Herald editor refutes ‘paid news’ charge

26 Oct,2011

This is with reference to the complaint to the Press Council of India, by our esteemed and senior colleague in the profession for many years, Mayabhushan Nagvekar.

Since the matter concerns issues of editorial and journalistic propriety even though the conversations and interactions Mayabhushan, posing as one Bernard, has with our marketing Manager Tulsidas Desai, I have chosen to respond to this.

Firstly, I wish to emphatically deny that any editorial content which has appeared in the Herald, without the “advertorial” tag line has been paid for. In his complaint, the complainant has attached newspaper clippings of several interviews we have conducted as part of our kins and kinship series of prospective new candidates in the fray.

The only exception was that of Somnath Zuwarkar, whose interview we carried after his return to politics. To even suggest that these interviews were part of a paid news package is hugely defamatory. Herald will respond to these allegations urgently and appropriately in a proper forum.

I wish to emphasize that I have been informed by my management that Desai’s remarks, (as heard on the audio) file in relation to any assurances given to “Bernard” for disguised editorial favours is absolutely incorrect.

As Editor, my stated position both within and outside the organisation has been that paid content cannot be disguised as news. Whenever politicians have sent out messages, statements of their achievements and other such information, through a paid route, we have prominently stated that they are advertorials. A case in point is the birthday of Deputy Speaker Mauvin Godinho where there were more than 2 pages of “news” items about Mauvin’s career and achievements.

Recently there was a four page advertorial supplement Vision 2015 where the Chief Minister’s interview was carried along with information on other departments. However, Herald has not softened its attack on this government on several issues, making a clear distinction between advertisements/advertorials and editorial.

Herald is the only newspaper which used the tag “advertorial” on top of their news pages so that the difference between editorial and advertorial is clearly established.

Coming to the proposed interview of the fictitious “Bernard” in HCN, our marketing team confirms that that such interviews are conducted with clear supers entitled “SPONSORED, indicating that its an advertorial.

The letter/email sent by Tulsidas Desai to the fictitious Bernard also clearly states that the rates were for advertising /advertorial rates. The marketing department is within its purview of seeking advertisements and advertorials with a clear understanding that they would be treated like any paid advertisement.

Lastly and most significantly, Editorial was not in the know of any such negotiations or discussions the marketing had with any candidate or anyone else. The stray remark that “editos people” would be in the know of any interview to HCN is also incorrect.

I am also clear that ultimately issues of newspaper ethics need to be addressed by the Editor directly since he is the custodian of content. At no given point of time have I allowed disguised and paid news to slip through as genuine editorial content.

However, it is imperative to ask if the media in Goa has done a serious introspection on whether we try hard enough to eliminate the ghost of paid news slipping through as genuine news.

In the present case, too, it is naive to expect that the said Bernard’s interview would have been carried in any form. The final decision to run a story or not rests with me and my senior editorial colleagues so a clear distinction needs to be made between news and advertorials. The two cannot and don’t mix in The Herald.

If the complainant had indeed wanted to test Heralds mettle and transparency in these matters he should have tried paying the amount and getting his interview published as news and then taken us to task.

However, I agree that with elections around the corner, we need to be more vigilant and watchful to ensure that the media continues to function as a neutral and independent watcher and not an interested part.


Sujay Gupta, Editor, Herald

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