Posts Tagged ‘Ramnath Goenka’

Shekhar Gupta dedicates book to Viveck Goenka

16 April 2014

sgfirst      sg

Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta‘s much-awaited book, Anticipating India, a compilation of his Saturday columns, has seen a change of cover.

At left is the original cover, with the tagline “If Modi wins on Sunday”. At right, is the actual book jacket, with the tagline now reading “The best of National Interest”.

The 516-page book, published by Harper Collins, is dedicated to Viveck Goenka, the chairman of the Indian Express and the grandson of Ramnath Goenka.

“For Viveck Goenka, ninetten years, 900 columns and not one call to ask ‘why’. If you find more newspaper owners like him, please do exchange notes with me.”

The book is also dedicated to his children Mandakini Gupta and Abhimanyu Gupta and their respective spouses, the “four points of my compass”.

The sleeve notes records this line about the author:

“A proud father of a pastry chef in Delhi and a mathematical economist in London, Gupta lives in New Delhi with his wife—and the company of an adorable family of dogs and cats whom you would call stray at your own peril.”

Also read: You have read the column, now read the book

From Viveck Goenka. To: Indian Express employees

A new paper in India’s most crowded market

15 August 2013

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With the South-based New Indian Express group of Manoj Kumar Sonthalia entering the Delhi market with the Sunday Standard, the North-based Indian Express group of Viveck Goenka has returned the favour by entering the Bangalore market with the National Standard.

The 20-page daily, priced at Rs 4, has been launched on Independence Day with a near identical pagination as the main paper in Delhi, but with a strong component of national news, a key blank in the existing newspapers in Bangalore.

Writes Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta in the launch issue of National Standard:

“We will work to translate the news—and noise—of New Delhi to help you understand how it affects life in the city…. As a newspaper, National Standard will strive to be as complete as Bangalore’s bisi bele baath, that delicious mix of rice, lentils and vegetables.”

After the split in the Indian Express group following Ramnath Goenka‘s demise in the mid-1990s, his adopted son Viveck Goenka got the Express editions in the North, West and East, and Financial Express, which had no geographical boundaries.

The southern editions went to Manoj Sonthalia, who relaunched the publications in the South and Orissa as The New Indian Express. (Manoj Sonthalia’s mother and Viveck Goenka’s mother are sisters.)

(Ramnath Goenka’s daughter-in-law Saroj Goenka (Goenka’s biological son B.D. Goenka had predeceased him), got the lion’s share of the group’s real estate, including the Express building on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg and Express estate in Madras, on a portion of which she has built that city’s biggest mall, Express Avenue.)

The Manoj Sonthalia and Viveck Goenka groups had an agreement not to step on each other’s turfs, which was broken with the launch of Sunday Standard under Prabhu Chawla. The northern group took the matter to court but in vain.

For the record, The Times of India is the market leader in India’s most crowded English newspaper market, Bangalore, with a circulation said to be at least two times more than no.2 placed Deccan Herald .

The New Indian Express, The Hindu, Deccan Chronicle, DNA, are all also-rans. The National Standard is printed at the DNA‘s press in Bangalore.

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V.N. Subba Rao: a ‘shishya’ remembers his Guru

12 October 2012

There are few more misleading terms in Indian journalism than the phrase “national media”.

Only those who flit around in the rarefied circles of Delhi and Bombay, rubbing shoulders with the high and mighty, qualify; everyone else is “upcountry”. Only the bold-faced names from big English media houses are supposed to be national; everyone else is smalltime, moffusil—even “downmarket”.

In reality, our media is richer because of the sweat and toil of hundreds of fine journalists in far corners, who carry on manfully for years, if not decades, without reward or recognition and often times without the expectation of both. Here, a veteran  journalist remembers his first “Chief” who hired him 41 years ago; a guru who would have been a “national” name if only he didn’t suffer from the fear of flying.

***

By A. SURYA PRAKASH

Indian journalism lost a giant earlier this week with the passing of V.N. Subba Rao, a top-notch political analyst, a prolific writer and a guru who trained hundreds of journalists in a career that spanned six decades.

