Rahul Shivshankar, Editorial Director and Editor-in-Chief of Times Now, was at Goafest 2022 as a guest speaker. e4m caught up with him to talk about various things, including the infamous McAdam incident. Take a look at the excerpts from the conversation.
Was the news any different when you started off? How have things changed over the years?
News space was very small and largely focused on politics, cricket and entertainment those days. There were newspapers, Doordarshan and state-controlled radio. Then came private TV channels. There was no niche journalism earlier like we have today such as science, environment, universe and technology. Things are entirely different now.
What do you think is your biggest asset as a TV journalist?
Integrity and credibility. I am completely uncompromised, and I have no baggage at all.
Times Now has been among the top channels in news ratings. What do you think keeps you ahead of the others?
We have always been ahead of others in terms of TRPs. In the latest ratings that have come just now, we have topped in all categories. You check one million-plus cities, we have topped in every age group and gender categories. It is all because of leadership and conviction. We take positions, for instance, we boycotted elections during the pandemic. It’s not because we wanted to make any point, but we did so because people deserved apolitical content at that point of time. That’s why we win the TRPs.
The last two years were quite exhaustive for all media houses due to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns. How challenging was this period for you as an editorial leader? Also, can we talk about the infamous McAdam incident?
Asking people to come to work at the height of the pandemic was quite tough. We risked our lives for the extensive coverage on hospital beds, oxygen availability, and medicines. We strive.
The McAdams moment was an unwarranted attention. I am not an attention seeker. I don’t want any publicity as well. I shouldn’t have been caught in such a case–erring on as basic as naming someone. People abused me and even other media persons launched attacks on social media.
As a channel, we thought there was no point trying to suggest this incident never happened however big our brand was. We ran another show to discuss our mistake. The second show was also a hit, although it didn’t get as many views as the first one which was viewed by 20 million. Other media organizations ran stories around that.
News channels are often accused of running heated debates about TRPs, leaving behind real issues in society that require higher skills and investment. How do you react to these accusations?
Should we shut TV debates? Should the Indian parliament be shut down because of ruckus happening during the sessions? There are some ridiculous anchors and channels who invite a dozen guests in a debate. We never do that.
There are a few people who come to channels and disrupt the debates. They shout at the top of their voices and if you mute them, they charge you for snatching their freedom of speech. I actually write about this tamasha very often.
With regards to real issues, I wish to state that Times Now does talk about unemployment and rising fuel prices.
By the way, who are making these accusations against news channels? The ones who just entered the market. The media start-ups want to discredit mainstream media so that they can grow. The alternative media seeks to discredit the mainstream to promote themselves.
Many news channels have aligned themselves towards the left and right side of the political spectrum. How do you position your channel?
In the US, legacy media houses take political sides in presidential races…like support Joe Biden or Donald Trump. We never endorse candidates in elections.
Every journalist has the right to have an ideology as long as they are not running behind a party. I describe myself as a progressive conservative journalist. I have a point of view and I take a stand based on hard facts.
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