Go past the first sentence, and it's as devastating an indictment as is possible for an insider like Readers' Editor K. Narayanan:
There was balance in the coverage to the extent that protesting voices against what was "happening" in Nandigram got adequate representation. But what was really happening? The reader was left to guess. The Home Secretary said it was a "war zone"; Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya described what had happened in Nandigram as legal and justified and added, "we have paid back in their own coin." These widely reported (but not in The Hindu) remarks indicated something serious had happened and it needed to be justified. Obviously it was not Maoists and Trinamool alone, who were responsible for the situation and the published reports did not make things clear.
The reporting in The Hindu was selective. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s comment on the situation (while on his way to Kuala Lumpur) did not find a place and this had to be inferred from the Chief Minister’s reaction to it. Similarly, the Chief Minister’s "paid back" remark found mention only when there were reactions to it.
The unprecedented public protest in Kolkata was well covered, but one was left wondering what was the "situation" in Nandigram against which the intellectuals and artists were protesting. As a newsman, my first priority would have been spot coverage. That media persons were denied access to the "war zone" was unknown to The Hindu readers. The first Nandigram-datelined report, from Antara Das, appeared much after things had quietened down in the area. Nandigram did not get the detailed analysis that an explosion in tiny faraway Maldives got at the same time.
Narayanan's verdict is a stinging slap in face of Editor-in-Chief N. Ram, who penned this defence of the paper's Nandigram:
According to the Editor-in-Chief, “We have done a perfectly balanced news and pictorial coverage of Nandigram and taken a clear editorial position, avoiding the traps of anti-left campaign journalism that various other newspapers and television channels have got into. I am satisfied that the news coverage has been accurate and balanced. Working out the editorial stand is our journalistic privilege. A serious content analysis of our coverage of Nandigram will vindicate my claim of factual and sober coverage. Of course journalism works with constraints when it comes to access to what happens in embattled or complex circumstances. But you always have a chance to catch up or fill in what happened.
“It is absolutely inaccurate to say we have not sent any reporter to Nandigram. Antara Das’ recent report, for example, speaks for itself.”