PORTRAIT

Arnab Goswami: India’s Inquisitor

Arnab Goswami
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What makes Arnab Goswami the country’s most influential journalist

FOR SOME TIME now, Abha Singh has had absolute strangers and distant acquaintances accosting her with all sorts of queries. This happens as she goes about her day-to-day life as a lawyer-activist in Mumbai, sometimes aboard flights, sometimes even abroad on a holiday. They come and ask, “Do you think Peter (Mukerjea) did it (the murder of his daughter Sheena Bora)?” or “Do you think Salman (Khan) will go to jail?” This happens, she has come to realise, because across India, and even abroad, sharp at 9 pm, a lot of people tune in to Times Now to watch Arnab Goswami, on whose Newshour show Singh is a regular fixture. “He has changed TV news you know,” she says. “Almost everyone, trust me, is watching him.”

Late on November 1st, it came to be known that after making Times Now and its form of aggressive journalism a bestselling brand, the star anchor had resigned. Arguably, he is India’s most influential journalist. A messenger larger than the medium.

Arnab Goswami argued his way into prime time to become the Dirty Harry of the Indian middle class, telling you what the ‘nation wants to know’. He was the stentorian interrogator, the impatient conscience keeper

In the 10 years that the channel has existed, he has transformed how TV journalism is conducted. In the first year of Times Now’s existence, the channel, with its mix of general and business news during the day and soft programmes by night, fared poorly compared to its better established competitors. In Mumbai’s media circles, during its teething phase (it took a long time going on air and got a tepid response once it did), it was often jokingly referred to as ‘Times When’ and ‘Times Never’. But Goswami rapidly whipped up an audience. He argued his way into prime time to become the Dirty Harry of the Indian middle- class, telling you what the ‘nation wants to know’. He was the stentorian interrogator, the impatient conscience keeper. He portrayed himself as an outsider, ready to stand apart from what he often calls ‘Lutyens’ journalists’ and their candy-floss journalism. He was the argumentative patriot who was not afraid to take a stand on the most complex issues of the day. There was no grey for him, only black and white.

According to Singh, his show gets such high ratings because he is passionate and committed to the stories he airs. “People are fed up of injustice. They want someone like him,” she explains.

After the channel completed a decade earlier this year, in an interview, Goswami said, “I think people have forgotten that journalists are not supposed to be Santa Clauses. There are anyways enough Santas in this profession, handing out sweets to the whole world, hoping that they will become popular.”

Goswami is reportedly in talks to launch another media channel. He told his Times Now colleagues that he doesn’t want to gather moss, but wants to be a rolling stone. Wherever he rolls, you can be sure it will be loud and strident.