Opinion » Readers' Editor

Updated: April 27, 2013 16:24 IST

From cynicism to trust

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The Hindu

When the board of directors of Kasturi & Sons, publishers of this newspaper, adopted “Living our Values: Code of Editorial Values” in 2011, a journalist friend of mine from Delhi was not convinced about its workability. He felt that having a code of editorial values was akin to the election manifestoes of political parties — lofty ideals rarely implemented. His reservations were based on some ground realities — savage competitive pressure, deep inroads made by corporate houses in controlling the advertisement purse, reluctance of the media houses to have the cover prices adjusted for inflation. He felt that this code was an interesting academic exercise.

At that time, I had no clue that one day I would be the ombudsman of this newspaper. But, now, I am in a vantage position to ascertain whether the exercise was fruitful or not. I got my first hint that the Code was working from readers’ letters. For most of them, the Code was the touchstone they used to raise questions about the editorial content.

In the ensuing couple of years, between the adoption of the Code and now, the ground reality spelled out by my colleague became more pronounced. The competition spread to more cities; advertisers have become more demanding; players such as FM radio stations, digital platforms and the fast growing regional media have successfully staked their share on the limited advertisement pie. There is a not substantial difference in the cover pricing policy, and subsidising the price through advertisement continues to be the rule of the game. But, “Living our Values” is truly alive, guiding the newspaper to remain a trusted vehicle of being a publication of record.

Two advertisements

I would like to present two instances. Jewellers are significant advertisers during festival days, and they use specific auspicious days like Akshaya Tritiya to do target marketing. Last year, The Hindu carried a jacket endorsing Akshaya Tritiya. But, the Editor went on record with a signed note rejecting the endorsement mentioned in the advertisement.

His note read: “We carried a ‘jacket’ on Monday in our Tamil Nadu editions that featured a message — laid out in the form of an in-house advertisement — to readers on the occasion of Akshaya Tritiya on behalf of ‘The Hindu’. Neither I, as Editor of The Hindu, nor anyone from the editorial side, was involved in the drafting of this message. Nor did we know of, let alone approve, its contents. For the record, it is not The Hindu’s editorial position that Akshaya Tritiya, an occasion that has risen to prominence only relatively recently, is one of ‘the most auspicious days in the Hindu religion.’ Nor can we possibly endorse this statement — ‘The belief that buying gold on this day would make you prosperous throughout the year is shared by one and all’ — or others contained in that message.

“We have now taken internal steps to ensure that advertising messages put out in the name of The Hindu are consistent with its editorial policy and that our Code of Editorial Values, which says there is ‘a firm line between the business operations of the Company and editorial operations and content’, is strictly adhered to by all.”

This was a very significant development. I cannot imagine many media houses that have the courage to transparently, in a signed article, draw the delineating line between what constitutes the paper’s voice and what represents the advertisers’ view.

The second instance happened with another high profile advertiser. When the IIPM released advertisements claiming that The Hindu had termed it as a B-school with a human face, the paper was quick to react and drew the attention of its readers to the illegal and unethical practice of that high-spending organisation. In a very prominent manner, the Editor wrote: “The Hindu hereby would like to make it clear to current and prospective students of IIPM that it has not made any such editorial endorsement of the institution. We have now formally written to IIPM asking it to refrain from repeating the claim, and putting it on notice of our intent to proceed suitably against it if it persists in doing so.”

The Hindu refused to carry that advertisement and demanded the deletion of the sentence attributing to The Hindu. The Editor’s remark came as a major reiteration to many readers, including my Delhi colleague, of the newspaper’s clear and unambiguous commitment to maintain its editorial integrity. When words and deeds coalesce, cynicism gives way to enduring trust.


Living our Values: Code of Editorial ValuesApril 21, 2011

Trust is a fragile psychological perception; it needs constant nurturing.
One way to build trust is, openness, which means minimal "censoring". This
can happen if the publisher is confident enough to trust the readers!

The Hindu is head and shoulders above any other English daily in India. I
believe it more than any other paper in India.

from:  D Mahapatra
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 18:35 IST

I presume that you have not come across the appalling bra advertisement
that display breast shapes in full colour in our esteemed paper.
Haven't you got anything to say about them too? I find them regularly
in the Blr editions at least. Pathetic ads for a paper like The Hindu.
Do you have to fall that low for ad money? What next? Panties? Who were
you appealing to? The women or the men or the many kids who read The
Hindu in reverence? So unmindful!!!

I haven't complained about the jacket real estate ads and the iphone
ads only bcos I thought the paper deserves that allowance to copy the
competition to survive. Otherwise, I don't pay to be greeted in the
morning on the front page by a bldg or phone advert and to look for the
'news' somewhere inside.

