Arnab Goswami Pulls No Punches In The MW Interview
Arnab Goswami’s new news venture Republic TV, which launches later this month, has gotten into scraps even before its first broadcast. After Subramanian Swamy filed a complaint that the name Republic breached the Emblems and Names Act, its original name was changed to Republic TV. There is also an ongoing legal battle over an article published on the news website The Wire, titled ‘Arnab’s Republic, Modi’s Ideology’, about the conflict of interest concerning the business dealings of Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the entrepreneur-turned-Rajya Sabha MP, known for his closeness to the BJP, who is a major shareholder in Republic TV. Chandrasekhar filed a court injunction that has since restrained The Wire from providing access to the article.
Thus we were mildly surprised when we received an enquiry from the new channel’s PR team on the possibility of a cover story with him, with a full-fledged MW-style shoot. The interview itself took place at a co-working space, tucked away inside one of Mumbai’s old mill compounds, where Goswami operates out of these days. He shows up a few minutes late, casually dressed, freshly shaved and with his hair a great deal longer than it used to be during his Times Now days. It’s almost surprising when he politely and quietly introduces himself (and apologises for being late); such is the effect of his constructed personality on Times Now that one literally has no other mental image of him other than a ball-busting, fire-breathing hardass, who will snap at you at the slightest provocation.
He quickly settles into a chair and indicates he’s ready to begin. He rarely rambles, and his replies have a steely conviction in them; it’s clear that he’s unconcerned about how people may react to what he has to say (as you can probably tell from this story’s headline). It’s also clear that he genuinely believes he’s a crusader, more than a journalist, and that Republic TV is going to change the face of news as we know it. He makes no attempt to hide his utter contempt for what he calls the journalism of “Lutyens’s Delhi” and for liberals. As far as he’s concerned, his definition of liberal means that “I do believe that you need to be pro-army and pro-country”. If that makes someone a right-winger, then he believes a 100 per cent of India should “become right-wingers”.
At the cover shoot two days later, he is enthusiasm personified. He introduces himself to everyone on set, and is clearly taken by the fact that he’s never been photographed like this before, looking at each shot keenly, and expressing his satisfaction with the styling and photography. He thanks everyone personally, and encourages them to tune into Republic TV when it launches.
On the disclosure side, the questions in this interview (except the follow-up ones) were vetted by his PR team. We were told to avoid two questions. The first dealt with the ownership of Republic TV and Rajeev Chandrasekhar, on whether the MP’s closeness to the BJP militates against the independent character of the channel. Secondly, about Goswami’s own position vis-à-vis the legal fight between Chandrasekhar and The Wire, over the aforementioned story. Our question was whether it was healthy for a democracy if the press was muzzled in any way. Goswami did, however, obliquely talk about his issues with The Wire.
Over ten years on Times Now, Goswami presided over nightly debates that were shouting matches, on which he egged on, berated and placated his dozen panellists every night. Whether you like him or not, he changed the face of Indian news television forever, from a genteel BBC-like avatar to the confrontational, argumentative and assaultive version it is now. If this interview is any indication, he’s getting ready for round two with Republic TV.
Jacket and trousers by Brooks Brothers; shirt and tie by Thomas Pink; watch and cufflinks by Shazé; glasses by Gucci
Why did you name your new venture Republic TV?
It’s a nice name. Republic conveys a spirit of nationalism. It conveys the voice of the people. You know, Plato’s Republic.
What is it you would like to do with Republic TV that you were not able to do earlier?
Eventually it is about the brand of journalism you represent. They operate largely out of Lutyens’s Delhi. All those set-ups, including the one where I previously worked at, are now largely operating out of Lutyens’s Delhi. That affects the mindset and thinking of these organisations. I think it is time to give the rest of the country a little bit of voice as well. We’re the first journalist-owned, journalist-run, journalist-managed news organisation. So our sensibilities, likes and dislikes and the things we emphasise on, the subjects we pick up, the manner in which we pick them up, are fiercely independent. Besides which, we’re doing stuff with technology, in the way we produce the news, the way we put it out in our linear and nonlinear feeds. Beyond that, we will leave it on a day-to-day basis, because in news you can’t plan too much.
