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Aayush Soni
Media Minutes

Aayush Soni is a journalist based in New Delhi. Follow him on Twitter at @aayushsoni.

This election might spawn new rising stars of television

Among the things this election season has brought with it, are swirling rumours that "tectonic changes" will occur in the Indian media after 16 May. What this means is that senior editors at newspapers, magazines and TV channels will jump ship once their current commitments to their present employers are done. In one specific case, the departure of a high profile founder-editor of an English news channel seems imminent after 16 May.

When I heard this piece of news, it struck me that, for the past 20 years, ever since news television became something of addiction for a lot of us, we've been conditioned to a generation of TV news anchors. As prime time approaches every evening, we intuitively know that a Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai, Nidhi Razdan, Arnab Goswami, Sonia Singh, Karan Thapar and Sagarika Ghose will hold forth on the day's events. Should the "tectonic changes" being spoken about turn out to be true, there's more than a good chance that a new generation of TV stars, shadowed by their high-profile predecessors, will acquire a standing of their own.

Anchors such as Amrita Tripathi (CNN-IBN), Shiv Aroor (Headlines Today) and Sarah Jacob (NDTV 24X7), already well-established in the business, will be spoken of in the same breath as the Rajdeep-Barkha-Arnab triumverate. However, what will set them apart is that their social media activity will play a critical role in helping them cultivate a fan following. The first generation of TV news anchors became stars at a time when media was a one-way street — it was journalists who spoke to viewers, not the other way around. Thanks to platforms like Twitter and Facebook, that has changed now, and this second generation of anchors has been quick to embrace it. They're constantly interacting with their followers, breaking news on Twitter at the same time as they are on TV, and even doing things that aren't strictly part of their jobs. A prominent example is how Tripathi curated @Genderlog, a crowd-sourced Twitter account that discusses gender equality, for a week.

Of course, they're not prominent journalists just because they're engaging with people on social media. Tripathi has carved a name for herself by covering the world of publishing and covering health-related stories. Jacob was NDTV's correspondent in the United States for a few years before returning to India and anchoring Newsfirst@10 while Aroor has covered defence and strategic affairs, first at the Indian Express and now at Headlines Today.

I find it hard to imagine that TV news journalists would've been able to cultivate distinctive identities for themselves in 2014 in the absence of blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other alternative media platforms. According to the ministry of information and broadcasting, over 250 24-hour news channels, across all languages, compete with each other to grab viewer attention. Consequently, the news-watching experience becomes monotonous, banal and downright boring. There's also general entertainment, sports, lifestyle and movie channels vying for the same attention. In such a saturated environment, where viewers won't remember the last channel they saw, how do journalists ensure that their audiences remember them? By treating social media as an integral part of their identities, and treating it as an extension of their journalism.

 
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