Keep web news and TV apart

Pradyuman MaheshwariNot many may know that Madhu Trehan started the news magazine India Today in 1975, leaving it in the hands of her brother, current chairman and editor-in-chief Aroon Purie, a few years later.

In the late 1980s, she produced Newstrack, India’s first video news magazine. This was in the days of the sarkaari Doordarshan, and it hence gave us the first glimpse of what independent television news could be in the years to come.

She’s been around, but never really in the thick of things. Assorted TV appearances, a book on Tehelka and in early 2012. It didn’t come as much of a surprise when Facebook’s India office announced that she would anchor a multi-platform, multi-screen effort called ‘Facebook Talks Live’ with a series of interviews as part of ‘Candidates 2014’ which was to air live on NDTV 24x7, Facebook and Newslaundry.

I thought it was smart of Facebook to engage politicians, given over 93 million people in India engage actively on the social network every month, and an independent study reports that 150 constituencies would be impacted by the Facebook vote.

My peeve, though, is why they had it live on television. They should’ve stuck to the internet and provided a delayed feed to the news channelwallahs. By pulling in NDTV, they’ve done a great disservice to the digital media. Also, a web-first show would’ve allowed a longer Q&A.

I have seen the interviews aired so far, and I think it offered all three Arvind Kejriwal, Mamata Banerjee and Akhilesh Yadav a great opportunity to win over people. Even though Trehan and the audience/Facebookers asked some pointed questions, they weren’t stress interviews.

There was no Arnab Goswami-like counter-questioning. In fact, I am sure the Narendra Modi camp would be upset about missing what would have been an excellent opportunity for the prime ministerial candidate to charm viewers the way Mamata and Kejriwal very effectively did.

Pradyuman Maheshwari is a senior journalist and editor. When he’s not chasing news, he’s watching it.
Twitter: @pmahesh

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