What do you mean when you say newsrooms are biased towards Lutyens’s Delhi?
Not a bias, but I think there are people in Delhi who believe that they’re the custodians of Indian journalism. And, they have been in the past, because the power centre is there and all the political magazines and newspapers are there. Now those people are too much into each other’s hair. They eat together, meet together, socialise together. And, slowly, unknowingly, or maybe knowingly, over the course of the last 30-40 years, they have become co-opted by the political class. If you go to Delhi, you will find that all those people in media who are supposed to be reporting on the politicians are wining and dining with the politicians. I’m not saying they’ve become corrupt — that may be too strong a word, but they have become compromised. They’ve become co-opted. That’s what I mean by the Lutyens’s media. I don’t necessarily mean people who are staying in that three-kilometre zone in Delhi, even though a lot of them do.
I hear stories about ill-gotten wealth. I hear about editors having massive farmhouses worth hundreds of crores in Chhatarpur. You cannot make that kind of money through an honest journalist’s income. I believe there must be more transparency in the sources of income of a lot of the top journalists of this country. I don’t think I’m at any fault in raising these questions. Because I see a link between the calm disposition of the Lutyens’s media towards corruption and the growing personal wealth of some of the top names in journalism. I wonder why this is happening. I have my right to wonder about it. So I question them. They don’t like me. I have no problems with them, but I’m going to continue to question them. Because the Nira Radia tapes episode showed that there was a direct link between some journalists who were acting as mediators for corporate houses and politicians. I think that’s very unfortunate. We can’t live in denial anymore about what’s happening in our own profession.
Jacket by Brooks Brothers; shirt and tie by Thomas Pink; watch and cufflinks by Shazé; glasses by Gucci
Is there anything, or anybody, that intimidates you?
In 2010, when we broke the first bunch of scams, these politicians would call me and say, ‘We will throw you out of your job.’ There were threats that were issued. There were attempts to drive me to court. I remember one day when I had to go to two of India’s top lawyers and ask for their personal intervention to appear for me in court, because nobody was willing to employ the best lawyers to fight my cases. I am very proud to say that I did not take a single penny from my previous organisation to have Harish Salve and Gopal Subramanium depose on my behalf in the Supreme Court in a Rs 100-crore defamation case. I am deeply indebted to both these two fantastic individuals for standing by me. Because at the end of the day, you don’t need anyone. You don’t even need your employers to stand by you. You just need your conscience. And if your conscience is with you, then no employer is greater than your conscience. Standing before the Supreme Court facing those cases; those threats in 2010; personal threats to eliminate me; terrorist group threats that have come over the years — I have lost my sense of fear. I am not even afraid of going solo in the news business in the television game. Because there is a sense of excitement in me and my bunch of people about what we can do. Many people said that when Arnab goes solo, who is going to be with him? I have 300 of the best people working with me. They keep me happy and on my feet.
Will we see a toned down version of Arnab Goswami on Republic TV, or will there be an even more aggressive, feisty and take-no-prisoners approach that will make even Times Now look tame?
I don’t want to over-plan. Whatever it is on that day, I’ll go with the story. If the story makes me angry, I’ll be angry; if it makes me sad, I’ll be sad. I don’t want to plan and structure that this is how I’m going to be and this is how I’m going to talk. Because TV is such a transparent medium, you can’t act and plan. A lot of stories make me angry. And it is growing with the growing diffidence of the political class of this country. What also makes me angry is that the rest of the media is not angry about such and such thing. There have been a lot of stories in the last four or five months that they have completely missed. The story of 30 women getting groped and molested on MG Road in Bengaluru. That time the media was busy doing stories on Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh. What also makes me angry is the warped priorities of a large part of the media. Having said that, I’m often very upset at the number of stories that I have missed. I wonder why I myself did not do a story on Zakir Naik in the last 15 years. How did I overlook it? The media itself is so often caught up with its own priorities. We have a sort-of caste system of news. And in that caste system, unfortunately, people’s issues have been coming last. What we’ve been doing in the last two to three years is putting people’s issues right on top. I don’t think we’re any saviours out there doing great stuff all the time. But, I do think there’s so much to do.
Your detractors say that the line between Arnab the objective journalist and Arnab the crusader was completely blurred in your tenure at Times Now. You are described as “judge, jury and executioner”.
I agree that I am. I don’t know about the executioner part, but I am certainly the judge and jury on my show. There’s nothing to hide. I feel it is my job to call out people. I feel tame discussions don’t help. I have also come to the conclusion that stories that you pick up, you need to really go to the core rather than skim the surface. I have two hours every night to do it. I turned The Newshour into less of a news bulletin, and more of a ‘seeking accountability forum’. That’s the kind of journalism I can do. I cannot go on TV every night and read the news. I’d be bored to death. We pick up two issues — one on public impact and one on deep journalistic investigation. And then go to the core of it. The fun is in getting accountability before the courts do. If you have a forum that can give you justice before the courts do, it’s good. I’m not scared of anyone, including the courts, because I’m not getting into their territory. I’m picking up issues, raising it to the level of public consciousness, and forcing public opinion to come in a certain direction. In fact, I feel the courts should be grateful to us for bringing so many issues to prominence. Like, why are women not allowed in the Haji Ali shrine? The courts were not intervening in it with as much alacrity as they did after I picked up the subject. So, we have this role where we are a public forum for seeking accountability. And it’s very popular. Sometimes the phones are buzzing all night. In 2013-14, I began to realise that this form of journalism, which is not really classical journalism at all — in the classical sense, I’m not even a journalist; I’m a journalist in a more modern sense — this form of modern journalism now must be totally independent. That’s why I didn’t want to be subservient to a corporate media house. I broke free in 2016.
Wasn’t this style of journalism done with an eye on the TRPs?
Ratings follow. If you’re asking me did I consciously go on air every night to do my show only for the ratings, I would disagree. Very often we have picked up subjects from the heart. You know that this country is majority Hindu. But, there have been occasions when I have questioned people who claim to be speaking for the Hindu religion. We questioned love-jihad; we questioned Yogi Adityanath very, very strongly; we questioned why women are not allowed into Sabarimala and Shani Shingnapur temple; we questioned the khap panchayats of Haryana very strongly; we have questioned godmen. I did a series of stories exposing Asaram Bapu, who had quite a following of his own. We are going against the tide, so it’s not really a search for TRPs. It’s driven more by our beliefs.
You take a dipstick in this country, and [you will see] we’re still very antediluvian in our thoughts. You ask the man on the street what he feels about LGBT rights, and most of the people will not be for LGBT rights. But, we were one of the strongest voices taking a position on Article 377. We’re not being populist. Interestingly, I’ll share one statistic with you. We had one of the most popular brands of journalism in Jammu & Kashmir, where our position has always been against the separatists, against the Hurriyat, against what is seen to be the majority position, which I actually don’t think it is. We really haven’t done this journalism with an eye on the ratings. But, over a period of time, if you’re following your convictions, people follow you whether they agree with you or disagree with you. Many in our audience disagree with us, but they watch us. I think they watch us because they know that there’s no malice; there no hidden agenda; there’s no corruption. This is Arnab’s point of view. There’s no motivation behind it; he’s not making any money behind this; he’s not serving anyone’s agenda. The bigger thing for Republic than TRPs is impact. I am happy to sacrifice the TRPs for impact. My viewers, my advertisers follow me for impact. You can ask anyone in the media industry about that.
You seem to have spawned a whole army of imitators? What would you say to them?
I don’t think they should. It’s alright if you are doing a comedy show. But, when a professional journalist imitates me, I feel very sad. It makes me wonder why people can’t be themselves. Many of them are younger than me. I would advise them not to ruin their careers by doing that.
You’ve often been vocal about other media and former colleagues, breaking the omertà of not criticising journalists in public for fear of destroying each other’s credibility.
I have not criticised a single journalist. Can you name one journalist I have criticised in public?
Well, not directly. But Barkha Dutt is one, and she has been equally vocal about you.
