Future of news-on-papers

Will newspapers still be called newspapers if they are not printed on paper? Or will it simply be called something like online news site or news-in-hands or news onscreen?

It is kind of absurd in the Nepali context to think that newspapers are facing a big challenge from technological advancement in the digital form, especially at a time when newspapers are actually growing in numbers and overall circulation. According to an internationally-acclaimed prediction, Nepal is among the last nations from where newspapers would disappear, some 40 to 50 years from now.

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Don’t just clap

September 23, 1984: Nepal won the football gold in the First South Asian Games (SAG) defeating Bangladesh 4-2 in the final. Three years later, Nepal lost to India in the SAG final. In 1999, Nepal reached the final once again, this time against Bangladesh, who won the title in a much competitive match held in Kathmandu.

Fast forward to 2010. Nepal’s football campaign ended with the lone win against Bhutan in the 11th SAG. Nepal was not even considered a title contender during the games. Until a decade ago, Nepal’s football was as strong as that of any other team in the South Asian region.

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Thank you, too, Dias dai!

“We nearly beat Sri Lanka,” Roy Dias, Nepal’s long-time cricket coach told his wife Tharanga over the phone after the completion of the Asian Games 2010 match.

Tharanga was probably surprised, not only by the ability of Nepal’s team to put her country on the tight rope, but rather by the way her husband referred to Nepal as “we.” “We’re Sri Lankans!” she remarked.

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Paras Shah: Crown Prince to Prison?

Former crown prince of Nepal Paras Shah was ‘taken under control’ by police on charges of firing with an illegal bullet at a resort inside a national park late night and threatening a Bangladeshi of life. No matter what will the court decide, the series of incidents has a greater impact in Nepal’s political scenario as it symbolically indicates the ‘real’ end of the monarchic power and is also a step towards the no-tolerance towards criminal activities under political hood.

I believe that it was wrong for Paras Shah, 38, to threaten anyone with a pistol and fire a round in air regardless of the degree of provocation injected by the person on the other side. It was a crime for a commoner (Paras Shah declared himself similar to a commoner) to carry an unlicensed weapon, to carry weapon inside a national park and to threaten someone of life firing on air.

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Thoughts on Sotala

I didn’t knew noted anthropologist Dor Bahadur Bista had published a fiction in 1870s – even when Sotala, his novel, was released by Himal Books a couple of days ago, I thought it was an old manuscript published. But it turned out Sajha Publication had published Sotala in around 1876.

The 144-page novel is a fiction work where Bista, a radical thinker of his time, has intertwined his imagination with his ideas to frame a story that’s painted on the canvas of the social and historical aspects of Tibet-Nepal trade.

After finishing the novel in a few hours, here are my impressions that I wrote on the inside cover of the book:

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Focus on priority, continuity

Early 2007, National Sports Council (NSC) made a big fanfare announcing a long-term sports plan–Vision 2020. The plan talked about–among many other things–prioritizing sports under various headings and to promote events with more chances to succeed at international arenas. The ultimate aim of the plan was to develop sports in such a way that Nepal would win gold medals at Olympics.

Nepal´s performance at the 16th Asian Games in China, held a couple of months short before the plan reached its fourth year, showed no indication of things improving. Instead of progressing, it looked like our sports was sliding downwards. Ask any sports official and he will give you a dozen reasons why this is happening starting with lack of budget, training, exposure and, yes, of a long term vision for development of sports.

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Sporty Spirit: Focus on priority, continuity

Early 2007, National Sports Council (NSC) made a big fanfare announcing a long-term sports plan–Vision 2020. The plan talked about–among many other things–prioritizing sports under various headings and to promote events with more chances to succeed at international arenas. The ultimate aim of the plan was to develop sports in such a way that Nepal would win gold medals at Olympics.

Nepal´s performance at the 16th Asian Games in China, held a couple of months short before the plan reached its fourth year, showed no indication of things improving. Instead of progressing, it looked like our sports was sliding downwards. Ask any sports official and he will give you a dozen reasons why this is happening starting with lack of budget, training, exposure and, yes, of a long term vision for development of sports.

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Wikileaks: Transparency vs terror

Wikileaks, a website dedicated to leaking secret documents, is a subject of debate, both legal and journalistic, since it began publishing memos sent to and from US State Department and 274 US embassies around the world. The diplomatic documents, some classified as secret or confidential and many unclassified, do not reflect the official policies of the world’s most powerful country, however they represent the attitudes and opinions of American diplomats, which has put the US in an uncomfortable position.

