Posts Tagged ‘N. Ram’

10 reasons why ‘The Hindu’ returned to its past

22 November 2013

N. Ram, chairman of Kasturi & Sons Limited and the former editor of The Hindu, on why the “family” reverted to its past after a brief flirtation with “professionals”, in an interview with Shougat Dasgupta of Tehelka:

“Editorialising in news reports, editorialising in the guise of news, which is strictly prohibited by the binding code of editorial values adopted by the Board of Directors of our company in 2011 and displayed on the home page of The Hindu‘s website.

“The Editor being away from our headquarters and most important edition centre and market, Chennai, far too often and far too long, sometimes for events in India and abroad that were peripheral, or completely unrelated, to the work of the newspaper.

“Weakening local coverage in key edition centres, especially our home base, and undertaking campaign journalism.

“Going for a surfeit of personalised columns at the expense of news coverage when space was under great pressure and pagination was being reduced.

“A lack of attention to detail and a failure to put in place an orderly system of editorial decision-making, which was aggravated by the fact that the Editor was frequently away from the headquarters.

“Letting strongly held personal opinions and prejudices get in the way of professional news coverage, so that it became impossible to keep the necessary professional distance in covering and presenting the news.

“Going for ‘soft design’ – chaotic, loud, sometimes garish, lacking any internal consistency or logic – and virtually doing away with the pure design that Mario Garcia, one of the world’s leading newspaper designers, and his team, working with our designers, had put in place for us.

“Making a number of inappropriate or maladroit editorial appointments, which culminated in the appointment of a totally unsuitable Executive Editor in the national capital.

“Resentment grew in some of our major news bureaus and a divide began to appear between the long-timers, who had spent decades of their professional lives with our newspaper and were familiar with its core values, and some of the higher-paid new-comers, often for no fault of the latter.”

Read the full interview: Family vs outsider

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Also read: In family-owned paper, only furniture is fixed

The Hindu issue is more complex than you think’

Hindu‘ family chucks out ‘professional’ redesign

The Hindu situation had become irremediable’

The Hindu redesign was a mishmash, an eyesore’

‘The Hindu redesign was a mishmash, an eyesore’

8 November 2013

The Spanish designer Mario Garcia (in picture, right), who redesigned The Hindu eight years ago before it was “abandoned” by Siddharth Vardarajan upon his appointment as editor, has opened a dialogue with the Madras-based paper now that the 2005 redesign has been restored following the return of the “family” to the helm.

Garcia, who is reputed to have designed hundreds of newspapers around the world, writes that he couldn’t recall any previous instance where a design was resurrected similarly.

“The true test of editorial design is its sustainability and longevity.”

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On his blog, Garcia, who redesigned The Hindu with Jan Kny,  says that rather than respond to individual queries from designers, friends and acquaintances on the paper’s return to his design from Deepak Harichandan‘s “chic design” under Varadarajan, he entered into a dialogue with the Hindu family.

Their responses:

N. Ram, chairman, Kasturi & Sons: “It’s great to have you back at The Hindu through the return of your pure design after an embarrassing period of eclectic, free-for-all experimentation, which brought ‘clutter and chaos’ (and mishmash) to the pages and was, net, an eye-sore (fortunately, it lasted only a couple of years).”

N. Murali, co-chairman, KSL: “The changeover to your original design is also a metaphor for the journalistic values for which The Hindu was renowned, returning to the iconic newspaper.”

N. Ravi, editor-in-chief, The Hindu:  “The decision to return to the pure, classic look that you had brought to The Hindu was easy and obvious and has given us all immense satisfaction. Your pure design had served us admirably since it was adopted in 2005 and had won wide appreciation from readers.  In the last two years, there had been a gradual but noticeable departure from the design and four months ago, new elements and colours that were totally out of line with the concepts and look that you had introduced were introduced.  In the result, the pages looked mangled and chaotic and the newspaper had lost its distinctive character.  The mix of colours introduced was far removed from your palette and made the pages garish.  Designers and page layout editors did not have definite design templates to work on and it became a free for all.  Navigating the content became very difficult, and instead of maintaining the content-related hierarchy on the pages, stories that offered more play for design elements dominated. It was after a hard look at this distortion of the design that we decided to restore your pure design.