I feel Barkha Dutt should check her facts. Barkha Dutt was openly praised by a person called Hafiz Saeed. While I’m nobody to comment on people, if people begin to distract attention from the praise of Hafiz Saeed by imagining that I’ve taken their name — these people should first stop imagining I’ve taken their name. I have made a comment against the media that speaks against the nation. If anyone begins to believe that the reference is against them, then they should ask themselves why they feel that way. I have never taken any names. It’s what you call the guilty conscience of some journalists. That journalist in question must ask themselves, ‘Why is Hafiz Saeed praising me?’ Is it because that Indian journalist has done a lot in lionising another terrorist called Burhan Wani? Hafiz Saeed would love an Indian journalist whose documentary is praising Burhan Wani as some kind of Facebook hero. Why does an Indian journalist lionise Burhan Wani? Why does an Indian journalist serve the purpose of the Lashkar-e-Taiba sitting in India? You have an Indian passport, you’re on an Indian channel, you’re earning in Indian rupees, you’re broadcasting to Indian people. Why are you doing things that will help Lashkar-e-Taiba, which kills thousands of people in our country? Having received that praise from Hafiz Saeed, why then do you want to fight the windmills and imagine that Arnab took your name? Arnab did not take your name. There’s a section of media in India that works against India’s interests. I think it is time for some of us to speak out against them and expose them.
Jacket by Brooks Brothers; shirt by Thomas Pink; glasses by Gucci
What do you mean when you say Republic TV will have an “India bias”?
I have always been biased towards India. I want to know why a section of the Lutyens’s media has a bias against India. It is true. I don’t think they are vested in this country. It is shocking what I’m about to tell you. But, there are some people who don’t even have Indian passports. They are Indian in ethnicity, but have chosen to be American citizens. They are running digital media companies. I want to know where they are receiving their funding from, and what their sources of income are. There is an American citizen running a digital news site in India, inciting students in JNU, speaking openly for Maoists, and questioning Republic. I doubt the intentions of these people. They’re certainly not for India. When there are people like them who exist in our country, it is the responsibility of people like us to speak up for India. I am willing to fight these people till my last breath now. Because 2016, I declared my independence. So far I was held back because I was working for a corporate media group. Today I am independent, and I’m ready to fight all these people. That’s a declaration of my intent.
Is the gentleman you’re referring to Siddharth Varadarajan of The Wire?
I’m not speaking of any individual. I’m speaking of a general case. You are smart enough. You should do your research on who the person might be. I’m not taking any names. But, these are certain questions that must be raised now.
Are you saying that because of a person’s nationality, he or she should not be allowed to ask certain questions, even if they are a journalist?
Anybody should be free to ask any questions to anyone. What I’m saying is that if you talk so much about India, and you operate in India, and you pass so many judgements on India, then please answer me, why don’t you carry an Indian passport? Why do you carry an American passport? At least for a large part of your life, if you have continued to have carried an American passport, then do you really have the legitimacy to pass so many judgements about my country? I’m not referring to any individual. I’m making a general case. If this were to be a hypothetical situation, this would be a valid question to ask.
Liberals these days are being branded as anti-nationals and not in line with the nation’s interests. Can you not be a liberal and also be pro-nation?
The problem is that I don’t know what is liberal and what is left-liberal. There are a bunch of people who like to sip the best Scotch in Delhi Gymkhana and call themselves left-liberal. What is left-liberal? If you’re a leftist, you can’t be a liberal. If you’re a liberal, you can’t be a leftist. I think these people who go around are usually sons and daughters of bureaucrats, politicians and diplomats who have lived a very privileged life. They operate out of a five-kilometre zone that is centred in Chanakyapuri. They call themselves the left-liberals of India. They are lying. They have no connection with the people of this country. They live in big houses in Vasant Vihar; they have super luxury lifestyles, largely subsidised by previous governments. The change in government has taken away these privileges from them, and they’re feeling uprooted from their life of privilege. If these people are the liberals of India, I would say it’s an expensive way to subsidise liberalism in India. To be a true liberal is to understand the pain of the people of India.
