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Siddharth Varadarajan's Memo On Modi Coverage

Since Monday, when news of Mr Siddharth Varadarajan's resignation from the Hindu broke on Twitter, there have been charges and insinuations about the newspaper's coverage of BJP's prime-ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. The Mint had quoted Mr N. Ravi as saying:

N. Ravi, the new editor-in-chief, said that the “news desk was given standing instructions not to take any stories on Narendra Modi on page one. The Hindu has always been anti-Hindutva, but it was always kept out of our news judgement”.

Mr Varadarajan has denied this but since the disinformation has persisted, we made some enquiries and managed to obtain a copy of an email where he spelt out the Hindu's editorial policy to his colleagues:

Date: Fri, 27 Sep 2013 04:03:48 +0530
From: Siddharth Varadarajan 
To: PK Subramaniam, Vinnagaram Narayanan , PJ Jacob P 
Cc: Gouridasan Nair C, Srinivas Reddy, Nagesh Kumar S, khogen singh 

There is zero news value in the front page Kerala picture of Modi touching Amrithanandamayi's feet.

Please understand that between now and the 2014 elections, Modi, Rahul, Sonia etc are going to stage hundreds of photo ops and make hundreds of speeches as part of their own self-promotion.

The Hindu has to be careful about how it covers these sorts of things.

The following guidelines should be adhered to:

1. No photo-op type non-news pix of top national politicians are to be carried on p1 without a reference to me. This applies to negative pix too. For example, I asked  [Name Deleted] not to front page the picture of Advani turning aside while Modi tried to touch his feet yesterday.

2. News pix can be carried depending on the discretion and judgment of the RE/COB/NE.

3. Speeches at big rallies by Modi, Rahul etc in the catchment area of our editions can be on p1 if the news mix for the day warrants it, eg. Modi's Thiruchi's speech is an obvious p1 story for the Thiruchi edition and a regional page story for the rest of the state (TN). But unless a new point emerges or they say something fresh or unusual or newsworthy, there is no need for such rally stories to be taken nationally.

if in doubt, please speak to me.

-- 
Siddharth Varadarajan
Editor
The Hindu

859-860 Mount Road
Chennai - 600 002

On his part, in addition to what Mr Varadarajn said to us in an email, in an interview to bestmediainfo.com, he has further elaborated on the circumstances leading to his resignation, adding: "...we trod on some big toes, toes that were expecting puff pieces and not hard reporting from The Hindu. Those toes will probably be feeling relieved now". Excerpts:

Were these charges ["levelled by N Ram that the changes were made 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’ mandatory Code of Editorial Values applicable to The Hindu"] brought to your notice as warnings ever during your tenure as Editor of The Hindu?

No. Not once did the KSL Board revert to me with these so-called issues. In fact, the Board has never asked me any questions on editorial content in the 20 months I was editor. Not even once! Of course, individual board members had queries about this or that story, coverage, why a certain Op-ed writer was used, etc., but no one made the kind of sweeping charge that is now being levelled...

With the fact that N Ram brought you and your team when he needed you at the peak of the dispute within the family, do you feel betrayed when he patched up with his family members leaving you and your team nowhere?

There is no question of feeling betrayed. I came to this job with my eyes wide open. I had a great run as Editor of The Hindu, which is India’s finest paper, and am grateful to the KSL Board for appointing me to the post.

Read the full interview at bestmediainfo: Siddharth Varadarajan, on why he stepped down as Editor of The Hindu

Meanwhile, on Twitter, in a sideshow, the brother of the outgoing editor (tunkuv), brother of the incoming editor-in-chief (nramind), the outgoing executive editor (mkvenu1) and the incoming editor (malinip)seem to be having a bit of sparring on Twitter:

SHORT TAKES
24 Oct 2013, 01:40:13 AM | Sundeep Dougal

Siddharth Varadarajan's fascinating interview to Tehelka, showing tremendous grace under fire: Yes, there is bitterness. ‘The Hindu’ was on the cusp of something great: Varadarajan

Of course, there is a lot of unfinished work. On the day I quit I was editing a blockbuster of a story involving RIL, Mukesh Ambani and a private media company. I am not sure that story — and other hard-hitting investigative pieces, especially on corporate issues — will ever make it to print now. I hope I am wrong. I would be the happiest man if I were proved wrong.

So yes, there is a bitterness. The Hindu was on the cusp of something great, its journalism was rocking, it was finally beginning to expand its presence in Bangalore and Hyderabad, it had risen to a circulation of a lakh in Delhi city despite a cover price twice that of other papers, and another lakh across northern and eastern India. We had developed very ambitious, aggressive plans for the internet with video which were to roll out by January. I hope these remain priority areas.

He also goes on to show-up the absurdity of Mr Subrahmanian Swamy's posturings on the question of "foreign editors" and also how the real reason was Mr Swamy's craving for attention being denied at the Hindu under his stewardship. Read the full interview at Tehelka: Yes, there is bitterness. ‘The Hindu’ was on the cusp of something great: Varadarajan

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