Hindustan Times does not believe in "paid news". Our news is news, got by the hard work of our network of journalists across the country.
Our advertisers pay us to advertise on our pages. The two - news and paid-for advertisements - are distinct. When our advertisers want to run an advertorial, we insist that it be labelled clearly as such for all to see.
An article in a rival newspaper, The Hindu, on January 29, mentioned a case of so-called paid news carried by us during the Bihar assembly elections of 2010, noting that the Press Council of India had held HT, along with several other newspapers, guilty of the practice.
The Hindu did not contact us for our response or views before publishing the article.
We did our checks. Our Bihar election coverage ran for more than three months in 2010.
The four HT articles in question all appeared on one page of the Patna edition on October 25, 2010.
Their headlines were as follows: "Paswan's chopper cuts through dais, 8 injured"; "Patna road gets Nitish credit"; "Muslim mood divided in Saran"; "Nitish is our hero but his candidates are zero".
In other words, one factual report on a minor helicopter accident; one article chronicling how a road from neglected Kesariya to state capital Patna was positive for CM Nitish Kumar (entirely logical conclusion); one analytical piece talking of how Muslims liked Nitish but had reservations about his alliance with the BJP (not a surprising conclusion, and one that's hardly likely to benefit any one in particular); and one well-sourced report that looked at how Nitish's candidates, in contrast to the man himself, were unpopular.
The last article clearly quoted several individuals by name, hardly the practice one would adopt if this was "paid news".
None of these stories quotes a politician. They just give a voice to villagers and farmers, hardly the sort of people who pay to have their views in print.
These articles were written by reporters of integrity, and personally vetted by our senior editor on the ground. Most of the people quoted in the stories are still around and reachable.
We have gone back to the authority. We will remain in touch with the Press Council of India. We are completely confident that they will find no basis in the allegations. We did not, and do not, believe in paid news.
(For readers wishing to read for themselves the four stories in question, we have put them up on our website, which can be accessed at the following link: www.hindustantimes.com/biharstories).
Sanjoy Narayan, Editor-in-chief