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High Standards

Amid the continuing gloom in the newspaper industry, here’s some news for print journalists looking for new job avenues. The Chennai-based New Indian Express Group is likely to launch a daily from the national capital sometime next month. The new venture, likely to be called The Delhi Standard, will be headed by Khogain Singh who has previously held key editorial roles at The Hindu, Mail Today and Hindustan Times. (The Group already brings out a Delhi-based weekly newspaper called Sunday Standard helmed by Prabhu Chawla.)

Singh had joined the group last year when the plan for launching the daily had first been mooted. Several journalists and desk hands had been hired but the group’s management decided to defer the launch. As a result several new recruits quit in subsequent months. Now, with the management reviving interest in launching the daily, possibly to reap benefits of the slew of assembly elections and the Lok Sabha polls due over the next six months, Singh has begun a fresh round of interviews. Sources say Singh is on a desperate lookout for journalists who can cover key central ministries like Home, Defence, Finance, Foreign Affairs, etc. and also for senior desk hands.

Damage Control

Following numerous revelations about sexual harassment at the workplace, media organisations and leaders in the industry are beginning to take corrective measures. Last week, Hindustan Times sent a mail to all employees stating that the organisation will be conducting weekly workshops on the Pre­vention of Sexual Harassment Act. Documentary filmmaker Paromita Vohra will conduct four workshops. The mail, sent from the office of the editor-in-chief said, that the intent of this exercise is to “allow a free discussion on issues that seem to be confusing all of us, when it comes to the important matter of consent, rejection, entitlement, and other things”. Attending these workshops is mandatory for all employees.

Other major news organisations like The Times of India have also sent out letters to heads of departments regarding women journalists working late shifts. The #MeToo allegations have been a wake-up call for HR heads across the media industry. Till now, interviews with prospective candidates had no questions on sexual misconduct, Now, all HR departments in media agencies are doing background checks to see if there are any allegations or records to do with sexual-related complaints against the prospective candidates.

Only Preach, No Practice

Here is proof, if ever it were needed, that some of our media don’t often believe in what they preach. A noted culprit is the high priest of Mount Road that claims on its masthead to be India’s National Newspaper. When the #MeToo storm began to take in its wake sections of the Indian media, among the first against whom fingers were pointed was the Kerala editor of the newspaper. A woman journalist who now works as a senior editor in a Delhi newspaper had written an article on Facebook detailing how the senior journalist, who was also her teacher in journalism school but whom she did not name, tried to take liberties with her when she called on him during a visit to Chennai. This was long before Delhi-based papers asked their editors who had come under a similar cloud, to step down pending inquiry. Action was missing even after another female journalist named the offender. On the contrary, the newspaper in an editorial titled #UsToo did what it does best—pontificate. In fact, it wasn’t until a week later, after the private secretary to former Kerala Chief Minister VS Achutanandan named and shamed the journalist in his Facebook post that the paper showed him the door.

The paper’s editor/owners have also been accused of being overly protective of a senior faculty member at a prominent media school in Chennai. He was finally turfed out after students at the school threatened they would not attend any of the classes that he took.

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