“As for the reactions of readers, many had complained before the restoration of your design that The Hindu had lost its distinctive character and was beginning to look like the other newspapers around. After the change, there has been a general and widespread appreciation, with one long time reader saying that it was once again The Hindu that he had admired and enjoyed. The neat, classic look with a well-defined hierarchy and easy navigation as well as the use of your distinctive, classic colour palette are the specific features that have won appreciation.”

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu Business Line

Also read: In family-owned paper, only furniture is fixed

The Hindu issue is more complex than you think’

Hindu‘ family chucks out ‘professional’ redesign

N. Ravi: ‘The Hindu situation had become irremediable’

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Another boiler-plate redesign from Mario Garcia

Good heavens, another Mario Garcia redesign

Yet another paper redesigned by Mario Garcia

How come Mario Garcia didn’t redesign this one?

Finally, a redesign not done by Mario Garcia

Not just a newspaper, a no-paid-news newspaper!

1 November 2013

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It speaks for the level of distrust that the media has managed to earn for itself that the front page of the Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar carries an emblem in Hindi (right) alongside the masthead, in the space usually reserved for ear-panel advertisements, proclaiming “No Paid News”.

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Two years ago, the Bombay newspaper DNA, in which the Dainik Bhaskar group held a stake (which it later divested in favour of Subhash Chandra‘s Zee) too carried a similar logo.

When The Hindu started printing an edition from Mohali in 2011, its then editor-in-chief N. Ram made a front-page declaration that it would not serve up news that somebody else has paid for”.

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Dainik Bhaskar‘s “No Paid News” emblem, however, does not appear in Divya Bhaskar, the Gujarati paper owned by the group.

The paper was in the news last Sunday when it carried a front-page, eight-column flyer-interview by Dhimant Purohit on Sunday, quoting the State’s chief minister Narendra Modi as saying that India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had not attended the funeral of home minister Vallabhbhai Patel.

Dainik Bhaskar too carried the Divya Bhaskar story as a page-one, eight-column flyer, but two days later, Divya Bhaskar later printed a front-page “clarification”

Soon after the clarification, Modi tweeted, “Divya Bhaskar has clarified on a statement about Sardar Patel’s funeral wrongly attributed to me. I thank them for it.”

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In a simple but smart use of archival material, The Economic Times ran a graphic, containing the front-page of The Times of India, which called Modi’s (and Divya Bhaskar‘s) bluff.

Images: courtesy Divya Bhaskar, Dainik Bhaskar, The Economic Times

Also read: Good morning, your paper is free of paid news

A paper without paid news for North Indians

***

‘Media’s Modi-fixation needs medical attention’

How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feast, a promo’

For cash-struck TV, Modi is effective TRP

”The Hindu’ situation had become irremediable’

29 October 2013

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The “professional” editor may have been eased out by redesignating him; the services of the “professional” CEO may have been summarily terminated; and the front page of the paper may have returned to its past.

But The Hindu saga is not over yet.

After six board members on the 11-member board of Kasturi & Sons (K. Balaji, K. Venugopal, Ramesh Rangarajan, Lakshmi Srinath, Vijaya Arun and Akhila Vijay Iyengar) wrote to the other five against the removal of Siddharth Varadarajan and Arun Anant, the chairman of the board N. Ram has responded in kind through a seven-page response, with the operative paragraphs on pages 3 and 4.

