The Hot List 2017: Faye D’Souza (Journalist)
The voice of reason that prime time national television was waiting for
“All you men think that if you rattle women when they are doing their jobs, they will run back into their kitchens, they will cover themselves up, and leave the world again for you to conquer. I have news for you: we are not going anywhere.” When this particular quote from the June 9th episode of The Urban Debate on (the still very new channel) Mirror Now went viral, several media outlets and Internet personalities scrambled around to find out more about the woman behind the powerful words, Faye D’Souza. The Mumbai-based journalist was thrust into the spotlight thanks to her firm but calm response when Maulana Qasim, a panelist on her show, suggested she go to work in her underwear if she would like to be considered equal to a man.
More than the words themselves, the buzz revolved around the grace with which D’Souza handled the situation—a heavy contrast to other panels on television which eventually end in screaming and profanities. “We’ve gotten so used to this kind of nautankibaaz (drama) on television that we’ve forgotten that it’s possible to respond to someone in a tough but civilized and polite manner,” says D’Souza. “People say stuff to [women] all the time—you’re either too fat or too thin, dress to provocatively or like behenji or wear too much make-up or not enough and we also tend to brush it off. But with a comment like the one that Maulana made… at some point we need to call it out. It’s not okay to tell me what to wear.”
“I don’t think you can be a journalist if you’re afraid.”
After studying journalism at Mount Carmel College in Bengaluru and while working on a master’s degree in mass communication, D’Souza started her career with All India Radio, hosting a couple of news broadcasts and music shows on air.“I really wanted to work in radio but radio doesn’t do news in India,” she says, her voice and articulation powerful and smooth even over the phone. After completing her master’s degree, D’Souza joined CNBC TV18 and stayed there for almost five years, working with a team called the Consumer Desk and reporting on mutual funds, consumer grievances and corporate crime. “It was a great foundation to look at the news from the average, middle-class point of view,” she says. “Post that I worked with ET Now—I was editor of personal finance and real estate. I think all of that built into what I do right now which is basically look at everything from a citizen/consumer point of view.”
It’s a thought process that eventually led to the conception of Mirror Now. With a staff of around 50, the channel is still relatively small, but has catapulted into the frontlines of daily news with the likes of sister channel Times Now, CNN-NEWS18, India Today, NDTV 24×7 and the Arnab Goswami-helmed Republic TV in less than a year of its launch in April. But the key difference, as D’Souza points out, is Mirror Now’s unrelenting focus on citizens and services over politics. “When we started off the idea was to launch a channel that focuses on citizens and not on politics, not on big interviews or breaking news or geo-political stuff,” says D’Souza. “I get asked this a lot, ‘Are you a nationalist channel?’ And my answer is, ‘Hell yes!’” Her work has garnered praise from other prolific journalists including Barkha Dutt, Vikas Dandekar, Srinivasan Jain and Madhu Trehan.
A simple sweep through social media reveals many younger audiences tuning into Mirror Now, following D’Souza on several platforms, getting involved in discussions with her and making their voices heard. I ask her how she is able to get teenagers and young adults interested in the news and she credits it to the fact that the team at Mirror Now is also very young. “They’re pitching stories that matter to them and that’s automatically what you’ll see on screen. It’s what affects you.” Topics discussed include people dying on roads because of potholes, ADHAAR, India’s job crisis, women’s safety and more all topics that young people today are eager to learn about. “It sort of reconfirms our faith that this sort of journalism has an audience.”
With all the hate surrounding anything a woman says or does (one needs to only look at the Rs. 10 crore bounty on actor Deepika Padukone’s head for doing her job and acting in a film) I ask D’Souza if she ever has a moment of fear before taking on a topic she knows will be controversial. “I think that’s one of the advantages of having such a young team: they’re very ballsy,” she says with a laugh. “What happens is we’re very careful about being legally correct. Make sure that you’re legally in the right place, treating the story the right way and looking at it from all angles. But afraid of controversy or backlash? No, we’ve never been. I don’t think you can be a journalist if you’re afraid.”
Watch Faye D’Souza’s powerful argument from the June 9th episode at the 44:29 mark below: