Tag Archives: N. Ram

10 reasons why ‘The Hindu’ returned to its past

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’

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‘The Hindu redesign was a mishmash, an eyesore’

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’

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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

Not just a newspaper, a no-paid-news newspaper!

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It speaks for the level of distrust that the media has managed to earn for itself that the front page of the Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar carries an emblem in Hindi (right) alongside the masthead, in the space usually reserved for ear-panel advertisements, proclaiming “No Paid News”.

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Two years ago, the Bombay newspaper DNA, in which the Dainik Bhaskar group held a stake (which it later divested in favour of Subhash Chandra‘s Zee) too carried a similar logo.

When The Hindu started printing an edition from Mohali in 2011, its then editor-in-chief N. Ram made a front-page declaration that it would not serve up news that somebody else has paid for”.

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Dainik Bhaskar‘s “No Paid News” emblem, however, does not appear in Divya Bhaskar, the Gujarati paper owned by the group.

The paper was in the news last Sunday when it carried a front-page, eight-column flyer-interview by Dhimant Purohit on Sunday, quoting the State’s chief minister Narendra Modi as saying that India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had not attended the funeral of home minister Vallabhbhai Patel.

Dainik Bhaskar too carried the Divya Bhaskar story as a page-one, eight-column flyer, but two days later, Divya Bhaskar later printed a front-page “clarification”

Soon after the clarification, Modi tweeted, “Divya Bhaskar has clarified on a statement about Sardar Patel’s funeral wrongly attributed to me. I thank them for it.”

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In a simple but smart use of archival material, The Economic Times ran a graphic, containing the front-page of The Times of India, which called Modi’s (and Divya Bhaskar‘s) bluff.

Images: courtesy Divya Bhaskar, Dainik Bhaskar, The Economic Times

Also read: Good morning, your paper is free of paid news

A paper without paid news for North Indians

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‘Media’s Modi-fixation needs medical attention’

How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feast, a promo’

For cash-struck TV, Modi is effective TRP

”The Hindu’ situation had become irremediable’

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The “professional” editor may have been eased out by redesignating him; the services of the “professional” CEO may have been summarily terminated; and the front page of the paper may have returned to its past.

But The Hindu saga is not over yet.

After six board members on the 11-member board of Kasturi & Sons (K. Balaji, K. Venugopal, Ramesh Rangarajan, Lakshmi Srinath, Vijaya Arun and Akhila Vijay Iyengar) wrote to the other five against the removal of Siddharth Varadarajan and Arun Anant, the chairman of the board N. Ram has responded in kind through a seven-page response, with the operative paragraphs on pages 3 and 4.

“The discussions on the performance of Mr Siddharth Varadarajan as Editor of The Hindu was in fact a continuation of the discussions in the Board meeting held on August 20, 2013 as reflected clearly in the minutes of the meeting approved unanimously at the meeting on October 21, 2013. Not a single Director had any words of praise for or defence of his performance. Mr Siddharth Varadarajan had been informed in detail by me as Chairman of the previous meeting Board meeting of the view of the Board and some Directors had raised such issues with him periodically. Mr N. Murali, Mr. N. Ravi, Ms Malini Parthasarathy, and I referred to many instances of gross and continued violation of the binding Code of Editorial Values in terms of editorialising in the guise of news coverage, unfair and exaggerated reporting, banning or downplaying coverage of certain personalities with personal preference and prejudice, overriding professional news judgement, unsatisfactory coverage in the in main Chennai market, frequent absences from Chennai, and inadequate time and commitment to the overall task of editing the newspaper. Some of you wanted these issues address with Mr Siddharth Varadarajan. I pointed out that these issues had been taken up with him repeatedly to no effect and Mr. N Ravi expressed the view that the situation had become irremediable.

“Mr. K. Venugopal made the suggestion at the meeting that the Board should vote on reposing confidence in the then CEO and the erstwhile business and editorial arrangement. I then put the following resolution to vote: “Resolved that the present structure be retained”. Mr K. Venugopal declared that he was voting for his resolution and five others voted in favour. As rightly noted in your letter, six Directors opposed the resolution and the motion consequently failed in the absence of a sufficient majority. It was therefore evident that the erstwhile management structure had become untenable and the Company could not continue to repose trust and confidence in the then Editor and the then CEO. Of necessity and solely with a view to preventing the newspaper’s activities from coming to a grinding half, the managerial supervision of the business and editorial affairs of the Company had perforce to be reorganised.

