Home Media Infighting in The Hindu over Akshaya Patra article: Malini says shoddy journalism, N Ram stands by reportage

Infighting in The Hindu over Akshaya Patra article: Malini says shoddy journalism, N Ram stands by reportage

Malini has reiterated her commitment as director, editorial strategy, at The Hindu, to promote fact-based, value-driven and agenda-free journalism. She added in her response to N Ram's tweet that The Hindu's article on APF was an example of shoddy, one-sided journalism.

A controversy surrounding the Akshay Patra Foundation sparked when “Experts” wrote an open letter to the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) demanding that they withdraw the compliance certificate that was awarded to the APF after their technical opinion on the matter was sought by the Karnataka government.

The foundation found itself under intense criticism after a report published in the Hindu by Archana Nathan argued that the children were not eating the food because it was too bland. The report was based on the findings of the Karnataka State Food Commission (KSFC) which asserted that the children weren’t eating as much as they should because they did not find the food delicious enough.

After the report was published, many assorted liberal journalists and freelance activists started raising questions about the quality of food provided by the foundation. The fact that Akshay Patra Foundation provided onion-garlic free meals further triggered an ensuing controversy with many critics urging the government to stop funding the NGO which doesn’t take into account culinary preferences of the children.

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The supporters, on the other hand, asserted that the controversy is totally unwarranted as the APF has been involved in charity work, providing free hygienic meals to millions of children across 12000 schools in 15 states. The AFP advocates slammed the editorial policy of the Hindu for attacking a noble scheme of AFP that seeks to provide nutritious food to lakhs of children in the country.

Sensing criticism from various quarters, Malini Parthasarathy, who heads the content and editorial strategy at the Hindu was quick to slam the raging controversy surrounding APF and passed the buck on Suresh Nambath, who according to her handles day to day news content on the Hindu. Parthasarathy admitted that the editorial line of attacking the Akshay Patra Foundation for its free meals by the Hindu was “unwarranted” and she ensured that she would take efforts to upgrade the quality of their approach to content.

However, this didn’t appear like an honest reflection as N Ram, another prominent member of the Kasturi family that manages the Hindu news daily had a contradictory view to that of Malini Parthasarathy.

In stark contrast to Malini’s stance, Ram tweeted that he found the article criticising the practices followed by APF well-informed, nuanced and well-substantiated. Far from pulling up the journalist who had written the article and the editor who gave his approval for taking the said editorial line, N Ram seemed to applaud them for their journalism.

This is a classic exhibition of carrot and stick approach. While Malini Parthasarathy offers a carrot to the critiques who have been slamming the Hindu for its gratuitous article against the APF by claiming that she’d improve their approach to content, N Ram, on the other hand, placates the critiques of the APF who have questioned the onion-garlic free Ayurveda system espoused by the APF by lauding and endorsing the article.

The passive aggressive stance taken by the two senior folks at the Hindu betrays the glaring duplicity in their conduct. This is essentially done to confound the people amidst an ensuing controversy, temporarily assuaging their feelings and salvaging the reputation of the daily which is grievously under attack after its reportage slamming the Akshay Patra Foundation.

If one is to believe what N Ram says, there is no remorse or regret among the editors of the Hindu for publishing a report assailing AFP for providing free meals to underprivileged and needy children. Far from being apologetic, N Ram gloats upon the Hindu’s ‘nuanced’ reportage and conflates “code of editorial values” and “professionalism” with the current controversy to stave off from the criticism directed towards him and his news daily.

Malini had then commented on N Ram’s tweet, stating that she reiterates her commitment as director, editorial strategy, at The Hindu, to promote fact-based, value-driven and agenda-free journalism. She asserted again that The Hindu’s article on Akshaya Patra was an example of ‘shoddy, one-sided journalism’.

It is notable here that earlier, Malini Parthasarathy was blocked by NDTV’s Prannoy Roy for writing an op-ed criticising Prannoy Roy’s attempts to hide behind the shields of press freedom in the wake of charges of financial wrongdoing.

It is a profound irony that N Ram, who is claiming exclusive rights to lofty ideals of professional journalism and rigorous implementation of ‘code of editorial values’ was the one who had shared cropped and incomplete pictures of documents in the Hindu to allege government wrongdoing in the Rafale deal. It is a bit rich coming from people who have been accused of slanting the facts to buttress a predisposed point of view, to pontificate about his organisation’s avowed policy of practising ethical and professional journalism.

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