A Decade At The Hindu

By Nirmaldasan

I joined The Hindu on 2 May 1995. In my application I had said: "As a chess player I can do some individual thinking for your newspaper. But I also play basketball and so am capable of team work." Or something to that effect. But all the individual thinking I did was for myself and never had a good record for team work.

I quit The Hindu on 30 June 2005. Here's my resignation letter: "I have been offered the post of Head-Department of Media Studies in the Hindustan College of Arts and Science, Kelambakkam. I am indebted to The Hindu for 10 years of rich professional experience. I have always been in love with academics -- even had a stint as visiting faculty at the Asian College of Journalism. Hence I wish to take up this job, though the salary is lesser than what I am drawing at The Hindu. Please accept my resignation and relieve me at the earliest as the academic year has already begun." The Hindu relieved me with regret and placed on record their deep appreciation of my good work and contribution to their organisation all these years.

Those were courteous words and nothing more. In a decade I had written less than 10 articles for the newspaper when I could have certainly written more. Anyway that wasn't my job as I had joined as an ordinary sub-editor. When I was introduced to an assistant editor, who now is the chief news editor, he shook my hands, smiled and asked: "Have you joined as chief sub-editor?" Ten years later, when I left the hallowed precincts of The Hindu, my swift juniors were assistant editors and I an ordinary senior sub-editor.

My juniors were really good -- I mean it. They were journalists to the core. I blundered into journalism thinking that it was another name for literature. I realised the mistake much before I joined The Hindu, but I had already taken the beaten track and it appeared that there was no chance of exploring the road not taken. I simply did the best of a bad job. However, I kept my literary interests alive and burning. I also became a visiting professor (with office permission) in different institutions. I became so involved in this part-time work that I even consciously began to neglect my editorial responsibilities. I do not wish to humiliate myself by listing out my memorable blunders. To do justice to myself, I should say that I also came up with some good headlines. But a sub-editor's job, you know, is a thankless job.

I remember how thrilled I was drawing my first month's salary. Compared with the work and salary in my previous organisation, in The Hindu it was 'half work and double pay'. Ten years later I was still drawing a good salary, but my attitude had changed. I was fond of saying that I work full-time for MCC, where I was a visiting lecturer till recently, and part-time for The Hindu. So it was high time for me to quit.

But when I broached this idea to some of my friends in The Hindu, they did their best to dissuade me. It was difficult to imagine a life beyond The Hindu. Indeed The Hindu is one of the finest newspapers in the world, though its standards are rapidly deteriorating thanks to The Times Of India influence. The Hindu has always been employee-friendly. Whether you work or not, you will get your salary, allowances and that most-awaited bonus. Beyond The Hindu, everything comes at a premium, especially job security. It is only natural that I was in a dilemma. But what decided my course of action was a catchy quote in the May 2005 issue of Children's Digest. I end this article with that quote attributed to John A. Shedd: "A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."

-- This article appeared in the August 2005 issue of the Journalism Online newsletter --

journalism online