It’s always nice to know someone is repeating what you’ve already said many times over, even if in a very different way. To me the surprise is not why it’s being repeated but why it wasn’t said some years ago. The surprise also is that only one is being picked out for scrutiny. We’ll get to that but here’s what I wrote two years back on November 19, 2010 over Barkha Dutt’s response to Radiagate:
“Barkha is also extremely fortunate that NDTV has chosen to respond to this expose in her support... This is also a warning for all media channels not to have their brand names be so heavily associated with "personalities". A media channel needs to be bigger than personalities. Else, one flawed celebrity would be enough to bring the house down”. Yes indeed! The way some of our news channels are structured it will take just one flawed celebrity to bring the house down. After the SC returned the petition seeking Narendra Modi’s prosecution for Gujarat 2002 in September2011, here’s what I wrote again: “I have absolutely no hesitation in saying that the degeneration of TV news owes a great debt to both Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai. You could call them the leaders of the moral decay”. November 25, 2012 when Vikram Chandra of NDTV wondered about the degeneration of news, I once again wrote: “My instant reply was that it was those from the NDTV stable who had contributed considerably to lowering the BAR. Er... That BAR is Barkha-Arnab-Rajdeep”.
His foot soldier gets raided by the Treasury team. Before he smashes the guy’s skull with a baseball bat Al Capone states: “A man becomes preeminent, he’s expected to have enthusiasms, enthusiasms… enthusiasms!” Arnab Goswami and TimesNow (TN) are now preeminent. The editor of a magazine, reincarnated after 12 years, wants to become preeminent. It’s important to put some juicy stuff out there. It’s important to move from the back rows of newsstands closer to the elite front. So Jonathan Shainin, editor of Caravan magazine raids Arnab Goswami. The writer is one Rahul Bhatia who writes on a variety of topics from Bollywood to jeans.
For a start, the article is as long as an older Bollywood movie. Reports have it that some people did indeed read the whole article and survive it. This article by Caravan titled “Fast and Furious: The turbulent reign of Arnab Goswami” is 11 pages long on the Caravan website. In a regular MS-Word file in TimesRoman, Size-12 font it runs into 20 pages with a total of 12135 words. This Arnab does take some serious surgical dissection. Doesn’t he? That’s a mini-biography that would have taken Bhatia at least a month to assemble. Most of it is culled from the grapevine. Except for a few names sources are mostly anonymous, ‘former editors, producers, colleagues’ etc. Is Caravan suggesting that such bitching, bickering and politics doesn’t exist in other channels? That celebrity anchors in other channels are darlings of their colleagues and employees? Never mind! It’s hard to pick but let’s try a few. (Quotes in blue)
As a matter of principle, The Newshour pits people and their extreme views against one another—but its main character is always Goswami… How is this different from NDTV or CNN-IBN? This is the culture spawned by Rajdeep and Barkha. Have we forgotten that Rajdeep’s most popular programme on NDTV was actually titled “The Big FIGHT”?
They were to follow the Times of India’s lead, and draw out stories of particular interest to an under-represented Indian middle class; namely, the holy trinity of national identity, corruption and terrorism. “They are not a political constituency, and the Times Group was keen that their English news channel would give the middle class a relevance and, secondly, a channel of expression”. In the post ‘Who’s minding thestore – Part 2” I had mentioned that TOI had long done away with the nuisance of editors; that the ‘editor’ types catered only to a few intellectuals and not the aspiring masses. In another post I mentioned that if you have to be successful in India you need to learn to do business with the poor and the middle class. Which is what Dhirubhai Ambani did and which is what NDTV and CNN-IBN are failing at. I call these 2 channels ones for those with a ‘mini bar’ at home. Does Jonathan Shainin have one at home? So who is Caravan meant for? Let’s hear it in their own words: “The Caravan fills a niche in the Indian media that has remained vacant for far too long, one for the intellectually curious and aesthetically refined reader..”. Haha! You see, the new avatar of Caravan seeks the same intellectual folks that NDTV and CNN-IBN cater to. Naturally, they are going to be at odds with Arnab’s middle class approach with TN. Any surprise?
Under Goswami’s watch, reporters were instructed to thrust microphones at their subjects and demand answers because it made for dynamic television. (Cameramen at Times Now called it “the running away shot).. Is this unique to TN? Take a look at the pics in the post “Arnaboxious – The Witch Hunter”. That post talks about these practices in TN as also in all other channels. Incidentally, who is more famous for thrusting mics into angst-ridden people with the question “How does it feel for you”? Surely, this is a crime committed by all channels and even if Arnab calls it “door-stepping” singling out TN smacks of a motivated attack.
“..employees at Times Now say that Goswami felt overlooked at NDTV, and that his frequent derisive remarks revealed a simmering resentment that had still not abated. “It’s not a healthy attitude,” the senior Times Now manager said of Goswami’s distaste for Sardesai”. For that someone needed to speak to employees at TN? Ahem! Just observing them on TV here’s what I wrote in “Arnaboxious-The witch-hunter”: “So what makes AG behave in this fashion? Not sure, but I imagine years of playing third fiddle to Rajdeep and Barkha Dutt at NDTV could be one reason”. Contrary to what these anchors may think, petty rivalries and ego clashes can be seen-through on the TV itself. One doesn’t need to talk to gossip-mongers for such stupid trivia. What kind of Managing Editor deals in nepotism to bring in his wife as deputy editor so that a whole channel becomes a family run affair? This is even when the deputy hardly seems to have any journalistic or anchoring skills. Will Caravan need gossip from CNN-IBN to learn this?
