“With time we’ve changed our approach to connect with contemporary readers”, says Shashi Shekhar, Editor-in-chief of Hindustan. Read the complete interview.
Shashi Shekhar started his journey as a print journalist in 1980 and within four years became the Resident Editor of the Allahabad edition of Hindi daily Aaj, at the age of 24. He forayed into TV journalism in 2000 as an Executive Producer in-charge of input for Aaj Tak. In 2002 he ended his relationship with TV news channel to pursue his passion for print journalism and joined Amar Ujala as the Group Editor. In his seven-year stint at Amar Ujala, Shekhar launched six new editions and made it among the top three most read newspapers in the country. In August last year he parted ways with Amar Ujala to join HT Media’s Hindustan as Editor-in-chief.
In an exclusive interview with BestMediaInfo.com, he shared his open views on various issues. The following are excerpts from the complete interview:
Q) You’ve been with Hindustan for seven months, how has been the journey so far?
It has been great experience with Hindustan. The fact which compelled me to join Hindustan was that it’s a growing newspaper and is expanding its base rapidly. Another thing which attracted me to join the paper was that it comes from the stable of HT Media which also brings out country’s most respected English daily The Hindustan Times. The new responsibilities have been quite challenging and refreshing and I’m feeling younger.
Q) There’s been lot of talk about paid news in regional and vernacular press, what shade of opinion do you hold on the matter?
I’m strictly against paid news. In my capacity as the Editor-in-chief of Hindustan, I’ve given in written to the editor guild of India that we’ll not publish paid news. Honestly speaking, we’ve never been true to this issue. Today those people are talking to abolish the paid news who once initiated the paid news culture. On the part of media owners it has been sheer hypocrisy.
We always talk about golden past of journalism; I cannot understand what past was that. Thirty years ago when I ran into Aaj newspaper’s office the condition was totally different from what it is today. Journalists were shabbily dressed, they didn’t get respectable salaries. Now if that was the golden past then I accept it.
I work in a commercial newspaper but till date no one from business team has forced me to not to run stories even if they kill ad revenues. I’m least concerned what advertisement department do. They don’t interfere in functioning of editorial.
The news is all about the truth and we can’t kill it.
Q) Hindustan invaded Amar Ujala’s territory western Uttar Pradesh when you were heading the later, now, when you are editor of Hindustan, do you think Hindustan had made a mark in that region?
Market is expanding; Amar Ujala has its root deep in ground. When I joined Amar Ujala it was at no 8 position and had four owners who were publishing 4 different editions and the style of working was totally different. Philosophically it is a credible paper. In all those years with Amar Ujala I brought changes what I could in my capacity.
On the other side, as a fence sitter, I was also seeing Hindustan growing and flexing its muscles to invade Amar Ujala’s traditional territories. For me it was impossible to take Amar Ujala from 3rd position to 2nd position single handedly. How could we increase readership when paper was not exploring new territories.
For being number one a publication should have long term plans. I found that vision in Hindustan. I would not hesitate in saying that if I weren’t with Hindustan then also they would have launched new editions. As a professional I believe Amar Ujala didn’t have any future plans for expansion and Hindustan has a clear cut future expansion map to be number 1.
I gave my best to Amar Ujala and with Hindustan also I’m delivering my best.
Q) Competition is heated up in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, how are you taking it?
With our quality and true journalistic spirit we want to empower our reader. At Hindustan we work with this formula. We are not market driven but reader driven.
We are hardly concern what others do. Our editions are planned according to the readers. By being reader’s voice we want to create our own niche and our own readers.
Q) Hindustan has expanded its base rapidly, are there any plans to enter new territories?
We recently launched Bareily, we are no 1 there. We relaunched Agra edition and the response has been warm. Definitely we are eying various territories for launch and for being no 1 we have to invade new territories. Madhya Pradesh is still to be explored. And within a month we’ll launch Gorakhpur edition.
Q) You’ve been in journalism for a long time now, what changes have you observed in Hindi journalism?
If we compare it to the earlier days, today journalists are getting respectable salaries. They were poorly paid 30 years ago. But the basic of journalism then also was truth and today also we stand firm on that stand. I saw newspapers falling in 90’s; I thought it won’t stand strong before TV. In that apprehension only I went to launch Aaj Tak but within two years only realize that newspapers can weather all storms as they can give analysis what TV cannot. And with time we’ve changed our approach to connect with contemporary readers.
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