“The discussions on the performance of Mr Siddharth Varadarajan as Editor of The Hindu was in fact a continuation of the discussions in the Board meeting held on August 20, 2013 as reflected clearly in the minutes of the meeting approved unanimously at the meeting on October 21, 2013. Not a single Director had any words of praise for or defence of his performance. Mr Siddharth Varadarajan had been informed in detail by me as Chairman of the previous meeting Board meeting of the view of the Board and some Directors had raised such issues with him periodically. Mr N. Murali, Mr. N. Ravi, Ms Malini Parthasarathy, and I referred to many instances of gross and continued violation of the binding Code of Editorial Values in terms of editorialising in the guise of news coverage, unfair and exaggerated reporting, banning or downplaying coverage of certain personalities with personal preference and prejudice, overriding professional news judgement, unsatisfactory coverage in the in main Chennai market, frequent absences from Chennai, and inadequate time and commitment to the overall task of editing the newspaper. Some of you wanted these issues address with Mr Siddharth Varadarajan. I pointed out that these issues had been taken up with him repeatedly to no effect and Mr. N Ravi expressed the view that the situation had become irremediable.

“Mr. K. Venugopal made the suggestion at the meeting that the Board should vote on reposing confidence in the then CEO and the erstwhile business and editorial arrangement. I then put the following resolution to vote: “Resolved that the present structure be retained”. Mr K. Venugopal declared that he was voting for his resolution and five others voted in favour. As rightly noted in your letter, six Directors opposed the resolution and the motion consequently failed in the absence of a sufficient majority. It was therefore evident that the erstwhile management structure had become untenable and the Company could not continue to repose trust and confidence in the then Editor and the then CEO. Of necessity and solely with a view to preventing the newspaper’s activities from coming to a grinding half, the managerial supervision of the business and editorial affairs of the Company had perforce to be reorganised.

“It was in this vacuum that I circulated the draft of a resolution of the new structure and allowed the Directors time to go through it before starting discussions on it. The main elements of the proposed structure had been discussed repeatedly in Board meetings as well as outside. Thereafter, discussions on the proposed structure followed with some Directors expressing support and others expressing opposition to it. When the draft resolution assigning that I, in my capacity as Chairman, out of necessity and in the interest of the Company, exercised my casting vote to approve the resolution. Failing this, not only would an unacceptable crisis have arisen in leadership but the very citadel of the newspaper built over more than a century would have been grievously threatened. Such a situation would certainly have been exploited by the Company’s competitors to the obvious disadvantage of the newspaper’s loyal readers. Consequently, the management of the Company who undoubtedly have tremendous experience and credentials in this regard….”

Also read: In family-owned paper, only furniture is fixed

The Hindu issue is more complex than you think’

Hindu‘ family chucks out ‘professional’ redesign

‘Hindu family’ chucks out ‘professional’ redesign

25 October 2013

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Four days after The Hindu board summarily decided to pause its ongoing “professionalisation” process, the Mount Road Mahavishnu has reverted to its previous design, as promised by chairman N. Ram in a tweet (below).

On the left (top) is the October 21 issue, the last with Varadarajan at the helm, and on the right is the October 24 issue with editor-in-chief N. Ravi back in the editorial saddle.

Very little of Deepak Harichandan‘s “chic new design” is left in the new “old” paper, which was designed by India’s favourite Spanish designer, Mario Garcia after Ram’s return as editor.

The banner-panels are gone; the story slugs are gone; the “Short Takes” on the left have shifted to the right as “Briefly”; the font of the lead story is back to the past; the emblematic blue colour for story jumps gives way to beige, etc.

Only the tagline “India’s National Newspaper since 1878″ remains, although its colour too has changed from blue to red.

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deepak Like all redesigns, Harichandan’s visualisation for The Hindu—a “pastiche‘ of The Times of India and The New Indian Express, where he had worked—had its fans and foes, amongst journalists within The Hindu and, more importantly, readers.

While the younger lot said it was the way to go if it had to catch up with the times, the “old school” squirmed at design taking precedence over text, while older readers complained of how difficult it was to navigate through the paper and virtually impossible to read the graphics.

Photograph: courtesy newspaper design

Also read: The great grandmother of all newspaper battles

Another boiler-plate redesign from Mario Garcia

Good heavens, another Mario Garcia redesign

Yet another paper redesigned by Mario Garcia

How come Mario Garcia didn’t redesign this one?

