For a while now, there were rumours that Shekhar Gupta was to join the India Today group. But we also know that not too long ago former Hindu ed Siddharth Varadarajan had almost signed on the dotted line and things fell through.
But now it’s official. Gupta is joining the India Today group as Vice Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, a position that’s next only to the promoter-Chairman Aroon Purie. Gupta is with the Indian Express group till June 15.
It’s a homecoming of sorts for Gupta since he worked with there from 1983 to ‘95. A lot has changed since then, and the group has leapfrogged in size and spread across media. But what’s also grown is its share of worries.
Since the purview of this column is news television, I will not get into its print and digital forays. Clearly, there’s much that Gupta must do to get its two key offerings - Aaj Tak and Headlines Today - in shape.
Aaj Tak is the numero uno news channel in country, and hence also the #1 in Hindi. But in terms of mindspace of viewers, it’s nowhere up there. Perhaps it works for the channel that it’s got out of this trap of building faces who eventually get poached by competition.
There’s much to be done at Aaj Tak including walking the tight rope of balance between the bizarre and the serious news. As for Headlines Today, it needs some serious work on the drawing board. In the run-up to the elections, it got a huge boost when Karan Thapar moved in from CNN-IBN.
Rahul Kanwal tried much before that but save a show in sync with Twitter, he was the weak link of the channel. After Thapar came on air, Kanwal got on to the election trail. And now, Kanwal is back with his Centrestage show at 9.30pm, soon after the hour-long news of the day-based show by Thapar.
If Headlines Today needs to be consequential, Gupta needs to take some quick action on improving things. One is sure we’ll see a lot of him on the channels. One will of course miss him on NDTV 24x7...
Pradyuman Maheshwari is a senior journalist and editor. When he’s not chasing news, he’s watching it.