PRITAM SENGUPTA in New Delhi and PALINI R. SWAMY in Bangalore write: Vijaya Next, the weekly Kannada newspaper launched by The Times of India group for the “upwardly mobile Kannadiga population”, is said to be looking for a new editor, just three weeks after the paper hit the stands.
Sources at Times House on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg claim the paper’s first editor, Deepak Thimaya, put in his papers days after the 24-page, all-colour paper was launched on May 28 and has been relieved. He is said to be serving his notice till the end of the month.
“Yes, we are searching [for a new editor],” messaged a Times insider.
There were indications in Bangalore that something was seriously amiss at the paper from Day One.
Thimaya, a well-regarded interviewer for Udaya TV of the Sun group and a noted quiz compere and emcee, was conspicuously absent from the first issue of the paper itself. There was no article or interview by him, and the only place his name appeared was in the imprintline.
In fact, Vijaya Next staffers were surprised that the paper was introduced to the “upwardly mobile Kannadiga” in a signed piece not by Thimaya, the paper’s editor, but by Visweshwar Bhat, the editor of the group’s flagship Kannada daily, Vijaya Karnataka.
Times sources in Delhi are understandably tightlipped over what went wrong as the hunt for a new editor gathers pace. Insiders at Vijaya Next in Bangalore say Thimaya was out of sorts in the new medium although this must have been blindingly obvious to Times managers who wooed and hired him.
“It’s all a big mess. They bought a Kannada paper (Usha Kirana) and turned it into ToI Kannada. They got rid of its first editor (Venkatanarayana) by bringing in Ishwar Daitota. They shut ToI Kannada down and launched Vijaya Next. They brought in Deepak Thimaya to get rid of Daitota, and now even he is gone,” said an exasperated Times insider.
The first indications of trouble came when, even before Vijaya Next was launched and with Thimaya already on board, Vijayanand Printers Limited (VPL) president Sunil Rajshekhar roped in E. Raghavan, former resident editor of The Times of India in Bangalore, in a consulting role.
Rajshekhar and Raghavan had been part of the team that launched The Times in Bangalore, although Times managers claim “old school” Raghavan had to be pushed to The Economic Times in 1996 to begin the “reforms” process at ToI that eventually enabled it to overtake market-leader, Deccan Herald.
The first three issues of Vijaya Next have come out under Raghavan’s stewardship to a tepid-to-cold market reaction. Most of the claimed circulation has come from complimentary copies slipped in with Vijaya Karnataka.
Last Saturday, Thimaya had this telling status update on his Facebook account:
Times House insiders in Delhi say the group isn’t looking at Raghavan, who retired from the Times group to serve as a consultant to arch-rival DNA in Bangalore, as a replacement for Thimaya. A number of names, including that of a theatre activist, is doing the rounds.
Sunil Rajshekhar who left Times to launch indya.com for Rupert Murdoch returned to the group to head Times Internet Limited (TIL) and was then shafted to Times Private Treaties (TPT), from where he returned to Bangalore to replace Chinnen Das as president of VPL, the BCCL subsidiary, that the group purchased in 2007.
Photograph: courtesy deepakthimaya.com
Also read: Vijaya Next gives ToI Crest a Kannada avatar