Subba Rao’s interests were catholic.

He was arguably the best-informed political journalist in Karnataka in his hey day; a lover of cinema with an authoritative grip on the history and art of film making and a film critic of repute; a lover of art and culture; and an authority on Kannada literature.

VNSR, as he was affectionately known, also had other qualities which put him way ahead of his peers in the world of journalism. He was a brilliant teacher and a builder of teams and, given his varied interests, a man who could boast of friends in every walk of life.

***

VNSR was also a lover of words and produced eminently readable copy at a pace unmatched by anyone in his time. His day would begin early and he would walk into the office of the Indian Express on Queen’s Road, Bangalore, around 9 pm with more than a couple of news stories under his belt.

He would order some tea, set paper to typewriter and get down to doing the story of the day. From then on, all one heard was the clatter of the typewriter, with the peon walking in every ten minutes to take the typed sheet, which VNSR would yank out of the machine, to the desk, which would be waiting anxiously for what would invariably be the lead story in the paper next morning.

But, VNSR’s output for the day would not end with this important political copy.

He would have other things to write about—a film review, an interview, or even a routine announcement of a theatre or film festival from a press conference he had attended.

He was equally prolific in Kannada.

So, after a hard day’s work, VNSR and many of us who were just hanging around, waiting for “The Chief” to finish, would hop into what we called “the sheep van” or “the dog van” – those rowdy, robust mid-sized trucks in which newspapers were dispatched past midnight to various destinations in the state – and get dropped at our homes.

Given this routine, some of us were late risers, but for VNSR, his phone would start ringing from seven in the morning. Often the first caller would be the Chief Minister of the day: D. Devaraj Urs, R. Gundu Rao, Ramakrishna Hegde et al.

The caller would invariably praise VNSR for his deep insight into the political games the ministers were playing behind his back. This would be followed by phone calls from ministers offering fresh inputs or from the director and the stars of the movie which he had reviewed.

Everybody loved reading him because when VNSR had something good to say about a person or his work, the person written about would love to cut and frame Subba Rao’s piece.

***

I first met VNSR in 1971 when I walked into the Express office wanting a job.

VNSR made a simple offer. He said he would give me assignments for a week. If he felt I would fit into his team, he would hire me. “I need to see if you have news sense and if you can write clean copy” he said.

A few days down the line he said “you are hired!”

That decision of VNSR changed the course of my life. Since then, it has been a roller-coaster ride for me and has taken me from print to television to media teaching and scholarship and to my current status as a columnist and author.

By the mid-1970s VSNR had a bureau in Bangalore which was the envy of every other newspaper. Since he kept a punishing 14-16 hour work schedule,that became the norm for all his “boys” and so, most of us would hang around till the late hours and plan stories and features.

VNSR hired and trained hundreds of journalists and it’s impossible to remember all of them.

K.S. Sachidananda Murthy, currently resident editor, The Week; Prakash Belawadi, national award-winning film director; Chidananda Rajghatta, foreign editor, Times of India; Anita Pratap, former South Asia bureau chief, CNN and former correspondent, Time; Ramakrishna Upadhya, political editor, Deccan Herald; E. Raghavan, former resident editor, Economic Times, Bangalore and Girish Nikam, anchor, Rajya Sabha TV are a few names that immediately come to mind.

Apart from those whom he hired and trained, he was the Guru to hundreds of journalists from other print and television establishments who sought him out each day for a better understanding of events and personalities. Among those who belonged to this extended Shisyavarga of VNSR was Kestur Vasuki, a seasoned television and print journalist, who is currently with The Pioneer and many young television journalists who would catch up with him at his favourite watering hole– The Bangalore Press Club.

He demanded nothing but complete commitment to work and had his own unobtrusive way of teaching us. That is why, on his passing the Samyukta Karnataka described him as “The Dronacharya of Journalism”.

VNSR was also a builder of teams and encouraged team work and this produced excellent results when big events happened in the state. One event that is often remembered in the Indian Express family is our coverage of the landmark Chickmagalur by-election in November 1975 1978 (in which Indira Gandhi contested against Veerendra Patil) that attracted global attention.