Finally, a redesign not done by Mario Garcia

In a family-owned paper, only furniture is fixed

21 October 2013

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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 thambithe 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:

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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.

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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

When ‘Indian Express’ gave ‘The Hindu’ a story

18 June 2013

N. Ram (left) with Shekhar Gupta at a meeting in 2011 with Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan (right)

In October 1989, when The Hindu‘s then associate editor, N. Ram, was stopped in his tracks by his uncle and editor, G. Kasturi, from publishing the third part of an investigation into the Bofors gun deal, Ram found a novel method of getting the story out.

He called a press conference and handed out the story—done in collaboration with the paper’s Geneva correspondent Chitra Subramaniam—to any newspaper interested in carrying it.

In much the same manner, Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta has revealed how, in 2006, he found a way of getting out a story related to the elevation of a Delhi high court to the Punjab and Haryana high court, by giving the third part of the story to The Hindu.

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In a Walk the Talk interview with Gupta on NDTV 24×7 last week, the serial letter-writer Subhash Agarwal revealed how a family dispute led to his becoming a right to information (RTI) activist.

Agarwal’s uncle, Hari Ram, had filed a case against his father in 1991.

Hari Ram’s son-in-law was, at the time, a judge in the Delhi High Court (Justice Arun Kumar). The case was heard by Justice Vijendra Jain. The two judges knew each other well enough for Justice Jain to lend his official residence to be used by the petitioner Hari Ram, for his grand-daughter’s wedding.

This was in violation of one of the elements of the Code of Conduct or “Restatement of Judicial Values”, adopted by the Full court in 1997 which said no judge shall hear and decide a case of his relative or friend.

The wedding invitation card, with the judge’s residence printed on it, became the evidence for Subash Agarwal to approach both the Supreme Court and the President of India in 2005.  The chief information commissioner’s verdict showed the power of RTI.

Justice Vijendra Jain was later made chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana high court, but his elevation to the Supreme Court as a judge was stalled, despite the then chief justice Y.K. Sabharwal reportedly overruling the recommendation of the President of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Shekhar Gupta: So you discovered then the power of RTI which nobody had figured until then?

Subash Agarwal: Yes. The media made me strong. The media highlighted the CIC verdict and that shook the whole of the judiciary.

What happened to these judges then?

After the CIC verdict was published in the media, there was pressure on my uncle from his son-in-law and his associates in the higher judiciary, which also included the Chief Justice of India. And then he had to compromise though we had to pay a price much higher than the value of (the disputed) property at that time.

But the fact also is that one particular judge who later rose to be Chief Justice in a High Court could not ultimately come to the Supreme Court because of your activism.

Right. Mr Kalam held the file of promotion of that judge for elevation to the Supreme Court.

Even though the Chief Justice nearly overruled [the then President], Dr A.P.J. Kalam.

Yes.

You remember that The Indian Express was in the forefront of following that story from Rashtrapati Bhavan. It’s a story I cannot yet tell on camera but we paid gravely for that, but we were willing to pay.

Yes. Your paper has always been the pioneer in highlighting such malpractices.

I made this disclosure public that our third story on that issue, I had to then, with great respect and understanding, give to The Hindu, to Mr N Ram, who played a great editor and published it instead because circumstances were such that the Express could not have carried it…So, this was the first time that an RTI activist actually prevented a judge who had risen to the level of High Court Chief Justice from coming to the Supreme Court.

He had almost reached the Supreme Court.

Coincidentally, in November 2006, the Indian Express‘ new editorial headquarters in the Qutub institutional area was “sealed”  following a Supreme Court judgement.

Ironically, in 2011, The Indian Express and The Hindu were involved in a noisy battle, after N. Ram threatened “defamation proceedings” against the Express for reporting on the internecine war within the Hindu family.

Photograph: courtesy in.com

Read the full interview: Jan Andolan activism has failed’

Also read: Letter-writer secures win against top judge

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.”

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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.”

