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Interview: Siddharth Varadarajan, on why he stepped down as Editor of The Hindu

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 this question. The replacement of the professional CEO is further indication of the actual dynamics at play”

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Delhi | October 23, 2013

[caption id="attachment_36551" align="alignnone" width="480"] Siddharth Varadarajan[/caption]

The patch-up among the family members of Kasturi & Sons seems to have been responsible for your sudden exit from The Hindu. But were you surprised by N Ram’s statement?

Yes, I was.

How would you defend the serious 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?

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 this question. The replacement of the professional CEO at the same time is further indication of the actual dynamics at play.

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. Whenever our news editors slipped up, we would point this out. But I fear this is merely an excuse to reverse the earlier decision to professionalise the newspaper.

The fact is that in the past 20 months, The Hindu became more feisty and readable than before, had better local coverage in the cities it publishes from than before, regularly broke major stories and investigations, fearlessly took on powerful corporate and political interests that the rest of the media chose to ignore, refused to mindlessly join media bandwagons whether on Modi or Pakistan or on dumbing down or ignoring world news, ran powerful, trend-setting national and international reportage and had emerged as a major trendsetter in the public sphere.

In doing so, 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.

Were these charges 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.

Despite the denial by N Ram that the decision has nothing to do with the lawsuit filed by Subramanian Swamy, do you feel that it may be one of the reasons that forced the family to take back editorial control?

Ram is right about this. From day one, he has been clear that the law in India does not prescribe a citizenship requirement for a newspaper editor. In fact, he told me several times that The Hindu would vigorously contest Swamy’s petition in the High Court.

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.

Also read:

Siddharth Varadarajan quits as Editor of The Hindu as owners patch up

MK Venu follows Siddharth Varadarajan, quits as Executive Editor of The Hindu

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