Speaking at the Indian Advertising Association India Chapter’s Silver Jubilee Summit at Kochi, President-News and Editor in Chief, Times Now and ET Now, Arnab Goswami shared his views on disruptive journalism and why news journalism ought not to be neutral.
Goswami spoke about how often people ask him about disruptive TV news. He explains, “I had no plans to do this with Times Now. Let me tell you, I was the most abject failure in the first ten years of my career. In 2002 I seriously thought of quitting journalism all together. I hated the system. I didn’t like this system of mutual cooperation, sycophancy and corruption that I witnessed. It made me so sad I regretted ever being a journalist.”
Goswami recounts how Times Now was the biggest failure when they started. “You sit there as an editor, trying to launch a new kind of journalism, and you are not resented, you are not mocked, but are seriously hated. This whole system hates you and when you start like that they want to crush you like a fly even before you have the chance to take wings. However, this disruption that we speak about today was born from the human necessity to change things,” said Goswami on why he believes in disruptive journalism. “I have seen enough hypocrites, corrupt people, sycophants and middle men in my own profession to believe that the kind of media you were given, was the wrong media.”
Goswami believes that this disruptive form of media is the media of the new India. This media is not only meant to disrupt media, it is meant to disrupt our society, our country and the way the younger generation will lead their lives 20 years from now.
Why was disruption needed?
In Goswami’s opinion, journalism was not confrontational. It was submissive journalism. Secondly, journalism was content with this whole idea of being neutral. This neutrality is a sham. Thirdly, journalism was meant to be only a gazetteer of India, only to provide information and not to have impact. Fourthly, journalism was significantly detached from people’s issues -- the day to day challenges that people face. “Journalism missed the strong element of idealistic activism and dissent that today drives the profession and what we do.”
Arnab Goswami’s mantra to disruptive journalism
“We disrupt the media in many ways. The first way is very simple: Ask the toughest question to the most important person. When face to face with an important person, ask yourself, which is that one question that if I ask this guy he may never give me an interview again. It may be Amitabh Bachchan who doesn’t want to be questioned about Salman; or Rahul Gandhi who doesn’t want to be questioned about a number of things.”
Goswami said the second issue is with neutrality. “What is neutrality? Am I going to float a Wikipedia on television? I don’t believe in it. This is a dated 17th century belief that journalism isn’t journalism; that it is, what in the Mogul era, was the job of a town crier. I am not a town crier and never will be.”
“If you want to be seriously neutral, I respect you, but I suspect that behind this whole concept of neutrality is this tendency to play safe, to be guarded... not to play the shot. Neutrality is a weakness because it perpetuates the status quo and doesn’t change it. It has no impact and journalism is an exercise in absolute futility in the absence of impact. To sit on a fence in the absence of any ambiguity, on a matter of public interest is basically nothing short of a crime itself.”
He believes you don’t need a medium to disrupt. “I come from a world view where we spend too much time in the media asking ourselves, “Will Print be disrupted by TV or will TV be disrupted by Digital?” Why do we waste our time talking about the medium? Talk about the message.”
What makes news?
Goswami asks, “Who decides what makes news? Conventionally, politics is first page; fiscal deficit is first page. My question is who decides the order of priority of news? There is no established order and there is no established story. There is nothing that is right (for priority) or wrong. Whatever impacts and touches my heart; whatever will affect the most number of people; that is priority journalism.”
He remarks that disrupting journalism only means opening up your eyes to what can be news and open your minds to whatever can be important.
Another point of disruption is the ability to be a pin prick in society for a sustained period of time. “You’ve got to pick up a story and run after it again and again and not lose faith in yourself. Don’t be subtle. Try to be squeamish or indirect.”
The last point on disruption is very simple says Goswami. “Stop creating ‘holy cows’ in our country; icons and legends who we are not allowed to be asked questions to. Irreverence has to become a basic rule that the profession of journalism adheres to. Because you will not realise what is right and what is wrong without it. As Martin Luther King said, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent.”
Politicians and people of power have ridden us and it has ridden the media because the back of the media has been bent. But we are gaining our supine strength once again.” Ended Goswami on a passionate note .