Jammu Tribune: ‘National Press’ Ingress

Shujaat Bukhari
The Chandigarh based leading newspaper, Tribune recently made an entry into the media market in Jammu and Kashmir by launching its “Jammu Tribune” supplement. During the launching ceremony, the Governor N NVohra hoped that it would also reach to Srinagar with a similar mission. 

Dedicating a few pages to the affairs of the state by the regional and national newspapers is not new but the way Tribune has started presenting it, is something significant. With the unprecedented revolution in Information Technology in last over one decade, conflicting trends have emerged in the media scene. In contrast to shrinking space for newspapers in United States and other western countries, more newspapers have started appearing on the news stalls in India. Notwithstanding fast advancements in dissemination of news through social media viz Facebook and Twitter, only 3 percent population in India has direct access to the internet. That is why Hindi press in India is getting stronger and there is hardly any decline in the readership of English newspapers through the hard copies.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the scene is no different. From not more than 30 registered newspapers in 1989, the number has already crossed 800. It is afact that only a handful of newspapers in English and Urdu have a stable readership but the trend of becoming “Editors” has not shown any sign of discouragement.

While the problems of local newspapers (except a few) have not ended, the national newspapers have started looking towards closer connection with the readers in Jammu and Kashmir. Launch of “Tribune Jammu” is part of that experiment. One cannot jump to the judgment about the failure or success of Tribune in eating up the space of other leading English newspapers in Jammu but it certainly would depend upon how the newspaper would deal with the local issues. Jammu is already tasting the local editions of Amar Ujala and Dainik  Jagran, two leading Hindi newspapers of mainland India. After expanding their bureaus, both launched full fledged editions from the city thus making a huge dent into the circulation base of once the “king” of Hindi journalism in the north – Hind Samchar – and to an extent to Dainik Kashmir Times. With a variety of material, from local to national and international affairs, both newspapers have made a difference in the market.

The English newspapers such as Hindustan Times, Times of India and Indian Express had started devoting few pages to the state much earlier. Indian Express had gone ahead by having tie up with a local newspaper. However, the experiment failed to the extent that the circulation with which these newspapers had command in the market went down to a considerable level. Since readers had developed a taste to read a national newspaper for what was happening in rest of India as also how the national media would cover the happenings in the state, they started losing the interest. This was precisely the reason The Indian Express reverted back to catering the market with Delhi edition. Even as Jammu does not have much problems with the political discourse the national media would set in, this surely would not strike a chord in politically volatile Kashmir.

The only experiment done in Kashmir so far is of QuamiAwaz, the Urdu newspaper which happened to be the mouth piece of Congress. With its good quality news presentation and lay out it was launched in 1989. It carved a space and to an extent pushed aside Aftab and Srinagar Times – the two leading Urdu dailies of that time. However, it failed the test when armed rebellion broke out in same year and could not synchronise its editorial policy with the political aspirations of the people. The result was that it was closed down only after few months of its remarkable success in the market.

Launching an edition of a national newspaper from a place like Kashmir cannot be a cakewalk. Its success is caveated with the “compromise” on a dotted  nationalistic line. Like in pre-freedom era of United India, the newspapers such as Times of India, The Statesman and Independent were ahead in technology and presentation, but they failed to make a constituency among the public for being closer to the British rule.

In that vacuum the lesser quality papers like Harijan and Hindustan Times could reach to the people in a better way as they represented their wishes. So in Kashmir, a national newspaper has to take a stand and it remains to be seen whether it can compromise on the larger “national issues”. Coverage of day to day problems of governance and daily events is not a problem for any newspapers that comes from outside but to identify its stand on political issues is the real test. Even the local newspapers face ire on account of what many people think “they are going against the dominant sentiment”.

Entry of national newspapers in Valley is not a major threat to local journalism. The way the local media would cover the happenings in Kashmir, it is not expected that a national newspaper could devote that much of space. Besides highlighting the government activities there is not much scope for the issues thrown up as a consequence of the conflict. But their arrival in the market would definitely help them reach to their existing readers early in the morning. By any stretch of imagination the local advertisement market cannot shift to higher rate structure of national newspapers so easily. It will, however, open space for more young journalists to get better salaries, which in any case is good for the growth of the institution.
Shujaat Bukhari is editor of the Daily Rising Kashmir

The Parsis, Once India’s Curators, Now Shrug as History Rots !


In the course of over one year of archival research in India, I have been heartened to see how, in a few institutions like the National Archives, the country’s rotting history now has a fighting chance of survival. However, I have been deeply dismayed by one observation: the inability of my own community, the Parsis, to properly protect our own history and heritage. In many ways, the Parsi experience reflects a colossal stumbling block toward proper historical preservation in India: a dearth of public activism, support and interest, even amongst the educated and affluent.

