Arnab Goswami shares his Insights & Stories at InsightStorm

AIMA and Storm the Norm co-created ‘Insight Storm’ – a novel format to generate sharp insights delivered powerfully. The Inaugural InsightStorm was organized on 10th August 2016 at Hotel Taj Lands End, Mumbai. This edition of InsightStorm paired up thought leaders from two diverse fields – Art and Business and in a 30-minute session, they shared three pre-created insights around a theme, followed it up with a ‘collision dialogue’ and ended with one fresh insight each.

Below are the key insights & stories shared by Mr Arnab Goswami, Editor-in-chief, Times Now and ET Now at Insight Storm.

Arnab Goswami sharing his Insights & Stories at InsightStorm

Arnab Goswami sharing his Insights & Stories at InsightStorm

Insight: The rules spoil the journey. We have too many rules which are taught to us at various stages of our career. It limits you. It stops making you imaginative and following the rule makes you less risky a person. That’s negative in the long term, yeah.

Story: The rules spoil the journey because the rule in journalism was – Don’t speak your mind, Don’t talk, just report. Be factual. Don’t go beyond the facts. Just restrict yourself to the facts and keep it to that. That was the rule in 1995. I find that 21 years later that rule is obsolete. Doesn’t mean that facts are immaterial, facts should be compromised, No. But in today’s day and age, opinion counts and the world is opening up. Everyone, everybody has a point of view. Around seven or eight years back, we took the fairly bold decision of changing the editorial nature of the program I do in the way it just got constructed. You can’t have a very structured dialogue so you begin speaking up and you begin giving your own point of view. The joke now is that you end up becoming less an anchor and more one of the panelists and the loudest panelist of them all. But you know it works because it is freer, It is more unfettered, It is not restrained, It helps you open up and so what if it was the Golden Rule in journalism never to express your point of view. That rule wasn’t set in stone. It’s not a religious edict, you changed it. Has journalism become worse for that? I don’t think so because I can’t report a CWG scam and then move on to the next story. I have to report a scam and tell people what I think about it. I can’t report a story of a mother and daughter getting raped you know and just move on to the next story. I feel I think, I emote, I am a citizen, I am a human being and so when I am going to come on air, I am going to be a human being too. So the rule was changed and for me, it has actually made my professional journey, personal journey much more enjoyable which is why I still stand here before you hoping I have another 20 years in this business. If I had just done journalism the way it was taught to me in 95 then I would not be here today and perhaps be retiring so yeah that’s one little story I would like to share.

Insight: Too much planning is bad. Don’t plan your next five years or 10 years. Never look at a business plan because if there was to be a business plan everybody would be India’s richest man. So I don’t believe in business plans. They don’t rationalize anything for me.

Insight: Whatever you do, make people think.  Don’t expect your thoughts to remain penned down in a book. Very often we think of our thoughts and we say we hope it’s going to be penned someday, this was my greatest thought. The greatest thought is that which enters somebody’s mind. So whatever you do as an artist, as a businessman, anything you do, enter people’s minds. We are in the business in the world of media into entering people’s minds and when you enter people’s minds and their hearts will follow. So we are in the fight for the Mind-Space that’s my favorite word.

