Posts Tagged ‘Raju Narisetti’

When a paper announces a new editor, it is news

2 November 2011

The appointment and removal of editors in Indian newspapers is an opaque affair, shrouded in mystery, secrecy and intrigue.

It is as if the maaliks and managements have all convinced themselves that they owe no obligation whatsoever to inform the reading, viewing, surfing, shareholding public as to why editor X has been replaced by editor Y, especially if the exit is due to scandal A, scandal B or scandal C.

Business Standard makes an exception on today’s front page, announcing the arrival of A.K. Bhattacharya to replace Sanjaya Baru, who has left to join a strategic affairs thinktank.

Also read: When editor makes way for editor, gracefully

Conflict of interest and an interest in conflicts

After Athreya and Kautilya, enter “Chanakya”

16 May 2011

Six months after Vir Sanghvi said he had “suspended” his weekly column Counterpoint, in the wake of the Niira Radia tapes that had him dictating his weekly output to the 2G scam-tainted lobbyist for her approval, the Hindustan Times has announced a new column in the slot occupied by Sanghvi’s.

The byline: “Chanakya“.

In the inaugural column, Chanakya who describes himself “as an outside admirer of the Left”, suggests the purging of Prakash Karat after the Left defeat in West Bengal.

So, who could Chanakya be?

***

Hindustan Times has had a strange history with pseudonymous authors.

In December 2008, Raju Narisetti, the founder of Mint, the business daily launched by HT, exited the paper in the wake of an open letter by “a serving IAS officer writing under the pseudonym Athreya“, which attacked prime minister Manmohan Singh.

The open letter by the IAS officer led to a question being posed to the government by the opposition BJP in Parliament and an abrasive response from then home minister P. Chidambaram.

Narisetti wrote a blog post answering Chidambaram and then printed the clarification in the paper on the use of pseudonyms:

“In November 1937, the Modern Review, then India’s most well-regarded journal of opinion, published an article on Jawaharlal Nehru written by Chanakya, an obvious pseudonym. The author hit out at Nehru’s latent dictatorial tendencies and his “intolerance for others and a certain contempt for the weak and inefficient”. Its author warned: “Jawaharlal might fancy himself as a Caesar.” There were howls of protest from loyalists until it was revealed much later that Nehru himself was the author of this piece.”

Thanks to Niira Radia, “Chanakya” returns to Kasturba Gandhi Marg.

***

In his avatar as a columnist, the Union minister for forests and environment Jairam Ramesh wrote under the pen name Kautilya.

The former Congress prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao was routinely referred to as Chanakya. Hindustan Times chairman Shobana Bharatiya is a Congress member of Parliament.

Also read: An open letter to the PM

An open clarification on an open letter

The ‘troubling nexus’ doesn’t trouble too many

1 December 2009

Several Indian newspapers which have tie-ups with the New York Times have re-run Heather Timmons‘ piece on people of Indian origin returning to the United States because they find it difficult to work in the motherland.

Surprise, surprise—or perhaps no surprise, no surprise—almost all of them have excised former Mint editor, currently Washington Post managing editor, Raju Narisetti‘s damning quote on “the troubling nexus of business, politics and publishing“.

No mention of Narisetti or the “troubling nexus” in 624 words of The Economic Times re-run.

No mention of Narisetti or the “troubling nexus” in 306 words of The Indian Express re-run.

No mention of Narisetti or the “troubling nexus” in 821 words of The Telegraph, re-run.

There is a mention of Narisetti and the “troubling nexus” in 1,293 words in the online edition of The Times of India, but not the print edition.

One of the few newspapers that does carry Narisetti on the “troubling nexus” is the Bangalore-based Deccan Herald.

Why did the editor cross Kasturba Gandhi Marg?

29 November 2009

So, why did Raju Narisetti suddenly leave Mint, the business Berliner launched by the Hindustan Times group, in December 2008, less than two years after the newspaper’s launch, and return to the United States?

***

# Was it because he was opposed to staff and salary cuts as proposed by the management, as insiders claimed?

# Was it because he had carried out his mandate of launching a credible newspaper and was ready to move on, as the management claimed?

