Dear Mr Narisetti

An Indian newspaper should keep its distance from the American political fray

Yes, it is not only unusual, but rather surprising that a serious Indian newspaper should endorse a candidate standing in an election in a foreign country. Your newspaper does not have that many readers in the United States and your voice is insignificant in the American political discourse. Your endorsement doesn’t influence the American voter one way or the other. But such practical considerations apart and regardless of its global implications, the US presidential election is essentially a matter for the citizens of the United States of America; a serious Indian newspaper shouldn’t interfere in their internal affairs.

You justify your decision to endorse on the basis that “what happens in this election has a critical bearing on India and the rest of the world— for good or bad—in light of the ongoing financial turmoil that started in America.” Fair enough. But the way to handle this—as you are already doing so well—is to advise the Indian government, businesses and society on what they must to do in anticipation and in reaction.

And by the way, it would be refreshing to see a major Indian newspaper make a well-reasoned endorsement of candidates and parties in India’s own elections. As a regular reader and occasional contributor to your fine publication, I look forward to that.

,

12 Responses to Dear Mr Narisetti

  1. Prakash 31st October 2008 at 17:46 #

    Maybe he is trying to win any favours for his kin in US!!

  2. Udayan 1st November 2008 at 07:48 #

    @prakash,

    Unless you know about the kin and favours, such an insinuation is merely uncharitable. I don’t think it’s the brownie point business that drives this.

    They are set out to set a higher standard than the rest of the Indian media, and so probably think that such endorsements are a bold new innovation in the domestic market. This, combined with the fact that many people emotionally live somewhere West of India, and get carried away by the campaign circus, could have made them take the step.

    @nitin,

    It’s a drop in the bucket, dude. Move on.

  3. Nitin 1st November 2008 at 07:54 #

    There’s a discussion on this on Raju Narisetti’s blog

  4. Trilok 1st November 2008 at 07:55 #

    In the meanwhile- in his Swaminomics op-ed Swami Aiyar tells us “Why McCain scores over Obama” when it comes to Indo-U.S. relations.

    (link)

  5. NotReallyAnonymous 1st November 2008 at 09:32 #

    @Udayan:This, combined with the fact that many people emotionally live somewhere West of India, and get carried away by the campaign circus, could have made them take the step.

    Sure, if they’d set out be a tabloid, getting carried away by the circus-baazi is fine, if not, they’d better know this is how papers start turning into tabloids. I, for one, have seen most of the national dailies go down that road, to care for another one, but on the whole Mint reads like a paper that could do better than those dailies have by now.

    From another angle, should we really be surprised at this? Isnt Mint in collaboration with WSJ?

  6. B.O.K. 3rd November 2008 at 10:45 #

    @NotReallyAnonymous: WSJ doesn’t usually endorse presidential candidates (hasn’t endorsed anyone since Hoover). If anything, this year they have “endorsed” McCain (quite a mild one titled “McCain’s Honor”). But then, you could put that alongside their praise for Obama’s economic plan and be back at Square 1.

  7. NotReallyAnonymous 3rd November 2008 at 11:46 #

    @BOK: Interesting! Thanks

  8. raju narisetti 4th November 2008 at 06:18 #

    Dear Mr Pai
    If Mint’s formal endorsement starts a debate on the role newspapers (including those in India) should play in giving readers their considered opinion of candidates in key elections, that would be a welcome outcome in addition to what ought to be a debate perhaps about the policies of the two candidates.
    I am amused that Mint is accused of being “insignificant” and yet, at the same time, also interfering in America’s internal affairs. And, by this logic, newspapers ought to only write about their immediate print edition circulation geography and only about matters where they have so-called influence. As a young paper, Mint doesn’t get carried away in imagining its influence. We hope we can provide a strong, well reasoned viewpoint to our readers who are perfectly capable of making up their own mind.
    Your view of Mint’s reach is also not accurate nor the view of the paper’s editors. Livemint.com, the paper’s web site, attracts about 10 times more readers than the print edition and four times more readers than the entire print edition come to the site from the US. Sure, we don’t know they are American citizens or not, but surely an American election is relevant to those who are reading Mint online from the US in very large numbers?
    A very narrow print-centric view that is not really based on facts seems to underscore your thinking about where Mint’s audiences are.