Story: I said earlier I think too much planning is bad. And we like to all become safe behind numbers and feel that we are going to succeed because the numbers look good on a screen. And then I also said that we are in the game of entering people’s minds. I spoke about going from the gut. Suppose we have thousand crore rupees on one side and a formula to enter people’s minds and hearts to relate to them on the other. My question to this audience would be – what would you pick? The traditionalist who is not interested in entering a person’s mind and heart, the traditionalist who believes that I am so big and I have so much scale and size and I am number one would say people don’t have an option but to come with me. I am the king, right? But in today’s day and age, you put a thousand crore rupees on one side, believe me, it would be a thousand times more valuable to understand how to enter people’s minds and hearts. And this is extremely fragmentable and fragmented media industry where monoliths are beginning to disappear and new people and new player are constantly emerging. It is more important to keep your passion and your idea greater than the sum total of all the capital that you may have or you may want to raise because that makes you complacent. Let me give you a simple example from a life experience. I left NDTV, we sat in one room and I met Pranoy and everyone and they said you know it’s fairly ridiculous that you want to start a channel when NDTV is such a dominant player and it’s unimaginable that you can run a channel from Mumbai. When Delhi is the political capital of India, that’s where the news is. This is the only News organization at a national level running out of Mumbai, out of what used to be a cotton mill shed in lower parel. We had the least number of people. We spent the least money. If NDTV had forty or fifty outside broadcast I had five. My staff size was one-third of what my competitors’ were. Then why did we win? A simple story between an elephant, a horse, and a deer, what would you be? And with respect, don’t go around quoting me on this because nowadays on social media somebody will misinterpret, especially when you speak about competitors. So I said see with greatest of respect and I respect all the three animals, NDTV is the elephant. Its large, it’s big, it expects to win on the virtue of size and legs. CNN IBN was the horse. It got ahead to an early start over us. We got delayed in a large. What would you be? I said be the deer and I said this in an editorial meeting. I said be the deer because the fantastic thing about the deer is that it wins not because of size.  It doesn’t win because of having an early start. It wins because you cannot predict its direction. It pivots around. It has the ability to change directions. Horse can’t run through a forest but a deer can. So in my life experience because I was saying all these things to motivate my extremely confused team of people who are the youngest of all sitting in Mumbai. Everybody said you are not TIMES Now, you’re Times When. You are ridiculed and you know nobody knew me, these were big guys, all the other big anchors right. So the destiny is against you, how do you change the direction? I understood this little value so I thought I would merge my two thoughts earlier which is too much planning is bad and keep them engaged, enter people’s minds.

Insight: Go with your gut feeling and believe in what you believe in. Don’t expect it to be rationalized by any rule, any precedent, any experiment and someone else’s experience. Don’t believe in following someone else’s success story and trying to make it your own. Go with your gut feeling even if the whole world says it won’t work. You don’t need a business plan to make it work. You just need the gut feel that it’s going to work.

Insight: Don’t seek peer approval, don’t look around, and don’t expect people who are  your batch mates, your friends, people you grew up with, people who are in the same industry, people who are roughly in the same profile. Don’t work for them, work for yourself. Don’t seek peer approval. In my entire career I have never got peer  approval from journalists and I don’t seek that  peer approval from journalists because my audience is not my set of peers. When you make your peers your audience, you limit your own professional journey.

Story: One of my insights was to go with your gut. Now actually I want to revise that a little bit because there is a story to going with your gut and the other part of you is being paranoid. We are humans and in the newsrooms on the one side you want to go with your gut. You want to break the story. You want to be first. You want to get the biggest. You want to do everything first and you’d kill to get that and on the other side you are paranoid. Something should not go wrong because it’s an unforgiving business. You can work hard for 20 years but one big strategic mistake and your credibility, your editorial guidance, the position you have, the Defamation cases, everything can go wrong forever and I have been constantly battling between my gut and being paranoid. I am the most paranoid person in the world. I just worry about everything that can go wrong all the time. It’s like on the editorial side of obsessive-compulsive disorder. I mean can you imagine somebody dies and you get wrong person’s picture. Your computer picks it up. Nobody is going to forgive you. They will say you are motivated right. And I have been on the wrong side so many times and I end this by giving two examples.

So I sat on a story called Lalit Gate for three weeks before I broke it around June last year. And it seemed to be one of the biggest sorts of stories against someone in the ruling dispensation. When you have a story of that scale and you are not taking on small fry, you are taking on fairly established individuals. You worry what if I get I get my facts wrong and you are paranoid. So there was this Saturday when I just couldn’t sleep, eat, walk and was worried. I was tensed. I had the story and my paranoia was telling me that someone else is going to break the story if you don’t.

