12 Sep 2017

The business of business journalism: Anirban Sen

Things aren’t going too well for the first Indian company to be listed on NASDAQ: Infosys. Ever since the resignation of Vishal Sikka as the CEO of the company, a number of questions have been raised to which answers are still pending. A news report about the crucial 9 August emails, from N.R. Narayana Murthy, telling advisers that at least three independent directors had been complaining about CEO Vishal Sikka forecasted his resignation. This important story was covered by IIJNM alumnus Anirban Sen.

To give the students some insight into the work that went behind the article, Anirban conducted a guest lecture on the business of business journalism. During the lecture, he highlighted the two trigger points that led to this story: The resignation of Ritika Suri, a true confidant of Sikka, in spite of their cordial family relationship and the first letter that Murthy wrote to the board members expressing disappointment with Sikka’s performance.

His lecture identified: how to deal with the raw information provided and how to cross check its validity. He taught us how to use the Bombay Stock Exchange’s website to identify reliable sources and get in touch with them. “Another alternate option to get in touch with them would be to attend the AGM’s that the company holds,” he added.

On being asked about the ethical aspects that were, in some ways, compromised during the entire unveiling, he said that it is always healthier to look at the larger picture and take decisions in tandem with the editors’, after having consulted the legal team, if required. Not compromising the sources’ designation and his reputation he said was the primary objective to concentrate on even before thinking of carrying out the story. A source has the potential to give out a bigger breakthrough in the future if rapport and trust are maintained. So, if a story puts the source in trouble, the story should not be carried out. The higher the designation of the source, the lesser the background check you’ll have to run, Anirban advised. Working your way up to reach that source is time consuming. He suggested that the best way to make high profile contacts were: to get an introduction by a mutual contact or to write a lot of articles and build a reputation in the industry.

Anirban taught the students how to: to start conversations and invest a lot of time in building sources, and keep them posted with the hope that they would return the favour. Stressing on the importance of source building, Anirban taught us that LinkedIn serves as a great platform for beginners to build and sustain a reliable pool of sources.

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