New Delhi: In a democracy, there is no “room service” and for a leader to be a challenger, he/she needs to rise and seize the opportunity, Editor-in-Chief of ThePrint Shekhar Gupta said Tuesday.
Gupta was speaking at ThePrint’s Democracy Wall, a free-speech campus initiative, the sixth edition of which was held at the Symbiosis International University, Pune.
Starting the session, Gupta said: “I am a journalist, I am never off the record.” He then took questions from the audience, comprising the university’s students and faculty members, on issues ranging from politics, social media trolls and functioning of Indian media organisations.
Faculty member Vidya Bhushan Arya said: “We have a Democracy Wall today, but of late that ‘wall’ has been under attack.” He then asked Gupta why there is no opposition leader to challenge the current dispensation.
To this, Gupta replied that in a democracy there is no “room service” and for a leader to be a challenger, he/she needs to rise and seize the opportunity. He went on to say that during Emergency, many people were jailed and had to pay the price for freedom. “Therefore for a leader to rise, it is a game of Test cricket and not T-20,” he added.
A student then asked why all the good orators are in the BJP. Gupta explained: “Oratory skills only work when the leader is anyway popular…and people only like good orators when the message is good. Therefore, what matters is the message.”
In his opinion, Gupta said, one of the best orators to give a speech in Parliament on secularism was Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan.
On functioning of media industry
A large part of the session focussed on how the Indian media is functioning, the business aspect of it and how to survive in times of pressure.
On dealing with pressure of social media trolls, Gupta said: “If you can’t face the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
Admitting that things get to him as well and he, too, gets worried over trolls or attacks on journalists, but the scenario is not as grim as it is being made out to be. To lighten the mood, he said, “If I am not trolled for 10 minutes, I feel unwanted.”
When asked how he strikes a balance between appeasing sponsors and portraying the real picture, Gupta explained that any sponsor who comes to him knows that they are getting high-quality viewership and have no other expectations.
Gupta further said the trend of paid news is “extremely bad”. “These are not normal rules of journalism,” he added.
He then shared an incident that happened during the 2011-12 Maharashtra municipal elections. Gupta said the Congress had offered Rs 5 crore to newspapers to interview their candidates.
Gupta, who was heading The Indian Express at that time, said he refused the money. “What I did was normal, it was not a brave thing.”
Explaining how disclaimers are put out at ThePrint if any story involves the investors, Gupta said everything in the news industry is about trust. “One of the greatest values for a brand is trust, it is its essence,” he added.
Concluding the session, Gupta said OTT (over-the-top) platforms are now enabling more media houses to come up.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.