I told myself why you are sitting on it for the longest time and not just in India I heard someone in London is going to break the story so I was more paranoid because I couldn’t even call someone up and check. That morning I got up and called my office at seven in the morning. I told everybody sorry to call you on a Sunday Morning. We are breaking something at 9. Get there in one hour. At 9:10 I broke the story. And then the paranoia sinks in. You can’t even show the paranoia because you are on air and you are breaking the story and your heart is telling you what if this story is wrong. What if the documents are fake? What if somebody just conned me and at 9:27 we had a statement from foreign minister’s office confirming the story.  So the answer is, there is a choice between paranoia and the gut. This battle is very important for all good professions. But eventually gut must win. Paranoia must lose. In the big things in life, Gut must win and the paranoia must lose. One more example of paranoia and gut conflicting. We had a story about a group of Indians who went and spent a lot of money at the opening ceremony of the commonwealth games. Not a large sum, small sum by the standards of corruption that happen in India, some few hundred thousand pounds but the treasury department in Britain is so paranoid that they wrote a four-page note saying that there seemed to be some irregularities in the financial transactions of people involved in opening ceremony of the Commonwealth games. We found the people not Mr. Kalmadi but some other people. And so we said that it’s a good story. Nothing can be wrong.  Let’s put out the story. What should we call the story? Let’s call it the Commonwealth Games Scam and truly the amount of money involved at that stage was 30-40 lakh rupees. The commonwealth Games scam pictures of the event, few smattering of shots of Suresh Kalmadi and we broke the story. That night I was told “What have you done” and being in Mumbai you don’t understand the implication of what you do. The entire establishment in Delhi started calling me ’sir, what you have done? You broke a CWG scam!you know how much money is involved? So you got the whole story?’And that’s why I said never go by your peers. Some of my peers told the concerned people that  he has broken the story and got the whole thing on the CWG scam. The next day at 9 o’ clock I was told that there’s an emergency press conference in Commonwealth games office. Suresh Kalmadi addresses the Media. The whole national media lines up. I am sitting looking at TV. I am asking myself what I have done. This is the world’s biggest overreaction and Suresh Kalmadi Ji has been exceedingly rude to people and I also have this habit when someone is rude, I get into the fight. So when he was rude to one reporter, I told congress reporter, BJP reporter. I said ‘I’ll divert you; your fellow reporter is being insulted. Every time your reporter asks a question this man is blistering, saying this is not your news hour and this and that and making indirect references to me also’. So finally we are five reporters at the press conference. And Suresh Kalmadi was saying I am going to sue Times Now for defamation and I will close down the channel. And I did not know what is going on. Then I said there must be something as they say “Dal me kuch kala hai.” It is at that point that I seriously started looking for papers related to the other seventy thousand crores. And it took me 5-6 days. Of course we managed the tempo till then but by the time I got the full set of documents because you know people feel you are on to good things so a lot of well-wishers say , I will give you little bit more. I said so why didn’t you share this with anyone else in the Lutyen’s media. They said well you know no body carries it because Kalmadi is an establishment. We carried the story and till then story started breaking and it went on for three or four days. And if you think about it, the Commonwealth Games Scam was the turning point in the reporting corruption in India. It happened around June 2010. In the battle between paranoia and gut, again gut won because it was just the gut instinct that this man is looking too nervous. There must be something and if you look at margins, if you are making 30 percent cut on a 150,000 pounds event and multiply that into 70,000 divided by 150 into X number of times. Imagine the amount of money being made. So till date I say who broke the commonwealth games scam. I say that man who broke commonwealth game scam is Suresh Kalmadi.

Insight: The one insight that I gather listening to all of this is that insecurity is good because if I look at the sum total I say somebody picks up all these insights. Starts taking risks, starts realizing that they are at a disadvantage, Stops seeking approval, Goes by their  gut feeling,  Sells the idea well, makes people think and does not believe in set rules. Then it’s time for some really solid disruption. Disruption is beautiful. So I think if there was somebody smart to pick up all of these ideas. They would disrupt and disrupt in a very big way. I am looking for the next big disruption in the world of media. Particularly in the world of News Media and for me that disruption will be new organizations, new people, new thinking, new Ideas using the confluence of high potency mediums like Television and digital to break through the clutter not at a national but also potentially in a medium term at an international level. So always evangelize the Idea of lot of global News Professionals working in an Indian global News organization. So that’s the insight that I gather listening to all of this.

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