By Aditya Jha:
At the outset, let me state that I’m in favour of journalists like Arnab Goswami who’ve kept the ‘dummy’s guide to journalism’ aside and have persisted in their journalistic career with their own style and have had their fair share of applause for it.
I intend to put forward my idea about why the new era of Indian journalism – when shouting, the investigative approach and hyper-aggression is the only way to seek the truth. And for doing that, you can’t belittle someone’s contribution. Everyone has their own style and for those who criticise someone because he shouts every night at 9 o’clock, I’d say: you may hate him, you may like him, but you can’t ignore Arnab Goswami and the impact he has had.
To be fair, Indian journalism has never shied away from going after big politicians and bringing them down and on that front, Arnab Goswami isn’t the first. Journalists like N. Ram, Arun Shourie, Vinod Dua are all known for their approach towards bringing down politicians with their extremely blunt and straight forward questions.
However, Indian journalism has also seen it’s fair share of selling out due to corporate interests and the profit motive taking over the heart and soul of unbiased journalism. Ideally, journalism shouldn’t be favourable to big corporates or the lawmakers in the country and give them an easy way out by letting them dodge ‘hard talk’.
Coming to the Arnab Goswami style of journalism, it is to an extent surprising that in a country which lives amidst red-tapism, corruption, countless allegations and a shouting match in the parliament itself, a vast majority in Goswami’s own field are critical of his work. After all, the average Indian viewer appears to find some sense of truth prevailing between 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. as can be gauged from the TRPs. Well, his critics have a right to their own opinion. But, I, for one, judge him by the impact he has had on the Indian political establishment by breaking several scams in a matter of six or seven years. That is no mean feat.
Recall the year 2010. It was one of the most revolutionising years in the history of Indian journalism with Arnab being at the forefront in going after a powerful politician over alleged corruption during the Commonwealth Games. He was perhaps one of the first few journalists who raised the issue and went after it with all he had. Of course, when you’re going after someone as powerful as Suresh Kalmadi, there are bound to be counter allegations, which there were from Kalmadi’s side. But in the end, it was a victory of the truth and a victory for a journalist who had the courage to go after the powerful and challenge the political establishment for which he deserves credit.
The recent Vijay Mallya case is in itself an example of how the media can guide a nation to talk about an issue of national importance. However, it still is too early to judge and declare Mallya as a fraud or anything along those lines. It remains to be investigated and further enquiry is going on through various government agencies. So, let’s not go there but one has to agree that what Arnab has done successfully in this case is challenge Mallya and challenge his competitors in the media industry to go after Mallya. The whole Indian media has aggressively taken up the Mallya case and the nation is talking about it. Can there be a bigger proof of Indian media’s impact in today’s day and age?
For anyone who is pursuing Journalism or is a journalist, one of the first principles of journalism taught to them is that a journalist must not have preconceived notions about a topic because it may make him biased. However, Goswami does not believe in this and does take sides. You and I may not agree with this form of journalism and we may say that taking sides in a debate by a moderator is wrong. But after looking at the impact that Goswami has with his debates, one sure does consider rethinking whether it is, in fact, incorrect to take sides and build a strong bias against one side in a debate. This is, of course, subject to the fact that you’re on the right side because if you aren’t, the whole idea of just and truthful journalism takes a toll.
Further, Arnab Goswami does stress upon ‘letting the viewers decide’, which I believe is the best possible route towards justice in journalism. A nation must be allowed to decide who to trust and who not to trust in the political establishment or, for that matter, anyone with great power in society. These views may be greatly influenced by the side that the journalist on your screen takes. But, the last decision is and should always be left to you and me – the viewer. And if a journalist doesn’t do that then criticism is justified.
While I do want to point out that Arnab does strongly take sides, we as viewers always have the choice to listen to both sides and form our own opinion. What the journalist on the screen says does have an impact but it must not be accepted as the truth. That’s what it means to be an active viewer. One who is not blindly trusting the journalist on the screen. Arnab can’t be right always and the same applies to other journalists in the industry and, therefore, the view of the viewer shall always prevail, with due consideration to facts provided by the journalist. And if there’s one thing that I admire about Arnab Goswami, it is that his facts are often correct and to the point. And when he takes a stand contrary to mine, I don’t blindly trust him because he has his reasons, and I have mine.
It is also critical in a democracy that journalists be allowed their freedom to practise the form of journalism which they believe to be the most impactful. I, therefore, say that had it not been for Barkha Dutt, we wouldn’t have had so many women journalists coming forward because she truly has defined, in her own way, how journalism ought to be done in India. Before the Kargil War, it was unthinkable in Indian journalism for a woman to do war coverage. Hers was an act of extreme courage which deserves applause for redefining the way female journalists are perceived. Again, I’m equally a fan of Nalini Singh’s style of journalism and she may not have covered a war, but she’s one of the earliest female journalists who came to be greatly admired for her journalistic integrity and style by a large number of people.
Looking forward, the prospect of Indian journalism seems more bright than dim. News has shifted from reading newsbreaks from a teleprompter to investigating and going into the root cause of the issues. One step in the wrong direction from a bureaucrat, businessman, sportsman or for that matter anyone with any accountability to society is closely monitored by today’s ‘new age’ Indian journalism. Indian journalism has become a court of justice and it may not necessarily be right, but it is, I believe, a positive step to bring about a message of ‘intolerance’ against wrongdoing by powerful people. And in some cases, intolerance is for the better.
“If journalism is good, it is controversial, by its nature.”