The curious case of Barkha Dutt and Shekhar Gupta’s joint venture

In the beginning of this year, senior journalist Shekhar Gupta of the coup story fame and controversial journalist Barkha Dutt of Radia tapes fame announced launch of The Print – a news media startup. They tweeted almost the same thing while making the announcement:

There was much excitement – mostly from Mr. Gupta and Ms. Dutt themselves and their fans – about this new venture that was another in a series of news media startups that followed ventures like leftist propaganda blog Scroll, its not-for-profit clone The Wire, AAP mouthpiece Janta Ka Reporter, and Patrika group’s Catch News that was led by Shoma Chaudhary of Tarun Tejpal fame.

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In individual capacities, both Mr. Gupta and Ms. Dutt had taken interesting professional decisions before this announcement was made public. Mr. Gupta had “restructured” his relationship with India Today group, which he had joined after quitting The Indian Express, in a way that allowed him to form his own venture, while Barkha Dutt had done the same with respect to NDTV.

With their announcements coming on heels of such career decisions, it was assumed that The Print was their joint-venture. However, company records told a different story. Shekhar Gupta had formed a company called Mediascape where Barkha Dutt was not publicly listed as a director even six months after the announcement, while Shekhar Gupta was not listed as a director in a company formed by Barkha Dutt.

OpIndia.com checked the public records of all the companies where either Shekhar Gupta or Barkha Dutt were listed as directors, and found that none of these companies had both of them listed together as directors. The only place where both of them were listed together as co-founders was the bio or tweets of Twitter account of The Print.

However, the bio of The Print on Twitter was changed in July this year, and Barkha Dutt’s name was removed as co-founder.

This happened at a time when Barkha Dutt was involved in yet another controversy where Pakistan based terrorist Hafiz Sayeed had praised her for “doing good work in Kashmir”. She was also involved in a war of words with Arnab Goswami at the same time, lobbying with fellow journalists to attack Arnab.

People online wondered if this was the reason Barkha Dutt’s name was removed. Was Shekhar Gupta trying to disassociate himself from Barkha Dutt after she was praised by a terrorist?

Once such questions were asked by many on the social media, Barkha Dutt’s name was added back as co-founder within a day by The Print:

As always, these two media personalities, who love to ask questions to others, chose to ignore the questions about why Barkha Dutt’s name was removed in first place.

Now around 10 weeks later, Barkha Dutt’s name has gone missing from The Print’s bio on Twitter again. We noticed it after The Print actively started promoting its flagship event Off The Cuff with industrialist Mukesh Ambani.

In the invite for the Off The Cuff event with Mukesh Ambani, Barkha’s name as a co-host was missing, though her company “Barkha Dutt Live Media” was mentioned as being in alliance along with 5 other brands.

Not only Barkha Dutt’s name was missing, but Barkha herself was missing from the event, as confirmed by herself:

Also notable is the fact that while The Print and Shekhar Gupta have been advertising the interview with Mukesh Ambani almost non-stop on Twitter, Barkha Dutt hasn’t sent out a single tweet, except the one above, about it, let alone advertising it (at the time of writing this report, which is five days after the event got over).

Maybe because Mukesh Ambani said he likes to watch Arnab Goswami at prime time?

Or maybe because Shekhar Gupta and Barkha Dutt have parted ways and are no longer partners in The Print? If so, what caused this rift? Did Barkha leave voluntarily or was she asked to leave due to continuous controversies surrounding her?

We got in touch with The Print both on Twitter as well as through email on Tuesday and waited for their response for 4 days. We sent reminders too, but we received no response. We will update this report if we receive a response.

In absence of any response, we conclude three things:

  1. For some reason, The Print doesn’t want to disclose who owns the brand legally.
  2. Removal of Barkha Dutt’s name as co-founder, twice since inception, indicates that something is not working between Shekhar Gupta and Barkha Dutt.
  3. Our celebrity journalists love to ask questions, but hate to answer them.
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