The Express’ coverage of Chickmagalur was unmatched.

VNSR held many senior editorial positions in several newspapers and wrote for many more. Kannada Prabha, Samyukta Karnataka, Deccan Herald, Vijaya Karnataka, Newstime, Mid-Day and the Kannada political weekly Naave Neevu and film magazine Tara Loka of which he was the founder-editor. But, he gave much of his blood and sweat to The Indian Express and was the pillar of the Bangalore Edition of that newspaper during the days when the fiery Ramnath Goenka ruled the roost.

In VNSR’s departure, I have lost my Guru and Indian media has lost a consummate journalist and a legend.

(A. Surya Prakash is former chief of bureau, Indian Express, New Delhi; former executive editor, The Pioneer, and former editor, Zee News)

External reading: Goodbye, my mentor

Also read: V.N. Subba Rao, an Express legend, is no more

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:

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.”)

***

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

The editor who said ‘no’ to Ramnath Goenka

25 April 2012

The veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar pays tribute to V.K. Narasimhan, the legendary editor of the Indian Express during the Emergency in 1975, in a column in Deccan Herald:

“The day Indira Gandhi was defeated at the polls Narasimhan was ousted to bring in S. Mulgaonkar. Ramnath Goenka explained that this was his obligation because Mulgaonkar had been forced to quit during the Emergency.

“Goenka had a point but what annoyed everyone was the abrupt change made even in the print line without Narasimhan’s knowledge.

“In protest he left the paper.

“Senior staff was at Goenka’s throat for the unceremonious departure of a person who had led them in the fight against the Emergency at a time when editors had compromised with the establishment.

“I was deputed by Goenka to bring back Narasimhan as editor of The Financial Express, his original position, but he refused to return because of the manner in which he was treated by Goenka…. I can never forget the scene when I left his house: Narasimhan and his wife were sitting on the floor of their tiny kitchen and sipping coffee.

“He had no job, no position. Nor did he care because persons like Narasimhan drew strength from their faith in values which today’s journalists generally do not pursue, much less cherish them.”

Narasimhan’s son V.N. Narayanan went on to be editor of The Tribune and Hindustan Times.

Read the full column: A journalist of great courage

Also read: Hindu and HT were worst offenders in 1975

Entries invited for Ramnath Goenka Awards, 2010

14 February 2012

The Ramnath Goenka memorial foundation is inviting entries for the 2010 Ramnath Goenka excellence in journalism awards. Email rngf [at] expressindia [dot] com for further details. The last date for entries is 16 April 2012.

Conflict of interest in ‘Indian Express’ awards?

13 January 2012

The Ramnath Goenka awards for excellence in journalism, instituted by The Indian Express, will be given out by the vice president of India, Hamid Ansari, on Monday, January 16. But the sponsorship of the awards has run into trouble, with a bunch activists and intellectuals raising questions of “conflict of interest”.

Below is their full press release.

***

On January 10 and 11, 2012, half-page advertisements in the Indian Express (IE) newspaper (at least in Delhi edition) announced that the IE excellence in journalism awards would be given out on January 16, 2012 .

The advertisement also said that the main presenting sponsor is the Jaypee Group and among the four associate sponsors was Mahyco Monsanto.

One may recall that Indian Express has been on a campaign mode advocating big dams in general. It has been specifically campaigning against the movements like the Narmada Bachao Andolan. In March and April 2006, the paper specifically ran a campaign against NBA and also against the then Union minister Prof Saifuddin Soz.

In October 2010 the paper ran a campaign for large hydro projects in the north east India when the then environment minister Jairam Ramesh held an open public hearing on these projects in Guwahati and than wrote to the Prime Minister, raising concerns about so many hydro projects being taken up in NE India and the impacts thereof.

Now it is well known that the Jaypee group is India’s largest dam building contractor, largest private sector developer and plans to develop many more including in the North East India, which was the subject of Indian Express campaign in October 2010. Jaypee group is also the contractor for the largest of Narmada Dam, namely Sardar Sarovar Project.

