Thursday, January 15, 2009

Whoa!

The following is the resignation letter of Monika Halan, editor of Outlook Money. I am reserving my comments till later, but the cat about awards is out of the bag!
---------------------------------

Dear All,
I am deeply upset to tell you that I have resigned. For the last three
years we've been like a close-knit family and to leave like this so
suddenly is not nice I know. But there is an increasing conflict of
interest between edit and management and my work ethics do not allow
me to be a party to this. As always, transparency is the key word and
I want to share why I am taking this step.
1. The OLM Awards are being used to fulfil the advertising goals of
the Group. In fact, we were all part of the meeting where we were told
that the award should have gone to LIC despite it not making the cut
since it is a large company with many readers as policyholders. In a
subsequent mail from the President, I was told that the concern is
that LIC has withdrawn all ads to the Outlook Group. I see it as a
clear conflict of interest between ad and edit, especially since edit
has sincerely worked on the awards in an attempt to make them the most
unbiased awards in the country -- and for which we involved eminent
market professionals like Dr R.H. Patil of CCIL and Ravi Narian of
NSE.
2. Edit is being blamed for falling circulation. When we were doing
1.5 lakh copies a fortnight there was no sharing of credit with edit
by the management. But in the middle of a global downturn when the
circulation of a market-linked product like OLM slips, edit is being
blamed. I think all of you pull really hard, work sincerely and have
re-created a sinking brand to a world class product that OLM is today.
On behalf of all of you comprising this fantastic team as well as
personally, I do not accept this blame.
3. There is direct management intrusion into edit now. We are being
asked to get our cover stories cleared by the publisher and send our
stock picks to Outlook Profit for clearance. I think this is an insult
to a team that has proved its worth many times over.
I think the Group will be happier with a more pliable editor. I am not
that person.
Good luck to you all. And keep in touch -- you guys rock! One last
meeting tomorrow at 11? See you.
Warm regards,
Monika

--
Monika Halan
Editor, Outlook Money
8th Floor, NAFED House,
Ashram Crossing
New Delhi -110014

33 comments:

GBO said...

Come on, K, awards, especially media driven awards, have always been "like that only", and you know it as well as does the wo/man on the street. And it isn't as though this is India specific either.

Credibility, the only way to get it back into media would be to run a website generating content at no/low cost, and then let the writer keep the copyright so that the "asset", such as it be, would be free for publication in the print media to the benefit of the writer.

And a bit more.

Sad to see Monika leave OM, but good to see the way she has thrown the gauntlet. Onwards, Peri, or is he busy giving Satyam prizes?

Anonymous said...

What Monica has done is exemplary in some ways.
It's a tragedy that many other editors do not take a stand.
I believe that the least media head honchos can do is keep journos away from their advertisers.
If the stakes are too high, then simply ask them not to reports on X number of companies.
And there are always advertising supplements where you can plug them.
Whether it Maheshwar Peri or Jains, newspaper heads fail to live up to some basic ethics.
And while Raju's Satyam is a clear cut scam, newspapers are no less. Their reports are used to jack up or short sell shares. Many times managements are hand-in-glove with promoters.

Vikas Gupta said...

Where/How did you find this letter?

Anonymous said...

Let me tell you a story about an incident which was narrated to me by the editor of the paper, which I had just joined on a senior post. The incident occured a month or so before I joined.
A young singer was being interviewed and she requested the journalist to please make sure that she mentioned a line about her 'benefactor' who owned an airline, TV channels and newspapers. The journalist replied that she couldn't do so because her boss didn't like it.
This was reported back to the big man himself. What followed was a flurry of calls which went out to the owners of the newspaper, who in turn called the E-in-C, and all the way down the line to the editor. The message from the big man was simple: If your editor doesn't like the idea of mentioning my name, maybe I should stop the adverts in your paper worth multiples of crores.
In the meantime, the story appeared without the particular reference to the big man. All hell broke loose.
The editor was then given the message loud and clear by the top management.
The day after, the same report appeared again, on the same page at the same spot with the missing one line inserted! And the war clouds cleared. Did I say hear someone say OLM?

