PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi:The Times of India‘s executive editor Jaideep Bose says he wants to go. JoJo, as the affable editor is known, made the announcement on Friday afternoon at a retreat where editors of the paper had convened with brand executives over the weekend.
With tears in his eyes, JoJo is reported to have told his colleagues that what they were hearing in the past week was true. As the first SMSes bearing the bad news flew into Delhi, top bosses of Bennett, Coleman & Co went into a huddle to decide the next course of action.
Bose is slated to head the Indian edition of Financial Times that is to be published by Raghav Bahl‘s Network 18 in collaboration with Pearson, although there could be other print plans as well from the group which has set a scorching pace with its television, online, film and other moves.
But there is no confirmation of his possible destination.
JoJo’s sudden decision to leave the Times, less than a fortnight after the launch of the Madras edition of the paper, has sent shock waves in Times House, given his long and fruitful proximity with Samir Jain who runs India’s biggest newspaper group with his brother Vineet Jain.
The two questions many are asking today is: Will there be an exodus from the Economic Times newsroom, where JoJo was editor before he moved to ToI, for the new paper? (After the FT rumours broke last weekend, the group dipped into its deep pockets to blunt the possibility of further poaching. Senior Economic Times staff have received hikes, some to the extent of 50 per cent this week.)
An even bigger question confronting the Times group is, will the exit of JoJo make it even more difficult for the group, for all its size, reach and prosperity, to attract and retain serious journalists when larger, transnational players start dangling giant cheques?
One source claims that JoJo met the Brothers Jain on Monday to clarify his position after the quit reports surfaced last weekend. The brothers, it appeared, made JoJo a counteroffer and convinced him to stay on. JoJo for his part was listed to attend the World Newspaper Congress in Sweden in early June as scheduled, along with other top executives.
But, in private, JoJo himself had been characteristically non-committal. To some in his charmed circle in Delhi, he is reported to have confirmed that it is not a question of if but when, a view coming out of Network 18 too. But to some others in Bombay, he had offered an opposite indication.
In fact, some senior staffers who had put in their papers were told by JoJo this week to stay in the paper. He even offered one of them a larger, more clearly defined role for him. But when asked if he would stay, JoJo is reported to have said he would let them know early next week, presumably after the editors’ retreat ended.
But news of the resignation seems to have come earlier than that. In an organisation that wants its editors to maintain a low profile, the swirling rumours—even the slim suggestion that a journalist was running circles around the marketing mavens—was proving to be embarrassing.
While it was clear that the Jains could match any offer Network 18 or anybody could make to retain JoJo & Co if they wished, the persistent talk of a 10-17 per cent stake in the new paper for the editor probably took the debate into a completely non-negotiable realm in a privately-held, family-owned newspaper group which is not even thinking of an IPO for the moment, and which has long held that journalists don’t deserve so much bhaav for how little they impact the bottomline.
The manner in which JoJo has been poached by Network 18 has an eerie similarity with the manner in which
the group roped in Rajdeep Sardesai from Prannoy Roy‘s NDTV. In Sardesai’s case, too, he was given overall control of the new venture, plus a stake in the new channel. Clearly that seems to be the mantra in India’s exploring media atmosphere.
With Sharanya Kanvilkar in Bombay
Also read: Is Raghav Bahl India’s new media mogul?
Why JoJo might want to leave The Times of India