Sorry I am hyper-sensitive but we are talking about THE The Hindu.
Aren't we? I suffered these ads long enough and your piece gave me the
chance to vent my anger. I'm sure there are others out there who feel
the same.

from:  GVSB Reddy
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 15:55 IST

Well done Hindu, please keep it up as we all have grown reading your newspaper and I am still cherishing this great News paper contents after more than 45 odd years. Having said that, I must bring to your kind attention that of late, some editorials, news items and cartoons seem to be politically biased, which I feel can please be avoided. It is not difficult for an ardent fan of your newspaper to make out these things and that is why we can note many opposite views are cropping up both in the form of letters to the editor and in online comments, which was not the case in the past. Also, I still fondly remember that in those days after reading The Hindu editorial, it would be considered as God's voice and as final verdict and rarely there would be any opposite opinion to it. I agree that these days the pressure are totally different but I would still love this news paper to be above of all these & should continue to stand out uniquely from the rest of the media. God bless & best wishes

from:  Partha
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 14:45 IST

The trust placed by readers, due to ethical editorial, makes government
to run for cover and answer questions raised by The Hindu.Because
government also knows that the reader of this paper have faith in its
coverage of various issues whereas other media is manipulating the facts
to serve some particular interests.

from:  dinesh pilania
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 13:52 IST

The Hindu stands apart as a trustworthy newspaper. I hope it continues
to follow the Code.

from:  Ris
Posted on: Apr 9, 2013 at 09:45 IST

I will only allow change which makes sense to me or I will thwart attempts at such changes which may be non-inclusive in my opinion, because I understand what the mass needs and what is good for them in the long run.
Thanks Mr Selvan for putting this out, because it means a lot and needs to be explicitly clarified sometimes.
There is no absolute truth or lie, the bigger platform with the greater reach defines our lives in their preferred ways. As some readers mentioned, its very important for Hindu to continue to hold its own in opinion and grow in readership. Otherwise there is little value to a single person claiming to be the wise one.
The research in the articles need to be thorough and end to end, such that the reasoning and the inference become obvious to the readers without it being an opinion. The science of conservatism and the science of liberalism.

from:  Som
Posted on: Apr 9, 2013 at 08:45 IST

i appreciate what was done in those two cases. that is the hindu that i
had known and was proud of. but, you must be knowing how the hindu is
looked upon these days, as a mouthpiece of the left. may be you can do
something about it and restore it its neutrality.

from:  raj
Posted on: Apr 9, 2013 at 06:31 IST

The Hindu has taken a principled stand, for which it must be appreciated. However, the law of the Rupee, which rules the nation, means the Hindu is heading down the slippery slope to media oblivion. If I am proven wrong in the ensuing years, I will be glad. A shot against the bows of Capitalism!

from:  Mukhtar
Posted on: Apr 8, 2013 at 13:17 IST

This is what makes "The Hindu" different from others. Many a times I read the same news from The Hindu as well as other just to see the level of journalism.. The Hindu has always presented a news as a news, without a bias.. And I strongly agree with the suggestion that there should be an option for Donation.. I would like the next generation also to experience these ethics and values in print media, which has become such a rarity.

from:  Nishant Kumar
Posted on: Apr 8, 2013 at 13:16 IST

Thanks for this.
I request The Hindu to have an option of donating money, like wikipedia has for those like myself, who access it online and do not pay for the print edition.

from:  Abhinav
Posted on: Apr 8, 2013 at 12:39 IST

Excellent record Mr.Panneer Selvan.As long as The Hindu will uphold the
code of editorial values it will be on the zenith on defending the
values.I admire the courage by the editors for rejecting the adds for
safeguarding its code of editorial values.Nowadays the words
ethics,values, code of conduct doesn't seem to be having meaning in the
contemporary era. Still The Hindu is living it. Congratulations.

from:  Shafique Ahamed
Posted on: Apr 8, 2013 at 12:33 IST

Your two ad examples reinforce my view that The Hindu staff operates from a
position of ethical sincerity and professionalism. Now that we readers can choose
from hundreds of news sources worldwide, we can be a lot more selective. Your news
articles, features and opinion pieces, even when they present content in direct
opposition to my stance, never launch me into a book and furniture throwing rage,
but make me stop, reflect and think. Thanks for keeping your standards intact.

from:  Patricia Flynn
Posted on: Apr 8, 2013 at 11:57 IST

I fully agree with your view and strict adherence to value-based policy. In a democracy media's role in promoting probity in public life is very crucial. To play such role effectively, it must have a high professional image and consequent credibility amongst public at large.

from:  Prof K C Mehta
Posted on: Apr 8, 2013 at 11:53 IST

When one accuses others of publishing "paid news", one has to be very careful and avoid the same mistake. If one is so sincere about not publishing surrogate ads or misleading advertorial or ads, the advertisement department should be given proper briefing. There is no meaning in publishing clarifications after the damage is done. Otherwise, it will be paid news by another name.

from:  Vaidyanathan
Posted on: Apr 8, 2013 at 10:17 IST
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