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I have become controversial in the media community- Madhu Trehan

Madhu Purie Trehan, a veteran Indian journalist, known for always doing something different, is also a founding editor of the leading Indian news magazine India Today. Her latest offering is the ‘want to turn the mirror’ on media, especially the world of news, is the launch of a website and YouTube portal called Newslaundry.com. The tagline of this venture explains it all, ‘Newslaundry – sab ki dhulai’, to work as the media’s watchdog. Here, she shares her bit with Ambreen Zaidi.

1- Much before Tehelka, it was you who got Investigative Journalism in Indian media through Newstrack, how and where did the idea come from?

Ideas are abstract and do not have addresses that you can locate on where they come from. They just come into your head.

2- As a co-founder of India Today, you opted for the road less traveled, Why?

I started India Today. Then, I wanted to have a family. I was an involved, busy mother which was hugely important to me to have a completely fulfilled life. I started and worked on Newstrack. I wrote a best seller "Tell Me a Truth, Prism Me A Lie- As Metaphor", which meant working 19-20 hour days/nights for six years. And now, newslaundry.com. So, I went to Columbia for a journalism degree, worked in New York as journalist, motherhood, print, television, and now a website. That I consider a pretty heavily travelled road by most standards.

3-You are very much against the news channels, be it Doordarshan or any other private channel. Why?

I am certainly not against news channels at all. Critiquing news and other programmes doesn't have anything at all to do with personal likes or dislikes. There is some good programming and journalists, such as Srinivasan Jain.

5-It is being said that Journalists grill Politicians/Celebs and you grill the Journalists through Newslaundry, how satisfying is it for you?

I'm not exactly looking for personal satisfaction by grilling journalists. They have a tough job which I empathize with. None of us can get it right all the time. But journalists now understand that we are as accountable as people in public office.

6- Why did you feel there was a need for this kind of media? Is it after the Radia Tapes controversy involving some of the top most journalists, that the thought came to you?

No. The idea was there before the Radia tapes controversy.

7-You have fearlessly done "Sab ki Dhulai' from the likes of Karan Thapar to Vinod Mehta to Barkha Dutt to Sreenivasan Jain, where does this fearlessness come from?

I have no answer to that. I did not take a decision one morning in my life to be fearless. It may seem fearless to other people. I am myself and remember being like this since I was four years old, when I questioned arbitrary authority.

8- An oft repeated term is no two journalists are friends, do you agree? Is it competitiveness or insecurity?

Who would say that? It isn't true at all. There is no journalist that I have worked with that hasn't become a friend in varying degrees.

9- With the sudden mushrooming of TV channels, your portal tends to act as Media Police,don't you think Information and Broadcasting Ministry should have taken some strong steps to curb the muck which is being shown these days?

No, we don't need policing. We need to show marketing agents and advertisers that we want quality. Switch off your TV channel from the muck and you have voted against it.

10- How successful do you think you will be?

I really have never measured success in conventional terms.

11- Being a media thrasher, you must have lost a lot of friends and made a lot of enemies, how does it feel?

No, not lost friends but I have become controversial in the media community. But, I'm used to that.


12- You message for all the upcoming Journalists.

Too many young journalists showing unbelievable arrogance coupled with ignorance. Telling their bosses what THEY need from the job. I am shocked at the self centeredness. First learn and follow the ethics and rules of good journalism, before you break them. Learn, learn, learn. Never stop. Best.

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Ambreen Zaidi

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Maharashtra ,  INDIA

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