Why Arnab Goswami resigned from The Editors Guild of India

Goswami pointed out that the guild failed to take a stand on fake news reported by certain news outlets

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Apr 22, 2020 9:33 AM

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Arnab Goswami Republic TV

On a live show on Monday night, popular journalist and Editor-in-Chief of Republic TV, Arnab Goswami announced his resignation from The Editors Guild of India. Goswami says it was an impromptu decision.

In a candid chat with exchange4media, Goswami spoke about this decision, his take on fake news and much more.

Edited excerpts.

Why have you decided to resign from The Editors Guild of India?

The Editors Guild has failed to take a position on the tsunami of fake news that has come out on multiple publications. When The Wire reported fake news and they had an FIR against them, The Editors Guild actually came out in defence of The Wire. In the case of Palghar when Hindu Sadhus were lynched many of these publications which have a clear political bias and are linked in some way or the other to the Editors Guild, refused to disclose the identity of the sadhus and cast aspersions on why they were lynched.

Even in the wake of the pandemic, the Editors Guild has not taken a position on issues that malign the image of India with false and fake news. For example, the fake news regarding, Gujarat, that Hindus and Muslims are put in separate wards in the hospital. Even after the fake news was corrected, the Editors Guild has did not take a position on it. So, if the Editors Guild has decided to remain silent on news that not just maligns the nation but is false in its content and malicious in its intent, then there is no point in being with the Guild in any capacity.

Did any member of the guild call you regarding your resignation?

No, they didn’t. The fact is that The Editors Guild is not made up of editors. The Editors Guild is largely made up of people who are either ex editors or were never editors and they have just got the name of Editors Guild. If you look at the membership of the Editors Guild, there's a very small fraction of them, if any, who are serving editors. When the Editors Guild was started, the editors of prominent print publications were members.

Today, you have people who have no journalistic experience, or those who work for politicians or those who have never been editors on the Editors Guild. So, the Editors Guild has simply become a group of people who want to use their membership of the Editors Guild to wield influence in Delhi. I think it is important for someone to do an investigation on the members of the Editors Guild and find out which one of them and how many of them are actually editors. So basically the membership of the Editors Guild itself is under question.

What this group of people does is that they only become active in putting out statements to defend themselves. Thus the guild has essentially become a body of people who come together to defend themselves even when they are doing the greatest wrong. Many members of the Editors Guild in internal correspondents go on to say that ‘we must be together or we will hang together’. This type of self-serving attitude defeats the purpose of any guild which carries any journalistic tag to it.

You started the NBF which is parallel to the NBA representing a lot of regional voices. Now that you have exited the Editors Guild, will you start a similar parallel body?

The News Broadcasters Federation is a very large and influential group of people who are actually running channels, employing thousands of people, publishing news whereas the Editors Guild is just a group of ‘has-beens’, many of whom are not in active journalism anymore. The group is only out to defend themselves when it commits a wrong. So, there is no comparison between a defunct body like the Editors Guild and a body like the News Broadcasters Federation really.

Help us understand how channels/newspapers or any media organization for that matter can fight fake news?

Point number one is that it is the responsibility of the media to expose the fake news. I am surprised that so-called fact-checkers, people who make a living by saying that they are fact-checkers have not spoken anything about the fake news that has come out in the Caravan, Scroll and Wire. It is important that the people of India and the Indian media expose the real intentions of the Caravan, Scroll and Wire.

Secondly, everybody should now start doing their own research on facts. Unfortunately, international media that include the likes of Al Jazeera and The Washington Post pick up information from Caravan, Scroll and Wire without cross verifying the facts. The third point is an example like the story about Gujarat where it was said that Hindus and Muslims are segregated while being treated which is the worst example of fake news and it was picked up in many American publications and Al Jazeera as well. One needs to check that. I think international news is not a good source of information at this time.

Unfortunately, there is a line between opinion and fact. Opinion has to be based on facts. The kind of articles that have been published in the Gulf News is opinion without facts. I also run a lot of opinion pieces but my opinion is based on facts. What is happening in many publications today is a harangue. You just generally don't like someone or you have a problem with certain people, and therefore you carry out a rant. A rant is not journalism. On the other hand, many of us who are doing responsible work and as a result, our viewership is also going through the roof.

Is the digital medium more vulnerable to fake news?

What is happening on digital medium is also that many retired print people are starting their own little cottage industry which they call a new site. There is no known source of funding for these websites. Large networks and large media houses like ours depend on either advertising or subscription. But many of these websites have very vague fund sources. What is their source of revenue system? Who are their investors? Who controls their editorial content? Who are the real owners of the organization? What does their balance sheet look like? These are unanswered questions.

Having said, that we've seen a phenomenal increase in our following. For example, in the last one month, we've seen an 82% increase digital traffic on Republic World which means that people are beginning to discriminate between fake news and real news as this kind of traffic cannot happen without people making a very solid judgment on what is real news and what is fake news. I am absolutely sure that over a period of time, this cottage industry run by retired print journalists will outlive their utility even for themselves.

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