In January, a jacket advertisement on the front page of The Hindu, featuring a Tamil Nadu Congress leader who loudly proclaimed his affection for Sonia Gandhi at the beginnig of the new year— “We remain, Madamji, ever at your feet”—caused a bit of buzz.
Then, Siddharth Varadarajan, the paper’s incoming editor, wrote on his Facebook account:
“To all those who messaged me about the atrocious front page ad in The Hindu’s Delhi edition on Jan 1, my view as Editor is that this sort of crass commercialisation compromises the image and reputation of my newspaper. We are putting in place a policy to ensure the front page is not used for this sort of an ad again.”
Now, another jacket ad in the paper’s Tamil Nadu editions prompts a note from the editor of the paper.
Image: courtesy The Hindu
External reading: The Hindu reacts on Sonia Gandhi ad
What is the meaning of paragraph two of the Editor’s Note ? That the advertiser readied the jacket and left it in the packing section for draping the day’s paper ? And SV saw it like all of us just that morning ?
So, then, it was not part of the paper he edits. All the more reason why the Editor should have ignored, and not picked holes in it. And, can an excuse go down to this level, (‘left it in packing section’), word by word? Rather, that’s how jacket ads are added to a daily, everywhere. Editors generally have no business to poke and provoke.
The editor is answerable (along with the printer and publisher) for all content in a publication if there is a legal challenge. Advertisements are not exempted.
I can remember ad managers bringing to the editorial dept, ad matter they thought could be troublesome and the advice of the editor being accepted as final.
I have myself on a few occasions altered ad content I found laid out on the page at the stone, after asking the ad dept to call the advertiser and explain.
[I was not The Editor, but still. It’s a matter of confidence the management had in you, in your position, and your own sense of responsibility.]
Since when have we all gone into this “Let the buyer beware” mode of publishing?
One supposes the Editor’s job, per se, is to provide quality reading material to the readers and effect refinement to its content and presentation, and not to pick on patently harmless ads like the Sonia one. This perhaps gives the feeling of an editor showing a kind of a oneupmanship. An ad is seen as an ad; and ads are the lifeline of the media worldwide. The Hindu readers are as much enlightened as to see an ad as an ad, and no more of it, right? Of the Akshaya Tritiya ad, if it was projected as being on behalf of The Hindu, yes, the Editor has a point; else, he has none. Mind also the fact that journalists are the among the worst-paid lot in the country today, what with the low-price policy and the obsessions of the kind mentioned here.
Absolutely right. The problem however is that The Hindu does most of what its competition does but pretends to be holier than thou. If SV had let the ad pass without those sanctimonious comments no one would have bothered.
The Hindu is a family owned newspaper. SV is the first non-family member to run the editorial department. Does SV has the imprimatur to ‘edit the ads’ put out by the advertising department ?
If a paper is known by its Editor, then the Editor might possibly have a right to take a stand of the kind taken here, though in this age, frankly, there’s no such editor. In this case, one might be tempted to say the Editor exceeded his brief. The management holds the last word in the matter of an ad, acceptance or rejection, rightly so, and the Editor’s advice is taken where it is needed. What might look like a grandstanding here was perhaps uncalled for. More in the case of the Sonia ad.
A specious defence by the editor
And how has the editor — who might seek a Magsaysay for his “idealism” — treated the responses (comments) to the report, ‘Reaping gold through cotton, and newsprint’? None of the objective comments, leave along criticism, has been carried. All what are carried–reams and reams of them over four days–have a common refrain: Sainath is great, editor is great, The Hindu is great! (The name of the game is this: moderation, another form of the pursuit of idealism). One is tempted to say …GROW !