    I also suspect you will be upset at the Financial Times (some 200,000 readers or less in the US) and The Economist have formally endorsed candidates in this election. And come early next year, if the New York Times or The FT, after careful analysis, conclude that a Mayawati or a Manmohan Singh are indeed better for India–from their point of view–I assume you will accuse them of interfering with India’s internal affairs even if we know exactly what their ability to “influence” Indian voters is? And that newspapers can somehow influence “internal affairs” is exactly the argument that the Indian government continues to use to keep foreign newspapers out of India. But aren’t readers really better off with multiple views, whether such views are from Indian or foreign papers? Shouldn’t we treat our readers with a bit more respect, granting them the intelligence to figure out elections for themselves even if they are exposed to multiple views?

    The debates in India ought to be about more profound issues than tilting at windmills. And I doubt anyone actually reading the endorsement can easily accuse Mint of not providing a “serious” argument in support of its position (whether one agrees with that position itself or not).
    Raju Narisetti
    Editor
    Mint

    ps: To clarify another comment in reaction to your post. Mint has unfettered access to WSJ content and chooses what it thinks Mint’s readers might benefit from as part of our exclusive content relationship in India. Whether WSJ endorses or not (it normally doesn’t) or our relationship with them is immaterial to Mint’s own views/articles.

  9. ghana shyam 4th November 2008 at 17:44 #

    @mr.raju narisetti

    that was a good reply.it seems that when we(indian citizens) speak ,it is to get brownie points and seem to interfere in the internal matters of the US but one has not understood this new found love for India among the blogs’ American citizens of Indian origin where they want to direct and comment on india’s policies and its behaviour in international relations.where are the brownie points being scored in their case.

  10. Nitin 4th November 2008 at 19:53 #

    Hi Mr Narisetti,

    I think the phenomenon of much of the traffic going to the US is widespread on the (English language) internet; both because of the numbers and also because of transit traffic.

    So I agree that a prima facie case can be made that addressing them is important. But there are some considerations that might suggest otherwise:

    a) Those who read Indian newspaper sites might do so to be informed about India—in which case covering US politics is less relevant to them.

    b) As you point out, some of these American online readers might not be eligible to vote in the US

    c) More than readership, a newspaper is also about identity. We read the NYT, WP and WSJ because we know they are rooted in America; their editorial positions are generally directed at American society, politics and government.

    I am a little concerned about CNN or NYT endorsing candidates in Indian elections; not so much because it’ll influence voters, but because it’ll cause the political class to clamp down even more on foreign investment in newspapers. I think allowing foreign publications to be sold in India is a good thing; as is foreign investment. But partly for reasons of trade negotiations strategy, I think reciprocity is in order.

  11. Chandra 4th November 2008 at 23:06 #

    “The debates in India ought to be about more profound issues than tilting at windmills.”

    Thank you, Sri Narisetti. What would we ever do with the profound Mint and its editorial. After reading the reasons for your endorsement of Obama one has to wonder who is actually tilting at the windmills.

  12. Aam Insaan 4th November 2008 at 23:59 #

    “Shouldn’t we treat our readers with a bit more respect, granting them the intelligence to figure out elections for themselves even if they are exposed to multiple views?”

    Exactly! The reader must ONLY be exposed to multiple ‘views’ & not subjected to ‘selective endorsements’ or ‘attempts to influence’- it’s insulting their intelligence…

    -anyway if he does manage to win- Mark my word this Obama cult figure is going to prove as a global catastrophe..

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