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From reporting news to becoming news

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The journey from reporting news (as an anchor) to becoming news (if Twitter India trends are to be believed) could be many a journalist’s dream. But Arnab Goswami has traversed the path and reached that point in a short period of time. A decade to be precise. And, it’s certainly an achievement for which Arnab definitely needs a pat on the back --- if not for anything else, though that list too is long.

The very fact his resignation --- announced by him on Tuesday at an editorial meeting, but the act was actually done over a week back --- whipped up media frenzy with social media going on the boil is an indicator that Arnab is a true student of the Steve Jobs school of thinking: damn the status quo. In other words be a disruptor.

If people say that Arnab changed the rules of the news game in India by resorting to in-your-face and being over the top (OTT), it won’t be wrong. If critics opine that he dumbed down viewers and made tabloid journalism mainstream, then they too won’t be off the mark. Simply because, he did both and in an unapologetic fashion. And, Times NOW and the owners of the news venture, who also control India’s biggest unlisted media company spanning print, radio, music and television, gained much in terms of eyeballs, if not revenue. But then how many electronic news ventures in India are profitable business entities?

When people say Arnab and Times NOW changed colours to be popular after the present BJP-led government in New Delhi came to power in 2014, they are wrong. Arnab’s style, which began reflecting in how news was served up for viewers on Times NOW and later on ET NOW (he was made in-charge of both the news channels as President-News and Editor-in-Chief ), started gaining popularity much before the present government came to power.Simply because an increasing number of people wanted some spice. No wonder, Arnab declared with aplomb at a recent media conference in Delhi that the “era of polite (TV) anchors was over” and journalism of reporting news as it is without an opinion was “rubbish” as “facts are sacred but opinion is supreme.”

The US experienced this news-views mish-mash when Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News decided to differentiate itself from legacies like CNN and BBC a few decades back and openly mixed news with views and opinion and even took political sides during elections. Arnab, however, says he’s on the side of the common man --- if not on the side of a political thought or belief.

If the likes of Prannoy Roys, Raghav Bahls, Vinod Duas and later the Rajdeep Sardesais, Vikram Chandras, Zaka Jacobs, Barkha Dutts, Sonia Singhs, Ravishs, etc followed the old school of traditional journalism in India, for good or bad, Arnab realised quickly the new age viewer has little understanding of such traditions as they consume video on the go more often than not where attention time span is short. So, in a way, Arnab also quickly learnt that Fox-isation is the way forward to be heard and be popular. Again, to quote, the man himself, one has to shout to be heard in this country.

So, the popular quiz show KBC’s jackpot-winning question today could be: What will be the new venture of Arnab Goswami, if the Jains, owners of Times of India group of which Times NOW is a part, let him go ultimately?If Arnab specialises in understanding the new age viewer-consumer and his style is foxy (the pun is intended), then that’s the type of a product he’d like to be associated with in an entrepreneurial avatar --- a product that addresses the digital savvy consumer, is world class, slick and, of course, spicy, sensational and very unlike the legacies.

There would be many funders who would be ready to bet on Arnab at present. And, why not? He’s not only the darling of the masses (at least the English speaking ones), but also the present government.

So if media gossip says, a certain tech-savvy South Indian businessman-turned-Member of Parliament of the Indian Parliament’s Upper House is putting in money in a fresh news venture with Arnab, it’s worthwhileto lend an ear. If you mix Rupert Murdoch and another Delhi-based TV journalist-turned-entrepreneur, then you have a recipe for an exciting dish. Remember, the government liberalised foreign investment norms in TV news ventures and upped the level to 49 per cent from the earlier 26 per cent earlier this year.

Whatever Arnab does in the coming days, the nation would want to know (including a rumoured meeting with a media czar-turned-politician) and therein lies his success formula; his on-screen patronising attitude, love for the two S (spice and sensation) and jingoism notwithstanding.

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