To be a true liberal is to do stories and reporting that talk about the pain of the people of this country. Not to sit in India International Centre and do ooh-la-la champagne parties and talk about how India and Pakistan should come together. That’s very fake. To be a true liberal is to ask why people in India still don’t get enough to eat; why Muslim women can be divorced on WhatsApp with triple talaq; why is someone not allowed to enter temples. To be a true liberal is to ask questions of the corrupt. During the Commonwealth Games scam, some news media companies — and I suggest you do some investigation on this, because one TV news channel that calls itself very liberal was taking money from the organisers of the Commonwealth Games. While I was exposing the Commonwealth Games scam and Suresh Kalmadi and taking on the Congress, another news channel was doing paid for — paid for — stories that were subsidised by the CWG, and how great a job the Commonwealth Games was, and how fantastic it was for the country. These people call themselves liberal; I call them compromised.
My definition of liberal also means that I do believe that you need to be pro-army and pro-country. People say if you are pro-army and pro-country, you become right-wing. In that case, I strongly suggest that 100 per cent of India should become right-wingers. This section that calls itself left-liberal is a very, very, very small section. They have not worked their way up in this country. I have. People like me have come from normal middle-class backgrounds and worked our way up. I’m ready to take on these children of privilege right now, and they’re feeling extremely threatened. I intend to do a little bit more. I don’t believe in this concept of liberalism. In no country do people talk about liberalism as much as they talk about it in India.
Is it liberal to denigrate Bhagat Singh and call him a terrorist? There’s a book on Indian history curated by three people, including Bipan Chandra and Mridula Mukherjee, which uses the word ‘terrorist’ to describe Bhagat Singh. Now if you ask these people questions, then these liberals would not have answers. They don’t like me asking these questions. Bhagat Singh was described as a terrorist because the Gandhi family did not want the attention to go away from Jawaharlal Nehru. So, Subhas Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh and all these people were considered to be terrorists. And Nehru was considered to be the saviour of the Indian National Congress. This history was written by a bunch of co-opted historians who were then given big positions and professorships in government universities. There was nepotism that was going around between these people. I have, over the last three to four years, started asking very straightforward questions to these people. This is also the award wapsi gang, who did not return the awards when 1984 happened. When Sikhs were butchered, they didn’t return their awards because Congressmen were involved in that. Suddenly they have developed their conscience after Narendra Modi comes into power. There are deep hypocrisies and contradictions that I’m exposing of these so-called liberals. To be a liberal is not bad, but to be a fake liberal, to be a pseudo-liberal or a left-liberal is questionable.
Mid-way into the Modi government, how would you evaluate and rate its performance?
The first year was full of challenges. I think there were certain strategic mistakes. The Land Bill, I felt, was a bit premature. I have myself questioned various decisions by people in BJP. You may remember that in 2015, for one month, we broke a story called Lalitgate. We questioned Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raje. I felt that the response to that scam was not appropriate. So, I had been very vocal in my criticism. And, also in the first year, I felt that many of these hotheads were getting too much prominence in the media. Having said that, the second half of the first half has been a period where things have improved. I see a long-term strategic intent of this government, in terms of strategy, economics and India’s military prowess. I also believe that this country needs radical steps like demonetisation to send a message. There has been an attempt in bringing in accountability at the top. There hasn’t been any case of high-level corruption. There is a need for systemic changes in the lower level. Corruption among tax officials, the bureaucracy — there’s a lot more work that the Narendra Modi government needs to do in that direction. But, overall, they seem to have a fair amount of commitment about the future of this country.
You’re often accused of being soft on the BJP and excessively harsh on the opposition, visibly the Congress. What would you say to that?
I would say that the Congress is very harsh on itself. It has a leader of proven incompetence. As far as the BJP is concerned, I think Lalitgate was the only big story that questioned the BJP government in the last 2.5 years, and I did that story. So I don’t know who’s asking these questions. I don’t think those who are asking questions of me have done any story with the significance of Lalitgate. On issues of nationalism, my point of view has always been very clear. I’m pro-India; I’m pro-military; I’m pro-army; I’m pro-nation; I’m pro-the flag; I’m pro-the national anthem. I’m against Maoists; I’m against terrorists; I’m against liberal hypocrites. That position of mine will not change. If you see the last ten years, my position towards these people has been the same even when the Congress was in power. I would refute that allegation very strongly.