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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

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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

Kuldip Nayar on Shekhar Gupta, N. Ram & Co

5 July 2012

Kuldip Nayar, 89, the grand old lion of Indian journalism—former editor of the Statesman in Delhi, former managing editor of the United News of India news agency, former correspondent of the London Times, former media advisor to the late prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, former high commissioner of India to the United Kingdom, and above all a secular, liberal peace monger—has just published his memoirs.

Titled Beyond the Lines (Roli Books, Rs 495), the book brings home a man who can legitimately claim to have seen Mahatma Gandhi at prayer, quizzed Jawaharlal Nehru, watched Mohammed Ali Jinnah closely, worked with Shastri and Govind Ballabh Pant, all figures who are part of history books to whole generations.

The book also throws light on Nayar, the lionhearted journalist who opposed the Emergency and rubbed shoulders with generations of journalists and proprietors:

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SHANTI PRASAD JAIN, The Times of India: T.T. Krishmachari was still in the cabinet when Shastri assigned to me the task of findings out from Shanti Prasad Jain whether he would be willing to sell Bennett Coleman, which published the Times of India, Nav Bharat Times and other publications. They were being run by a board that the government had appointed when TTK told Nehru that the owners had been found indulging in malpractices.

Shanti Prasad and his talented wife, Rama Jain, were known to me as we played bridge together. Shanti Prasad had told me to start a Hindi UNI service which he promised to subsidize. I was embarrassed to have to carry Shastri’s message to him. He was upset. He told me that even if he had to sell all his business, including the house in which he was living, he would never sell the Times of India. Shastri returned Bennett Coleman to him.

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C.R. IRANI, The Statesman: I was unhappy in the Statesman. Irani had reduced me to the position of consulting editor from resident editor. He then wanted me to vacate my room as well, and asked me to sit somewhere else. Subsequently, he withdrew my peon and telephone too.

What hurt me most was that a colleague and a friend S. Nihal Singh, tried to effect the changes. It was in fact he who conveyed Irani’s decision to me. Nihal’s attitude exuded authority which was humiliating. I could understand Irani’s action but not those of Nihal who himself subsequently suffered at Irani’s hands and had to leave the Statesman.

The only person who stood by me during those days was my secretary, G. Barret. She refused to work with Nihal and preferred to stay on with me. I was reduced to writing only my weekly column, ‘Between the Lines’. Irani tried to stop that too but did not succeed because the editor N.J. Nanporia refused to permit that.

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SHEKHAR GUPTA, The Indian Express: I hired many journalists but two of the recruits, Shekhar Gupta and Madhu Kishwar, became celebrities. Shekhar Gupta called me his ‘guru’ but showed no respect when he stopped my fortnightly column. By then he had become all in all in the Express, circumstances having helped him to occupy the position of editor-in-chief. He also became abnormally affluent as well as arrogant.

I liked him when he was a simple straightforward journalist at Chandigarh. Now, Shekhar Gupta was infatuated with himself. His personal views and other considerations shaped the Indian Express which was once India’s most anti-establishment newspaper.

(Update: On its website, Roli Books has issued this clarification: “The new edition of Kuldip Nayar’s widely popular autobiography, Beyond the Lines, now comes with several changes including his remarks relating to Shekhar Gupta, Editor, the Express Group, and his reference to a former president of Sikh Student’s Union, both of which he retracted and regretted for at the launch. All subsequent editions of the book come with these changes.”)

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RAMNATH GOENKA, The Indian Express: What shocked me was that RNG removed V.K. Narasimhan, who as editor-in-chief had kept the defiant stance of the Indian Express intact, a couple of days after Indira Gandhi lost power. His name was removed from the print line and substituted by S. Mulgaonkar’s, without Narasimhan’s knowledge.

He resigned to register his protest. The entire senior editorial staff signed a petition against Goenka’s action. I was approached to sign it. I told them that I would not do so but after speaking to Goenka who was in the guest-house. I asked if the news about Narasimhan’s removal was correct.

He said he had to restore Mulgaonkar to his position to correct the wrong done to him. ‘Was it necessary to do so in the manner you have,’ I asked. He said that he should have reverted Narasimha to his original position at the Financial Express and seemed regretful.

