Guest Column: Aroon Purie reflects on Uday Shankar's journey from a 'jhollawala' journalist to a corporate honcho
Aroon Purie, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, The India Today Group, says that Uday Shankar makes him proud
I pride myself in being a good judge of talent. The joke in our newsroom is that we train editors for our competition. In Uday’s case, we did far more than that. Uday worked with me for almost five years as the managing editor of TV Today. He was a journalist with superb news sense, who with his JNU background could contextualise and explain a story so that the average viewer would relate to it.
He was present at the launch of Aaj Tak and a large part of its success was due to his leadership. He actually redefined how Hindi channels covered news. He took news out of the studios, into the streets and even with poor connectivity, he streamed events live whenever he could. I recall Aaj Tak’s coverage of the Gujarat earthquake in 2001 and the Kumbh Mela as defining moments for the channel and they have never looked back since.
Uday had a great passion for news and the immediacy of the medium meant instant action and reaction. I noticed that in the hurly burly of news, he was running amok and needed to lead his team more effectively. I sent him to IIM Ahmedabad for a crash course in administration and finance. He must be the fastest learner yet. Look where he is now.
He used to tell me that he never stays in a job for more than three years as he gets bored and he had gone over his limit with me. But he extended his own limit. It was such an interesting time at Aaj Tak and in news. I worked very closely with Uday and called at all odd hours for all kind of minute details from tickers to anchor diction. I felt free to do so as he was as passionate about news as I was and a perfectionist. He took the feedback in his stride and always made it better.
When he left us, I thought the job of managing editor of a news channel working 24x7 had taken its toll on him and he wanted to just be a free spirit and freelance for a while or go into academia. I never saw him as a corporate type worrying about the bottom line. In fact, I used to call him a ‘jhollawala’ from JNU. He seemed to have no interest in the business side of television. I thought news was his thing and I suspect it still is his first love.
I see him now as a suave media mogul dealing with intricate media issues of distribution, advertising rates, finances, soap operas and media policy, whichare so far removed from news. He makes me proud.
Little did I know this person who was so immersed in news and intellectual issues would end up leading India’s largest media company focused on entertainment and sports. A company that is owned by the world's most monumental media company of the world that can hire the best talent from anywhere. The Murdochs spotted something in him that I missed. I've been kicking myself ever since.
Aroon Purie is the Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, The India Today Group
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