Praveen Swami retorts that there might be plenty of places it might be quite difficult for sane people to fit in

The Hindu responds to allegations- Sainath and Praveen Swami did not fit into their roles
news Wednesday, July 08, 2015 - 05:30

There was a time when nobody left The Hindu. Considered one of India's premier newspapers, it offered good working conditions, a good pay packet and decent opportunities for growth. 

Now the opposite seems to be happening. A few months after the abrupt departure of Siddharth Vardarajan and Arun Ananth, comes the news of the re-departure of Praveen Swami and the heavyweight Rural Affairs Editor P. Sainath.

Something is obviously wrong with the Mahavishnu of Mount Road, as the paper is called. Another senior person who exited last week was Dr A Srivathsan, senior Deputy Editor with the paper.

While Praveen Swami who was the Hindu’s Strategic Affairs Editor & Resident Editor has joined Indian Express as National Editor, Strategic & International Affairs, P Sainath will be working on few rural projects and Dr A Srivathsan has moved back to academia.

Bestmediainfo.com reported portions of Praveen Swami’s mail to colleagues at the time of resigning, “The last few months have not been pleasant, for reasons all of you are aware of, and I decided it was best to use my energies doing journalism, not fighting battles that serve no purpose for anyone. I owe an apology to the fine young reporters as well as eminent senior colleagues who I could not protect from shabby treatment. Though none of the decisions were mine, they happened on my watch, and for that I owe you an apology.”

Sources in The Hindu told The News Minute that both Sainath and Praveen Swami had differences with top editorial and management. “Praveen Swami had differences with some in the top editorial, especially with Malini Parthasarathy. He objected to some transfers made in his team as there was no logic or reasoning behind them. In January, he was told he will be moved to Washington DC from 2015. Then was asked to abruptly move to Dubai a few days ago till such time DC 'opens up'.  In the last few months, many new appointments were made. A new Strategic Affairs editor, Diplomatic Affairs Editor and Political Editor were appointed; this obviously created too many editorial bosses whose mandates clashed with Praveen Swami’s (role).”

The source also told the News Minute that differences cropped up between Sainath and the editorial after some of his articles were not published.

Now, for the first time The Hindu has responded to the allegations.

N Ravi, Editor-in- Chief of The Hindu in an email response to The News Minute’s query says that Sainath and Praveen Swami unfortunately did not fit into their roles.

To our query of whether the two senior journalists had differences with the top editorial and management of The Hindu and if Sainath went on leave for six months and later quit as his stories were not published, N Ravi replied, “Sainath and Praveen are excellent and highly acclaimed journalists. However, they did not fit into the roles they were assigned and unfortunately things did not work out. In making decisions, we had to keep in mind the best interests of the newspaper as a whole and of all its journalists.”

The News Minute also sought Praveen Swami’s reaction to N Ravi’s statement. Swami responded, “He is completely right, we didn’t fit in- though I am not sure it’s a criticism. There might be plenty of places it might be quite difficult for sane people to fit in. Seriously, Editors have every right to set a vision, and we didn’t fit into it. Most serious journalists wouldn’t.” Our attempts to reach Sainath were unsuccessful.

A senior editorial person in The Hindu told The News Minute that Dr A Srivathsan who used to write on architecture and urban planning had differences with the management over a construction on the heritage building in which The Hindu is housed. “Last year a structure was built on top of the Kasturi buildings in which The Hindu office is housed in Chennai. An office space for the Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy was constructed on top of the heritage building. Dr Srivathsan objected to this. On his insistence a portion of the new construction had to be demolished. From then on there were issues between him and seniors, including Malini Parthasarathy, Editor of The Hindu.”

Srivathsan

N Ravi however denied these allegations. He said , ” Dr. A. Srivathsan is an architect and academic and his quitting had nothing to do with any differences. After a five year stint in journalism, he chose to move back to academia, to Ahmedabad as the academic director of a leading school of architecture. He was writing excellent articles and editorials on architecture, town planning, heritage and history till the very end of his tenure, and in fact his last article on smart cities was published on Monday, July 14.”

The last year has seen many changes at the paper. In the Chennai office alone, several people in senior editorial roles have been transferred, some being reassigned responsibilities more than once. The Tamil Nadu bureau has had three bureau chiefs since October 2013 - Venkataramanan Krishnamurthy, RK Radhakrishnan and S Vijay Kumar. This is unprecedented for a bureau that has seen just three bureau chiefs between 1992 and 2012- C Raghavan, V Jayanth and Suresh Nambath.

Nagesh Kumar, journalist of standing in Andhra Pradesh, Hindu's AP Resident Editor was suddenly re designated consulting editor. He asked for a clarification on his role - since Hindu had transferred Srinivas Reddy from Bangalore to function as AP RE. When none was forthcoming, he put in his papers- this incident happened a few months ago

A source in The Hindu says, “There is a systematic move to oppose anyone who stands up to the editorial. (read family). Incidentally an advertisement has been placed today for the post of Economics Editor. The buzz in the office is that this is a post that will clash with Business Editor Raghuvir Srinivasan’s mandate.”

When we asked N Ravi if the exits and new entrants would have an impact on the readership, he said, “We have had some excellent journalists joining The Hindu: Amit Barua, Suhasini Haidar, Verghese George and Rahul Pandita, to name a few of the senior journalists. Overall, we now have an active news network providing well informed reports and analyses of the standards and rigour expected of high quality journalism. In addition, a wide range of opinion and viewpoints are being offered, with several outstanding writers and columnists.”

Another source added, "The only good change I see now is that many youngsters are being given a chance. But some of the differences with senior and old hands is getting out of control."

In his farewell letter to journalists in 2011, the then Managing Editor N. Murali had said the newspaper was run like a "banana republic." At no time in the past have so many efficient and hard-working Hindu hands contemplated leaving the paper, a chat with a cross section of journalists reveals. 

After the latest round of exits and the bad blood created thereof, many more former editors are likely to agree. Hindu's crisis, which predominantly remained in it not being able to manage its business end well - is now seeming to engulf its editorial operations. 

FULL TEXT OF N RAVI'S REPLY

Sainath and Praveen are excellent and highly acclaimed journalists. However, they did not fit into the roles they were assigned and unfortunately things did not work out. In making decisions, we had to keep in mind the best interests of the newspaper as a whole and of all its journalists.

Dr. A. Srivathsan is an architect and academic and his quitting had nothing to do with any differences. After a five year stint in journalism, he chose to move back to academia, to Ahmedabad as the academic director of a leading school of architecture. He was writing excellent articles and editorials on architecture, town planning, heritage and history till the very end of his tenure, and in fact his last article on smart cities was published on Monday, July 14.

We have had some excellent journalists joining The Hindu: Amit Barua, Suhasini Haidar, Verghese George and Rahul Pandita, to name a few of the senior journalists. Overall, we now have an active news network providing well informed reports and analyses of the standards and rigour expected of high quality journalism. In addition, a wide range of opinion and viewpoints are being offered, with several outstanding writers and columnists.

Best,
N. Ravi
Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu

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