In a family-owned paper, only furniture is fixed

21 October 2013

sv

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:

20131022-122128 AM.jpg

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

18 Responses to “In a family-owned paper, only furniture is fixed”

  1. Krishna Kumar Says:

    Good Riddance

  2. Col(r) Sekhar Says:

    An outstanding journalist thrown out in a family coup!
    I,a long time reader deeply saddened!
    Shame on you Mr Ram and co!

  3. Gnani Says:

    Hindu ram’s official statement says changes in editorship was needed due to “recurrent violations and defiance of ‘Living Our Values’, the mandatory Code of Editorial Values applicable to The Hindu.” Will outgoing (or outsent) editor siddharth varadarajan tell us what were the management’s charges of his alleged violation of editorial values ,since ram won’t say anything ?


  4. Dear Churumuri

    You disappoint me by using the phrase “boardroom dynamics” instead of “boardroom intrigues” Your previous posts convince me you think highly about some lackeys in journalism. The Hindu was never good after the young turks have taken it overr. Reliable sources tell me that during Ram’s regime (Ram Rajya} any unlettered person could become a special correspondent if he brought a letter from Yechuri or if he graduated from JNU.

    After Siddharth Varadarajan came, the Hindu parivar’s hatred of the Sangh parivar reached the point of hysteria. Some rigged poll crowning his elder brother as the best journalist in India is no proof that he is really one.

    I am sorry after Frank Moraes nobody in Indian journalism, not the least Sekhar Gupta, understood the meaning of secularism. These are a pack of communalists. The Capital media’s reporting of Gujarat riots was pure Booker Prize fiction. Now they are shit-scared at the prospect of Namo becoming the PM.I may assure them that their Padma awards will not be forfeited if he becomes a PM. If a World Bank Trojan Horse could become the PM without ever facing the electorate, a person, who faced the people three times successfully winning their verdict, is committing no sin in aiming to lead the country. Don’t make the mistake of regarding me as a Namo supporter or detractor. But I don’t flee the country if he became the prime minister. Ruin on the stinking English press of which I was a part for more than four decades, 20 of them in the immodestly named Fleet Street of India.

    Let me tell you these observations do not take away the wonderful information you provide in your posts.

  5. Jay Ravi Says:

    The Hindu has done the most damage to most young minds . While being family-owned, it fraudulently preached socialism (Russian & Chinese varieties), secularism of the JNU variety and never (never!!!!) took the Dravida parties to task — pardon my mentioning, is it because one of Ram’s cousin sisters is married into the DMK menagerie. Will be interesting to see Siddharth’s next move.

  6. Kerala Varma kelappan Says:

    God saves dynasties because we all believe in a new found chaturvarna and we will hear more of the tribals with empathy and the plight of SCs and STs, secularism and socialism and of course cricket! Look 2014 is not going to be an ordinary general election unlike the 2009 one that hardly roused anyone. And Goenkas knew how to keep a Frank Moraes in thrall.

  7. Prem Chandran Says:

    Needless to say, The Hindu conducted itself with dignity all along, except for its tilt to the Left and dull reporting style. Varadarajan did introduce some changes, but overall, he, a ‘professional Editor’ as he called himself, made little impact; and the joke was that he kept blaming the junior level editors for his own failings. N. Ravi was by far the most level-headed and professional among the Editors in recent years, as was Kasturi, who lorded over the paper for a long time, both being from the Hindu family. Ram however made up for his ideological weakness by strengthening the edit and op-ed pages, which are seen to be the major attractions for its readers — but certainly not the drab reporting style of the paper by incompetent or easygoing reporters through the ages, who often missed the woods for the trees. Sainath or Praveen Swami were among the few exceptions.

  8. hardilaziz Says:

    The truth is that in a family-owned newspaper nothing is fixed- not even furniture. Owners are a whimsical lot!

  9. Victor Says:

    It remains to be seen who wins in the next round of musical chair for editorship . The democles sword will be hanging for ever from now on the head of who ever is the editor of the day . It depends on the whims and fancies of N.Ram , N,Ravi , N.Murali and Malini among the directors cum editors . Too many cooks spoil the broth , they say .The Hindu is a solid example . N.Murali said a few months back that HINDU WAS BEING run as Banana republic . Now the same Murali and Ram are on the same boat . Rules like 65 years age limit are made and broken by them to suit their convenience . In any case Malini also will reach 65 years in the next few years and with no family member capable of editor ship , THE HINDU has to fall back on professional editors / managers ultimately . Who will take that responsibility at that time ? Already Deccan chronicle is in a financial mess in Hyd . Deccan Herald has lost the crown in Bangalore .The Telegraph in Calcutta is facing the heat . Now it is a matter of time TOI bull dozes Madras market as a very good opportunity of turmoil in HINDU making it a sitting duck . With Murali taking control of business side and Ravi as editor , it is a foregone conclusion of dooms day a head for THE HINDU . They are not aggressive to take on TOI in any market . Siddharth and Arun were making honest efforts to increase the markets in all Indian territories . In Bangalore and Hyd markets , it was showing good results . What an irony . Only a few days back The Hindu in Bangalore had a party on the success of their recent circulation drive . Murali is not capable of acheiving this success.

  10. Appu Says:

    Are you guys still reading The Hindu ??!!
    We all switched long back !