Who do you see as a strong opposition in this country?
There’s no strong opposition in this country.
Isn’t that a problem?
I think it is a problem. It is one of the challenges in the Indian political system. We need stable governments. I have clearly told you that on issues of strategy and long-term view, this government is doing a good job of late. Having said that, this country needs a stronger opposition. But, it is not the responsibility of the government to create a strong opposition. The opposition must introspect. Maybe it is this dynastic culture that has led to this situation. The opposition needs younger leadership. It needs people who can square up on issues. I wish we had more of the Indian cricket team kind of experimenting happening in our country. The Indian cricket team today are not children of privilege. They are the real India from small towns. I wish that were to happen. I feel confident that will happen in the next three or four years. But, I’m convinced that a strong opposition cannot be people like Arvind Kejriwal or Rahul Gandhi. I used to think that Mr Nitish Kumar was positioning himself as a national alternative. But he has his own set of problems now in Bihar. It has to be someone, somewhere else. I’m sure that will happen.
How would you describe your own political leanings?
I never describe myself in definitions because it’s very difficult to do that. The reason I’m telling you this is because socially, I’m very progressive. I’m for LGBT rights, etc. On issues related to India, I’m very conservative. On issues related to the economy, I’m for the free market. On issues related to religion, I myself go to all places of worship, so I’m truly secular in that sense. I’m neither AAPtard, Congi or Sanghi; I’m Arnab. The problem is that when you speak your mind in this country, people want to typecast you. When you take on people in JNU, people say you’re Sanghi. These definitions are terrible and don’t really apply to me. I don’t want to waste my time in trying to define myself.
Did you miss covering the UP elections in your absence from news? What did you think of the media’s coverage?
Absurd. The media should go into penance for what happened in UP. I mean, it just shows that the Lutyens’s media has no clue about this country. A lot of top editors went to UP and said Akhilesh and Rahul are going to do phenomenally well. They are clueless. All of these people, I strongly suggest, should go into 14 years of vanvas from journalism, and find out why they have lost their touch. They are seeing the reality they want to imagine. Some of these so-called prominent editors, some of whom were also prominent in the Nira Radia tapes, have tweeted their anger at Rahul Gandhi. They are actually upset that Rahul has not performed up to their expectations. Rahul and Akhilesh, it seemed to me, were puppets of a certain section of the pseudosecular media, who wanted to present them as the two saviours. Why does this same media not ask questions of who Rahul and Akhilesh are? Rahul and Akhilesh are both dynasts and sons of politicians, who have not worked their way up into the system and don’t represent merit in this country. Two dynasts coming together, one of whom ran the most corrupt government with absolute lawlessness in UP, with people who could be picked up on the streets and kidnapped, and women were unsafe, and no police cases were filed. Along with another person who is so spoilt that he flies in a chartered jet everywhere and then goes to a public rally and says, ‘Mere paas ek phata kurta hai.’ How could these two gentlemen be anybody’s saviours?
I spoke to a few reporters and asked, ‘Why did you misread what happened in UP?’ They said, ‘We did not misread. But our bosses and their bosses in Delhi had already made up their minds about what the UP result was going to be.’ You see, India is in a state of denial and shock. What is happening in India is similar to what is happening in the US. Trump is the president of the United States. The media misread it. CNN is making a joke of itself by questioning Trump’s legitimacy as a president on a daily basis. Similarly, in India the Lutyens’s media is making a joke of itself, trying to question why Narendra Modi is winning. If he’s winning, it is a fact — deal with it. The job of the media is not to fight battles with an individual politician. It is to report on the ground. I really think Indian media has stopped serious reporting on political issues in a long time. I think all of us should introspect on why we are getting it wrong. I can’t say for myself, because I didn’t go out in the field.