# Was it because he had a tempting offer as one of the managing editors of The Washington Post?

# Was it because his wife was finding living in India more and more difficult?

# Or was it because an pesudonymous open letter to the prime minister by a serving IAS officer published by Mint had not gone down well with the HT management (whose vice-chairman Shobhana Bharatiya is a Rajya Sabha member nominated by the Congress), as the market speculation was (which Narisetti denied)?

There has never been a clear picture, but an indication that Narisetti and HT had parted reasonably amicably came recently when his name resurfaced on the paper’s tombstone as “Founder-Editor”.

Now, Narisetti has revealed a bit more of the circumstances surrounding his exit in a New York Times story by Heather Timmons on people of Indian origin who find it difficult to work in the country of their birth and then return home to the United States:

“Some very simple practices that you often take for granted, such as being ethical in day to day situations, or believing in the rule of law in everyday behavior, are surprisingly absent in many situations,” said Narisetti, who was born in Hyderabad and returned to India in 2006 to found Mint….

He said he left earlier than he expected because of a troubling nexus of business, politics and publishing that he called draining on body and soul.

Also read: Pseudonymous author spelt finis to Mint editor?

Shashi Tharoor isn’t the only Tweetiya in town

‘Good journalists, poor journalism, zero standards’

Good journalists, poor journalism, zero standards

23 June 2009

Raju Narisetti, the former editor of Mint, the business daily launched by the Hindustan Times group, who is now one of the managing editors at the Washington Post, has given an interview to the latest issue of the Indian edition of Forbes.

Question: How do you rate the quality of journalism practised here in India?

Answer: Good journalists by instinct but poor journalism because of practices, weak institutions, zero standards and ethics enforcement–voluntary or otherwise. Many business journalists want to be part of the business establishment or be close to it. That results in journalism that isn’t about readers. Even the best–and there are just one or two such institutions–journalism schools are not graduating grounded journalists. That will be the soft spot of India journalism for some time to come.

Read the full interview here: A fresh-mint way

Also read: Pseudonymous author spells finis to Mint editor?

Conflict of interest and an interest in conflicts?

Vir Sanghvi lashes out at Mint ‘censorship’

Link courtesy Shobha Sarada Viswanathan

Vir Sanghvi lashes out at Mint “censorship”

21 January 2009

It’s all happening at Mint, the business daily launched by the Hindustan Times barely two years ago.

Founder-editor Raju Narisetti left under a cloud of rumours at the turn of the year. And now, star-columnist Vir Sanghvi, a former editor of HT, has ended his column in Lounge, the Saturday magazine of Mint, with a piece on his website that hits out at the fledgling paper and its new editor, Sukumar Ranganathan.

“I will not write for a publication that censors its columnists and denies them the right to free speech while writing long, impassioned pieces about the freedom to criticize others from the Prime Minister downwards. All of us exhibit double standards to some degree. But Mint‘s hypocrisy takes my breath away.”

Sanghvi’s dispute with Mint apparently arose after Lounge did not carry his “Pursuits” column last week on business journalism in the aftermath of the Satyam fraud.

Reason: it took a swipe at Mint for the manner in which it covered the drama surrounding NewsX, a start-up TV channel that Sanghvi headed till he quit before its launch.

“I believe that the ability to carry criticism of yourself is the mark of a competent editor and a confident publication. Sadly, the new editor of Mint—after Raju’s departure—does not appear to share this view. He refused to carry the article,” writes Sanghvi, while showering praise on Priya Ramani, the editor of Lounge.

Sanghvi’s website also carries the original article which Lounge did not carry. It contains these paragraphs on Mint‘s coverage of the NewsX episode, which ironically appeared in Raju Narisetti’s tenure.

“Easily the worst was Mint—-ironic because I am a columnist—-which managed to get basic details wrong, running biased and inaccurate reports and then following them up with a series of wildly speculative (always attributed to “a source close to the situation”) stories which (long after I had left and other NewsX issues were being featured) nearly always demonstrated a total misunderstanding of the situation.