The group is planning to develop the 2700 MW lower Siang and 500 MW Hirong hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh, for example. It may also not be irrelevant to mention here that the Jaypee group has pathetic records in terms of social, environmental and human rights issues in the projects it is involved in.

More recently, in January 2012, India’s market regulator SEBI fined Jaypee group Rs 6 million for illegal practice of insider trading . All these facts are very much relevant for any business group to sponsor awards for excellence in journalism, particularly when the awards are also for “ethics in reporting”.

The Indian Express campaign in October 2010 willy-nilly helped the Jaypee groups’ interests. And now Jaypee is sponsoring the IE Journalism award. Shall we call this conflict of interest or quid pro quo?

Should a media house accept such sponsorship from a group that has directly benefited from the campaign that was run by the media house? And when the business group has such abysmal reputation?

Earlier in January-February 2010, when Jairam Ramesh held a series of public hearings to get a cross section of views on Bt Brinjal, Indian Express had launched a campaign  against Jairam Ramesh and for GM crops. It is clear that the campaign hugely benefited GM crop companies and the biggest among them in the world (Monsanto) has an Indian arm Mahyco Monsanto, which is the biggest GM seed company of India.

Mahyco Monsanto now is one of the sponsors of the Indian Express excellence in journalism awards.

So the same set of questions that arise about relation between Jaypee group and IE also arise for Mahyco Monsanto: Is this conflict of interest or quid pro quo? Is this not intellectual corruption? Should not the lobbyist media groups like Indian Express keep away from getting sponsorships from the organisations that their lobbying helps?

This is particularly true if media group wants to retain any credibility to the effect that it is still speaking in public interest, which we assume they should be.

We would like to clarify that we are not raising any doubts about the genuineness, independence and excellence of the jury or those journalists who may get this award.

Prashant Bhushan, senior Supreme Court lawyer, Delhi
E.A.S. Sarma, former secretary, govt of India, Andhra Pradesh
Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP, Delhi
Shripad Dharmadhikary, manthan adhyayan kendra, MP
Manshi Asher, him dhara, environment research and action collective, HP
Joy KJ, soppecom, Maharashtra
Dr Latha Anantha, river research centre, Kerala
Soumitra Ghosh, NESPON, West Bengal
Hemant Dhyani, Ganga ahvahan, Uttarakhand

This is not the first time media awards have run into trouble.

In November 2011, Mail Today reported that the chief justice of the Supreme Court of India, S.H. Kapadia, had declined to hand out the awards instituted by an unnamed media group.

Earlier last year, media awards instituted by the Press Club of Bombay ran into rough weather when one of the sponsors turned out to be the 2G scam afflicted company, DB Realty.

Hat tap: Mahesh Vijapurkar

***

Also read: Ramanth Goenka: Courage of the 2 o’ clock kind

Prabhu Chawla: No one can destroy Ramnath Goenka‘s paper

How Arun Shourie became editor of The Indian Express

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

26 December 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph: courtesy The Indian Express

External reading: N.S. Jagannathan on Tambrahms

N.S. Jagannathan on the year 2003

Vinod Mehta on Arun Shourie, Dileep Padgaonkar

7 November 2011

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

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

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

***

By VINOD MEHTA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy the book onlineIndia Plaza offer prize Rs 299

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

*Disclosures apply

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

Why Khushwant Singh fell out with Arun Shourie

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

How Dileep Padgaonkar christened a Pierre Cardin model

How the Sakaal Times dream became a nightmare

‘Arun Shourie: a Hindu right-wing pamphleteer’

3 October 2011

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

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

Arrogant, intolerant, abusive, dictatorial, .

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

Saying it like it is, without fear or favour.

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

***

By S. NIHAL SINGH

My experience with Arun Shourie was not happy.

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

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

Our objectives collided.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Also read: Why Khushwant Singh fell out with Arun Shourie

The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

Arun Shourie: ‘Intolerant, abusive, dictatorial’

How Arun Shourie became Express editor

Arun Shourie: The three lessons of failure

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