Two years after a family rift within the Hindu led to the resignation of former editor Siddharth Varadarajan, the newspaper has once again been thrown into turmoil with another apparent change of guard. Malini Parthasarathy, the Chennai-based newspaper's first-ever woman editor, has officially resigned from her post after just 11 months in the job, citing "general dissatisfaction" with her performance.
The resignation was confirmed by N Ram, chairman of the Hindu's board of directors, according to The NewsMinute. An internal communication from Parthasarathy to senior management at the Hindu explained the reasons behind the sudden development.
"In view of the strong feedback I have been receiving on 'general dissatisfaction' with my performance as Editor these last 11 months, I hereby resign from the post of Editor, The Hindu, with immediate effect.
I also want to place on record my deep disappointment that my performance has been judged so harshly within such a short span of time, without any cognisance of the landmark initiatives in my tenure – the launch of the Mumbai edition and the total upscaling of editorial content. I have also put in place strong talent-driven and experienced teams in different centres."
Parthasarathy's 11-month tenure came in the aftermath of the departure of Varadarjan, which had raised questions about the functioning of the newspaper, one of India's oldest and most respected publications. The Hindu was launched in 1878 and has been run by the Kasturi family since 1895.
Varadarajan was the first editor of the newspaper who did not come from the Kasturi family and his departure had led to questions about whether the company would ever be able to handle a professional editor not related to the Kasturis. His exit also saw a change of guard at the Chief Executive Officer position, with a reworking not only of the editorial approach of the paper but also the way the business was being run, considering the Times of India's major forays into southern markets that were traditionally ruled by the Hindu.
Parathasarthy came in promising major changes and over 11 months oversaw a complete change in both the functioning and the make-up of the company, with a substantial turnover in personnel as well as a number of new appointments.
The most noticeable development was the Hindu's decision to open an edition in Mumbai, the home market for the Times of India, in a move that almost seemed like a direct reply to the Times' expansion in South India. What was initially supposed to be simply a satellite edition became not only a full-fledged edition, but a marquee project for Parthasarathy, despite the tough competition in the Mumbai market.
Ultimately it is this that caused the board to be unhappy, insiders in the newspaper suggest, with questions in particular being raised about the high salaries that were offered to other journalists who joined the Hindu's Mumbai edition, which was launched in November last year. The edition is being run by former Mid-Day editor Sachin Kalbag.
Concerns were also raised about Parthasarathy's general approach, which prompted several editors to leave the newspaper over the last year. This included senior editor P Sainath, national security expert Praveen Swami, who even likened Parthasarathy to "Pol Pot" as he was leaving, and opinion and special stories editor Rahul Pandita, who alleged editor interference in his resignation later.
Parathasarthy's comment about "general dissatisfaction" over her performance acknowledges as much.
N Ram told the NewsMinute that the board has already accepted Parathasarathy's resignation, although rumours within the company suggest that there might yet be fireworks to play out ahead of a board meeting slated for the third week of January. Until then, Parthasarathy remains a Wholetime Director at the Hindu.