The May issue of the men’s fashion magazine, GQ (for Gentleman’s Quarterly), has a six-page interview with Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of The Indian Express and host of the NDTV 24×7 interview programme Walk the Talk.
In a cover-mention titled “Is the Indian Express running out of steam?”, Gupta takes questions from the adman-columnist Anil Thakraney over oranges fresh from his farm in Haryana.
Shekhar Gupta reveals that Sonia Gandhi is the most interesting interview guest he has had, and that he passed along a story on the President blocking a Supreme Court judge’s promotion to a rival newspaper because the judge had ordered the sealing of the building from where the Express operated.
He also says journalists caught on the Niira Radia tapes “definitely” crossed the line:
Anil Thakraney: Niira Radia didn’t call you?
Shekhar Gupta: I’m sure she must have.
You think the journos caught speaking to her were guilty of a breach of ethics?
SG: Of the 100-odd people she may have spoken to in that period in the media, about five or six have got caught in varying degreees of indiscretion. It’s OK to string along a source; journalists are SOBs (sons of bitches), so that’s fine. The worst indiscretion would be quid pro quo. That has not been established in anybody’s case.
Do you think these journalsits crossed the line or not?
SG: Oh, yes, they definitely did.
Gupta also says:
#Am I happier compared to where we were three or even 10 years back? Yes. Am I happy, satisfied and in a lean-back state of mind? No. The potential of the Express is still unrealised….
# I don’t think any editor can say, “I have got it right”. The beauty of journalism is that it brings you surprises and challenges every day.
# Oh yes, we do (make money). Our balance sheet is in the public domain. All of us get our salaries paid, and we get paid very decent salaries.
# The Express is a top-of-the-mind paper…. It must go to every Indian who matters. While we want to improve our numbers, we don’t want to flood the market with cheap copies.
# There are a lot of young Indians who want their newspaper to be stimulating, intelligent and empowering. Only two papers in India fulfil that role: the Hindu and the Express.
# I always carried two visiting cards: one of “Editor-in-Chief” and the other of “Group CEO”. I said to myself, as long as I am using them in the ratio of 10:1, I am doing fine.
# I find the Times of India (Bombay edition) a comprehensive newspaper; it’s very good. I have great respect for that organisation because they change with the times.
# The qualities a good journalist must possess: Knowledge, language, enterprise, contacts… all that you can develop with time. The most important attribute has to be curiosity.
# Journalism means that when you get a piece of information, you verify it. Even if a reporter has seen someone steal something, she should still ask the person before publishing. The new definition of courageous journalism seems to be: You have the information, you publish it. You don’t check with the other guy. That’s the question I would raise about the Radia tapes as well. This is hit-and-run.