The future of newspapers

Will newspapers still be called newspapers if they cease to print on papers? Or will it simply be the online news site?

It’s kind of absurd in Nepali context to think that newspapers is facing big challenge from online web sites – especially at the time when the newspapers are actually growing. But unlike many other technologies, web technology impacts very quickly and it’s not completely worthless to predict that in a decade or so, newspaper would become a rarity!

Wait… the newspaper here means the newspapers printed on the pulp paper and thrown to our door early morning or bought from stalls.
The hardware that is making news these days is e-reader. Beginning from Amazon’s Kindle to Barnes & Noble’s Nook to Sony’s readers to announced-but-not-available Skiff to just announced Apple’s iPad, e-readers are hot products.

With hot products come predictions. For many technology writers, e-readers are future of newspapers. Here is a new one in the line: Can the Apple iPad save newspapers? By Mercedes Bunz in the Guardian’s The Digital Content Blog. The concluding line of the writing is: If Steve Jobs would save journalism, it might be possible that publishers would get him the Holy Grail. And, there are many such blogs, and articles in the same line.

What I am wondering at is that will newspapers be still called newspapers if they are not available on paper and only available in e-readers. And, most important question is: is online killing journalism? Or does death of newspapers mean death of newspapers?

For me, newspaper will not be newspapers if they are not on papers. They will simply be online news site – regardless of what design they have or in which devices they are available. The media industry (for now, the newspaper industry) can neither remain constraint with once-a-day update in the growing threat from pure online news portals nor they can avoid multimedia even if their products are only available in e-readers.

If that happens, the line between online news portals and used-to-be-printed-on-paper online news will be blurred and omitted.

E-readers can off course save the media industry who can simply close-down printing presses (and replace by a team of web designers and programmers) in the fight of survival with the online news portals.

And, I believe newspapers are not the yardstick of journalism. Journalism is collecting, writing and presenting of news and in doing so following some universally accepted principles such as accuracy, objectivity and fairness.
As a blogger – I always believed that there is nothing called absolute objectivity (for that matter nothing absolutely right or absolutely wrong). It depends on the perspective of the individuals. And, I also believe that feelings of the human being in any news are more important than facts.

Journalism should evolve; the principles we hold today for it were not the exact principles held a few decades ago and they will not remain exact in next few decades. So, even if there is no newspapers, journalism will remain with more strong principles and matured practices.

Newspapers may be something not as popular as it today, but media industry will remain [I don’t say survive because falling down of companies and rising of new companies is a constant process]. But the dominant medium will be web!

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Someday, we will find a way

These days I am almost optimistic about Nepal’s political future. True, because I believe in what the world should call ‘the Nepali magic’: when it looks like we are going to worse, something good happens and we move towards better.

Wasn’t it true during the 1990 Revolution? Everybody believed the then King Birendra bowed down too early, but it was exactly at the time when the Jana Andolan (the Popular Movement) was looking to go bloody.

It was also true for the Maoist Conflict. It took almost 14,000 lives but then after 10 years of the beginning, the so-called People’s War came to an end exactly at the time when Nepali started getting frustrated with daily news of violence.

So with monarchy! With soft-heart Birendra, monarchy was almost okay but after the Royal Massacre that killed all the royals except a few, Gynendra did not appeal much of the people. Yet he decided to become powerful playing on people’s frustrations over political parties. And, with army censoring media; leaders house-arrested, it looked like a glum future – at least half-a-dozen years.

But when other things looked like not working, the people rose. The Jana Andolan II or April Uprising was built on two things: the hope of peace (since Maoist tied with other political parties and signed a deal) and democracy!

It too was successful without much blood!

Right now, darkness looks like descending. May 28, 2010 is the deadline for the Constituent Assembly (CA) to promulgate the new constitution or to die. The Interim Constitution is silent about CA’s extension and at least legal experts believe CA can not be extended in a constitutional way (off course, the CA can do it politically).

President Dr Ram Baran Yadav is either urging the parties to complete constitution writing in time or has grown ambitious about ruling. His advisors, and he himself, is saying he would be the only man in power standing if the CA fails.

If that happens, we will have a constitutional deadlock and may be an autocratic ruler who also happens to be the supreme commander of the Nepal Army (and has a soft corner from among the army men for saving their chief from falling ‘constitutional acting’ against the Maoist government decision).

What then?

As an optimistic citizen with faith on the Nepali magic (which I believe is the result of Nepali’s peace-loving / patriotic nature), I believe the CA will meet the deadline.

I am also saying this because almost all the groundwork – the draft documentation of the constitution’s major parts that takes time – has already been completed (kudos to the CA members in the thematic committees).

The delay is due to difference in some aspect that needs the consensus / agreement among major political parties (read: top leaders) which they can garnish within a few days (and they would meet day and night, here and there, on person and on phone) to agree.

Let’s be optimistic! (However, let’s continue being concerned about it.)

[The title of the post is a line of a song that I love: Someday by Nazanin Afshin Jam who is an Iran-born Canadian Miss World runners-up and social worker. The chorus is: Someday, we will find a way, someday, someday, someday, the darkness fades away, someday. If you want to hear/watch the song, here it is; lyrics here.]

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Today is Poush 27 according to Bikram Sambat calendar and it’s the National Unity Day. The government in 2007 decided to cancel the public holiday because it was the birth anniversary of King Prithivi Narayan Shah – the first king of greater Nepal.

His birth anniversary was celebrated as the public holiday for his unification of 52 states that makes the present-day Nepal more than 250 years ago.

Photo by Bikash Karki
Statue of Prithivi Narayan Shah in Kathmandu. Photo by Bikash Karki

Critics say his unification was a personal ambition and that he failed to unite the country culturally, but everything great people do is a personal ambition and nobody in the world is so perfect that they would do everything right.

For a Nepali citizen like me who grew up being proud to be a national of ever-independent nation (because Nepal was never a colony), what Prithivi Narayan Shah did was a great contribution. If we evaluate him in present day’s context or from what his grandsons or great grandsons did to the country, it would be a wrong approach.

For that, I believe, Prithivi Narayan Shah should remain a hero of the nation and that National Unity Day should be celebrated (public holiday is not only one thing to celebrate).

If a word best describes him, then its UNITY. And, unity is a pressing need in present Nepal. And, also unity is what made magical transformation here with the armed conflict coming to an end and republic democracy being established throwing out the autocratic monarchy.

But unity is still needed. Unity is needed (most importantly among leaders and political parties) for:

  • Writing constitution in time
  • Concluding peace process
  • Holding election in accordance with new constitution

Off course, the need of unity does not end there. It’s always required for the betterment and development of the nation, but then after the transition period of political transformation ends, we – our leaders and political parties will have spare time to remain in conflict (though not desirable).

Photo by Bikash Karki
United Nepal: The statue of Prithivi Narayan Shah in front of Nepal's main administrative building Singha Durbar. Photo by Bikash Karki

Let’s celebrate the Unity Day. Let’s demand unity among our representatives!

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High Level Political Mechanism?

On January 8, a High Level Political Mechanism was constituted by the chairs of three main political parties – the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal – Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML).

Since it was a meeting that involved Girija Prasad Koirala, 86, it took place at his residence [because he is fragile and does not like travelling much]. And, the octogenarian leader showed he is still the most important man in Nepali politics by becoming the co-ordinator of the mechanism that, for the sake of all of us, aims to conclude the peace process, write constitution and remove political deadlocks.

Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda and UML chairman Jhala Nath Khanal are the members, at least for now and, don’t be surprised, they look at Koirala as the savior for their ‘intra-party political supremacy’.

Koirala is undisputed in his party (that is unless he decides to promote his daughter); the towering figure in Nepali politics who seems to run only by his own will.

Prachanda’s supremacy in Maoists is threatened: Dr Baburam Bhattarai, who seems to garnish more political ‘is-good’ impression, is favored by many for his calmness (over Prachanda’s aggression / comical image).

Prachanda’s fear for losing his supremacy was seen in his leaked audio where he accused India of trying to promote Bhattarai as the next Prime Minister and the Maoist Central Committee’s decision that Prachanda would led the government if they join in.

Khanal defeated KP Sharma Oli in the election of chairman but the two are involved in an intra-party conflict so fiercely that the UML looks like in the verge of breakdown. Apart from that, if Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal succeeds, he would be credited for everything – and that will not do much good for Khanal as Nepal, a soft man without lofty ambitions, could
prefer Oli.

In such scenario, both Prachanda and Khanal need to do something grand on which they can firmly stand – at least within the party. High Level Political Mechanism is a part of that [This also explains why both Bhattarai and Oli questioned on the mechanism].

A little bit of bait for Koirala too: the government has decided to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize and his chances at becoming the first Nepali to be honored with a Nobel Prize will increase greatly if he could get credit of the peace process.

Political games apart, the High Level Political Mechanism could prove vital and good for Nepal. I am not as worried as Oli or Bhattarai, for I do not actually care on the questions they arose if the mechanism could complete its objectives – which is the pressing need of the time.

As rarity almost on political front that I am optimistic [unlike a lot other friends] that despite whatsoever is going on, a couple of months here and there, we are going to conclude the peace process and promulgate the new constitution. And, of course, if the top three leaders could sit together under a mechanism, it’s obviously a very good sign.

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