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I am not a one-hour debate marathon man: Times Now Chief Editor Rahul Shivshankar

BestMediaInfo caught up with Shivshankar to talk about his plans for the channel, the reasons for not replacing Goswami at Newshour, and how different is his idea of news from that of his predecessor

Raushni Bhagia | Mumbai | March 28, 2017

Rahul Shivshankar Rahul Shivshankar

Nearly five months after Arnab Goswami’s exit, his successor as Chief Editor of Times Now, Rahul Shivshankar, spoke about his plans for the channel, the reasons for not replacing Goswami at Newshour, and how different is his idea of news from that of his predecessor.

To start with, Times Now has its regular debate at 9 PM called ‘Newshour’ which is now moderated by Navika Kumar, Managing Editor, Politics. Just before that time slot, at 8 PM, appears ‘India Upfront’, a show anchored by Shivshankar. Why two debate shows back-to-back?

Shivshankar says that ‘India Upfront’ is not a debate. “I look at three-four news of the day and these are discussed well. I am not a one-hour debate marathon man; so I will probably have three shorter different debates. I know how one of my predecessors has been recently saying that plain vanilla fact is boring. But I believe facts are truth and that is what our audience expect us to give them.”

9 PM has been a debate slot for all the players across the English news genre. Is Times Now planning a complete revamp of ‘Newshour’? Shivshankar says there is no immediate need for that. He said, “We will evolve Newshour and we are doing it. Navika is a hard boiled journalist and one has to understand that it is easy to sit on the chair and discuss and make a spectacle out of an issue, but actually about 90 per cent of the news that was broken at Times Now was done by the team. Even if one person takes credit for it, it has always been a team work. The whole unwrapping of the CWG scam was basis the documents that the team produced. Once you are equipped with all of that, it is easy to debate and make a circus out of it. I am an editor, not an entertainer. I am very conscious of what I want to be in the news space.”

Shivshankar pointed out how the team has been able to hold on to significantly decent ratings despite the fact that “these are the faces who have never been promoted, never been built up. The team has been putting in huge efforts.”

Shivshankar has had a 22-year-long journalistic career spanning various organisations including The Times of India, BBC and very recently NewsX. This is his third stint at Times Network. The first was The Times of India and then Times Now. Shivshankar said his reason for parting ways with Times Now earlier was the way the channel was getting away from facts.

He said, “The fact has truth behind it. I left because I had started feeling that the truth is being compromised. Personality had actually taken over. I come from a family of journalists and they would have never liked this. This is the reason I am not doing Newshour because it had started representing something else.”

About the attrition rate of the company and the rumours that the former editor has taken out a lot of his team members, Shivshankar dismisses the rumours in entirety. He said, “Twenty people have left in the last six months out of a total of 300. The attrition rate is 1.6 per cent. Why will anyone want to leave? Reporters have started getting recognition for their work now. One has to understand, banyan trees provide a lot of shade but nothing grows under them. I don’t want to fill in someone else’s place; I have no such intent of being the personality that has left the room. For me, the big challenge is to make the brand stand for something. It was too personality driven earlier, we don’t want that. We want the brand to be highlighted.”

Shivshankar is not perturbed that Aranb Goswami’s Republic TV is all set to launch. He is quite confident that there is space for everyone in the market and that no new player is coming in to lose the game.

The channel has surely increased the reach, but the rise in time spent is yet to come. No matter how big the news space is and how many new players can be accommodated, the kind of marketing that Republic has been getting – comparisons between Republic and Times Now – are bound to happen.

Shivshankar said, “We are not running away from the comparison but I am not investing time in it. Yes, there has been a lot of negative marketing happening for the last few days but we will let our journalism to the talking.”

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