Posts Tagged ‘Siddharth Varadarajan’

Why Shobhana Bhartia was late for PM’s breakfast

12 April 2014

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As is only to be expected, a number of journalists figure in former Economic Times, Times of India and Financial Express journalist Sanjaya Baru‘s book ‘The Accidental Prime Minister‘ (Penguin), on his days as the PM’s media advisor.

But a few publishers and head honchos do too, including Prannoy Roy of NDTV, Samir Jain of The Times of India and his mother Indu Jain, and Shobhana Bhartia of Hindustan Times.

***

In May 2005, as the UPA approached its first anniversary, reports began to appear that the PM was reviewing the performance of his ministers.

On 9 May, when he was in Moscow, NDTV ran a story that external affairs minister Natwar Singh had secured a ‘low’ score on the PM’s ‘report card’ and was likely to be dropped from the Cabinet.

Natwar was most unhappy and took the day off on ‘health grounds’.

This news reached the PM in Moscow when he was in the midst of a briefing at his hotel. He asked me to find out what exactly NDTV had reported.

When I brief him he burst out angrily, ‘Tell Prannoy to stop reporting these lies.’

I called Prannoy Roy and had just begun speaking to him when the PM asked for my mobile phone and spoke to Prannoy himself, scolding him like he was chiding a student who had erred, saying, ‘This is not correct. You cannot report like this.’

Indeed, the relationship between him and Pranny was not that of a PM and senior media editor but more like that of a former boss and a one-time junior,. This was because Prannoy had worked as an economic adviser in the miistry of finance under Dr Singh.

After a few minutes, Prannoy called me back.

‘Are you still with him?’ he asked

I stepped out of the room and told him that I was now alone.

‘Boy, I have not been scolded like that since school! He sounded like a headmaster, not a prime minister,’ complained Prannoy.

***

Rupert Muroch (of Star TV and News Corp) tried a trick to secure an appointment (with the PM).

Having failed on one occasion to meet Dr Singh, he made a second attempt by letting it be known that he was not interested in talking about his media business. Rather, he wanted to talk about China.

The PM was amused and granted him an appointment. Murdoch did duscuss China and explained where he saw China going. But, as he got up to leave, he expressed the hope that the Indian government would be more receptive to his media plan than China had been.

***

Within the PMO, (former national security advisor) Mani Dixit’s imperious style inevitably came into conflict with my own more freewheeling and irreverent style of functioning.

Our first disagreement was on who could travel with the PM on his official plane.

Seeing the name of Times of India journalist Siddharth Varadarajan, who later served as editor of The Hindu, on the media list, Mani sent me a note informing me that Siddharth was not an Indian national but an American citizen and, as a foreign national, was not entitled to travel on the PM’s plane.

I was aware of Siddharth’s citizenship, since this matter had come up when I had hired him as an assistant editor of the Times of India.

I chose not to make an issue of it then and Samir Jain, vice chairman of Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd, the publishers of The Times of India, who took particular interest in the hiring of editorial writers, did not object either. Now the matter had surfaced again.

***

I arranged a series of breakfast meetings with important editors, publishers and TV anchors. As an early riser Dr Singh would schedule his breakfast meetings for half past eight being late to bed and late to rise, editors and TV anchors would protest but turn up on time.

When I invited a group of publishers, the only ones to arrive late were Shobhana Bhartia of Hindustan Times because, as she tole me, she took a long time to dry her hair and Indu Jain, chairperson of the Times of India, because she had to finish her morning puja.

Also read: Kuldip Nayar on Shekhar Gupta, N. Ram & Co

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Vinod Mehta on Arun Shourie, Dileep Padgaonkar, et al

Jug Suraiya on MJ, SJ, Giri, Monu and Mama T

When Samir Jain served a thali, Vineet served a scoop

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’

***

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

‘Hindu family’ chucks out ‘professional’ redesign

25 October 2013

hindu

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.

***

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

‘The Hindu’ issue more complex than you think’

24 October 2013

Predictably, the “private” TV news channels do not have too much on the resignation of Siddharth Varadarajan as editor and removal of Arun Anant as CEO of The Hindu after the family-owned newspaper decided to restore status quo ante on Monday.

Newspaper reports have been sketchy and superficial, and web interviews and Twitter feeds of the various players involved have only given a one-sided, black or white view of the Mount Road Mahavishnu‘s brief flirtation with professionals.

A Rajya Sabha Television (RSTV) panel discussion, featuring S. Nihal Singh, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Rahul Dev and Dilip Cherian suggests the “family vs professionals” issue is more complex and layered than we think.

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

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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20131022-122811 AM.jpg

***

For the record, G. Kasturi, who played a pivotal role in the last round of blood-letting in the paper (several members of the family including N. Ram’s brothers N. Murali and N. Ravi, and cousins Malini Parathasarathy and Nirmala Lakshman resigned at Varadarajan’s appointment), passed away in September 2012.

At the time of quitting, Malini Parathasarathy (who now runs The Hindu centre for policy and public policy) had tweeted:

Siddharth [Varadarajan] far junior to me appointed as Editor makes it untenable to continue“… “Tremendous family jealousy and misogyny

Kasturi’s sons—K. Balaji and K. Venugopal—have, among others, reportedly put on record their opposition to the latest changes.

