After Kuldip Nayyar who' That is the biggest question facing editors in Delhi today. Who among them will get the Rajya Sabha seat Nayyar will vacate next month'
The lobbying is so fierce and intense that the Centre is in a fix. So many big-league hacks are in the fray. Singling out one is fraught with danger in the run-up to elections.
Of course, it is nowhere written a journalist has to be replaced with a journalist. But the BJP has raised expectations. In the last five years, it has got several pressmen elected to the upper house under the party banner. But they were footling journalists like Balbir Punj and Dinanath Mishra, better known to their leaders than readers.
Now, top guns like Prabhu Chawla, Rajat Sharma, T.V.R. Shenoy, M.J. Akbar, Chandan Mitra, Saeed Naqvi, Swapan Dasgupta are said to be in the running. Of course, the prize is greater. Nayyar (like Khushwant Singh before him) is one of the 12 “eminent citizens” who are sent to Parliament as the president’s nominees. A wonderful ruse if you want to retain your show of independence.
But never before have journalists jostled so single-mindedly to be among the nation’s great and good. They were not known to have such a high opinion of themselves and their craft.
The government will have to decide soon. Or, it might follow the advice of one senior minister: leave one seat vacant and have the entire media at your beck and call.
A family divided over the running of its flagship, a tense gathering of the warring clan, a spectacular finale with one brother dethroning another. It is not the sort of news that would appear in the staid and sober Hindu.
It didn’t. Though this is the drama that unfolded in The Hindu boardroom last Friday, bringing about an immediate change at the top of the country’s most venerated daily.
From the next day, the paper began displaying the name of N. Ram as the editor-in-chief. Gone were the names of his brother, N. Ravi (the editor), and his cousin, Malini Parthasarathy (the executive editor). For business families, business always comes first.
The official reason for the change is suitably high-sounding: “The need for improved structures and mechanisms to uphold and strengthen quality and objective journalism.”
Off-the-record, one hears of all sorts of allegations — high-handedness, favouritism, whimsical news judgments — against the earlier dispensation.
Much more sotto voce are bottom-line worries, exacerbated by a threatened assault on its Chennai citadel from a predatory Times of India. A rival the state’s chief minister has been openly wooing, to top the 50 or so legal cases her government has slapped against her bitterest critic in the state.
How far N. Ram, once described by The Guardian of Britain as a “legendarily serious editor”, is suited to take on the populist Times is another matter. But the just-anointed editor-in-chief has already declared his intention to restore “normal relations” with the chief minister. The dangers an owner-editor has to face.
Sucheta Dalal earned her spurs by exposing Harshad Mehta and his stock-market scam. She is not someone to be taken lightly. If she is sceptical — going by her article in Monday’s Indian Express — about the way Star TV has Indianized the ownership of its news channel to get uplinking facilities, there must be something to it.
And the government may wink at the arrangement, she says. Star, one of the new investors told Dalal, has promised to stay away from all things controversial. “No investigative journalism of the sort you do,” she was told.
That sounds perfectly believable. Didn’t Rupert Murdoch offload the BBC to keep the bosses in China happy' And hasn’t Fox News, his television channel in the US, set new standards in patriotic journalism' Why should he develop notions of editorial integrity in India'