“It was in this vacuum that I circulated the draft of a resolution of the new structure and allowed the Directors time to go through it before starting discussions on it. The main elements of the proposed structure had been discussed repeatedly in Board meetings as well as outside. Thereafter, discussions on the proposed structure followed with some Directors expressing support and others expressing opposition to it. When the draft resolution assigning that I, in my capacity as Chairman, out of necessity and in the interest of the Company, exercised my casting vote to approve the resolution. Failing this, not only would an unacceptable crisis have arisen in leadership but the very citadel of the newspaper built over more than a century would have been grievously threatened. Such a situation would certainly have been exploited by the Company’s competitors to the obvious disadvantage of the newspaper’s loyal readers. Consequently, the management of the Company who undoubtedly have tremendous experience and credentials in this regard….”

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

‘Hindu family’ chucks out ‘professional’ redesign

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.

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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

In a family-owned paper, only furniture is fixed

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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.”

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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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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.

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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

When ‘Indian Express’ gave ‘The Hindu’ a story

N. Ram (left) with Shekhar Gupta at a meeting in 2011 with Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan (right)

In October 1989, when The Hindu‘s then associate editor, N. Ram, was stopped in his tracks by his uncle and editor, G. Kasturi, from publishing the third part of an investigation into the Bofors gun deal, Ram found a novel method of getting the story out.

He called a press conference and handed out the story—done in collaboration with the paper’s Geneva correspondent Chitra Subramaniam—to any newspaper interested in carrying it.

In much the same manner, Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta has revealed how, in 2006, he found a way of getting out a story related to the elevation of a Delhi high court to the Punjab and Haryana high court, by giving the third part of the story to The Hindu.

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In a Walk the Talk interview with Gupta on NDTV 24×7 last week, the serial letter-writer Subhash Agarwal revealed how a family dispute led to his becoming a right to information (RTI) activist.

Agarwal’s uncle, Hari Ram, had filed a case against his father in 1991.

Hari Ram’s son-in-law was, at the time, a judge in the Delhi High Court (Justice Arun Kumar). The case was heard by Justice Vijendra Jain. The two judges knew each other well enough for Justice Jain to lend his official residence to be used by the petitioner Hari Ram, for his grand-daughter’s wedding.

This was in violation of one of the elements of the Code of Conduct or “Restatement of Judicial Values”, adopted by the Full court in 1997 which said no judge shall hear and decide a case of his relative or friend.

The wedding invitation card, with the judge’s residence printed on it, became the evidence for Subash Agarwal to approach both the Supreme Court and the President of India in 2005.  The chief information commissioner’s verdict showed the power of RTI.

Justice Vijendra Jain was later made chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana high court, but his elevation to the Supreme Court as a judge was stalled, despite the then chief justice Y.K. Sabharwal reportedly overruling the recommendation of the President of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Shekhar Gupta: So you discovered then the power of RTI which nobody had figured until then?

Subash Agarwal: Yes. The media made me strong. The media highlighted the CIC verdict and that shook the whole of the judiciary.

What happened to these judges then?

After the CIC verdict was published in the media, there was pressure on my uncle from his son-in-law and his associates in the higher judiciary, which also included the Chief Justice of India. And then he had to compromise though we had to pay a price much higher than the value of (the disputed) property at that time.

But the fact also is that one particular judge who later rose to be Chief Justice in a High Court could not ultimately come to the Supreme Court because of your activism.

Right. Mr Kalam held the file of promotion of that judge for elevation to the Supreme Court.

Even though the Chief Justice nearly overruled [the then President], Dr A.P.J. Kalam.

Yes.

You remember that The Indian Express was in the forefront of following that story from Rashtrapati Bhavan. It’s a story I cannot yet tell on camera but we paid gravely for that, but we were willing to pay.

Yes. Your paper has always been the pioneer in highlighting such malpractices.

I made this disclosure public that our third story on that issue, I had to then, with great respect and understanding, give to The Hindu, to Mr N Ram, who played a great editor and published it instead because circumstances were such that the Express could not have carried it…So, this was the first time that an RTI activist actually prevented a judge who had risen to the level of High Court Chief Justice from coming to the Supreme Court.

He had almost reached the Supreme Court.

Coincidentally, in November 2006, the Indian Express‘ new editorial headquarters in the Qutub institutional area was “sealed”  following a Supreme Court judgement.

Ironically, in 2011, The Indian Express and The Hindu were involved in a noisy battle, after N. Ram threatened “defamation proceedings” against the Express for reporting on the internecine war within the Hindu family.

Photograph: courtesy in.com

Read the full interview: Jan Andolan activism has failed’

Also read: Letter-writer secures win against top judge