“As Mint is not a newspaper that carries much news and specializes in thoughtful, analytical reports, these lapses were surprising. One theory  is that the paper likes running Stardust-type media-gossip stores which are either of no consequence (the Delhi Press Club elections ) or just wrong (Pradeep Guha to join Big TV), in the hope that people will talk about them. When NewsX was eventually sold, Mint which had identified the wrong suitors, failed again as Exchange4Media scooped the story.

“But at least it proves one thing. When journos get it wrong, we even get media stories wrong!”

Also read: How come media did not spot Satyam fraud?

Pseudonymous author spells finis to Mint editor?

VIR SANGHVI: Does the Indian reader care for integrity?

Conflict of interest and an interest in conflicts

5 January 2009

The media website The Hoot, created under the auspices of the Media Foundation and run by Sevanti Ninan, who writes a fortnightly media column in The Hindu, has this piece of media gossip today:

“Rumour mills in Delhi have it that Mint editor Raju Narisetti’s exit last month had something to do with the home minister’s displeasure over an anonymous letter from an IAS officer which Mint carried, and then re-carried. The Hoot ran into P. Chidambaram and asked him if it was true. His answer: “Who is the editor of Mint? I don’t know him. I have never met him and I did not know he had left.”

How would Mint, which set a high benchmark in media ethics under Narisetti’s stewardship, report the same incident which has conflict of interest oozing from every word?

“Rumour mills in New Delhi have it that Mint editor Raju Narisetti’s exit late last month had something to do with the Union home minister’s displeasure over an anonymous open letter to the prime minister from an IAS officer which Mint carried, and then re-carried in an open clarification. A Hoot correspondent ran into P. Chidambaram in the market/ at a party and asked him if it was true. His answer: “Who is the editor of Mint? I don’t know him. I have never met him and I did not know he had left. Hoot editor Sevanti Ninan is the spouse of T.N. Ninan, the editor of Business Standard, which competes with Mint in select markets. The couple own a minority stake in BS. T.N. Ninan started off as a sub-editor on the business desk in the Hindustan Times, which is owned by HT Media that also publishes Mint. Narisetti’s now-defunct blog, The Romantic Realist, referred to a BS column by its No.2 editor A.K. Bhattacharya, which markedly refused to name Mint while commenting on the original controversy involving Mint and the pseudonymous IAS officerAthreya‘, in its penultimate post.”

Pseudonymous author spells finis to Mint editor?

28 December 2008

avataraspxPRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Journalists at Mint, the business daily launched by the Hindustan Times group as “an unbiased and clear-minded chronicler of the Indian dream”, are in a state of shock after the dramatic weekend announcement of the resignation of its founding editor, Raju Narisetti (in picture), less than two years after its February 2007 launch.

For the record, the well-regarded Narisetti, 42, maintains there is nothing more to the move than what an internal HT memo stated last week: that it is part of a “leadership transition that is aimed at leading the next phase of Mint” (which has an ongoing editorial arrangement with The Wall Street Journal).

Rajiv Verma, the CEO of HT Media, which publishes Mint, and in whose name the HT internal memo went out, told the media website, exchange4media:

“Raju had come from the US and he has been here with us ever since the paper was announced in 2006. He now wants to move back. However, as Advisory Editorial Director, his association with HT Media would continue.”

Senior HT staffers too claim that Narisetti was on “exit mode” for a while now, and Ranganathan Sukumar had been named as his deputy some months ago with precisely this possibility in mind. (The buzz is Narisetti is headed back to The Wall Street Journal, where he worked in its pre-Rupert Murdoch days, serving as its editorial head in Europe.)

However, the suddenness of the announcement has set journalistic tongues wagging, and there are quite a few within and outside the organisation who believe the exit may have had something to do with the publication of an opinion page article 19 days ago, by a serving IAS officer writing under the pseudonym Athreya (an inference subsequently refuted by Raju Narisetti on 4 January 2009, and termed as “irresponsible…lies”.)