When I told him about the revolt in the office he said they should not forget what he has gone through during the Emergency. I could see repentance on his face. He wanted me to go to Narasimhan’s house and bring him back. I went there and found him sitting in the floor having a cup of coffee his wife had prepared. I requested him to rejoin as editor of the Financial Express and assured him that RNG was apologetic.

For Narasimhan, the question of joining the Express group again did not arise. He asked me how long had I known RNG. Before I could reply, he said: ‘Kuldeep, I have known him for 30 years. Goenka has not changed. He is as selfish as ever.’

How courageous and noble a man was Narasimhan, I thought. He had no job to go to and yet took a stand whenever there was attack on his dignity. I had close relations with the Deccan Herald family and got him posted as editor-in-chief of the newspaper.

***

AVEEK SARKAR, Ananda Bazaar Patrika: I resumed my syndicated weekly column, ‘Between the Lines’ after my return from the UK. Even within the brief period of a year when I was in London, Indian journalism had changed dramatically and become owner-driven.

For instance, Anand Bazar Patrika reflected Aveek Sarkar’s views. His father, Asok Sarkar, was a friend of mine so I treated Aveek like a member of the family. He once told me that he was the second most important person in West Bengal after Jyoti Basu, who was then alive.

Much earlier the Rajasthan Patrika had stopped publishing my column. The owner, R.C. Kulish, was a personal friend but could not tolerate my criticism of the BJP position. ‘I am not against Muslims and I have one servant from the community but they have to be kept in their place,’ he told me once. Never did I suspect that he would go so far as to stop the publication of the column. I vainly tried to meet him in Jaipur. Once when in the city, I learnt he was critically ill, so I went to his house and waited to see him but he refused to meet me.

In the case of Dainik Bhaskar, I stopped my columns because it refused to publish my piece on ‘paid news’. Although I did not name anyone the newspaper still refused to publish the column. I wrote a letter of protest to the owner and received no response.

***

N. RAM, The Hindu: My experience with N. Ram, the editor of the Hindu was disappointing. I used to write an opinion piece for the newspaper twice a week and a human rights column once a month. He stopped them because I was a friend of Malini Parthasarthy who, along with N. Ravi, was pushed out of editorial control when they were reduced to a minority in the public limited company that the Hindu is.

Ram joined G. Kasturi and a few others to constitute a majority. Ravi, modest and unassuming, and Malini, a talented journalist, suffered the most but stoically bore the humiliation. When newspapers turn themselves into companies and the majority begins to prevail, the newspaper becomes a purely commercial proposition like any corporate house.

***

SAMIR JAIN, The Times of India: Sham Lal once told me that he as the editor of the Times of India, was never rung up by Shanti Prasad Jain, the then owner of the newspaper, and that the latter did not even remotely suggest to him which line he should adopt on any particular subject. Throughout Shamlal’s long tenure, Shanti Prasad never expressed his disapproval of anything the editor wrote.

By contrast, the attitude of his son, Ashok Jain, who inherited Bennett Coleman & Co, was quite different. He was committed to commercial success and would ensure that the newspaper did not come into conflict with his business interests or those he promoted.

Girilal Jain, the then editor of the Times of India, rang me up one day to ask whether I could speak to Ashokj Jain, whom I knew well, to get Samir Jain, his son, off his back. Giri said that Ashok Jain, whatever his preferences, treated him well but Samir’s attitude was humiliating.

Inder Malhotra once recounted to me how senior journalists were made by Samir to sit on the floor in his room to write out the names of invitees on cards sent by the organization.

I flew to Bombay and spoke to Ashok who frankly said he would have no hesitation in supporting his son because the latter had increased the revenue tenfold, from Rs 8 lakhs to 80 lakhs. ‘I can hire many Giri Lal Jains if I pay more but not a Samir,’ said Ashok. I conveyed this to Giri who did not last long with the newspaper.

Photograph: courtesy Jitender Gupta/ Outlook

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

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