N. Ram | The search is on and we should have a CEO in place fairly soon

N. Ram | The search is on and we should have a CEO in place fairly soon

New Delhi: In an email, N. Ram, editor-in-chief of The Hindu, explained the decisions taken during Wednesday’s board meeting and the road ahead for the paper. Edited excerpts:

Were there any other developments or decisions taken at the board meeting?

The other significant development in the meeting was the decision to allocate non-editorial duties and responsibilities to various whole-time directors consequent on N. Murali’s decision to retire as senior managing director on 11 August 2011. He will continue as whole-time director. In an earlier board meeting, we decided to appoint a chief executive officer (CEO) for our company and though this was not discussed at today’s board meeting, I can tell you that the search is going on and we should fairly soon have a CEO in place.

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What will be the scope and extent of Varadarajan’s new role?

You will recall that Siddharth Varadarajan’s appointment as editor had already been decided by the board and approved by the shareholders and only the date of the appointment taking effect had to be fixed. That has been done now. This is the first stage of the editorial succession or transition. The next stage will see him taking over as editor responsible for the selection of news under the PRB Act (the Press and Registration of Books Act), consequent on my stepping down from my editorial position. I don’t see this taking long.

Siddharth’s role will be to build on the great traditions of The Hindu as India’s most respected newspaper, lead and strengthen our editorial team and other editorial assets, induct fresh young talent, and take new initiatives. It will not of course be a one-man show because we have a wonderful editorial team, with distinguished and committed senior and experienced journalists and a large number of talented young journalists. I don’t want to say more and increase the pressure of expectations on Siddharth. He will have a free hand within the framework or code of editorial values adopted by our company, which can be read at our website. This is part of the process of professionalizing and contemporizing our flagship newspaper and our company.

Our other publications will undergo the same process.

Will the resignations of N. Ravi, Malini Parthasarathy and Nandini Lakshman adversely affect the paper?

Nobody on the board asked for these three resignations from senior editorial positions. They were made of their own free will, in writing, and have taken effect. I don’t want to say more on developments involving people who have worked with me for so many years —except to note that no individual, starting with me, is more important than a great newspaper.

So I don’t see any of these developments relating to individual roles and subjective decisions adversely affecting The Hindu and our company. Our institution is too strong for that to happen.

N. Murali has said: “It is not good to leave everything to outsiders (non-family members) because they might not entirely understand ‘The Hindu’s’ philosophy as it is a traditional paper." What are your views on this?

I don’t at all agree that non-shareholding family members, and here we are speaking of outstanding and highly qualified professional journalists of integrity, idealism, and vision, might not understand the philosophy of India’s most respected daily newspaper, The Hindu. Yes, it is more than 132 years old, but it has transformed itself repeatedly in tune with the times and has lived up to profoundly changed expectations. And it was not as though in the period after our great grandfather, Kasturi Ranga Iyengar, acquired The Hindu—that is in the post-1905 period—there have not been editors from outside the shareholding family. A. Rangaswamy Iyengar, S. Rangaswami, and S. Parthasarathy were distinguished editors who did not belong to the shareholding family. As I have pointed out, we have adopted a code of editorial values, central to which is the value of integrity and the value of cherishing freedom and independence. This is our tradition and this is our future. I am confident that the professionalization and contemporization we have in mind will only strengthen these great historical assets.

What is your long-term vision for the company?

My long-term vision for The Hindu, our other publications, and our company is to build on our greatest asset—the trust we enjoy by virtue of being associated with India’s most respected newspaper, with a great history behind it. But we can’t rest on this history and let events take their course. We need to shape our future based on the values of integrity, independence, and forward-looking ideas for which our institution is known in India and internationally. To be commercially viable and successful is also vitally important. Likewise, seizing new opportunities offered by digital journalism and new technologies will be key to future success. We need to ensure that this future will match our history and, therefore, will be very bright. That is my vision.

What will be the effect of the proceedings scheduled to take place in the Company Law Board on the changes being implemented by the board of Kasturi and Sons Ltd? Do they really matter?

Interesting question, but I don’t want to comment on this or offer any speculation on this.