One more senior editor has left the Hindu citing a lack of editorial independence
Rahul Pandita says he was unhappy about the lack of editorial independence and with the way the paper was being managed.
Rohan Venkataramakrishnan; Yesterday · 05:15 pm
The Hindu, one of India’s most widely regarded newspapers, also happens to have a reputation of being a bit stuffy. But behind the formal news articles and civil service exam ads is an institution that has been anything but boring over the last year and a half.
The paper has just rung in the new year with the resignation of its Opinion and Special Stories editor, Rahul Pandita, who has left leveling allegations of a lack of editorial independence and mismanagement.
“I came to The Hindu to steer some top-notch reportage and to strengthen the edit pages – by making it more accessible and more nuanced,” Pandita wrote in his resignation letter to editor Malini Parthasarathy, which was tweeted out by his former Open magazine colleague Hartosh Singh Bal. “But I am bogged down with this hourly need to consult you, and with the practice of selecting articles on the basis of whether you’ve been addressed as ‘Malini’ or ‘Ma’am’ in the covering letters.”
According to Pandita’s letter, in which he describes himself as a “hardcore journalist” who has seen people die in front of his eyes, the decision-making at the newspaper was extremely arbitrary. “One is also tired of your changing goalposts,” he writes. “The Sunday Anchor has to be reportage-driven, and then suddenly it becomes policy-driven, and then suddenly, depending on what you hear or get impressed with, it has to be made reportage-driven again.”
Speaking to Scroll.in, Pandita suggested that the problem wasn’t simply Parthasarthy’s approach to management, it was also the rest of the leadership in the newsroom. “The current crop of editors have hardly any editorial autonomy right now. It’s a matter of them surrendering to the fact or not surrendering to the fact,” he said. “Editors are like wazirs. In the face of adversity, you give the right sort of advice to the owner. But here the wazirs don’t say anything, they just became yes men.” Attempts to reach Parthasarthy were unsuccessful.
Pandita says he didn’t leak the letter, but that it was cc’ed to other people besides just Parthasarthy. The letter, which keeps to the recent trend of internal newsroom happenings spilling over into social media, is only the latest in a series of intrigues at the Mahavishnu of Mount Road. The newspaper went through a huge change a little over a year ago when the board of the company, Kasturi and Sons, changed its mind about being professionally run and decided to stick with family-based editorship instead.
At the time, the editor Siddharth Varadarajan quit along with the chief executive, Arun Anant, followed by a number of journalists and other staffers who had been hired under them. N. Ravi, who had served as editor-in-chief in the past, then returned to that role with Parthasarathy effectively running the show at the newspaper.
Murmurs of unhappiness
This hasn’t kept everyone entirely happy however. Aside from the discussion about need for family-run versus professionally run institutions in the aftermath of Varadarajan’s departure, there were also noises of unhappiness regarding changes within the newsroom.
Although the paper reverted to an older design style after Varadarajan’s departure, it has been evolving under the new leadership, using visual cues and approaches that would not have been considered a decade ago. This attempt to reinvent itself, has however, not gone down all that well with everyone.
Senior report P. Sainath, whose work almost typifies the Hindu brand of reportage, quit the newspaper and this was then followed up by the exit of senior editor Praveen Swami, whose resignation letter also made its way to the internet. Swami even happened to compare to Parthasarathy to Pol Pot, when asked why he was leaving, saying he didn’t want to hang around “until I was executed or sent off for re-education”.