Veteran journo Rohit Gandhi sets up news platform for independent reporters

MUMBAI: When you have the credentials of having worked for CNN and CBC as an international journalist for several years, what do you do next? Well, you could start a news platform with a difference. Just like Rohit Gandhi has done by incorporating Global Live, which has set up Democracy News Live.

The network is owned by Gandhi and Vrinda Aggarwal, who was working with him in WION.

Says Gandhi who has designated himself as editor in chief, “Journalism channels have become partisan with political parties and are already sold to ideologies. It is difficult for an honest centre of the line editor to operate. Judges of courts are being questioned for their leanings. The environment is ripe to democratise journalism a bit more.”

His model, that of democratisation of news, is to allow hard working field reporters who make the news to become owners of a news platform. “They can publish the content and own it for life,” says Gandhi. “We even have a monetisation model in place.”

For now, the duo has invested about $400,000 and once it hits a certain benchmark, they will seek the second funding round.

Of course not anyone will be able to post news content. They will have to get past credentials and identification verification before getting the green signal to post their news videos, articles and pictures. A robust content management system and video platform will allow hacks to edit video on the cloud without having editing skillsets that FCP or Premier Pro require. Of course anyone violating journalistic ethics or resorting to plagiarism or fake news will get booted out of the news platform without any warning.

Artificial intelligence which has been built into the technology backend will make managing, search, and discovery so much easier for both journos and visitors.

A team of 23 tech specialists and editors have been at it, building the backend and CMS since 1 February 2017 when Gandhi left the Essel Group owned Indian English news channel WION to start his venture.  He says he consciously stayed away from corporate or political funding, instead choosing to attract investment from a group of 20 private investors.

He explains: “The whole idea is to make sure that we don’t have influence of either a corporation or a political party. The professionals – from technology and journalism who came together to forge this alliance -  found the idea so potent, that they not only invested but also helped in building the platform.”

Over the past few months, Democracy News Live has been building news content on its Youtube channel, though not much of it had been put out at the time of writing. It has set up a news studio in New Delhi and has even put reporters through training and the paces of anchoring.

And while Gandhi agrees television remains the best medium for disseminating news and information even today thanks to the wide distribution infrastructure that’s available, he still preferred to go online for a few reasons.

He elaborates: “While I am not against a news channel, I wanted to start out by putting out phenomenal content online. Then only after that do I want to think about going in for a linear feed when it reaches an inflection point. Our content could go out on radio, TV, online and even on 4K as it is being shot even on that format. With that kind of quality it can even and up on television.”

Gandhi is not worried about the business model as he believes advertisers follow audiences who follow great content. However, he cautions that he is not going to base the news content on Democracy News Live on advertisers’ needs. “We will have advertisers in due course,” he says. “But our editorial integrity and independence will be maintained.”

The Android and iOS app launches are planned for the coming week. They will have logins for reporters to file their stories and for readers to read.

Gandhi is planning to market the platform through the co-owners who will work with them.

He has the credentials to match his vision for Democracy News Live. At WION he was editor in chief and he left it after just a year of helping build it up from ground up. And in 2006, he was the reporter who broke the story about the terrorist group that was behind the 2006 Mumbai train bombings. Those will be put to the test as Democracy News Live begins to gain traction.

Also Read:

Rohit Gandhi quits ZMCL's WION 

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