The crisis in The Tribune, triggered by an abject, almost self-abasing apology made to former minister Bikram Singh Majithia, is nowhere near ending. Following the removal of The Tribune Trust’s president SS Sodhi, and with J-K Governor N N Vohra being named as his replacement, the Trust is now planning to do a balancing act.
Sources in the media institution said a hunt is on for a second in command to Editor-in-chief Harish Khare, and if all goes as planned, The Tribune will soon have an executive editor.
A hunt is on for a second in command to The Tribune’s editor-in-chief Harish Khare, and if all goes as planned, the newspaper will soon have an executive editor.
The Tribune Trust is expected to meet on November 16, Thursday, and the issue is a prominent item on the agenda. However, there is a strong sense in certain circles that every move from here onwards will continue to look like an inadequate damage control exercise and the editor should have escalated matters before letting the apology appear in print.
"That you protested before launching an uncalled for first attack nuclear missile is not good enough. You must not have let it happen. That is the night you stop a Trump from starting WWIII. That is the night an editor earns his salary,” said a senior insider at The Tribune, though not on the editorial side.
The idea to recruit an executive editor is to create an editorial architecture where some form of collective decision making should replace the exclusive blue pencil scribble of the editor-in-chief. Last time the newspaper experimented with such a structure was when Kanwar Sandhu joined the newspaper, though it did not have a happy ending.
"This is an arrangement that can easily be passed off as a way to ease the burden of an editor-in-chief who can then guide the newspaper on broad policy-related matters and ensure that coverage and views expressed in the newspaper remain aligned with the broader editorial policy,” said the source in know of the developments.
The move has thrown up several relevant questions. Does it amount to clipping of wings? Was the Trust head solely responsible for the apology debacle? Will the editorial side assume any responsibility? And most importantly, one can only assume that The Tribune stands by the apology it made to Bikram Singh Majithia since nothing to the contrary has even been hinted on its pages till date.
Other independent sources said a senior woman journalist currently in a prominent editorial position in a newspaper has been approached with the offer of being second in command to Khare.
An independent voice in her own right, she is seriously considering the offer, but at the same time, it will be interesting to see how the two editors reach a broader agreement as they devise a working arrangement. More names are also on the menu, it is learnt.
"An editor-in-chief not in sync with his executive editor can be a recipe for disaster, but if they evolve a smooth working arrangement, it can actually free the top editorial boss from day to day hands-on routine of bringing out a newspaper,” said a source close to at least one member of the Trust.
It is not known if Khare might see it as clipping of his wings, but certain quarters surely will, said a long time media watcher in the region.
Meanwhile, The Tribune continues to draw opprobrium for its apology to Majithia, with the latest strongly worded condemnation coming from senior advocate Anupam Gupta who called it "a dramatic act of self-chastisement,” and "a craven apology … to beg forgiveness from Majithia.”
"The Tribune forfeited, with a single stroke, a reputation assiduously built over more than a century… (and this apology) would suffice to bury the tallest newspapers seven fathoms deep,” Gupta said in a hard-hitting piece
carried by The Print.
Unofficially, quarters close to various members of the Trust have now let it be known that Justice (retd) Sodhi did not consult any other member of the Trust and single handedly browbeat Khare into publishing the now impugned apology.
While Sodhi remains a member of the Trust, it is not known if he will remain a passive party to the efforts to create a narrative in which Khare is seen as a knight in shining armour who fought for saving the editorial freedom in the face of untrammelled power.
"Anyone with an editorial IQ of above 10 will understand that on the night it mattered, someone did not speak truth to the power, and opted to complain later instead. That is not how Ed Murrows are made,” said a veteran journalist who spent years working for The Tribune.
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