The Parsis, long considered the most progressive and socioeconomically advanced community in India, were once at the forefront of establishing and patronizing cultural institutions in Mumbai and Gujarat. We utilized our commercial wealth to help set up libraries, colleges and educational societies in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The leading savants of Europe trained our scholars and priests, who in turn maintained meticulous collections of manuscripts and voluminous libraries.

Elizabeth Dalziel/Associated Press
A Parsi woman and a man pray at a fire temple in Mumbai on the Parsi new year, in this Aug. 21, 2002, file photo.

With some notable exceptions, we have since fallen on hard times. Our institutions did not keep up with new scholarship and preservation techniques. Many old libraries with Parsi connections would qualify as excellent research centers — if it were still 1910. Piles of 100-year-old Encyclopaedia Britannicas, along with popular English literature from the late Victorian era, gather dust in Godrej steel cabinets. Many staff members have a limited idea about what their collections hold, and trustees have looked the other way while irreplaceable runs of 19th century newspapers have been sold off for scrap. I have been in one library where I was told I was the first visitor in four years.

The case of Mumbai’s J.N. Petit Institute illustrates what has happened due to gross neglect and mismanagement. It was founded by one of the community’s most aristocratic families, one that still boasts a Raj-era baronetcy. According to Murali Ranganathan, the Petit Institute has been throwing away “entire cabinets” of valuable books. He found one such item being sold in the premises: a copy of John Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding published in 1746. The Petit Institute, he recalled, was nice enough to issue a receipt for the 40 rupees (less than $1) he paid to purchase this priceless antique volume.

parsis.net.in website
The façade of the old, two-story, Jamsetjee Nesserwanjee Petit Institute building, Bombay, 1938.

According to one “sadly disappointed” Parsi who was briefly affiliated with the library, and who wanted to remain anonymous, the Petit Institute suffers from ailments afflicting countless other libraries across the country: a lack of imagination, ambition and open-mindedness amongst trustees, as well as a complete disconnect with what actually goes on inside the premises. Tellingly, when I contacted library staff, they were unwilling to furnish details on the institute’s trustees, saying that they did not play a very important role (I eventually found contact information for one trustee, who did not return my calls). One library administrator simply acknowledged that the selling and trashing of books “happens everywhere” in India.

Why has all of this happened in a supposedly educated, advanced community? There are many possible reasons. Parsis have steadily been losing command over their native language, Gujarati, rendering an entire corpus of knowledge inaccessible — and therefore less valuable (elderly Parsis have offered me several precious volumes, telling me that they know their children will throw them out). Community institutions have failed to recruit younger Parsis as trustees and patrons, leave alone interest them in their activities.

But the most glaring problem is the hands-off approach most Parsis take toward these institutions. Within a community otherwise known for its philanthropy, there is little sense that ordinary individuals can themselves make positive contributions, financial or otherwise; there is a limited sense of public ownership and collective responsibility. When I tell Parsi audiences about rotting books and decaying collections, individuals in this wealthiest of Indian communities will, more often than not, elicit a sanctimonious “tsk, tsk” — and then promptly forget about the matter altogether. When I broach the subject of fund-raising, someone will invariably say, “Why don’t the Tatas help?,” as if this philanthropic multinational is the only actor capable of helping out.

parsis.net.in website
The reading room and library housed inside the old building of Jamsetjee Nesserwanjee Petit Institute, Bombay, 1938.

Shernaz Cama, a professor in the University of Delhi, realized the devastating consequences of public apathy when she became involved with a Unesco project to save one Parsi institution, the Meherjirana Library, in the Gujarati town of Navsari. When she arrived at the library in 1999, Ms. Cama found a Mughal sanad (property deed) on the wall covered in dust, correspondence with the court of Akbar lying on the floor and windowsills, and DDT being used on books to keep the bugs away. She quickly realized that this was not the fault of the library’s staff — preoccupied with salvaging priceless manuscripts and family trees that Parsis in Navsari were selling to scrap-paper dealers — but rather that of the wider Parsi community that was providing neither funds nor patronage.

With support from Unesco and the National Archives, Ms. Cama and her foundation, Parzor, have fire-proofed and restored the library’s 19th-century building, repaired books and manuscripts, and microfilmed important collections. Scholars from India and across the world have, consequently, descended on this sleepy Gujarati town, discovering new treasures in the library. This January, for example, one doctoral candidate from Harvard, Dan Sheffield, reported having found a portion of a 14th-century Zoroastrian manuscript, the rest of which is in the British Library, that had been missing for centuries.

