

N. Ravi, who joined the company in 1972 and was waiting to take over as editor-in-chief from Ram, shoots off a mail to all employees against the “shocking display of bad faith” by his brother. “Ram seems bent on taking all the editorial directors — most are in their 50s — into retirement with him, with a scorched earth policy to ensure that no one in the family succeeds him…. In a sudden change of rules and under the specious plea of separating ownership from management, along with my removal as editor, Nirmala Lakshman is to be forced to “step down” as joint editor and Malini Parthasarathy as executive editor.”

Ravi also accuses Ram of going soft on 2G scam accused A. Raja, of hogging the limelight in an “unceasing self-glorification campaign”, and a pronounced pro-China tilt.  Ravi’s contention that there was quid pro quo amounting to paid news in an interview with A. Raja in exchange for an advertisment is shot down by Ram at a press conference in Delhi, where he calls the charge “egregariously defamatory“.

The fallout: The dispute is likely to go to court. Malini Parthasarathy tweets: “After me the deluge”! Real story at The Hindu is the removal of a sitting Editor and continuing backdoor control of editorial by proxies.” N. Murali, who is away in the United States, says that the attempt to alter the basic structure of the business should be passed with a three-fourths majority by the EGM on May 20.

Also read: Indian Express vs The Hindu; N. Ram vs N. Ravi

Now it’s Malini Parthasarathy vs ‘The Stalinists’

N. Ram is stalling Malini Parthasarathy‘s ascent’

Express declares ceasefire, brothers declare war

When it’s all in the family, it is all in the family

Under N. Ram, The Hindu becomes an apology of a paper

The Hindu adopts a ‘Code of Editorial Values’

22 April 2011

Amid all the internecine strife over who in the family will (or won’t) get to occupy the editorial gaddi, the 12-member board of directors of The Hindu have managed to adopt a code of editorial values, although Mail Today reports that the new nine-point code has not been unanimously adopted by the board.

***

1. The greatest asset of The Hindu, founded in September 1878, is trust. Everything we do as a company revolves, and should continue to revolve, round this hard-earned and inestimable long-term asset. The objective of codification of editorial values is to protect and foster the bond of trust between our newspapers and their readers.

2. The Company must continue to protect the integrity of the newspapers it publishes, their editorial content, and the business operations that sustain and help grow the newspapers.

3. Our editorial values are rooted in the guiding principles The Hindu set out with and communicated to its readers in ‘Ourselves,’ the editorial published in its inaugural issue of September 20, 1878. The world has changed but the principles remain vital for us: fairness and justice. The founding editorial also announces the aim of promoting ‘harmony’ and ‘union’ (unity) among the people of India and a secular editorial policy of maintaining the ‘strictest neutrality’ in matters relating to religion while offering fair criticism and comment ‘when religious questions involve interests of a political and social character.’

4. The core editorial values, universally accepted today by all trustworthy newspapers and newspaper-owning companies, are truth-telling, freedom and independence, fairness and justice, good responsible citizenship, humaneness, and commitment to the social good. Practising these values requires, among other things, the Company’s journalists excelling in the professional disciplines, and especially the discipline of verifying everything that is published. It requires our journalists to maintain independence from those they cover, be fair and just in their news coverage, and avoid conflicts of interest. It means being interesting and innovative, and learning and mastering new ways and techniques of storytelling and presentation of editorial content in this digital age so as to engage readers and promote a lively and mutually beneficial conversation with them. Above all, it means the uncompromising practice of editorial integrity. The Company must endeavour to provide in its publications a fair and balanced coverage of competing interests, and to offer the readers diverse, reasonable viewpoints, subject to its editorial judgment.

5. The Company is fully committed to these values, so that the business and editorial departments and actions, while operating by their own distinctive rules, are on the same page. The two sides must work together closely on the basis of mutual respect and cooperation and in the spirit of living these values in a contemporary sense.

6. The Company recognises that good journalism cannot survive, develop, and flourish unless it is viable and commercially successful.

7. Any potential conflict of interest within the Company will be resolved keeping in mind these values. Among other things, this involves raising the standards of transparency and disclosure in accordance with the best contemporary norms and practices in the field.