Jacket and trousers by Brooks Brothers; shirt and tie by Thomas Pink; cufflinks by Shazé; glasses by Gucci
What’s your relationship like with Subramanian Swamy? He seems to delight in going after you, calling you names on air and on Twitter, and he’s forced you to change the name of your venture.
He’s my father’s age, and I don’t pick quarrels with people who are my father’s age. I wish him luck. Generally, it’s been one-way traffic. I haven’t responded to him even once, and I don’t intend to respond now. As far as the expletives he uses against me, freely and quite often, it’s unfortunate. He shouldn’t abuse me on a daily basis, but that’s his democratic right. India needs all kinds of people; Subramanian Swamy is one of them.
The home image of Republic TV’s Twitter handle is of you with your hands stretched out in a rockstar-messiah pose. Is that how you feel right now?
It is, actually. Because I have very little money, but I’m starting a very big venture. Lots of people have supported us. When I left The Times of India group, people said that I won’t be able to make it. In the last four months, the dirty tricks department of one media group —and I’m not naming anyone — has done everything possible [to thwart us] because they’re paranoid about what’s going to happen when I go on air. But I have been welcomed in all public forums; I’ve done 30-40 events. It’s just voluntary journalism, saying that if you like me, join me. There’s a desire in the people for Republic to be launched. This desire is great; it’s phenomenal; it’s never happened before. You’ll not find, since our Independence, a single news media organisation being built in the way the Republic is being built. It’s purely today a viral movement. People had told me when I left The Times of India group that money, logistics, government clearances, licences, opposition from individuals such as Subramanian Swamy, would come in my way. Since the people have welcomed me so much, I’m going ahead with outstretched arms towards them. In a way, that picture does represent my state of mind. Because I’m very grateful and blessed — how many people get an opportunity to build an organisation like this?
Republic TV’s Twitter feed has pictures of you at various forums, addressing young people. Is that a deliberate effort?
I’m deliberately going out among young people. I’m going out largely to colleges. We’ve proved that news can be a youth brand. Republic is a youth brand. It’s generally seen that people who read the newspapers and watch news channels are fuddy-duddy, 45-plus. This is for the first time that you have a brand that’s being built on the strength of people who are in the 18-30 category. Because I already have the older audience with me. Seventy per cent of my team is under-30. Why not give a young person responsibility at a young age? I became a news editor when I was 27. I became the editor of Times Now when I was 30 years old. If I had not gotten those opportunities, then I wouldn’t have been able to do things relatively early. Even now I still have time on my side.
When you have young people, you can guide them very quickly and they pick up very quickly. They are politically aware, politically keen, politically opinionated. My head of research and analysis heads what is our brains trust; she’s 26 years old. I find her to be one of the most politically aware people I know. All my interviews, including my interviews for Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi, were researched, prepared and studied for by a bunch of people who were between 22 and 27. I was very politically aware when I was 18 or 19. I was much more politically aware at 19 than I am today.
Considering the ideological preconditions that were attached to people who wanted to work for Republic TV [“right of centre in editorial tonality, pro-India, pro-military, aligned to Chairman’s ideology”], will there be any journalist at the channel whose political ideology does not align with yours?
Oh, yes. A lot of people from JNU have worked with me in the past. Not that I’m saying they have a certain ideology, but I have people who are very strongly leftist. And people who support the Congress. That is not a precondition at all. There should be a smattering of political views in any organisation. Eventually what we believe on air is a commonality of purpose.
Jacket and trousers by Brooks Brothers; shirt by Thomas Pink; shoes by Rosso Brunello; glasses by Gucci
Following a notice served on us on 17th April by Bennett Coleman & Co. regarding some parts of the interview, we have taken down the relevant portions concerning them.
Read all about Goswami’s view on liberals, his opinion of the BJP party and his evaluation of the Modi government in the April issue of Man’s World India or get your digital copy from www.magzter.com and JioMags.
Featured image: Jacket and trousers by Brooks Brothers; shirt and pocket square by Thomas Pink; glasses by Gucci
Art Director: Amit Naik
Junior Stylist: Neelangana Vasudeva
Hair & Make-Up: Jean-Claude Biguine