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Paid News & The Hindu Divided Family

The letter from Mr N. Ravi, Editor, on the recent happenings in The Hindu is best read in the context of this old blog-post. While most of it is about internal family politics about editorial control of the newspaper, the following paragraph has got many tongues wagging:

The Hindu as an institution had in the past valued its editorial integrity over all else.  In the recent period, editorial integrity has been severely compromised and news coverage linked directly to advertising in a way that is little different from paid news.  A meaningless distinction has been sought to be made between walls and lines, and the walls between editorial and advertising are sought to be replaced by “lines” between them. Very recently, those of us who were not privy to the deal making learnt to our shock that a major interview with A. Raja in defence of the telecom licensing policy published on May 22, 2010—that was referred to by the Prime Minister in his press conference--involved a direct quid pro quo in the form of a full page, colour advertisement from the Telecom Ministry that was specially and hurriedly cleared by the Minister personally for publication on the same day in The Hindu. The contrast between such a deed and pious editorial declarations including the campaign against paid news cannot be starker. To continue with such practices, the editorial structure is sought to be changed, with the editor being made subordinate to an executive board comprising a majority of business side executives. The undermining of the primacy of the editorial function is an attack on the very soul of The Hindu.  In the context of these distortions that have crept into actual practice, the high sounding code of editorial values that is sought to be publicised now would seem no more than empty rhetoric.

A sample tweet:

SHORT TAKES
23 Apr 2011, 11:52:21 PM | Sundeep Dougal

Sans Serif documents The four great wars of N. Ram on ‘Hindu’ soil

23 Apr 2011, 11:54:02 PM | Sundeep Dougal

The Forbes website has a family-chart and updates: The Hindu: Board Room Becomes Battlefield -- Fraternal fight erupts again in one of India’s oldest and most respected newspapers

29 Apr 2011, 11:24:54 PM | Sundeep Dougal

The Hoot examines the controversy at the Hindu and the argument for a non-family editor -- Professional vs family editors? : Many journalists within the paper will welcome the move, even if Varadarajan’s rival claimants do not. The problem in the Hindu has always been, how far up the editorial ladder can a truly talented professional go?

02 May 2011, 04:24:54 PM | Sundeep Dougal

Now Malini Parthasarathy, Executive Editor, The Hindu, responds to the Hoot, citing proposed changes which are not yet in the public domain:

26 Apr 2011, 11:31:43 PM | Sundeep Dougal

Meanwhile, over at the Hindu, the sparring continues. Now it is N. Ravi's turn to join issue with N.Ram's defence of  The Hindu's coverage of the 2G scam and the denial of quid pro quo.

With regard to the advertisement that was published in The Hindu of May 22, 2010 along with his interview on the front page with the full transcript inside, records in the Central Government, particularly in the Ministry of Telecommunications relating to the clearance of this particular advertisement and of some others would go to establish by whom and how this advertisement was cleared.  Of all the newspapers that are said to have carried the advertisement, only The Hindu published a friendly interview and not the others. People in the media are aware that promotional advertisements of this type unrelated to any occasion or to any specific announcements are issued as much as rewards to the media as for publicity for the Minister. The Minister’s intention to hugely reward The Hindu that had been so friendly to him in its coverage was obvious. Publication in other newspapers was just a cover, it would have been untenable for any Ministry to have issued an advertisement to just one newspaper.

22 Apr 2011, 03:42:44 PM | Sundeep Dougal

Meanwhile, Malini Parthasarathy, the Hindu's Executive Editor maintains on Twitter:

"After me the deluge" ! Real story at The Hindu is the removal of a sitting Editor and continuing backdoor control of editorial by proxies.

Not as though sitting Editor and others are not professional journalists with experience. Disingenuous explanations masking malafide actions

Of course I like Siddharth. This is not about him. But why remove a seasoned and experienced sitting Editor?

"Last word has not been said on the Hindu story. A wafer-thin majority cannot hustle substantive structural change in an organisation.

22 Apr 2011, 02:47:31 AM | Sundeep Dougal

N. Ram announces that the Board of Directors of Kasturi and Sons Ltd has "decided to appoint Siddharth Varadarajan, National Bureau Chief and an outstanding professional, as Editor of The Hindu, reporting to N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu, in such time as the Board of Directors of the Company may decide. It decided further that Siddharth Varadarajan would be The Hindu’s Editor responsible for selection of news under the PRB Act when N. Ram steps down as Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu and N. Ravi steps down as Editor of The Hindu"

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