8. It is necessary to set and communicate internally and to the public clear standards of journalistic integrity and performance, corporate governance, and business practice.

9. There is no wall but there is a firm line between the business operations of the Company and editorial operations and content. Pursuant to the above-mentioned values and objectives, it is necessary to create a professionalism in the editorial functioning independent of Shareholder interference so as to maintain an impartiality, fairness, and objectivity in editorial and journalistic functioning.

Also read: Indian Express vs The Hindu; N. Ram vs N. Ravi

Now it’s Malini Parthasarathy vs ‘The Stalinists’

N. Ram is stalling Malini Parthasarathy‘s ascent’

Express declares ceasefire, brothers declare war

When it’s all in the family, it is all in the family

When an advertisement becomes the news

22 September 2010

Both The Hindu and The Times of India have today run news items on the buzz created by the Volkswagen Vento “talking” advertisement that the two papers ran.

And both claim they were the “world’s first” newspaper to run the ad, without mentioning the other.

But, to its credit, The Times of India story also mentions the scare and confusion the ad caused. A maid thought there was a ghost in the morning paper. Elders panicked. And a panic call was made to the bomb squad in Bombay after a “beeping sound” was heard from a garbage bin where the paper had been thrown.

Also read: ‘Talking ads’ in The Hindu and The Times of India

Three reasons why the ToI-Volkswagen ad won’t work

Express declares ceasefire; brothers declare war

29 March 2010

The tussle between The Indian Express and The Hindu following the former’s reports (Part I and Part II) on the boardroom happenings in the latter has predictably and understandably gone cold after N. Ram‘s belligerent announcement of “criminal and civil defamation proceedings”.

Express bossman Shekhar Gupta is said to have instructed staff to go easy but the Hindu‘s editor-in-chief delivers a sucker punch by way of a tweet, on the Express‘s widely speculated motive/s for doing the stories.

However, the tussle within The Hindu boardroom—chiefly among three brothers—shows little signs of abating and two business papers, Mint owned by the Hindustan Times group and Business Standard, feast on it in today’s editions, even hinting that it could result in a corporate legal wrangle.

After telephone conversations with the two aggrieved brothers of N. Ram—managing director N. Murali who has been stripped of his powers and kicked upstairs as the senior managing director, and N. Ravi, who is smarting at not getting to be editor-in-chief had Ram retired in May 2010 as per a previously agreed plan—Mint lays out the three key issues facing the family-owned paper.

1) Retirement norms for family member-directors

2) Entry norms into the business for younger members of the family

3) Overall corporate governance issues

Ravi is quoted as saying that discussions on corporate governance norms had been going on for a couple of years now and that he, along with Murali, had prepared a document on it to be circulated among board members in the February 2010 meeting.

By far, though, the Business Standard story throws more light.

Murali is quoted as saying that he…

“…has been ‘singularly targeted, utterly humiliated and sought to be disempowered by being divested of all substantial powers and responsibilities’.”

BS also quotes Murali on record as saying that the proposal for retirement of directors on reaching the age of 65 was moved by him at a September 2009 meeting, as per which Ram as to have remited office this May, Murali next year, and Ravi in 2011.

However, Ram is quoted as saying there was no written record on retirement age.

In an accompanying story, the paper quotes an unnamed member of the board of Kasturi & Sons as saying that moving the company law board (CLB) over issues about running the group was an option.

It reveals that there was a concerted move within the board to confine Murali’s powers to circulation, till the opposition of other members resulted in his getting to share two other responsibilities (accounts and industrial relations) with newly appointed MD, K. Balaji, son of Ram’s mentor and former editor, G. Kasturi.

However, BS quotes Ram as saying that key decisions at the March 20 board meeting, which resulted in the news breaking into the open, were either taken by a majority of 9-3 or unanimously. (The third dissent vote is likely to have come from former executive editor Malini Parthasarathy who stands to lose the most.)

Ram also tells BS that Murali had been redesignated as senior managing director “with his consent at the board meeting” and that Balaji had been appointed MD “as part of succession planning, which has been actively advocated by Murali to his credit.”