Goswami had spent nearly a decade in Sardesai’s shadow, and he emerged from the experience sour. “Ten years back, in the pit of another newsroom,” he wrote in Outlook in 2008, almost certainly referring to Sardesai, “a now-famous TV anchor had laughed me off when I fought to get a mention for the ten people dead [in a blast] in a remote part of Assam. ‘Ten deaths in your part of the world equals the death of one person from here, as far as news is concerned,’ he had said. ‘It’s unfortunate but that’s a fact,’ he added, looking for and, shockingly, getting a raucous response from his audience”. Well, as far as Rajdeep is concerned that hasn’t changed. The tweet during the Assam riots would tell any idiot that Rajdeep knows which deaths are more important and probably even “pay more” for coverage.
Sardesai seems to make an unflattering appearance in another one of Goswami’s Outlook pieces, from 2011. Goswami again refers to an unnamed “fellow editor of an English news channel”, whom he describes as “a visible cog of a small power elite”, and who privately defends a corrupt chief minister at a meeting of national news editors, and then “punches his fist in the air and looks around for reactions”. Rajdeep and Barkha are both seen as cogs of power elites. Barkha is even seen as a power-broker. There’s something that inspired me to coin the line: “The media is the first line of defence for the corrupt”. I have even written a post long back titled: “Tainted? Have a chat with Barkha”. Caravan only seems to confirm that and if Arnab has noted that somewhere he probably has seen the garbage he was working with. If Arnab has written that then he probably also senses public perception better than his two former colleagues.
When a member of the Times Now launch team met the former Hindustan Times editor Vir Sanghvi in late 2006, he asked her how Goswami was faring, and she replied that he was doing well. “He said, ‘Really? Then why are the Jains shopping?’” she recalled, and said Sanghvi told her he had been given “an offer to head everything” at Times Now within months of the launch. The senior manager confirmed that a placement agency specialising in media had been retained to search for Goswami’s replacement. Vir Sanghvi? Haha! Hindsight will now tell the world that TN owners must be thanking their lucky stars they didn’t hire Sanghvi. TN would have then been held in as much contempt as NDTV probably is owing to Radiagate. Who knows TN may have even shut down, with Sanghvi, considering it would have been just four years old when Radiagate broke.
Arnab maybe the one who put Anna & Co. in everyone’s drawing room but Rajdeep was the one who ran to Ramlila to get a personal pic with Anna. Barkha Dutt was the one who was booed and shooed away by the crowd at India Gate. Arnab put TeamAnna in the drawing rooms but who were the ones bestowing spurious awards on them? NDTV and CNN-IBN! Rajdeep and Barkha (and Rahul Kanwal) were the ones who ran to Ralegan Siddhi to suck up to Anna Hazare. Undeniable fact is that Arnab has and continues to destroy the consumption of crap that NDTV and CNN-IBN deliver in the guise of news channels. Stands to reason that TN also threatens the consumption of what Caravan is dishing out or hopes to dish out for the “intellectuals”. Arnab and TN aren’t part of any ‘unholy trinity’ that frequently host Musharraf and Imran Khan which has earned the contempt of the common man.
There is no denying that AG has a belligerent style of anchoring. That this is a cleverly thought out act is no secret either. He doesn’t do any Greatest Indian or other moronic programmes to sell his channel. Most of all, AG is not a mouthpiece of a political party while NDTV and CNN-IBN are often seen as extensions of 24Akbar Road. TN managed to cut all the frills and turned itself into a boisterous, noisy middle class channel. But why is Caravan doing this hit job? If at all they wanted to make an assessment of TV shows and anchors they would have carried one on all the senior anchors. Shainin appears quite often on CNN-IBN and NDTV as a panellist. We know the political persuasions of these channels. Is that a reason why their anchors were spared? The most important question when it comes to an anchor and viewers is the issue of trust, reliability and, most of all, integrity. I can safely say whether one likes Arnab’s anchoring or not, nobody doubts his integrity yet. I cannot say the same for some of his peers who are mentioned in the Caravan article or who were past colleagues.
The Caravan article only confirms what everyone already knew; that TN was way ahead in the TRP ratings for quite some time now. While NDTV is battling the TRP case in a court seeking damages, CNN-IBN has altered Rajdeep’s nightly schedule to match Arnab’s. When Suhel Seth told Shainin his was a magazine nobody reads, Shainin held up a tweet that said the opposite earlier. Suhel Seth famously said on TN that he could arrange an ‘Item-girl’ and get crowds of 30000. Caravan is no different from the cheap shots of Seth and uses the same tactics that got Arnab and TN to the top. On any other issue or time Seth and Shainin could have been kissin' in the back rows of movies. I guess Caravan just did an ‘Item-number’ to get the crowds. But will it get Caravan there? I seriously doubt it. Last time Shainin tried it (With Arindam Chaudhari) he ended up with a 500Cr defamation suit. What happened to that? Politically, Arindam, NDTV and CNN-IBN appear to be on the same side. Are these the ones Shainin is kissin’ in the back rows? Er.. right now, when it comes to TN, Caravan is bitchin’ in the back rows.