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 ifÂ you rattle women when theyÂ are doing their jobs, they willÂ run back into their kitchens,Â they will cover themselves up, and leaveÂ the world again for you to conquer. I haveÂ news for you: we are not going anywhere.”Â When this particular quote from the JuneÂ 9th episode of The Urban Debate on (theÂ still very new channel) Mirror Now wentÂ viral, several media outlets and InternetÂ personalities scrambled around to find outÂ more about the woman behind the powerfulÂ words, Faye D’Souza. The Mumbai-basedÂ journalist was thrust into the spotlightÂ thanks to her firm but calm response whenÂ Maulana Qasim, a panelist on her show,Â suggested she go to work in her underwearÂ if she would like to be considered equal toÂ a man.
More than the words themselves, theÂ buzz revolved around the grace with whichÂ D’Souza handled the situation””a heavyÂ contrast to other panels on television whichÂ eventually end in screaming and profanities.Â “We’ve gotten so used to this kindÂ of nautankibaazÂ (drama) on television thatÂ we’ve forgotten that it’s possibleÂ to respond to someone in a toughÂ but civilized and polite manner,”Â says D’Souza. “People say stuffÂ to [women] all the time””you’reÂ either too fat or too thin, dressÂ to provocatively or like behenjiÂ or wear too much make-up or not enoughÂ and we also tend to brush it off. But with aÂ comment like the one that Maulana made”¦Â at some point we need to call it out. It’s notÂ okay to tell me what to wear.”
“I don’t think you can be a journalist ifÂ you’re afraid.”
After studying journalism at Mount CarmelÂ College in Bengaluru and while workingÂ on a master’s degree in mass communication,Â D’Souza started her career with AllÂ India Radio, hosting a couple of news broadcastsÂ and music shows on air.“I really wantedÂ to work in radio but radio doesn’t do newsÂ in India,” she says, her voice and articulationÂ powerful and smooth even over the phone.Â After completing her master’s degree,Â D’Souza joined CNBC TV18 and stayedÂ there for almost five years, working with aÂ team called the Consumer Desk and reportingÂ on mutual funds, consumer grievancesÂ and corporate crime. “It was a great foundationÂ to look at the news from the average,Â middle-class point of view,” she says. “PostÂ that I worked with ET Now””I was editor ofÂ personal finance and real estate. I think allÂ of that built into what I do right now whichÂ is basically look at everything from a citizen/consumer point of view.”
It’s a thought process that eventually ledÂ to the conception of Mirror Now. With aÂ staff of around 50, the channel is still relativelyÂ small, but has catapulted into theÂ frontlines of daily news with the likes ofÂ sister channel Times Now, CNN-NEWS18,Â India Today, NDTV 24×7 and the ArnabÂ Goswami-helmed Republic TV in less thanÂ a year of its launch in April. But the key difference,Â as D’Souza points out, is MirrorÂ Now’s unrelenting focus on citizens and servicesÂ over politics. “When we started off theÂ idea was to launch a channel that focusesÂ on citizens and not on politics, not on bigÂ interviews or breaking news or geo-politicalÂ stuff,” says D’Souza. “I get asked thisÂ a lot, ”˜Are you a nationalist channel?’Â And my answer is, ”˜HellÂ yes!’” Her work has garneredÂ praise from other prolific journalistsÂ including Barkha Dutt,Â Vikas Dandekar, SrinivasanÂ Jain and Madhu Trehan.
A simple sweep throughÂ social media reveals manyÂ younger audiences tuningÂ into Mirror Now, followingÂ D’Souza on several platforms,Â getting involved in discussionsÂ with her and makingÂ their voices heard. IÂ ask her how she is ableÂ to get teenagers andÂ young adults interested inÂ the news and she credits itÂ to the fact that the team atÂ Mirror Now is also veryÂ young. “They’re pitchingÂ stories that matter to them andÂ that’s automatically what you’llÂ see on screen. It’s what affectsÂ you.” Topics discussed includeÂ people dying on roads becauseÂ of potholes, ADHAAR, India’sÂ job crisis, women’s safety andÂ more all topics that young peopleÂ today are eager to learn about. “It sortÂ of reconfirms our faith that this sort ofÂ journalism has an audience.”
With all the hate surrounding anythingÂ a woman says or does (one needsÂ to only look at the Rs. 10 crore bounty onÂ actor Deepika Padukone’s head for doingÂ her job and acting in a film) I ask D’SouzaÂ if she ever has a moment of fear before takingÂ on a topic she knows will be controversial.Â “I think that’s one of the advantagesÂ of having such a young team: they’re veryÂ ballsy,” she says with a laugh. “What happensÂ is we’re very careful about being legallyÂ correct. Make sure that you’re legally in theÂ right place, treating the story the right wayÂ and looking at it from all angles. But afraidÂ of controversy or backlash? No, we’ve neverÂ been. I don’t think you can be a journalist ifÂ you’re afraid.”
Watch Faye D’Souza’s powerful argument from the June 9th episode at the 44:29 mark below: