'The joy is in the journey and the journey for me is only journalism till the last breath:’ Arnab Goswami

Arnab Goswami needs no introduction. He is the man who proved that high decibel is not always harmful and that sometimes it plays a pivotal role to awaken those in deep slumber. Opinionated journalism is not a bad thing if that opinion leads to a change for good. Sensationalism is not a crisis if done for the benefit of the society. Not following the traditional may give birth to something for the traditional to later follow. All these daring aspects are the gut feeling of the man who has redefined broadcast journalism in India. He along with his team has changed how media was consumed and perceived.

Social consciousness was invoked time and again in the debates he conducted. The topics gave news a whole new dimension; the decibel levels brought the stories alive for viewers; the questions and counter questions heightened the bring-in-a-change quotient. His stories not only reflected the abysmal crisis in society but also exposed many a top notch officials. Be it Suresh Kalmadi in the CWG scam or Sushma Swaraj in Lalit Gate… backing down was never an option for him.

He silenced naysayers early on with the famous lines crooned by Bob Dylan: Don't speak too soon. For the wheel's still in spin. And there's no tellin' who That it’s namin’. For the loser now, will be later to win. For the times they are a-changin’.

 He acknowledged every change and adapted accordingly to stay relevant and ahead of competition. If needed, he even resorted to speaking in Hindi on his English news channel. Ten years down the line, he is an established name and Times Now is the undisputed leader in its space. Not only in terms of viewership, the moolah that The Newshour rakes in now, is higher than that of many shows on GECs.

Speaking to’s Anirban Roy Choudhury, Times Now, ET Now and MagicBricks Now president - news and editor-in-chief expresses his profound love for journalism and speaks on competition’s mockery, the scams, investigative journalism and much more…

Read on: 

On screen on a Sunday morning, you break the Lalit Gate story. Incidentally the week before for the first time Times Now dropped down to second place. Was Lalit Gate an attempt to go back to number one?

Actually, we had the story with us for almost three weeks before we broke it. These kind of stories doesn’t happen overnight. So we were working on it for a long period of time. We put it up on a Sunday typically because Sunday is a slow news cycle day. What we did not expect was the confirmation on the story from Sushma Swaraj’s office within 15 to 20 minutes, which led to the blow up. We take our time working on stories. Being a channel, which has been there done that, we don’t respond to things immediately. That one week that you are talking about was purely because of the double frequency model adopted by one channel, which failed very quickly and you can see the numbers now. We have been number one for 10 years on television and we are pretty immune to one or two weeks.

How much does a campaign of a rival English news channel featuring mimicry of you and your show bother you?

There is only one botheration from all that ape-mocking and negative campaigning that happens against me and Times Now and that is they are wasting their time trying to mock, mimic or ape us. People should stop wasting their time but if they want to pay more attention to us, they can. It only proves that they are also watching us all the time!

There was a time when you were about to give up journalism and were standing in front of a PR firm with your CV in hand. Today, ten years later when you look back, are you glad that you did not give up journalism?

I am very glad that I did not quit journalism. I feel I was very fortunate that I was given a chance to start a channel on my own, find my own team and get a group of people, who are willing to work with me. Also ten years back, I had not built a professional reputation of my own and I feel fortunate that people choose to share their professional years with me to take a big risk and start this channel. I am very grateful that I had the support of good people. I also feel fortunate that we have been able to go by our gut and change the way journalism is done. And it was not because our back was against the wall but because we felt this was the way forward. If I have to launch a channel all over again, I will go by gut instinct.

Purulia Arms Drop was a piece of investigative journalism that turned to a documentary and got mass acclamation. Do you see investigative journalism, which is not the high decibel eight box debates getting more prominence?

I think Purulia Arms Drop documentary, which led to foreign news organisations commissioning documentaries in it, is an amazing story. This is the kind of journalism I would like to do more and more. Going forward, when we explore different formats, the investigative format is the one that I will find most exciting.

Despite having such high inclination towards investigative journalism, why did you publicly oppose the airing of India’s Daughter?

I don’t think you can give a platform to a rapist on TV. It is ridiculous if a rapist is given a platform on TV to talk about how he is innocent when the matter is sub-judice. Will you give a platform to 1000 of rapists to go on air and justify why they are innocent? Will giving a rapist a platform not impact the victim as well as the rapist’s family? Is it not an interference in the judicial process? Of course it is!

Even today I challenge such journalism. If giving a rapist a platform is good journalism, then I don’t believe in such journalism. It is disgraceful giving a rapist a platform. Certainly a foreigner with some interest in India cannot come and say that giving a rapist a platform is good journalism. Will they go to the US and the UK and give rapists there a platform to broadcast to the masses? It is morally wrong. It’s totally incorrect. I stand by my position and it was all on moral ground. I was cringing when I saw the clip of a rapist describing why he is innocent. Any right thinking person will cringe. Good journalism is Lalit Gate not giving a platform to a rapist; good journalism is breaking scams and not giving a platform to a rapist.

How will you deal with a story from the hinterlands? Will you treat it with same detail as you do to a story breaking in the metros?

We will do partnerships with regional channels to cover every story with utmost details. Our foot presence is low in those areas. For example, we have the largest TV presence with couple of camera crews, a consulting editor, two reporters a full VSAT 2 MBPs loop, an OB van and live view units. Compared to other channels, we are three times bigger in the North East. But if you ask me if it’s enough, well it’s certainly not! If something happens in Manipur, or upper Assam or Arunachal Pradesh, we are not in a position to connect in those regions. So we tie-up with regional channels like News Live and other local channels to ensure that we get the right news. These are all situation based tie-ups. While we don’t have formal associations with anyone, we have very strong informal understandings with channels across the country.

If news was not a viewership and advertising led business in India, would you have followed the same form of journalism? Is this a rating led Arnab Goswami?

Let me answer this in this way, there was no guarantee that the formats I was getting into would be successful. Without the guarantee, why did I start the format? Because I believed in it. I was a debater since I was in class seven. I think sometimes when you do things that you like, it works. TV is a transparent medium, you cannot lie on television or pretend to be something you are not. All those who pretend and lie, fail. And the ones who do things with honesty and purpose will succeed. So what we want is a group of producers and journalist saying, we want to see it the way it is. Sitting in Mumbai in the media business I couldn’t care less if it works or it doesn’t. I am not a Santa Clause. I’m not here to get affection or be popular. I am here to be relevant.

How to you react to the perception that Times Now is as good as Arnab Goswami and that it’s a one man show? You must have heard it every now and then.

I am the leader of my team of reporters and producers. I am as good as my team. My team believes in that and we work together. We are fortunate to have India’s best reporters working with us. I feel proud when I see a reporter who has just been with me for a year, covering a big political story. When we depute people for foreign assignments, I feel proud. We are the only channel to send reporters with the Prime Minister on his foreign visits. We deploy our reporters far quicker than our competition. Our speed of deploying reporters in a news space is far quicker than any other channel in India. If we need to deploy a particular person in a particular place, nobody can do it quicker than me and my logistics team. So in terms of production and logistics, we are far smarter than any other news channel in India. I cannot do anything about perception and frankly, I don’t care.

Very often we see your peers from other media firms sharing their dislike for you. Does that somehow affect you?

Since we have beaten every news channels in last ten years, I don’t expect to be liked by news channels and journalists. Since me and my team are not doing traditional journalism, I don’t expect the ones doing traditional journalism to like me. Also while we take away 60 per cent of the market share, the others are scrambling for the remaining 40 per cent. I don’t expect the ones scrambling for the 40 per cent to like me. How does it even matter if they don’t like me?

How do you approach a legal sub-judice story?

Generally when an issue goes to the realm of courts, we pull down. Most of the breaking stories like the 2G or CWG scams, we push with debates and discussions till the point it goes to the court. And once it goes to the court, we kind of pull back. We believe once it has gone to court, the court should look into it. We do not interfere in the judicial process.

Social media is breaking stories in bits and bytes from every nook and corner. The news of Abdul Kalam’s death broke on Twitter. Do you see that impacting TV news?

Breaking a big exclusive story has not yet happened on social media. But it’s good that social media is keeping us informed about things happening around us. That’s one thing but remember in the case of Abdul Kalam, we are talking about the demise of a former President. We will not put it up till we have an official confirmation. So there is no reason to presume that we did not have the news. It’s just that at times, we choose not to put the news till we receive official information on it.

Your gut feeling and people management has taken Times Now to new heights in the last 10 years. The characteristics are exactly what is required for an entrepreneur. How far are you from your entrepreneurship voyage?

Let’s see what happens in the future. Who can predict what happens in the future? I want to do nothing but journalism till my last breath. I want to do journalism in a way that we can make Indian media go global in the digital world. I want to do journalism in a way that people coming out of colleges should feel that the first job they want to do is with this team.

The joy is in the journey and the journey for me is only journalism till the last breath. There may be many vehicles, Times Now itself has been an entrepreneurial journey for me. I never predict the future but the future can take me anywhere. Let’s see.

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