In spite of the Meherjirana Library’s revival, Ms. Cama remains ambivalent as to whether even the Parsis can better preserve their heritage. “The Parsis definitely have the finances,” she commented, “but they also need the will and the interest to want to keep their history.” The same goes for the rest of the Indian public. I sincerely hope that, as Indians become wealthier and more educated, the Parsi experience proves to be the exception, rather than the rule, to how the past is treated.

(courtesy: Dinyar Patel & Firstpost)

Dinyar Patel is a Ph.D. candidate in history at Harvard University, currently working on a dissertation on Dadabhai Naoroji and early Indian nationalism. He can be reached at dpatel@fas.harvard.edu.

“Aami paari….Bus dhore chole aashi eikhane. Bus-ta barir samne nabiye dyay.Bikri kore chole jaye “

Hearts meet and melt on a Chowringhee pavement

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Here’s to the spirit of Calcutta, alive and kicking in the grit of an 83-year-old selling savouries on a pavement, the compassion of a college girl passing by and the response of strangers to a Facebook post for support.

Octogenarian Shila Ghosh changes two buses to reach the Exide crossing on Chowringhee Road from Bally, in Howrah, every afternoon to sell chips on the pavement outside Haldiram till the flow of the homebound-crowd ebbs.

Her breadwinner son died of a heart ailment around six months ago and she needs the money — around Rs 150 on an average for an evening’s toil — to supplement her grandson’s meagre earnings from odd jobs.

College girl Sufia Khatoon didn’t know Shila’s story, but would often pause to watch her from a distance and wonder what circumstances might have forced a woman older than her grandmother to spend evenings working.

Sufia felt she needed to do something about it. A Facebook post later, 22 other Samaritans converged on the busy junction around 5.30pm last Friday to surprise Shila with “a small donation”.

Shila, stooping of body but upright of mind, had a bigger surprise for them.

“She accepted the Rs 1,600 we had mobilised for her but declined further monetary help. She told us she wanted to earn a living rather than live off donations,” Sufia recalled.

If the group was still willing to help her, Shila said she would rather they set up a kiosk for her. “Aami paari….Bus dhore chole aashi eikhane. Bus-ta barir samne nabiye dyay.Bikri kore chole jaye (I am capable of earning my bread. I come here and return by bus, it drops me in front of my house),” she told Metro.

Last heard, the list of Shila admirers had swelled, each member eager to ease her strain without making her feel she was dependent on anyone.

“We are dealing with someone very strong in the mind. I believe the initiative should not end with donating some money. We need to find a long-term solution to problems faced by people like Shila,” said Sanjay Dutta, a 42-year-old Park Circus businessman.

Amitava Sinha Chaudhury, a 20-year-old college student who had responded to Sufia’s post and turned up at the Exide crossing on Friday, said it would be an insult to Shila if people offered her “alms”.

Mashi (aunt)’s never-say-die spirit should be respected. We bought almost half her stock of chips that day to help her without making her feel we were doing her a favour,” Amitava said.

Kalyani Bhowmick, 25, had stopped to see why there was a commotion around the elderly woman and ended up joining the group.

“I wasn’t aware of this group. I salute them for what they have volunteered to do and will be glad to do my bit to help Mashi in whatever way I can,” Kalyani said.

Sufia sees the spontaneous response to her plea for support on Facebook as an opportunity to carry her desire to help people like Shila forward.

“It all started with my first glimpse of Mashi. She reminded me of my grandmother and I thought hers wasn’t the age to work, but to rest at home,” she recounted.

So what made her post Shila’s story on Facebook? “I just felt I should do it and I tagged my friends. Their contacts saw the post and soon a few of us started interacting to find out how we could help. We decided to meet and the rest fell into place,” Sufia said.

On Friday, a couple of members of the group even escorted Shila home in a taxi, sparing her the usual bus ride to Bally. “Many people saw us giving her money. So we thought it wouldn’t be safe to let her go on her own,” said Amitava.

Sufia, who has just started the Facebook page OurWorldOurInitiative to further the cause, hopes her small step for Mashi would inspire a giant leap in the service of the city’s downtrodden.

‘print media journalists are in many ways able to come out with a better fact’

Unlike the manufactured truth or half-truth or something else (of electronic media), the print media journalists are in many ways able to come out with a better fact.

Who can come out with a better truth, a television journalist or print media one. Apparently the former, equipped with camera and microphone, is in a better position to break more ground than the unarmed pen-pusher.

