I Want To Prove That You Can Do The News Without Selling Your Soul: Faye D’Souza, Film Companion

Anupama Chopra (AC): Faye, Mirror Now celebrated its first anniversary very recently. In one year, you’ve sort of redefined news journalism by focusing on citizens’ needs rather than high-decibel drama. Through this journey, what’s been the biggest challenge?

Faye D’Souza (FD): You know, there’s sort of a rush of news. You’re in the newsroom, and there’s information coming in, there’s a temptation to put it out because other channels are doing it. But we have to sort of breathe. And say, no, we’ll wait. We’ll wait until it gets confirmed, we’ll wait until it gets verified, we’ll do it the old-school way. And that sort of puts us back, from a timeline point of view. We tend to put news out a little later than everybody else. So that’s actually a challenge, because you have to teach a team of young, enthusiastic people to breathe. Just breathe! You know, there’s something we call the wipes that says ‘First On’. We don’t have one. We haven’t made one because…

AC: It’s not first on!

FD: It’s never going to be! As a rule, we’re never going to be first in breaking news. We’ll put out exclusive stories that nobody else has put out, but we’ll never be first in breaking news, because we don’t want to do it in a hurry, we don’t want to get it wrong. A lot of times, if we are not able to verify, we just don’t put it out. I assume the audience will forgive that. We just won’t carry the news because we’ve not been able to verify it ourselves. So that’s the challenging part.

AC: So facts matter to you.

FD: Yes. Yes.

AC: Thank you!

FD: Because, see, I’m not going to say we’re never going to make a mistake or an error. Of course we’ll make it because at the end of the day there are human beings sitting behind all of the machines. But we’ll never do it deliberately, we’ll never jump the gun, we’ll never misrepresent. Because these are the things that are important to us. We’re not in the race.

I personally have struggled through that, where you want to be taken seriously for the job that you do

AC: I think one of the pivotal moments for the channel was, of course, your conversation last June, where you were in this debate about online trolling and one of your guests, was a cleric. You shut him down so beautifully, and I want to read what you said.

FD: Oh god. Okay.

AC: You said, ‘All you men think that if you rattle Sana Fatima when she’s doing her job, or if you rattle Sania Mirza when she’s doing her job, if you rattle all women when they’re doing their jobs, they will run back into their kitchens, they will cover themselves up and leave the world for you again to conquer.’ You said, ‘I have news for you: we’re not going anywhere. Yes, Maulana ji, this is a channel run by a woman. And no, this is not a woman that you can easily rattle. You cannot rattle me.’ I wanted to get up and applaud! It was amazing! Where did this wisdom, where did this heft come from?

FD: So actually, see, this was fully- this was live. I just realised- to me, it echoed– and I’m sure if we asked all of the women in the room – we’ve all heard this. You know, when you come to work (at least in India, I don’t know what it’s like overseas), you’re either too behenjee in the way you’re dressing, you’re too slutty in the way you’re dressing. Your top is too low or it’s too high or you’re too fat or you’re too thin. There’s always something wrong with us! I personally have struggled through that, where you want to be taken seriously for the job that you do. When you walk into a room, and someone makes a comment about something you’re wearing, and it immediately makes you smaller.

This only happens to the women. You know, someone asks you, ‘Have you gained weight?’, someone says something else. It sort of just takes away a slice of your confidence and then you have to build back up from there. And he just reminded me of that. And to ask me that ‘Oh, aap underwear pehen kay aa jaao if you want to be equal to men’. I think it just hit, like, many many years of this sort of behaviour and it all just came out from there. It was instinctive, just came out of me. I know there are a lot of women who struggled for this sort of thing, whether you’re working in a bank or any sort of office. The packaging always becomes more important than who we are. So I suppose that’s where it came from.

AC: Faye, we’re all driven by different things. What are you in it for?