Anonymous said...

K,
All this happens in your group. Only it is covered with a veneer of sophistication. Just open your mags and see. i.e. If you can get of your high horse...

Anonymous said...

I think instead of blaming the management wholeheartedly,we need to look at all of these so called winners of awards too. Besides the fact that a PSU like LIC can stoop to putting pressure, is the fact that virtually every company across the spectrum, especially in the financial sector, believe in this philosophy. This lack of respect for public opinion and trust probably explains the shit they find themselves in. And these same guys will negotiate for still lower rates when a survey shows reader trust in media has come down.
Let's face it, there is no easy solution to this. Media brands that are truly powerful can be expected to ride over this sort of threats, but with the biggest and most powerful brand happy to make its compromises, we really cannot expect any better. I think it was the Outlook Management's biggest mistake to allow Monika to believe in her dream of an edit that could operate independent of commercial realities.

Anonymous said...

Let me play the devil's advocate here. Aren't editors paid out of the money paid by advertisers? Of course advertisers pay only when the editors are doing a good job and getting more readers. Is it a classic chicken and egg story? Didn't the first newspaper carry only classifieds on page one and local news was secondary?

Blue Rain said...

Way to go Monika...the other editors should take a lesson or 2 from this.
It's happening in all media houses right now except a few like Indian Express and to some extent a couple of news channels.
Monika has done what all journos should be doing.

Anonymous said...

K, mere hai, good going. Wonder what happens in your group. Also wonder if anyone has heard of 'Mutual Fund Insight' for Rs 100. There edit does not bow to ads, but cost is HUNDRED bucks.

Shankar Pandey said...

Mutual Fund Insight does not bow to ads? What should it? Its an industry mouthpiece. What has it exposed? If you want to see fearless reporting on fund industry please read MoneyLIFE.

Anonymous said...

Mutual funds is very best option for this time. The market was at risk.

amar

Anonymous said...

kudos.
good u could scoop the letter

Anonymous said...

Monika's letter is well written from the point of view of expression of ethics of the editor. However, if the OLM awards and nomination of a company was a bone of contention, why did Monika not quit then, in August of 2008 when awards were discussed. Did LIC get it finally or was it another institution?

Also, by making a statement "more pliable editor" she is insinnuating others who could come in as editors. There ARE although a few editors who have stood by ethics and who have built reputation as credible papers perhaps not the largest in circulation.

Also, its nothing new for any one who has put in at least five years as a journalist, that the blame game between edit and marketing (as is true in the top echelons of corporate management too) for the numbers is agiven. So what's new?

It would be laudable if Monika had stayed on and changed the ethics of a place than play submission and quit as an editor. And wash dirty linen in public domain.

Anonymous said...

Quoting ethics...is off essence ONLY when they are practised at the appropriate and correct time!
Monika ought to have quit when the OLM awards were given overruling her editorial sensibilities!

Do I see here a bit of oppurtunism? Perhaps a better opputunity has presented itself and its time to move on?? one can never be sure! Time will tell...

Anonymous said...

Don't be naive, guys. At the time of joining in May/June 2006 itself, she was made aware by existing OLM reporters in Bombay about the rigging of Awards and interference of Mahesh Peri in editorial. Her predecessor, Hari Menon, a brilliant editor and journalist, was treated shabbily by Peri and quit in frustration. Monika was aware of this as well. Why is she pretending to be shocked now? Her husband, Gautam Chikermane, was also OLM's editor many years back and he was on great terms with Peri (because of which I think Monika the OLM editor offer from Peri in the first place). Things are complicated, men and women. Monika's letter reveals what has been known to past and current OLMers for donkey's years. Wake up and smell the coffee! Monika is coming out in the open so late in the day. Its a big shame that she chose to go along for 3 years with Peri's shit.

Anonymous said...

