The choices you make with news are critical

Anant Goenka, Executive Director, The Indian Express Group

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The Indian Express is convinced of its contribution to democracy in a country like India. If something surprises me, it is why others are not able to do the same. Even when there is a surge of news tapping the social media sphere, often with no credibility or any reporting backing it, I am convinced that it is up to professional media outlets like ours to own this space to offer credible news to readers. We all know how tech giants have tried to do this and failed and that is what adds weight to my conviction. The only company that seems to have found some success now is Apple news, and that too because they let publishers select the news.

What we really aspire for in the present times is journalism of impact. And that is exactly what we have done over the years with our large-scale investigations into the Panama Papers and Pandora Papers, that helped the government bring back over Rs 1200 crores, the expose on the scholarship scam in Jharkhand, the ICICI Bank-Videocon conflict of interest which resulted in the sacking of its head, and the scores of other exclusive stories that have resulted in a change on the ground.

If we let random social media algorithms decide what we need to read, then we will end up being slaves of the bubbles and echo chambers we help them create. This is what mainstream news organisations like the Express have to fight every day. Authoritarianism is just the symptom of the larger problem of polarisation. And often this polarisation is a result of these echo chambers we have all confined ourselves in willingly.

A good journalist is a domain expert, always curious to explore and learn. She is one who is empathetic. Whatever your beliefs, if you are not empathetic to others, you won’t get access, you won’t report change, new perspective and ideas. As a result, you feed into the polarisation problem which is the politician’s most potent weapon. You help sharpen it. Well-researched, well-argued opinion is one of the things we invest in. And this is in contrast to what television does for instance, which is just a quick opinion. This is where the choices you are making, on what kind of media you consume, is very important.

And this is where it is tough to be a news startup. We have built a certain credibility to be able to say that if we make a mistake we own up to it and publish a correction. We are not anonymous, we have 90 years of history behind us. We are not going to do one investigation and then vanish.

During the pandemic, when there was so much news that needed to be verified as if your life depended on it, people turned to a name they trusted. This I think has helped us buck the trend and resulted in the post-Covid recovery of print circulation to beyond pre-pandemic levels and the huge success of digital.

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