This post has been corrected.
Suddenly, the Indian media has been seeing the transformation of several high-profile editors into entrepreneurs.
Two years ago, Indiaspend, a data journalism initiative, set up by Govind Ethiraj, previously with CNBC TV18, and edited by Samar Halarnkar, formerly a managing editor at Hindustan Times went live. Last February, Ethiraj put in place Factchecker.in, a site that examines factual accuracy of statements made by individuals in public life.
In June 2014, Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of the influential Indian Express left to join the India Today group as vice-chairperson. Two months later, he again left and set up Mediascape, a multimedia platform that includes TV, digital and print products.
In late 2013, Siddharth Varadarajan resigned as the editor of The Hindu and now plans to start a news-driven website, TheWire.in. P. Sainath, the rural affairs editor also left the Chennai-based daily, to start the non-profit Peoples Archive of Rural India (PARI). Reports have appeared that Shoma Chaudhury, previously managing editor of Tehelka, is slated to set up a news website, Catch, supported by the Rajasthan Patrika group.
And yesterday (Feb. 16), the owners of NDTV, Radhika and Prannoy Roy announced that star anchor Barkha Dutt won’t remain the group managing editor for the network and was going to set up her own “multi-media content company and policy group,” though she would continue with her signature weekly programmes.
All these moves have been prompted by different triggers—the eternal clash between editors and owners, a disillusionment with mainstream media, its corporate biases, its lack of concern of the marginalised and sometimes layoffs—but they all point to a certain reinventing, and in some cases, a monetisation of a personal brand.
With years of experience behind them—Dutt has been with NDTV for 20 years, joining them when she was 23—these editors come with formidable professional reputations and a high visibility helped by a dedicated online following. Financially secure, these “brands” have the drive and optimism to begin these media startups, mostly in the digital space, possibly because it requires much less funding than print and television.
Print plays a diminished role in these new ventures; it’s digital journalism that is attracting these pioneers —despite their lack of experience in the area.
Some of these new news entities are specialised: for instance, PARI looks at archiving stories of rural India and Indiaspend is primarily data-driven journalism. Other platforms like Mediascape and TheWire.in will cater to all kinds of news—political, business, sports, entertainment and technology. This is now Media 2.0 with a 360-degree vision.
With the migration of so many heavyweights, will the mainstream media suffer? Not at all. Instead, the exodus is encouraging upward mobility as comparatively younger talents are surfacing at these big companies.
Of course it’s not only within the media sphere that journalists are reinventing themselves.
Hopefully, former journalists Ashutosh, Ashish Khetan and Manish Sisodia discarded their press cards when they joined the Aam Aadmi Party as full-time political workers.
Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly mentioned Siddharth Varadarajan’s new website as wired.in. The correct name is TheWire.in.