  11. Victor Says:

    The proof of the pudding is in the eating .Today’s TOI carries this news prominently – under TIMES NATION page on what N.Murali said in the interview to Business standard yesterday .It says N.Murali has admitted in the interview that The Hindu has lost a major part of advertising and readership in Madras / TN to TOI which has gained a lot of market share .

    Even a novice in a junior level position would not have uttered such nonsense publicly even if the ground is lost .

    As per LATEST AND LAST IRS Q4 2012 , The Hindu is still far ahead of TOI , NIE and DC in Madras / TN market . It is not with out any reason that N.Ram kicked up Murali , ” a frog in the well ” – so to say ” – with 40 years experience in THE HINDU only – by making him a dummy as senior MD with actual powers given to K.Balaji who is well qualified in production , quality control of newspapers .

    Now admitting wrongly that TOI has grabbed a lot of advts and readership from Hindu , he has scored same side goal once more . This alone clearly shows that he is unfit to any position on business side .

    It is only a matter of time before TOI tom toms Murali’s foolish utterances in every mode of advertising and grab the TN market also with out any effort .

    Murali is well versed in fiddling in Madras Music academy affairs as president [ or secratary ? ] and he should restrict his activities there as he has already retired last year from the HINDU .

    He may be a share holder but to keep the share value in tact , Murali should be kept out of THE HINDU .

    Siddarth has made THE HINDU readable and there is no denying this fact . He was having a grand plan for Hindu’s expansion in other teritories and other languages . His fate was sealed by one single casting vote in the board meeting to the surprice of not only SV but every one . It is the foregone conclusion the same fate awaits N.Ravi , Murali , Malini and Ram himself in some other board meetings very sooner than later because every one in KSL board survives on the casting vote only now .

    All these years , Murali on business side made no effort worth mentioning to increase market share in other teritories . It was Arun and Siddarth whose aggressive circulation drive has started yielding results .

    Now , these people will take the credit for that .

    The Kasturi family should keep their infighting between themselves inside their 4 walls and not spoil the cariers of professional managers and editors in THE HINDU .

    • Sam Says:

      I don’t know if the TOI is exaggerating its revenues and readership in Tamil Nadu, but nobody should be surprised that they showed some growth during SV’s tenure at The Hindu.

      SV has reduced The Hindu to ToI’s standard, trying to make all the news more masaladar, while the ToI had actually toned down and tried to be conservative like The Hindu to take away its market share.

      Here’s hoping the new editor can bring back the conservative approach and ensure a good balance of news and spice.

      • shankar Says:

        what do you mean by the ‘conservative’ approach!? If a newspaper does not focus more on news, editorial grandness, progressive values in the society, it should be termed as conservative one. I would rate TOI crappy approach to the journalism as conservative one.

        (I am not commenting on “The Hindu”‘s approach towards journalism. but wanted to say about your usage of the word “conservative” )


  12. ‘The Hindu’ needs an Advertisement Manager preferably a relative of any prominent Minister in the central Government and with so many editions from different States local Ministers can help. TOI knows these tricks better than anyone else. And one need a dynamic person to go about the job of revenue generation through advertisements.

  13. SG Says:

    While the poor wash their dirty linens on the road..the rich wash ‘much dirtier’ linens in the privacy of their so called ivory towers..and Varadarajan’s exit only proves ‘appointed executives’ are always at the mercy of their masters….a parallel can be – self thinking bureaucrats unwilling to bend to politicians….Btw it wud be more ethical on ur part to have masked the friends and their identities in his FB office capture…do u think its an invasion of their privacy?

  14. Foreshore Says:

    I was once an aficionado of the Hindu, now no more. I have seen before my eyes, over decades, the edifice of the grand paper tumbling down, or it is more correct to say, being pulled down. The Paper, which no less a person than Khushwant Singh called “The Best Newspaper” is slowly fading into oblivion. Try as they might, it is difficult to restore its lost glory. “Enough it is to turn the whole garden to seeds by hooting of just one owl, but what’ll happen to the garden, full of trees, with owls on each branch?
    Not to worry. Like many others, I purchase my copy of the Hindu to find out the contemporaries whom I outlive.


  15. The multi media revolution is open; may be ‘The Hindu’ start a 24 x 7 news channel on TV because its hard copy covers news upto 1800 hrs of the previous day. Of course it costs money but it is worth it for a South based audience.

  16. Sam Says:

    what do you mean by the ‘conservative’ approach!?

    @shankar:
    In both their journalistic pursuit and in making money from it, I would prefer that they stick with their conservative approach.

    The word ‘conservative‘ does have a certain negative connotation to it, depending on the context. But as all long time Hindu readers are aware, one of its stated values is to be “classic, yet contemporary” and none of its loyal readers would consider the attribute of “conservatism”, with regards to the newspaper, as something bad.

    Sure, The Hindu, might have increased its readerships in new territories under SV. But its editorial approach under SV also cost them a lot – many long time readers abandoned the newspaper. I know an 83 years old man, a long time reader of The Hindu for the last 50+ years cancel his subscription 6-10 months after SV took over.

    Any good businessman will tell you that the cost of acquiring a new customer is always very high and the loyalty of a new customer is also fickle. In a subscription based business model, you have a SERIOUS problem if your old, long time customers are abandoning you.


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