News Next 2019 panel deliberates if anchors should be spokespersons
The panel, chaired by Sandeep Phukan, Deputy Editor, The Hindu, says there is a need to engage with the audience but one must keep in mind the difference between having an opinion and being biased
Published - 18-February-2019
Are anchors becoming the new spokespersons? A session chaired by Sandeep Phukan, Deputy Editor, The Hindu, deliberated on this issue at the 11th edition of the exchange4media News Broadcasting Awards (ENBA).
On the panel were: Preeti Dahiya, Anchor - Times Now, Deepti Sachdeva - Senior Editor, Republic TV, Rishabh Gulati - Managing Editor, News X, Palki Sharma - Associate Editor, WION, Anil Singhvi - Managing Editor, Zee Business, and Rohit Sardana - Editor, Aaj Tak.
“When you say spokesperson, you are presenting an idea and anybody who believes that journalists are people who stick to information, who are not opiniated is either deluding or lying. We express our opinion like all individuals and that opinion may or may not match a political ideology,” Palki Sharma said.
There is a difference between having an opinion and being biased, she said. With reference to WION, Sharma said, “We present India’s perceptive to the world. So are we the spokespeople for India, maybe we are. We may present the point of view of a country or of a government. There is a difference between being opiniated and getting biased.
I think in today’s Television space, people come to you for information (which is available everywhere else including the social media) as for validation of their opinion. I stand for something I believe in, I don’t shy away from expressing it. I believe anchors are spokespersons for their own editorial position and their own individual opinions.”
Deepti Sachdeva was of the opinion that there is a strong need to engage with the audience. “The news space today is dramatically different, your viewers are smart and intelligent. They have tons of ways to gather news, be it social media, the digital space or the newspapers. So you have to give them a reason for coming to Television and while they are spending some time with you, there has to be engagement. And unless you connect with the audience you cannot engage them.”
“We, at Republic TV, strongly believe in putting out our opinion. I think it is extremely important to take sides, unless you take a side what is the point of doing a news? My idea today is to speak about a story that matters to the viewers,” Sachdeva added.
With reference to the Pulwama terror attack, Rohit Sardana said he didn’t mind being the spokesperson for those who are watching him on TV. “I am the spokesperson of the family of the martyrs of the Pulwama attack, whose sentiments I can feel and relate to. Being opiniated and biased are two different things. To give voice to the sentiments and putting forward the opinion makes you a spokesperson. I don’t mind being the spokesperson of the people who watch me on Television and trust me.”
A tough question and the TV anchor is called the spokesperson, Anil Singhvi said. “There is a thin line between news and views. Today it has become a fashion to call anchors spokesperson. If you ask a tough question you are labelled as the spokesperson. There are anchors who will ask the right questions and there will be few who have stopped asking questions. There is nothing bad in giving out your opinion or views.”
On the same lines, Rishabh Gulati spoke about the need to provide more than just confirmation. “People who come to watch you are not people who come to gather information anymore, except for rare circumstances when people are looking for confirmation. To sit in a discussion and not have an opinion makes you a piece of furniture. You have to be a part of that conversation even if it is to educate or temper the conversation as and when required. The realisation for all of us is that we do not want to end up speaking to an empty room because we will soon be hijacked by the sheer flood of information.”
Preeti Dahiya said, “We are carrying too many burdens. We are being watched by someone who is a pro BJP, pro Congress or someone who hates a particular community. We are actually representing someone. So for that someone I am definitely going to be the spokesperson of the other because there should be one side of the story that has to be highlighted.”
Concluding the panel discussion, Phukan spoke about maintaining the fine line between news and views. “My closing comment is that I have always believed there is a line between news and views. We need to maintain that line and let viewers decide. At the same time, it is not bad to have an opinion but it is also not good to be biased.”
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