On Friday (February 4, 2022) when I searched for the story of gun shots that were fired at the vehicle of Asaduddin Owaisi in the poll-bound Uttar Pradesh I did not find it on the First Page of the Hindu. It shocked me. It was such an important story of the day and the Hindu was missing it, I thought. I checked the newspaper once again and did not find it. On my third and very patient attempt I found a 250 word story on Page Eight of the newspaper. I was surprised one more time.
One of the basic principles of news publishing is that if there are one or two strong local news stories they should be taken on Page One so that they get the attention their nature demands. Or else there be one or two or even more news pages immediately following the front page to carry the local news. This is what we were taught in journalism school a few decades ago and this is what most of the independent newsmen follow today.
Let us take the example of a newspaper which has made Hyderabad its home after doing extremely well in Mumbai, Delhi and other parts of the country—The Times of India. It has carried the Owaisi attack story on the front page. There is another leading newspaper in Hyderabad, The Deccan Chronicle. It too has made the story the second lead on Page One.
When the story on gun firing is related to the Member of Parliament of Hyderabad why the Hindu did not carry it on Page One? What element was lacking in the story that did not make it a candidate for Page One? Is it a mistake? Or was it ignorance of the people handling the news? Why did no experienced journalists sitting at the Hindu office in Hyderabad demanded that the report should be on Page One?
Or is it The Hindu has begun to lose its credibility of carrying stories on the under privileged sections of society? Let me blunt and ask is somebody who does not like the Muslim community and its deteriorating situation in the country deliberately pushed the story that story to inside pages. It was the same story that had rattled the Nation and became an indicator of the worse things to come.
After much consideration I had decided to write this piece because I loved The Hindu as a student of Journalism. I still do. As an Indian journalist working in Saudi Arabia with Saudi Gazette in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, I had invited N Ram to grace 50 years of Indian independence which we, the Indians, were celebrating there. It was the first occasion that the Indian community had taken the initiative to invite some big names from India. Besides Ram, we had also invited Mani Shankar Iyer and Supreme Court Chief Justice A M Ahmadi who had retired from the service a few weeks ago. My respect for Ram was (still is) intact because of his clarity of thinking and unbiased writing and speaking.
Another fact that has disturbed me is that Asaduddin has several good friends in the Hindu Hyderabad office. Some of them have gone to other newspapers and few others are still there.
But lately I am feeling that some ominous change is taking place at decision making echelons of the newspaper, may be at Chennai or may be at Hyderabad. The news related to the Muslims who constitute over 40 percent of the population of the city is being constantly ignored or relegated to obscure places.
Now, as far local news is concerned The Hindu is no more in competition with the Times of India or Deccan Chronicle.
I still have hope with the Hindu management that it would revise its policy and return to what it has been known for—sincerity, honesty, propriety and independence.
Mir Ayoob Ali Khan is a senior journalist who has worked with the Times of India and Deccan Chronicle in Hyderabad in senior positions. He is now associated with the Siasat.com.