While speaking in a function organized to release his book, “Anna: 13 Days That Awakened India,” in Patna on March 18, the author Ashutosh, who is incidentally the Managing Editor of IBN-7, explained the role the media, especially the private electronic channels, played in exposing corruption at the top level and the advantage the TV channels have in doing that. (In Delhi the book was released by Anna Hazare himself on March 21).

Ashutosh narrated how in August last he literally abandoned his studio to spend days covering Anna Hazare’s fast as he actually wanted to know the truth, that is, how the common mass think about the issue.

Since Ashutosh writes for the print media too he was, in no way, running down its importance though he was critical of English-speaking class as well as some fellow journalists who, according to him, opposed Anna’s movement. But a big question arises from what he said. Is a high-profile television journalist really in a better position to know the real truth? Or it is still the faceless low-profile reporter of any newspaper who can do this job in more appropriate way?

True, the private television channels have decisive edge in showing all sorts of happenings related to any development, movement, scams, mishaps etc. The print media may never match them. But so far gauging the real mood of the people or gleaning the truth is concerned the print media is still ahead and will remain so in future too.

The likes of Ashutosh––or even the lesser mortals in the channels––are not better-positioned to know the real truth because they are not unidentified. It is very difficult for them to maintain ear-to-the-ground approach. As most of the people, to whom a TV journalist approaches for any view, know him or her, they would speak more guardedly. They would give byte, according to the demand of the situation. After all the charm of appearing in camera prompts a person to give the view to the liking of the journalist, who is asking the question. Since an overwhelming number of those present at Ram Lila Maidan were aware of Ashutosh’s stand on the fast those interviewed would not say anything against it.

A girl student of a college learnt this lesson a wrong way a few months back when she told a top lady electronic media journalist something about a particular chief minister, which was not of her liking. That journalist half-smilingly told the girl that she is not interested in negative comment about that particular leader. The hapless girl did not get space while the bytes of her friends were prominently highlighted.

A print media journalist does not behave like a celebrity and can mix in the common mass. He could gauge the mood of the people by just eavesdropping in the crowd, in the suburban train, bus etc. S/he can stand up in long queue for getting cooking gas cylinder anywhere in the country. S/he does not even need to disclose his/her identity. So unlike the manufactured truth or half-truth or something else, the print media journalists are in many ways able to come out with a better fact.

Even for sting operation the TV media has to rely on anonymous face.

Though the TV camera may highlight the apparent hardship of the people the inner feelings and pain could be known only by the journalist who stand with the toiling mass without giving his or her own introduction.

It is always man, or nowadays woman, behind the machine who matter. But in case of TV journalism it is machine––that is camera––which do most of the work. The role of person behind it gets minimized. Yet many senior TV journalists often end up boasting that what they are showing to the world is the ultimate truth. In this brave new world of media the truth itself has become a relative concept.

Upcoming 6 new publications in English, Hindi, Marathi & Kannada !

National Dunia, a Hindi daily

SB Media has launched a new Hindi daily, National Dunia, today. The newspaper will be circulated in Delhi, NCR and Ghaziabad. National Dunia consists of 16 main pages and four supplementary pages. It has a cover price of Rs 3. The four-page supplement that will accompany National Dunia will be dedicated to health, education and entertainment. This will be an everyday affair with the exception of Sunday when a 48-page magazine consisting of current affairs and infotainment will be circulated with the newspaper without any extra charge.

Life 365

Pune-based Aaj Ka Anand Papers is all set to foray into the English daily space with its new launch, Life 365, from April 15. The group brings out a Hindi daily, Aaj Ka Ananad and a Marathi eveninger, Sandhyanand. As a promotional offer, Life 365 will be bundled along with Aaj Ka Anand. Life 365 has been doing test runs for the past 15 days and the feedback to the newspaper has been good.



Divya Marathi,  Solapur

Dainik Bhaskar Group launched the fifth edition of its Marathi newspaper, Divya Marathi, from Solapur, Maharashtra, on March 31, 2012. The first edition of Divya Marathi was launched from Aurangabad in May 2011. Thereafter, other editions from Nashik, Jalgaon and Ahmednagar were also launched. With five editions of Divya Marathi, the group now completes its coverage in the state of central Maharashtra. In the overall number of publications, this is the 65th edition of the group.

Kannada daily, Vijayavani

VRL Media’s Kannada daily, Vijayavani, hit the stands early this week. It is currently circulated to three prime markets, namely, Bengaluru, Mangalore and Hoobly and is priced at Rs 2.50. The daily is planning to expand its circulation to Bijapur and Mysore.