However, the real juice is in the issue of the appointments of Generation Next: Nirmala Lakshman‘s son Narayan Lakshman as the new correspondent of The Hindu in Washington DC, and Ram’s daughter Vidya Ram as the European correspondent based in London for The Hindu Business Line.

According to this version of the BS story, available on rediff.com:

“Under central government rules, a decision to include a family member in the organisation with a remuneration of more than Rs 50,000 a month requires the clearance of the central government. There are charges that Lakshman and Vidya were sent to their locations before the clearances came.

“Lakshman was sanctioned $10,000 and Vidya 5,000 pounds as advances from the company. However the central government sent some queries to the company asking for details on the procedures followed or whether a selection committee was set up to appoint them.

“In order to reply to these questions a board resolution was initiated by Ram which was opposed by some members on the ground that he was an interested party.

“Ram has a different version. ‘The two appointments of relatives of directors have been done meticulously in accordance with the requirements of law: Approval by the board, approval by the shareholders, and central government approval. There was no violation of any kind.’

“He says it is elementary that advances for travel expenses on editorial or business assignments are completely different from remuneration or salaries, which are contingent on employment. ‘I declared an interest in my daughter’s appointment and did not participate in any matter in which I should not have.’

Meanwhile, the fracas within The Hindu has become easy meat for those wanting to get their fork (and knife) into the paper.

The security analyst, B. Raman, former additional secretary, in his widely emailed “thoughts for the day”, poses these questions:

(a) Has the time not come for greater transparency in The Hindu group?

(b) Has the time not come for the Government to introduce, in consultation with the media houses, a right to information act relating to media houses?

(c) Is it not in public interest  for the rest of the media to have a debate through their columns on the issues raised by the controversy between The Hindu and The Indian Express?

(d) Are the media houses and journalists holy cows beyond criticism or spotlight?

Raman makes one good point though.

The inadequate information over ownership and editorial control, which the current controversy highlights, he writes, results in…

“the reading public patronising the “Hindu” not being aware of the fact that a small group of members of the same family decide what should be reported to the public and what views and opinions should be disseminated through the columns of the paper. The reading public has difficulty in knowing who is a relative and who is an independent member of the staff capable of providing an objective point of view uninfluenced by the interests of the family.”

A pro-LTTE website also sees in the tussle the premature comeuppance of an editor who dragged The Hindu into adopting an anti-Tamil Eelam line.

Writes TamilNet.com:

“Ram’s Hindu played a major role in translating the desertion of “Colonel” Karuna from the LTTE into a politico-military machination beneficial to Colombo and New Delhi.

“Even after the war ended in Vanni, Ram’s continued support to genocidal Colombo and opposition to Tamil independence signify larger agenda, commented academic circles in Chennai. Some academics have now stopped writing in The Hindu.

“Ram was also accused of playing China’s agent in India by Tibetan organizations.”

Also read: Indian Express vs The Hindu. N. Ram vs N. Ravi

Not just about the brothers, it’s the children too

Now, it’s Malini Parthasarathy vs The Stalinists

Now, it’s Malini Parthasarathy vs ‘The Stalinists’

27 March 2010

In the great undivided Hindu family, the fiery former executive editor Malini Parthasarathy, is the odd woman out after the reassignment of familial duties.

And she lets it hang all out on her Twitter account.

The board of directors of Kasturi & Sons comprises the descendants of four cousins G. Narasimhan, S. Parthasarathy, S. Rangarajan, and G. Kasturi.

Narasimhan’s descendants are N. Ram, N. Murali and N. Ravi. Parthasarathy’s descendants are Malini Parthasarathy, Nirmala Lakshman and Nalini Krishnan. Rangarajan’s descendants are Ramesh Rangarajan, Vijaya Arun and Akila Iyengar. Kasturi’s descendants are K. Balaji, K. Venugopal, and Lakshmi Srinath.

Even a cursory glance at the resolutions of the March 20 board meeting shows that Malini’s sisters have been well taken care of. Nirmala’s son Narayan Lakshman has been posted to London Washington, DC. Nalini’s son Ananth Krishnan is in Beijing. What of Malini, whose removal along with N. Ravi, paved the way for N. Ram?

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