Also, for the record, the Bangalore-based family-owned newspapers Deccan Herald and Praja Vani have seen a similar rearrangement of the editor, depending on board-room dynamics, but all within the family.

First, the eldest of the three brothers K.N. Hari Kumar was ousted as editor after his younger brothers K.N. Tilak Kumar and K.N. Shanth Kumar joined hands. Then the first and second joined hands to remove the third. Eventually, the second and the third joined hands to restore status quo ante.

***

Photograph: via Facebook

Also read: N. Murali: Hindu is run like a banana republic

N. Ravi: Why I quit The Hindu

Malini Parathsarathy: Why I quit The Hindu

Nirmala Lakshman: Why I quit The Hindu

And, so, the ‘best journalist in India’ is…

12 September 2013

Tunku Varadarajan, former editor of Newsweek International, on his thambi (younger brother), Siddharth Varadarajan, editor of The Hindu, in the September issue of The Indian Quarterly:

“I think he’s the best journalist in India. He’s serious, he’s knowledgeable, he writes wonderfully. But what drives him is the urge to educate people, to edify. What he wants to get out of a piece is to improve somebody; what I want is a good read.

“I’m not a mindless provocateur, but I do believe that, if an issue raises hard questions, journalists ought not to play the ball safe with a dead bat; they out to try and square the ball to the boundary.”

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Also read: India’s three best cartoonists are…

India’s best editors? Just press ‘click’

A national newspaper goes ‘local’ in Bangalore

17 June 2013

NEWHINDU

The Hindu has unveiled a new hyper-local look in Bangalore with the tagline “Bringing Bangalore Back to You”.

Writes the paper’s editor Siddharth Varadarajan in a front-page note:

“Why you might ask. After all, Bangalore has known The Hindu for its credible, fearless and unfettered reportage. For never dumbing down. For vanguard journalism that brings the world to your doorstep. But Bangalore has evolved, and so have we. So we bring Bangalore back to you….

“We bring the city to you in a chic new design with a fresh clutch of content: sharp investigative stories and new columns in the main edition, and a crosses and mains neighbourhood view of your locality in Bangalore Local, our weekend special.”

For the record, The Times of India leads the Bangalore market, with Deccan Herald a distant number 2, followed by Bangalore Mirror. The Hindu, The New Indian Express, Deccan Chronicle and DNA are all jostling for the fourth to seventh places in India’s most crowded English newspaper market.

How Pakistan helped ‘The Hindu’ save $800!

7 September 2012

A giant pack of 61 journalists—each told to carry at least $800 in foreign currency for their hotel stay—is accompanying Indian minister of external affairs, S.M. Krishna, on his much-ballyhooed visit of Pakistan.

But Praveen Swami, the deputy chief of bureau of The Hindu in Delhi—who did a brief stint as diplomatic editor of The Daily Telegraph, London, and who has repeatedly punched holes in the Pakistani narrative of terror with its army and government officials on television—will not be one of them.

For the record, The Hindu is one of the few Indian media houses with a correspondent (Anita Joshua) stationed in Islamabad.

The Times of India reports that Times Now journalist Nikunj Garg too was denied a Pakistani visa for a trip of then home minister, P. Chidambaram:

Praveen Swami told TOI that he was called by the High Commission early this week for a meeting with Press Attache Manzoor Ali Memon that lasted for over an hour after two Pakistani officials, who did not share their visiting cards with him, dropped in.

“I was asked no questions but instead handed out sermons by the two on how Indian and Pakistani media could join hands to counter American conspiracies,” Swami said.

The journalist gave them a patient audience and told them that he was ignorant about the revelations they had made about “American plots” and he “would love to catch up on the wikileaks evidence against America they were referring to.”

At the end of the meeting, Swami was gifted a book of poetry by Ahmad Faraz and non-fiction ‘Pakistan from mountain to sea‘ by Mohamed Amin, Duncan Willetts and Brendan Farrow.

Images: courtesy The Indian Express & The Daily Telegraph

Also read: I couldn’t go to the US, my name’s Zia Haq

How (free) India treats foreign correspondents

External reading: Muslim journos left out of PM’s trip

‘Jacket’ ads continue to trouble ‘The Hindu’

24 April 2012

In January, a jacket advertisement on the front page of The Hindu, featuring a Tamil Nadu Congress leader who loudly proclaimed his affection for Sonia Gandhi at the beginnig of the new year— “We remain, Madamji, ever at your feet”—caused a bit of buzz.

Then, Siddharth Varadarajan, the paper’s incoming editor, wrote on his Facebook account:

“To all those who messaged me about the atrocious front page ad in The Hindu’s Delhi edition on Jan 1, my view as Editor is that this sort of crass commercialisation compromises the image and reputation of my newspaper. We are putting in place a policy to ensure the front page is not used for this sort of an ad again.”

Now, another jacket ad in the paper’s Tamil Nadu editions prompts a note from the editor of the paper.

Image: courtesy The Hindu

External reading: The Hindu reacts on Sonia Gandhi ad

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