FD: Well, I’m in it for the passion. I’m a news junkie. I love the news. And I want to actually prove that you can actually do the news, at nine o’clock at night, honestly, without having to sell your soul. I mean, we’re pleasantly surprised that we’re viable as a business, we’re viable to advertisers, we’re viable in terms of ratings. And you know, it’s cool, it’s fun, it’s a brand that people like, so it’s worked out. And that was the aim, to prove that this actually can be done, and you don’t all have to do it that way, there is another way to do this.

We can’t move forward as a country if we leave the daily-wage labourers behind. We have a responsibility, as the educated, upwardly mobile part of this country, to take those people along, to look after their interests.

AC: You know, with great power, comes great responsibility…

FD: That’s the Spiderman movie.

AC: It is indeed! You have the eyeballs now, Faye. What do you want to do with it?

FD: See, I actually want to decentralise news. I want to take it out of Delhi. While that might upset a fair amount of people in Delhi, I believe that the country is everywhere else. So we picked up some stories and we’ve built an interest. One of the stories that we picked up that I think we’ve gotten our viewership to at least care about is the issues the farmers are facing. And this is something I had to justify in the beginning, because everybody said, ‘Listen, you’re a channel that’s supposed to be focusing on, you know, people issues and urban issues and why are you focusing on farmers?’ I said, ‘Because most of the people in our country are farmers!’

AC: Your dad is a farmer, right?

FD: Yes, my dad was a farmer, and we were raised, to appreciate that. So when a farmer is in distress, that’s something that really, really touches me. And I want to bring it to a point where every urban family feels that way. That you realise that the food on the table because somebody spent a month, two months, three months, in the sun actually tilling that land and growing that food, and we owe that person something. So it’s stories like this that we now need to bring back interest into, because we can’t move forward as a country if we leave our farmers behind. We can’t move forward as a country if we leave the daily-wage labourers behind. We have a responsibility, as the educated, upwardly mobile part of this country, to take those people along, to look after their interests. Otherwise, in a world of Twitter and all of these other things, we leave them behind, just draw a curtain over what’s happening in their lives and then ignore them. And that’s just not okay.

AC: At 36, you’re perhaps the youngest editor of a news channel?

FD: I think so, I haven’t got around to asking!

I actually see every show, every hour, every day as a bonus. And I see it as an opportunity.

AC: Does anybody try and intimidate you, or do they know better?

FD: There are a couple of what could be seen as disadvantages, right? I’m a woman, I’m younger than everybody else, I’m a religious minority also. That gets brought up a lot.

AC: Really?

FD: A lot! But I just stand my ground. So the last one year has been challenging, but now I can actually stand up to someone and say, ‘Hey, listen, it worked! We’re doing well. We’re not doing badly.’ But there will be enough people who will tell me how to do my job and say, ‘Listen, I’m older than you, I know better, you’re new, you’ve just started, you should listen’ and stuff like that. So I do listen. I realise there are people with more experience who can add value, who’ve seen process, who’ve seen things, but I think Mirror Now is a new way to do things. I want to believe that this is what a challenge should be.

AC: Have you ever been afraid of anything anyone’s thrown at you?

FD: So there is some intimidation, obviously. Because apart from being young and brazen, we tend to just speak our minds on air. But so far I haven’t buckled. I see every day on the channel as a bonus. So if I have one more day to tell the truth, we’ll tell the truth, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.

AC: Kya karlengay?

FD: Kya karlengay? Exactly.

AC: My motto too!

FD: So let’s see what happens. I actually see every show, every hour, every day as a bonus. And I see it as an opportunity. So if we’ve been given the opportunity today to do a show, let’s do the best possible show we can put out. Let’s do as honest a job as we can do. And then tomorrow if we get another opportunity, we’ll do it again! So that’s as far as we’ve gotten, to just do that. So there’ll always be threats – some subtly, some rather obvious, but – bring it on! I mean, let’s see what you can do! Bring it on!

AC: Faye, thank you, and just keep fighting the good fight.

FD: Thank you. It was a pleasure.

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