Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Hindu’ reinstates family members at helm of affairs

‘The Hindu’ reinstates family members at helm of affairs

Professional Editor, CEO Eased Out


Chennai: A little less than two years after it brought in professionals from outside the family to head the editorial and business wings of the company, Kasturi & Sons Limited (KSL), the publishers of ‘The Hindu’ daily, carried out drastic changes on Monday in the leadership structure by bringing in family members at the helm of affairs and easing out the editor and the company’s CEO. 
    The KSL board of directors appointed N Ravi as the editor-in-chief of ‘The Hindu’, replacing Siddharth Varadarajan, who took over from N Ram in January last year. N Ram will now be the chairman of the board, and Malini Parthasarathy, who left the paper as its executive editor in 2011 and now heads The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, is back as ‘The Hindu’ editor. 
    Monday’s board meeting 
also decided to abolish the post of CEO, which was held by Arun Anant since it was created around the last revamp. Anant’s new role is yet to be defined. He declined to comment when contacted. 
    In what appears to be a sharp indictment of Varadarajan and Anant, a statement signed by N Ram (who had brought in these two), said: “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’.” He added that the “whole effort was to restore employee morale, good industrial relations” and the trust of the newspaper’s readers. 
    Varadarajan, who was redesignated as the “contributing editor and senior columnist”, has submitted his resignation. Asked about alleged violations of policy under his stewardship, he told TOI, “If indeed policies or editorial values were flouted, the 
solution would have been to get another professional editor. The fact that the owners have come back into editorial itself provides the answer to your question.” 
    He added, “Of course, there were occasional instances of editorialising that slipped in, just as they did when Mr Ram or Mr Ravi edited ‘The Hindu’ earlier. But I fear this is merely an excuse to reverse the earlier decision to professionalise the newspaper.” 
    By late evening, a revolt was brewing from within as six directors¸ all members of the Hindu family, issued a notice saying, “With reference to the announcement posted by the chairman of the board, the following directors wish to communicate to the staff that they opposed the board resolution that seeks to change the editorial and business structure assigning new responsibilities and designations to the directors, CEO and editor...The vote on said resolution was tied 6-6 and was passed only with a casting vote of the chairman, Mr N Ram. The undersigned wish to declare this casting vote invalid and will contest the decision through an appro
priate mechanism.” 
    Ravi, the current editor-inchief, had resigned as the paper’s editor in July 2011, along with other family members Malini Parthasarathy and Nirmala Lakshman, who was the joint editor, after Ram insisted on “separation of ownership from management on the editorial as well as the business side.” Varadarajan took over as editor on January 10, 2012 after Ram, who held the post for eight years. That marked the conclusion of a series of debates within the family since 2009, starting with the appointment of N Balaji as the managing director of Kasturi & Sons. 
    On April 20, 2011, about three months before his exit, Ravi, in a bitter letter to ‘The Hindu’ employees, said Ram and some of the directors at the meeting of the board two days earlier had sought to remove him and appoint Siddharth Varadarajan. He called it a “shocking display of bad faith that has left me deeply anguished” and that they were entering “the second, and what might turn out to be a prolonged, phase of conflict and turbulence in the institution.”

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