Times of India Editor Kingshuk Nag clarifies: As Editor at TOI one is far more autonomous than can be imagined

30 Sep,2014

We chose to publish what was essentially a letter for internal discussion and consumption essentially to start a discussion on the issues plaguing not just The Times of India but a large part of the Indian news media.

 

We know there’s widescale owner-/management-interference in editorial affairs. The Times of India suits do it in the open, many don’t. Paid content rules. Politicians strike deals with news media owners for plugs.

 

Private Treaties (or ads against equity) is no longer a preserve of TOI owners BCCL. Many others are doing the same. Even those publications that once wrote loads damning the TOI’s Medianet policy, decided to introduce similar schemes for brands/lifestyle events/parties.

 

And it’s not that all journalists come with a squeaky clean reputation. Vested interests play a huge role here too.

 

As Kingshuk Nag, suggests in this clarification, The Times of India is one of the better places to be in for quality journalism. There’s a great deal of functional autonomy for editors of the main paper.

 

Indeed, we are aware that at the time of the Gujarat law-and-order mess in 2002 that led to then Chief Minister Narendra Modi being denied a visa to the US, the newspaper’s Ahmedabad edition adopted a neutral stance and did not buckle under extreme political pressure at that time.

 

Here’s Kingshuk’s Nag letter, published as is:

 

 

The Editor,

MxM India

 

Dear Editor:

 

This is regarding my letter to senior colleagues at TOI. While the letter you have reproduced is the one that I had written it was only meant for internal discussion.

 

Though as a journalist I cannot question your rights as a journalist to reproduce information that you have accessed, your note that precedes the letter says that we at TOI (as journalists) face a dilemma on how to deal with a powerful marketing department. Unfortunately this has placed a somewhat misleading emphasis to the letter.

 

Further down in the letter I have explained how I have never faced pressure internally from management about the stories in the paper. In fact, in my position I have really never had the occasion to interact (much less receive diktats) from the top management. As Editor at TOI one is far more autonomous than can be imagined. Two incidents come to my mind –although two decades old. I am citing these old incidents and not present examples only to maintain confidentiality in many matters (that have nothing to do with Deepika and BT).

 

In my days, as Chief of Business News in New Delhi in the mid -1990s, I was approached by a top industrialist who was very upset about a report carried by us about his company. “I will complain to your vice chairman Sameer Jain, who is my childhood friend,’ he threatened and slammed the phone. A week later the guy was at my door. “What happened,” I asked. “Yaar that Sameer does not even take my calls. You only solve my problems”, he confessed.

 

In the second incident, we (at Business Times, New Delhi) were summoned for a meeting to his room by our then chairman (now deceased Ashok Jain) a year or two after liberalization. The meeting went on for three hours but at the end it we were non plussed about what he was trying to communicate. After talking amongst ourselves we realized that our chairman was implying the following: “hey you young journalists you are going gung ho about liberalization and opening up the economy. But think of old industry also and what will happen to them. Write about them also.” He was very conscious about this and therefore beating around the bush. He would not even say anything directly

 

If the owners keep a hands off approach in TOI, that may not be true everywhere else. A decade ago the owner of a leading newspaper invited me and told me that he wanted to appoint me as his publications National Political Editor in Delhi. He thrust an appointment letter which had the salary details unfilled and said: ‘you put your own figure.’ I was a little non plussed and before I could react he added: “To make your job easy, I have already hired the guys who will work with you and even decided their beats.” Needless to add, I terminated the conversation immediately.

 

To reiterate, in my present job assignment the top management of TOI has no clue about what how I go about my work and neither do I intend to tell them!

 

Thanks,

 

Kingshuk Nag

29 September 2014

 

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