The first-ever ‘open house,’ an interface with a broad spectrum of readers convened by the Readers’ Editor here on Saturday, reaffirmed the organic relationship that exists between The Hindu and its readers. The readers, though unstinting in their praise of the newspaper, did not hold back their criticism.
Explaining the rationale for his initiative, the Readers’ Editor, A.S. Panneerselvan, said that it would be good for The Hindu’s editors to directly hear the views of readers.
Chosen from different age groups and sections of society from a long list of those who responded to an open invitation from the RE, the readers flagged issues spread across departments. The need for more positive stories was a constant refrain. The Editor, Siddharth Varadarajan, explained that The Hindu itself liked to feature positive stories, noted these did not occur daily and invited readers to write in with suggestions.
All-round praise for the Open Page was accompanied by criticism of the “truncated space” it occupied. Rameeza A. Rasheed, a college teacher, while appreciating the coverage of issues concerning women and children, was not happy with the domination of doctors in the available space. The Editor gave an assurance that a full page would be allotted for the Open Page.
“Sometimes, too much is being written about Narendra Modi,” one young reader said. He also asked why the “one-sided views” of a particular Opinion pages contributor were being published. The Editor clarified that the views expressed on these pages were those of the writers themselves and that opinions are often “one-sided”. However, the paper has frequently published counterviews through its ‘Debate @ The Hindu’ column.
C. P. Krishnan complimented the newspaper on highlighting social issues but felt that neo-liberal policies were not being sharply criticised and workers’ struggles not given adequate coverage. One reader said The Hindu had been “sensationalist” in reporting the Ilavarasan-Divya inter-caste marriage story. Another reader however opined that the story was a very important one.
R. Sivakumar was critical of the coverage of Sri Lanka and Tibet. The Editor said the newspaper was against the break-up of nations but that doesn’t mean it will not cover what is happening on the ground. He provided examples of The Hindu’s reportage on the immolation of Tibetan monks as well as the stand it has taken in defence of the rights of Sri Lanka’s Tamils.
M. Vidhyalakshmi said that the Education Plus supplement was of immense help for students who took the higher secondary examination of the CBSE stream. Vijay S. Raghavan from Mumbai wanted The Hindu to enter the western States. Some readers were unhappy about full-page advertisements on the front page and the delayed delivery of the newspaper.
Setting the tone for the discussion, Kasturi and Sons Ltd (KSL) Director and former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu group of publications, N. Ram recollected the founding principles of the newspaper. The Hindu, he said, continued to be guided by the secular and democratic values on which it was founded in 1878.
Mr. Ram said that The Hindu had proved that good, serious journalism had a following in the country but the contemporary challenge was in responding to the needs of all sections, especially women and younger readers. The organisation had maintained a sacred line dividing the editorial and non-editorial departments.
Arun Anant, Chief Executive Officer, KSL, noted that it took Rs. 20 to produce a copy of the newspaper but after giving allowance for commission to agents, the revenue from the sale was only Rs. 2. The gap had to be bridged with revenue from advertisements. Some newspapers had taken the ‘paid news’ route to fill the gap but The Hindu would never do that, the CEO said. K. Balaji, Director, KSL, explained the metamorphosis of printing of The Hindu from its early days.