Panic gripped the employees of The New Indian Express, Kerala, after a news article claimed that the newspaper is shutting down eight bureaus in the southern state.

A Kerala based independent news portal THE KOCHI POST on Sunday published an article claiming that south-based English daily, The New Indian Express (TNIE) is shutting down eight of its bureau offices in Kerala by May 31. However, sources from TNIE said the article is misleading.

“Media shocker: The New Indian Express to shut 8 bureau offices in Kerala,” read the headline.

“With the uncertainty prevailing over the extended lockdown, The Kochi Post has learned that the south-based The New Indian Express management has asked the offices of 8 bureaus to be closed by May 31. The instruction from the management was that the Alapuzha, Thrissur, Pathanamthitta, Kollam, Kottayam, Palakkad, Kannur, Malappuram bureau offices be closed immediately and the furniture and office paraphernalia be sold as akri (scrap),” the article said.

The article noted that each of these bureaus operate from rented offices with a team of two or three staffers comprising the editorial and the circulation departments.

“As the offices are manned by the circulation department, the editorial staffers in these bureaus are unaware of these developments with ‘Work From Home’ policy in place. No letter has been sent to them that these offices will be closed from June 1. It is unclear if these are measures to cost-cut without layoffs or if this action precedes layoffs. Sources say that the management expects savings of Rs one lakh per bureau by shutting its offices,” it added.

The archived version of the post can be seen here.

The news portal also shared this article on its official twitter handle, @thekochipost.


The archived version of the tweet can be seen here.

The tweet was further shared by its editorial team and journalists from other media houses.



Fact Check

NewsMeter did a fact check on the authenticity of the article’s claim.

Our team spoke to a few of the TNIE employees from Kerala.

A highly placed source from the Kerala bureau of TNIE told NewsMeter that this is twisting of facts. “A bureau is not about a building. Reporters, photojournalists, and other staff members constitute a bureau. Our bureaus in Alapuzha, Thrissur, Pathanamthitta, Kollam, Kottayam, Palakkad, Kannur, and Malappuram are one-man bureaus that are run by a single reporter. Since the lockdown, those reporters are working from home. So technically speaking, the bureau offices that were functioning from rented buildings are closed for more than a month. We are thinking about whether we should retain those buildings or give them back to the owners in this state of economic crisis,” he said.

THE KOCHI POST on 16 May had published a similar article regarding lay-offs in Kerala bureaus of The Times of India.

“Amid the economic crisis and prolonged uncertainty caused by the nation-wide lockdown following the COVID outbreak, Kerala’s Times of India (TOI) Malabar edition will cease its operations by June 1 and the closing of its Thiruvananthapuram edition is expected to follow shortly. Across India, TOI’s 15 non-metro editions are shutting down operations including the two in Kerala. At the beginning of May, The Economic Times closed its editorial division in Kerala,” the article said.

According to reports, as many as 15 TOI employees have lost their jobs in Kerala in the past one week. There are speculations that at least 15 TOI Kerala reporters too will lose their job as the newspaper is planning to shut its operations in Kozhikode, Wayanad, Thrissur, Palakkad, Kottayam, and Alappuzha districts.

The archived version of the post can be seen here.

Meanwhile, when the facts mentioned in the article regarding layoffs in TOI are true, the employee of TNIE said the article published on May 17 is only written in light of what happened with the employees of TOI.

Though the journalists and non-journalist staff of TNIE who are working from home already have received a pay cut from 10 to 30 percent according to their grades, no information regarding a layoff plan has so far reached them.

“When the bureaus are already closed and employees working from home, articles like this create unnecessary panic. We have not received any intimation so far regarding the closing down of Kerala bureaus,” said one of the employees from TNIE Kerala.

The Deccan Chronicle editions for Kerala were abruptly shut down in December 2019.

The New Indian Express in Kerala has seven editions and has bureaus in all 14 districts of the state.

The COVID-19 crisis began to hit media houses in India from April. The entire team of Sunday magazine of Times of India based in New Delhi was asked to leave on April 13.

In a Facebook post, Nona Walia, one of the Senior Assistant Editors at Times of India had posted that she was asked to leave the organization after 24 years of service.

https://officechai.com/stories/coronaviruss-media-bloodbath-quint-puts-45-employees-non-paid-leave-toi-fires-entire-sunday-magazine-team/

Outlook magazine was among the first to stop print edition. Its editor-in-chief Ruben Banerjee announced on March 30 a temporary suspension of the magazine with immediate effect.

The archived version of the post can be seen here.

The English digital team of News Nation, a Hindi news channel has also been terminated. The team comprised of fifteen journalists.

The COVID-19 crisis has taken a toll on digital media as well. Reportedly, thirty employees from The Quint have been asked to go on Leave Without Pay (LWP) with effect from April 15. The company maintained that the employees are free to take up freelance work during this time, by relaxing “exclusivity” and “non-compete obligations.”

Result

Thus the claim that The New Indian Express is to shut 8 bureau offices in Kerala from May 31 is misleading. All the eight bureaus are shut since lockdown and employees are working from home.

Dheeshma Puzhakkal

Dheeshma Puzhakkal is currently a Reporter with Newsmeter. An alumnus of Hyderabad Central University, she has interned with Greater Kashmir newspaper and NDTV. Dheeshma has also made short films and documentaries. Her documentary ‘Still I Rise’, which is based on sex-trafficking in Hyderabad’s Old City, has earned accolades in several film festivals, such as International Documentary and Short Film Festival, Kerala (IDSFFK). An avid foodie, she loves to travel and listen to stories that others tell. Photography is one of her all-time interests. She has extensively written on satellite-based journalism, health, consumer, and data stories besides covering anti-crime investigative agencies.

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