Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Hindu vs The Times of India

I like the war between the two large groups of publications. I don't like both, for different reasons, and of course for some common features.

Our English professor Vekatachala Iyer had recommended The Hindu along with the "morning cup of coffee" to us PG students of English Language and Literature. I used to read The India Express of the Ramnath Goenka period till then and we used to get it in our village a day later, and in our college town, in the afternoon. But the Hindu somehow disappointed us all. That was the time when the paper was  said to verify the truth of the reports and then only print them. And there is an interesting story to illustrate this aspect. The City Editor calls Kastury Iyengar and tell him the news has come that MGR, the colourful actor-politician Chief Minister was no more, and sought permission to print the news. Kastury shouted back whether he had verified the report. Yes, said the newsman. With whom, barked Kasturi, Vadhyar shonnara? Had the man himself told you? Well, truth apart, Hindu was slow to bring news to you. And then, there was this reputation of the paper to stand for the landed gentry and generally the rich and powerful. During the notorious Emergency, Editor V.Balasubramaniam of The Eastern Economist editorially criticised The Hindu's powerful editorial supporting Indira Gandhi's Central Government  dismissing the Karunanithi Government in Tamilnadu, ending the edit with this unkindest cut: "The Hindu has real estate brokers on its editorial board; not journalists." VB lost his job and Eastern Economist, till then the Censor had not known of, started being censored.

In atonement for its past supporting the rich, The Hindu became since the nineties a pro-Left paper with the "millionaire Marxist" N.Ram's influence, and later under him. You can't even get a Letter to the Editor published in The Hindu unless it towed the paper's line. Ram famously said that he would not allow a Hindu journalist write anything against Saddam Hussein but can have the US Ambassador publish an article in support of the war for regime-change in Iraq. Ram said during the Bofors scam reports that Rajiv Gandhi called him and requested to be soft on the issue, and he didn't agree to. But soon afterwards Chitra Subramanaiam joined The Indian Express and continued the reporting.  I do not impute anything here.

The Times of   India was always different. In Mumbai it was very useful to the employment seekers, and also quite informative till Samir Jain came on the scene. (You could sell 5 days' old ToI for the cost of one day's new ToI in those days too.) The paper had great editors like Sham Lal and Girilal Jain who are alive in my memory for their great edits. The was one Mathew who wrote the third edit beautifully just as Jug Suraiya does now. Incidentally Jug Suraiya's book The Times of My Life describes the transition of ToI. One reason why the owners of Bennet Coleman and Co. Ltd decided that the paper did not want a Chief Editor was one of them, Dileep Padagaonkar, bragging htat he had the second most powerful job in the country, next to that of the Prime Minister of India! The paper is now what the Hindu ad says, and I hope The Hindu does not emulate ToI in whatever manner. The Hindu, for all its political precocity, has a lot of apolitical reading material. Though I have no land, I love to read the Agriculture page of The Hindu! (The Hindu has a Readers' Editor and I shall append here a letter I was forced to write, and of course, the gentleman did not mention anywhere he had a letter like that. Pls see:


To the Readers’ Editor of The Hindu

Dear Sri.Narayanan,
I read The Hindu ever since my Professor.K.Vekatachala Iyer of Sree Kerala Varma College Thrissur advised us, the 1968-70 batch MA (English) students to make reading the paper a habit "just like the morning's cup of coffee". For long I had no complaint except that the English was heavy and circumspect.

I tended to agree with VB when he wrote in the 'Eastern Economist' once during the Emergency (and also for the last time in the magazine!) that the Hindu editorial board comprised mainly of real estate brokers. It was indeed a conservative paper, but stood for our culture's age-old values.

But for the last two decades or so the Hindu is trying to be a 'revolutionary' paper, probably doing penance for its past. That is still okay. No newspaper has ever seduced or converted anyone yet. But for the publishers/Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu to pontificate to the readers and rest of the media on the "freedom of expression", media responsibilities, truth, justice and all that is the height of hypocrisy and nonsense. The Hindu is a leftist newspaper, or rather a Communist newspaper, period. If Hindu claims to reflect the many hues of a democratic polity, it is like Henry Ford approving any colour for his Model T if it was black. Didn't Mr.N.Ram say famously during the last round of Iraq war that he wouldn't have any reporter on the rolls of his paper write anything in support of the war, but wouldn't mind the US Ambassador in India contributing an article defending his country? That has been the paper's policy with respect to any news story. The Hindu refuses to publish anything against the 'the House Line' even in the 'Letters to The Editor' unless the writer is an old contributor to the column.

So the appointment of a 'Reader's Editor' is an eyewash, a pompous and stylish act; a feather the publisher/ Editor-in-Chief puts in his own cap. However, I congratulate you, Mr.Narayanan, for retaining the loyalty to the paper and the family and being selected for a position of eminence and I suppose a good remuneration to go with it. But the Hindu can never perform the ethical responsibility of a newspaper to maintain the required standards of integrity, balance, honesty and impartiality however much you try. You can't even try.

News, as presented by The Hindu is packaged to conform to a pre-conceived recipe or formula according to the ‘N.Ram School of journalism’. It lacks fairness, balance, truth, and authenticity. It is not fair, because, fairness is the concept that gives all sides of the argument a fair hearing. Balance is the idea that the journalist can or should present equally the two ideas of the argument. The Hindu has forgotten the reasons for its birth, sir.

Yours truly
T.M.Menon 13.3.2006

The Times of India, I strongly believe is sold to the Congress Party and its allies. Its political reporting is skewed enough to support my view. The paper editorially opposed the largest Opposition party in India for all its omissions and commissions, real or assumed, while supporting the UPA Government wherever possible. You also cannot have a 'Speak Out' piece published in it opposing the paper's view! The Times View' appearing in it along with the 'Counter View' shows where or who with the paper stands! Well, The Hindu and The Times of India are alike in this. The Hindu had gone out of its way to Support UPA I as long as the CP(I)M supported it!

1 comment:

  1. your hair and beard was not white when i saw you last which was ten years ago. is it time or chemistry? whatever, it was fun running into you again. best wishes.