Atul Chaurasia is a renowned Hindi language reporter. In his career that scans 1.5 decades as a reporter, he has served in - Print, Digital and TV – all three mediums. He has also served as the editor of Tehelka Hindi Magazine and the Hindi news site known as Catch News. Presently, he is serving as the Executive Editor of newslaundary.com, which critically examines and exposes the weak-spots of the media industry. Every Wednesday he hosts a unique video show titled ‘Tippani’, which has gained prominence for featuring visual satire, with a combination of light humour, sharp analysis and well-articulated commentary. In a conversation with the ’VarthaBharati’ here, he spoke about the impotence of the media in India and answered questions concerning the solutions to the issue.
You were an award-winning 'mainstream' journalist before joining NL. You have worked in print, digital and tv media before this. What triggered this change? Please tell us about your transition to this new/alternative media.
I was the editor of Tehelka Hindi magazine, after which I joined Catch News. It was a very conscious decision to shift from print to digital medium; because the media's landscape has changed rapidly during the last decade. It was important for me to be up-to-date with the latest media trends. At that time, I also believed that digital would be the future of media.
My two-year long television career was short-lived as I soon realised that TV wasn’t for me, given my interests and ability.
Your program Tippani is one of its kind which has satire, sharp analysis and comment. Tell us how this program evolved? What was the idea behind it?
The idea behind Tippani was very simple. We, at Newslaundry, had been planning a Hindi show for a while. But we didn’t want to create just another run on the mill Youtube show. We decided to go with something that was deeply entrenched in colloquial, rustic heartland language with satire and political connotations. Also, its treatment – the black and white texture – gives the show a unique identity.
Recent developments that have effectively exposed the Godi Media, its anchors and their credibility. But it still has a huge following and people seem to believe them. Will this ever change?
The huge popularity – and fan following – of the mainstream TV news anchors is due to the medium. TV is a very powerful medium. These anchors, who are mostly playing a lapdog of the ruling forces, are just using the power of the medium to fulfil their personal as well as political goals.
The only reason a layman trusts a TV anchor is due to their faith in journalism; a faith that took a lot of time to develop. Something curated over such a long period of time will not be lost immediately. As for your concern about changing the current scenario, I would say it has to do with the politics of today. Once the politics changes, the TV media scenario will also change in tandem.
There is a feeling that your kind of Journalism is reaching only the educated, elite, intellectual class and the general public is still behind the TV channels which are spreading lies and hatred. Do you agree?
Yes, I agree. But I don’t think this is a wrong strategy. Even if you manage to convince – or get agreement from – that small segment of influential, educated people, you will win half the battle. The rest of the society is actually looking towards this influential segment for leadership and direction.
There is also a perception that the general public is only interested in whatsapp forwards, tv channel shouting programmes and they don't care for quality journalism anymore. Is this correct ? If yes, what is the solution ?
No, that’s not entirely correct. Generally, most people believe in WhatsApp forwards, shouting shows on TV simply because they have that option readily available. Also, a lack of media literacy in our country is another reason why the general public is attracted to this misinformation spread via forwards or ‘TV channel shouting’. We need multidirectional correctional measures to tackle it.
The kind of degradation witnessed in Indian Media since 2013 is continuing at a great pace now. According to you, where will this arrive at in the end? Where has this taken the Indians? How and when can this be rectified?
Partly, I agree with the statement that degradation of media is rapid, but I can’t answer as to where it will take us. I simply hope for a positive end.
Why did the Indian Media become so shallow so suddenly ? Is it only money that caused this ? What is the fundamental problem that triggered this fall ?
The revenue model is the most important cause. This ad-based revenue model makes the media houses vulnerable to the government and big corporations. It is very easy for the stakeholders to arm-twist the media houses as they depend on sponsors for their revenue.
Other causes for this rapid downfall are the community faultlines, like the inherent communalism among the anchors and journalists, the shortsited attitude of management, etc.
NL is being targeted for its journalism through cases , youtube restrictions etc. How will you fight this out ?
We are not doing anything illegal. Journalism is not a crime. If anything comes in our way, we will fight it legally. India has a robust judicial system and we have full faith in it.
Do you think there is a need for an alternative, independent platform like youtube, FB for objective journalists and media houses ? is it technically, financially possible to build one such platform which is totally free from political and other pressures?
Personally, I don’t believe that it is possible to build such a huge alternative platform. Only the government or big-money corporations can do this. Also, it’s not possible to establish something like that on a community basis. Instead, the focus should be on reforms and making them accountable to the existing platforms.
In Spite of calling them out for supporting hate programs on TV Channels, corporates don't seem to stop advertising with them. Is it possible to persuade them to exercise discretion and link their advertisement policy with social responsibilities and certain basic Human and Democratic values?
At Newslaundry, we have tried to highlight such programs so that the sponsors can become aware and take the right decision before sponsoring any content. Though it isn’t 100 percent effective, it is slowly getting traction.
Some sponsors do cancel their agreements. More than the cancellation of the agreement, it will work as a deterrence.
Is it really possible to run a media house like NL only from through subscriptions ? What has been your experience ?
The story of Newslaundry is before everyone. Subscription is the future of media. Ad-free media is the only way to do public interest journalism.
Do you think such experiments ( NL ) are sustainable in the long run ?
There is a huge community of readers out there that benefits from your content everyday without paying a penny in return. How to develop the culture of paying for news in a society like India ?
We have a three-layered funnel system. The content you are seeing available for everyone is the topmost funnel. We expect and believe some people will filter from the top funnel to the lower funnel, and those people will pay. Once they do, they will get premium content.
Do you think youngsters coming into Journalism understand the hollowness and dangers of Godi Media or do they get attracted to the money and fame they can get ? What do you expect from them ?
There are good people coming into the media with good intentions. The market is the big leveller. Ultimately, few good people will always survive.
What is your message to Indian readers and viewers ?
Always use critical thinking.
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Mumbai (PTI): Maharashtra BJP leader Girish Mahajan on Thursday claimed that his party has the support of 170 MLAs, way above the 145 majority mark in the 288-member House that is necessary to form a government in the state.
The BJP is set to return to power in the state with the support of rebel Shiv Sena MLAs led by Eknath Shinde after chief minister Uddhav Thackeray tendered his resignation on Wednesday night, leading to the collapse of the 31-month-long three-party Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.
Speaking to reporters here, former minister Mahajan said, "We have a support of 170 MLAs. We can comfortably face a floor test whenever we are asked to prove majority."
The BJP's strength in the House is 106, and it claims to have the support of at least 13 legislators.
Meanwhile, sources said that Eknath Shinde will reach Mumbai from Goa this afternoon to hold talks about government formation with BJP leaders.
Shinde had landed in Goa from Guwahati on Wednesday night with a group of 50 MLAs, of whom 39 are Sena dissidents, while others are independent legislators and those from small parties.
It is not yet clear if the Shinde-led group will merge with any party. Shinde Wednesday night reiterated that they are Shiv Sainiks and will remain in Shiv Sena.