***

In the article “An open letter to the PM,” published on December 10, the pseudonymous IAS officer wrote, among other things:

# “Mr Prime Minister, you were selected, not elected by the people, for just one reason, that you posed no threat to anyone in the Congress party. You were not selected for your excellent PhD or for your integrity; not even for your competence as a civil servant. You were considered the least of all evils…”

# “[Y]our government has lost all credibility with the people, and the buck stops with you…. at least now, when India is under attack on its own soil, please act. And if you can’t act, please get out of the way and allow someone more effective to run the country.”

# “As PM, can you not sack or transfer your national security adviser, the Intelligence Bureau chief, the Coast Guard director general, the navy chief—can you or can you not get rid of your entire top brass and send a signal down the line?”

# “Are you telling us you don’t know that your telecom, environment and shipping ministries are the home of organized mafias looting the exchequer?”

Eight days later, the tone and tenor of the article clearly proved juicy enough for the BJP’s member of Parliament from Bangalore South, H.N. Ananth Kumar, to raise it in a Lok Sabha discussion on the economic slowdown to needle the government.

In response, the new Union home minister P. Chidambaram, went for the jugular:

“He (Kumar) cited an article allegedly written by an IAS officer. I have read the article. I do not know whether the name of that author given in that article is a true name or a pseudo name. I do not know whether he is an IAS officer.

“All I know is either he is a disloyal officer or a coward or both. If he had the courage, he should write the letter, sign in his own name and send it to the Prime Minister. But I hope they (BJP) do not encourage such officers; they did not encourage them when they were in power. So what is the point of citing a pseudonymous or anonymous author’s article taking shelter under it and running away when the reply is to be delivered?”

Mint, which has made its editorial integrity its USP, did not let matters rest there. The paper carried “An open clarification on an open letter” on December 22 with the declaration “Mint does not lie to its readers or knowingly mislead them. Period.”

And then Raju Narisetti himself joined issue the following day with an item on his Mint blog “A Romantic Realist”, with a piece entitled “On open letters and media ethics“.

The essence of the clarification and the blog post was identical. That while Mint‘s code of journalistic conduct doesn’t allow the use of “pseudonyms, composite characters or fictional names…” the said piece had been discussed internally and carried “because the author’s proposed article raised significant and valid questions to spur a national debate.”

Narisetti’s clarification and blog post didn’t stop at that. They reminded Chidambaram of the long tradition of anonymous articles, including a standout one, 71 years ago.

“In November 1937, the Modern Review, then India’s most well-regarded journal of opinion, published an article on Jawaharlal Nehru written by Chanakya, an obvious pseudonym. The author hit out at Nehru’s latent dictatorial tendencies and his “intolerance for others and a certain contempt for the weak and inefficient”. Its author warned: “Jawaharlal might fancy himself as a Caesar.” There were howls of protest from loyalists until it was revealed much later that Nehru himself was the author of this piece.”

Were all members of Parliament and bureaucrats who spoke anonymously to the media “disloyal” or “cowardly”, Narisetti asked.

As news of the resignation made the headlines over the weekend, reader Ganesh posted this comment to Narisetti’s blog post:

“It came as a shock to me that Mr Narisetti is leaving. But, we, Mint readers, need a proper explanation on why Mr Narisetti is leaving? Mint has done some good reporting on other media. Now it is a test for Mint to report on itself.”

Whether Mint will treat Narisetti’s resignation in the same professional way it has employed to report the rest of the media we will soon know.

The Hindustan Times, as a group, has had a number of editorial casualties at the top in the last few years. One editor (V.N. Narayanan) left after he plagiarised 1,240 words of his 1,400-word Sunday column from a Sunday Times, London, column. And one other editor is said to have had to leave because he took on a high government functionary, who has also been mentioned in the article by the pseudonymous IAS officer. The reasons behind the resignations have never been revealed to the reading public.

(An earlier version of this piece carried inferences which have been since excised following a belated clarification from Raju Narisetti.)

Photograph: courtesy LiveMint

Also read: Raju Narisetti: ’5 reasons to be optimistic of Indian journalism’

M.J. Akbar: ‘Never let your head stoop as a journalist’

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,220 other followers

%d bloggers like this: