Madhu Trehan & Co to show journos the mirror with Newslaundry.com
By Shruti Pushkarna
With the ‘want to turn the mirror’ on themselves, the latest offering from the world of news is the launch of a website called Newslaundry.com. With their unique and explicit tagline, ‘Newslaundry – sab ki dhulai’, the agenda is set from the very beginning. A website which will work as the media’s watchdog.
The site was launched on February 6 and is the brainchild of one of the pioneers of modern-day news journalism in the country: Madhu Trehan. Ms Trehan founded Newstrack, a video news offering, and newsmagazine India Today.
The website has been launched with a four-member team and a few others on board. Abhinandan Sekhri, one of the founding partners told MxMIndia: “Newslaundry founders are Madhu Trehan, Prashant Sareen, Roopak Kapoor and Abhinandan Sekhri. We have three in-house writers, other than the founders. We have video editors, production people and directors.”
So why did Ms Trehan start this? What did she have in mind before she launched Newslaundry? We have the answer from the lady herself. Madhu Trehan told MxMIndia: “It evolved between my partners – Abhinandan Sehkri, Prashant Sareen and Roopak Kapoor. I have always enjoyed creating a product that doesn’t exist. That happened when I started India Today. The leading magazine at that time was The Illustrated Weekly, which belonged to a dated post colonial time. Newstrack was developed because there was no television news other than Doordarshan. Newslaundry is a product which is not a clone of any other website in the world. The nature of it creates a new space.”
So, could she not have done a similar media analysis show on mainstream television instead of doing it online? Ms Trehan was candid in her reply when she said: “It is because we did a media analysis that showed a channel is a losing proposition, so we chose to go online.”
However, Mr Abhinandan Sekhri indicated that they did try and go the television way at first: “We did try. We mentioned such a show to various TV channels but they were not ready to put it on their own channel. Also we have so many ideas and so many shows we want to make, and no channel will give us that kind of time. Besides, this is the future. The new irreverent generation consumes media online through mobile devices. Sooner than you think, more people will be consuming media in the online space than conventional TV/magazine. Time will tell which ones work better than others but one thing is for sure – there has to be a change in how we tell our contemporary political and social narratives. News has to be more than it is right now.”
On whether there is space for such a media website, Sevanti Ninan, Editor, The Hoot, commented: “Yes, there is. There is so much media and so little media watch. There is room for more entrants in this space.”
Ms Ninan echoed Mr Sekhri’s views on how no television channel is open to self-criticism. “Where is the mainstream TV channel which is willing to carry criticism of itself and its peers?”
Even though slowinternet speeds could be hurdle in an uninterrupted visual experience online, Ms Ninan is sure that the site will ‘click’ with viewers. She said: “Journalists love gossip. I think Newslaundry.com will click with them, particularly on account of the interviews with media biggies. What Barkha Dutt or Karan Thapar or Vinod Mehta say will give them something to gossip about. The interviews are a strong point.”
Ms Trehan believes the website will work because “it answers a need that is not fulfilled yet.” In fact Ms Trehan seemed confident of the differentiating factors that NewsLaundry brings to the table. She said: “The difference is that we are combining all of today’s technologies. We have text articles called Criticles. We have what we call Washboards; these are a combination of text, videos and links. We have TV shows webcast. We have cartoons. You cannot do all that on a TV channel. We have the freedom to be far more irreverent. Mainstream TV does not make journalists or journalism accountable. That’s what we aim to do. We ourselves are open to being accountable.”
On being asked on the revenue channels for the website, Ms Trehan replied that they expect revenues from the usual places. As for now, there are partnerships on with Google (and YouTube). Mr Sekhri added: “Advertising is the obvious immediate way, but in future, this space is going to change dramatically with podcasts and apps. And if anyone wants to put it on air on their channel, we’re more than happy to. We think stuff like this should be on TV too. Being able to take a dig at yourself is a sign of self-confidence which news channels need to have. And if anyone wants to pay us coz they think we deserve it, write in your cheques. Online is the future.”