A little birdie from the Outlook Group informs me the following:
*Monica has been the editor for at least 3 years, which means that she has been a part of the awards for at least three times.The awards were held in Sep/October. LIC is anyways not the winner. Why did she resign now and not earlier?
* When Monica joined, there was exodus of journos from the magazine and all of them have damaging things to say about Monica.
* Monica was very shallow in her knowledge in stocks though her team was good. Imagine, she reccomended Satyam to her readers 2 months back.
* Did she resign or was she sacked is a mystery.

Anonymous said...

wonder if she will be hired by anyone at all. if an editor builds a reputation of standing up to owners, it is difficult to get a job.
Unless rivals want to score some points.

GBO said...

Car India and Bike India - NDTV awards - audited by PWC.

Infraline Energy Awards - CNBC TV18 - designed and audited by PWC.

Samsung/IIFA/Singapore/Wizcraft - Sony entertainment TV and MSN - audited by PWC.

The list goes on, but you get the idea? Why would the media want to look too closely at the truth behing audits, anyway?

Anonymous said...

Outlook Money is 10 years old and it is always a great magazine, other media companies tried and failed, including India Today Group. I am confident Outlook Money will maintain it's standard of editorial.

Anonymous said...

Guys. This is confirmed news. Monika was asked to quit as she was more keen on television than the magazine. Imagine, she had a TV show on television(NDTV PROFIT) even before the same cover story, done by the MONEY staffers hit the stands. I think she deserves to be kicked out for being disloyal to the readers.

Besides, speak to any OLM money staffer who left because of Monica and they have horrible things to say of her.

well done Mr.Mehta

Anonymous said...

Oh really..and who is giving you the confirmed news? Mr. Peri himself...who is now trying hard to save face? You do seem to be someone who'se very very close to him....If you have the guts to write fair comments, pick up the phone and speak to anyone who matters - From regulators to financial institutions and hear what they have to say about her personal credibitlity and ethics. As for people leaving the magazine..well very few of the journo breed doesnt bitch out his/her publication post quitting...great testimonials!

GBO said...

Look, I did a column at OM for almost what,8 years? In the beginning it was wonderful, i could take on the bad guys basis my truths, and as I don;t make a livelihood out of "media", write for pleasure, I got away with things. But eventually, my column had to go. And around the same time, the magazine started sounding a wee bit sanitised?

Kannan said...

Guys.. Monika would not have resigned to show ethical stance on ideal journalism or anything to do with investor (OLM's audience).

If read her all old columns and anything written during the 2006 & 2007 bull market....they are all bullshit..

Its a pure ego clash...lets see

Anonymous said...

MH is a simple journo. Exposure to finance and financial planning has been thru a haf baked one hour exam called 'afp'. However thanks to some correct forces, she became 'editor'. Reminds what PC once told me 'todays tv journos expect all the problems in the country should be solved in the studio'. It is true. As a journo she even did stock recommendations, took interest rate calls, choose funds in which to invest - vow overnight she wanted to become a financial planner, fund manager, insurance analyst and agony aunt. Media allows it. Now she will start a fp outfit along with a few 'friends' and VCs willing to fund. God bless. Amen

Anonymous said...

Ha Ha. "Very few of the journo breed doesnt bitch out his/her publication post quitting'. That should stick with Monica than any one else.

I was with MONEY till Monica came in, and let me say it, she is the worst to talk about ethics. 90% of us resigned within 6 months of her arrival. Remember, she worked in Economic Times. Her husband works in Hindustan Times. Both of them put together worked for 9 out of 10 years in Outlook Money. Monica rejoined the magazine. After 9 years, is crying wolf.

And the ealrier post.. surely is of Monica. She seems to suggest that she was actually sacked. If it is true, That is the best to happen to Outlook Group and more particularly, Outlook Money.

Anonymous said...

I dont agree so much that everyone bitches about ex-bosses... People often quit for better oppurtunities.. but this doesnt hold true as far as me leaving outlook money was concerned. It was good to work till hari was around. Its quite obvious from the fact that there was huge exodus once Monica came on board. She is a rather unprofessional and insensitive boss to work with. Its best for Outlook Money and even better for the team that she signed off!

Anonymous said...

I have followed OLM from the beginning and truly, the OLM under Monika was not even a shadow of what it was under Sandipan Deb. But that's obvious because they are a class apart. Always thought it was a mistake on part of the OL management to take her on that spot. But then, as one of the comments puts it, she knew or at least was favoured by the right people in the Outlook group.

Monika incidentally, was part of the first group under Sandipan at the then Intelligent Investor and since her husband Gautam Chikermane was catapulted, again as a similar favour by the then editor to join the top ranks in the mag, she moved away since the group at that time, followed the policy of not allowing husband and wife on the same ship. But she was given a column (something reserved only for experts) despite the fact that it was pretty ordinary and average. Later she was made Editor by unceremoniously removing Outlook's then Biz Ed who was looking after the magazine then.

Monika's present rant and a desperate attempt to lift-the-veil-off the OLM awards is just a gimmick to get public sympathy. She may have been asked to leave but whatever it is, it should be good for OLM. Hope it regains its old glory.

Don't worry, Monika'll carry on and as someone here says she'll open a FP consultancy. I won't be surprised if she does something else either. At an OL group party to which I was invited/pulled along, I saw her commenting in detail on the (poor) dress sense of one of her colleagues. How about fashion designing Monika?

Swordarm said...

In this day and age, it is rare to see someone with the courage of conviction displayed by Ms Halan. Going by the tone and tenor of some of the comments posted above (particularly the anonymous ones) they are obviously planted by the magazine and / or disgruntled ex subordinates of hers.

I have been following OLM for a long time now, and there was a distinct improvement in the overall standards and quality of the magazine in the recent past (judging by comments above, this was obviously the time when Monika joined).

If Monika had been fired, as is being suggested by some, she would not have taken this step which would amount to sacrificing future prospects on the altar of integrity and professional ethics.

Anonymous said...

Guys,Monika, It is most certain that Monika was sacked and the letter was an alibi to explain her sacking to future employers and become a hero from a zero. Read her column in Outlook Money dated 28th January. The last sentence reads" So while the sound of surf is fantastic and pondicherry, as always, is solidly calming, work and DELHI are HAPPILY just a week away from today." Need it say more.

By the way a few more inconsistencies:
1.The pliable editors included great editors like Tarun Tejpal, Sandipan Deb and even her husband(who isnt so great).
2. For a person who talks about editorial freedom, her TV show has a guest, who is the CEO of ICICI Direct, who is also the sponsor for the show. He would advise us on how ICICI is the best maybe. ha ha. Editorial freedom.....
3. If the Outlook group is so bad, why did she join back and why did she work for 3years after rejoining.
4. No wonder the management wanted the stock picks to be edited by Outlkook Profit. What can they do, if she reccomends SATYAM in september?
5. Most people who left MONEY rejoined the other publications within the Outlook Group.

Bad luck Monika. Your ruse is failing.

Lumpy said...

Whats so shocking about this incident? Dont all the grown up Journalist know that the media in India after all is not as independent as they would like all to believe. There are various forces that these Big media Houses succumb to.....political, advertisers, someone's likes and dislikes for a particular person/ organisation and the interest and inclination of the Editor.and gossip mongering is so prevalent in this profession that it can make or break an upright Journos career.

Sumant Sarkar said...

whoever believed in these "awards" anyway? Fox counting chickens. It's got conflict of interest written all over it.

Anonymous said...

There's also something to be said for the poor writing quality of the letter. If that's how the editor writes, I wonder how the magazine reads.

Anonymous said...

MH may or may not realise that her ability to understand finance is severely limited. She has no client interaction, no interaction with fund managers, actuaries, ...only media. She is now promoting Morningstar's rating on Ndtv. People who have been long enough should know how valueresearchonline.com got the rating methodology! All of this is a farce to make the fund manager look good. That is all. MH should put all her money in a good index fund, take a term insurance and sell off her Ferrari.