Shailesh Kapoor: Arnab Goswami: The Superhero We Need

31 May,2013

By Shailesh Kapoor


I have to admit that my only serious weekdays appointment viewing these days is Arnab Goswami’s Newshour on Times Now. Earlier this week, I watched more than 90 minutes of one such Newshour show entirely focusing on the IPL spot-fixing scam. As I surfed out at the end of the show and started watching news programming on some other English channels, the contrast was unmistakable. It was like walking straight out of a rock concert into a classical musical one. Everything seemed to move in slow motion and I had to raise the volume considerably, probably because I had kept it at a lower level for the last 90 minutes!


I felt a similar contrast when I watched Iron Man 3 and Aashiqui 2 back-to-back about five weeks ago. The worlds of the two films had nothing in common. But you can like both, as I did. But in the case of Newshour, there are reasons to like the show more than most other prime time options on English news channels; reasons that get adequately amplified when a story of “national interest” gathers momentum for about a week or two, like the current IPL controversy.


In his opening remarks at a recent event, Arnab Goswami candidly admitted: “I tend to forget that I’m an anchor. I have assumed the role of an analyst much too often.” This contrasting approach to anchoring is what makes him stand out, both in a good way and a bad way. Almost all Newshour debates start with Arnab’s position being defined loud and clear. The show, then, is about him playing the captain of one of the teams in a debate competition, who has been given the advantage of moderating the debate too.


In classical journalism, such as approach, evidently biased as it is, may have no space. But we don’t live in a classical world, do we? We live in a world of scams and bad governance, where newspapers and news channelsoffer little to cheer about anyway. As a result, television news today has gone beyond being an information source to delivering more inclusive benefits, like that of becoming the voice of the ‘common man’, who has been watching one scam after the other unfold, with a sense of helplessness and cynicism.


As many of us watch the champions of scams and bad governance being grilled on Newshour every night, we feel a certain sense of empowerment. There’s someone asking the tough questions. There’s someone who has the gall to talk them condescendingly, even insultingly at times. After all, they deserve all the insult they can, if how our mind justifies it.


I have always wondered why certain guests, especially those from Pakistan, even agree to feature as guests on Arnab’s show, given the consistent track record of being spoken down to. Perhaps because they want to better their Newshour performance from last time? Alas, they never succeed!


I don’t have the slightest doubt in my mind that a decade from now, Arnab Goswami would have acquired a cult, near superhero status in Indian media, when his reputation of a feared anchor would have spread itself wide and across in the inner corridors of power. To borrow from cinema, he may evoke reactions like: Do your job honestly, nahin toh Arnab aajaayega. Or: Zulm mitaaneko ek maseeha nikalta hai, jisey log Arnab kehte hain.


This iconic status, which is well on its way of getting formed already, may not meet the gold standard of “good journalism”, but most superheroes are flawed and therefore interesting, right? But once you get used to liking them, you like them unconditionally.


Yes, it may take you a while to like Arnab Goswami and his show. Newshour is acquired taste. But then, so is India!


Shailesh Kapoor is founder and CEO of media insights firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor


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2 responses to “Shailesh Kapoor: Arnab Goswami: The Superhero We Need”

  1. Kashmira Grewal says:

    I liked your subtle yet honest approach in defining the personna that is Arnab Goswami. Taking your cue, I would say that ” Gehun ke saath ghun bhi pista hai”. And I completely agree with Nitin’s observation, that most days, watching the Newshour challenges your abilities of being able to discern and make sense of what the Anchor and panelists are trying to say, thru the cacophony……it makes me realise how confusing and difficult the process of phonological development must be for an infant ! Having said that, I’d say, predilection for AG and the Newshour is only a matter of time, for the average viewer, regardless of the cons!

  2. Nitin says:

    Interesting viewpoint. Arnab has definitely become a sort of a rockstar of news channels. But sometimes he just needs to calm down a bit and allow the people on his show to put fort their points of view. Sometimes, the debates resemble a market place where everyone is shouting and nobody knows what the other one is saying.