Following which editions from Gangavati, Chitiradurga, Shimoga and Gulbarga will be published in two months’ time. Vijayavani is the only all-colour Kannada daily in the market. Chinnappa Bhat will lead the editorial division of Vijayavani. Apart from the regular content, a four-page special supplement catering to various interests will be circulated with the main edition every day. The supplements will focus on a range of topics such as literature, astrology, lifestyle, movies, health, travel, education, etc.

Women’s Health

India Today Group launched its new magazine, Women’s Health, on April 2, 2012 in New Delhi. The magazine is a sister product of Men’s Health and is published by US-based Rodale. India is the 27th country to launch the magazine. Women’s Health will showcase doctors, celebrity fitness trainers, weight loss coaches, and sex and relationship counselors. The print run of the monthly magazine is approximately 45000-50000. It has a cover price of Rs 100. The magazine is targeted at women who are in their 20’s and 30’s. These are the women who came of age with a sense of confidence and belief that anything is possible. Women’s Health not only addresses issues such as health, fitness, weight loss and eating right, but also offers 360-degree solutions for a young woman’s life. It focuses on issues such as relationships, success at the workplace, etc. he cornerstone of all this is service journalism that puts the reader and upgrading her life ahead of everything else. But Women’s Health does it with boldness and verve. It makes health fun and easy to achieve. Women’s Health currently has 14 international editions and is present in 27 countries such as The United States, Italy, Germany, UK, Turkey, China, India, among others.

Print gives ‘sukh’, TV adds to the ‘shor’!!

“Today print gives ‘sukh’ and TV adds to the ‘shor’. Technology has helped us but it also has had an impact on language and content.”, said Vartika Nanda, journalist, lecturer and media columnist, referring to the PMO tweet on the reduced reading habits of children today. Media veterans spoke to exchange4media on the issues facing Hindi and regional media. These passionate journalists shared their views on the possibilities and challenges of the medium.

“There are still many corners of India that have not yet been reached by newspapers,” observed veteran journalist, Sanjeev Shrivastava.

But this is no comment on the growth of media, which had been accelerated by the spread of literacy, education and the growing demand of print, added Shravan Garg, Group Editor, Dainik Bhaskar.

“There exists a stiff competition in the print industry, leading to many small newspapers being wound up. News gathering is an expensive process, but it is the way forward,” he added.

The possibilities of print media should be seen in short-term, mid-term and long-term basis. Harping on the reality today of parents aspiring to send their kids to English-medium schools, it is quite apparent that this trend will continue with the next generation too. “‘Bhasha’ will become ‘gareeb’ media,” Rahul Dev, veteran journalist, pointed out from a long-term perspective.

Content is king

Referring to the PMO tweet on the reduced reading habits of children today, was journalist, lecturer and media columnist Vartika Nanda. She said, “Today print gives ‘sukh’ and TV adds to the ‘shor’. Technology has helped us but it also has had an impact on language and content.”

With content as the topic, it was inevitable that the topic of ‘paid news’ reared its head. Vinod Behl, Editor, Realty Plus brought up this issue saying that if it is an advertorial, it can be differentiated, but if it is paid news, it is impossible to make out and the readers automatically think that it is real news.

Ajay Upadhya, Executive Editor, Amar Ujjala shared a hard-hitting comment on content. He said, “Content has the power to bring a tear or a smile; if a person cannot react to content, it is not content.”

Sanjeev Shrivastava, Shravan Garg, Rahul Dev, Vartika Nanda, Vinod Behl and Ajay Upadhya shared their views during a workshop on ‘Changing format of Hindi and regional media: prospect and crisis’ organised by samachar4media.

Anandabazar Patrika eyes STAR

Indian media group Anandabazar Patrika aims to buy out STAR Group‘s 26 percent stake in their Indian television joint venture, the Business Standard reported on Monday.

The group is parting ways with the Rupert Murdoch-controlled television group after months of discontent over editorial and other strategic issues, the newspaper said, citing an unnamed official involved in the negotiations.

“It’s final now. The two legal teams are working out the details and the fine print will be clear very soon,” it quoted the official as saying.

Dipankar Das Purkayastha, managing director of Anandabazaar Patrika, denied any such plans, the paper said.

Media Content & Communications Services India Pvt Ltd, the joint venture, runs three news channels in India – STAR News in Hindi, STAR Ananda in Bengali and STAR Majha in Marathi.

“This is a closely held joint venture. I am not going to comment on market speculation,” the paper quoted Uday Shankar, chief executive of STAR India Pvt Ltd, as saying.