HT readers were in for a shock on November 28, 2010, when Vir Sanghvi informed in his weekly column that ‘Counterpoint would be taking a break’. This, following the Radia tapes’ controversy, would indeed have raised a few eyebrows. In a conversation with exchange4media, Sanghvi explained more on this decision, and what could now be expected from ‘Counterpoint’. Excerpts:
Given all the conversations that have happened following the publishing of the Radia tapes, do you think it was wise to discontinue ‘Counterpoint’ at this point?
Frankly, it was not a well-considered and shrewd decision; it was an emotional response. I tried writing a column about Bihar this week and found that my heart was not in it. That’s when I decided to take this break. Many people have argued with me about the tactical wisdom of taking a break. But honestly, it was not about tactics.
Do you think somewhere it would give the impression that this has taken place due to pressure on HT management to deal with the issue at hand?
That’s a little far-fetched. Why would the HT management allow me to do a whole column explaining my position if they had wanted to stop ‘Counterpoint’? Why would all the other writing continue? Why am I still at the HT?
For many years now, your forte and an area of expertise has been political, and even business, commentary. And these are more serious subjects than lifestyle or food. How do you feel giving this a break from HT, which gave it reach?
I don’t really mind. I did no column writing at all for part of 2000. I think I came back more refreshed after the break and the columns actually got better.
Would you continue writing on the subjects on your own website?
The idea behind the break is to protect ‘Counterpoint’ from slander. The website is not part of that process.
If another media group approached you for writing on the politico-economic scenario, would you consider it?
No, I can’t. I am still a part of HT.
The last week has been about media and media observers criticising the nature of conversations that were published from the Radia tapes. Social media has gone on a rampage. At the same time, you and another senior editor have maintained that there was no wrong-doing. Does the break in ‘Counterpoint’, weaken your stance in a sense?
On the contrary. The column announcing the break is essentially a strong reiteration of my position. The break strengthens my stance. I have made my position clear and have indicated that the temporary break is to protect the column from the filth that is being flung around.
Would you like to speak a bit more on the reason why ‘Counterpoint’ took a six-month break in 2000?
‘Counterpoint’ started in Sunday and then moved to The Telegraph. By the time I took over as editor of HT, I found that there was enormous pressure associated with my new responsibilities. I did not believe that I could cope with all that pressure and still manage to do a good column. Hence the break. When the pressure eased, ‘Counterpoint’ returned.
The ‘Counterpoint’ on November 28, 2010, in which you have announced that you are taking a break, makes your thought process clear. But is there anything further that you would like to add to this?
Only that I am overwhelmed by the response to the column. I have been flooded with SMSes, calls and messages from people who believe that there was no need to take this break. I understand where they are coming from and I am very grateful for their support. But all I can say to them is be patient. ‘Counterpoint’ will be back and it will be better for the rest.