The US tried its best to stop the publication since Wikileaks informed it about having such documents. When US issued a warning that publication of the memos could put lives in danger, Julian Assange – the website’s founder and public face – cleverly asked the US to categorically point to the memos that are sensitive. The US, which denied any communication and comments, tried to block the way through many means including forcing firms in their land to withdraw services that they were rendering to Wikileaks. Amazon withdrew hosting, EveryDNS withdrew domain name services (meaning that when somebody types wikileaks.org, the internet is unable to find the server computer where the site is stored) and popular financial transaction service provider PayPal dropped their accounts (which constrained the donation collection by the site).

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Talking citizen journalism at miniBarCamp

Equal Access Nepal, an INGO, organized the Kathmandu miniBarCamp yesterday as a part of its to-be-launched-project on media workers’ network and citizen journalism platform.

I was asked to recount my experience of blogging during the Royal Regime 2005/06 and talk on citizen journalism. Other speakers who participated include Saurav Dhakal (on his storycycle project), Sarun Maharjan (on Web 2.0 and social media) and Dipak Jung Hamal (on his research on practices of citizen journalism by Nepali televisions). There were few participants but the discussion turned out to be lively and I really enjoyed being there.

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Politics in Sports

There is a saying in Nepali sports fraternity: Rajniti ma khel ra khel ma rajniti le garera dubai chhetra bigriyo (Game in politics and politics in game have damaged both the sectors. Khel can mean either sports or a dirty game, in political sense).

This is a fact everybody in Nepali sports accepts. Minister for Youth and Sports Ganesh Tiwari Nepali is one of them. Reviewing Nepal´s failure in the Asian Games 2010, Minister Nepali declared ´politics is to be blamed for the sorry state of sports´. He went on: ´The sports bodies have become recruitment ground for political parties.´

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Best book on Nepali journalism …

Prof. Parsuram Kharel, a few years ago, informally told his students that he was working on to publish books on media issues that other writer dared not venture into. His latest book, “Political Communication: Media, Message and Meaning” is in fact a promise delivered. It is the best media book ever written by a Nepali writer.

For a student or researcher in Nepali journalism, the lack of authenticate literature based on scholarly studies, not experiences and opinions, has remained a frustrating shortcoming for a long time. Recently, there had been a flood of books on journalism but most of them are merely compilation of relevant paragraphs from published works – and they seriously lacked the Nepali context.

Political Communication, a result of a project commissioned by Sangam Institute to its senior fellow, is a tasty fare of theoretical ideas on the contemporary issues of media-mediated communication and critical analysis of practices in global and local contexts. In 12 chapters, the book defines relationship between the public and politics; presents various roles media can play, for good and bad, within various forms of political system; and critically analyses the impact of the roles played by media on itself, the public and the political system.

Beginning from the introduction of communication as an ancient political tool, the author begins with defining key terms and concepts, and stressing on the importance and necessity of press freedom. He then moves into the various practices within the media, the control mechanism as the political system, parties and media itself to describe various roles that media can play – and the critical look into the roles.

The contrast and comparison that the author provides in chapters such as “News Media: Public Space vs. Partisan Forum,” “Propaganda and Manipulation: Lapdog and Watchdog” and “National Interest/Patriotism” makes it easier to understand and analyze the concepts even to those who are not well-versed in journalism terms.

A chapter that needs a special mention is “Media in Nepal” which concisely presents the history and the present context of media and press freedom. The chapter also has a content analysis, “Political News in Nepal’s Press” in which 12 dailies and 13 weeklies are analyzed for a month. The findings suggest that Nepali press is overwhelmingly dominated by Kathmandu-centric political issues, and that even in political news, there are a lot of shortcomings. The content analysis contributed to the author’s observation, in an earlier chapter:

The overwhelming section of Nepali media is partisan not because they cannot access information but because they chose to… more media do not necessarily guarantee better media; faster media also do not automatically mean better content. It is only when more media carry content accompanied by pluralism and diversity of issues through speedy dissemination that the all-embracing quality comes to the fore.

Sadly though, throughout the book, it is eminent that contemporary Nepali media has not only failed to develop into a fair medium but also has not succeeded in performing its role as the Fourth Estate, as a press of the public.

The author is critical of Nepali media and politics. While his critical look at media are seemingly authentic for his long experience as a journalism and media critic, at instances, his criticism of politics and politicians seems to be more of a personal commentary. For a book of this latitude, political opinions as such should have been avoided. A sample:

TV debates or no TV debates, it is the same crop of politicians who always rule the roost. In the new scheme of Nepali politics, even elections do not seem to matter much, given the electoral history of the cabinet that is managing the Nepali political transition.

The strength of the book lies in the clear and concise theoretical framework upon which the author builds the ideas and opinions with examples – both historical and contemporary – and both on local (national and South Asian) and global perspectives. The author proudly says he “waded through piles of press clippings and other documents gathered over a period of 20 years to produce the manuscript” and the content of the book does reflect his hard work.

The book is a gem on Nepali media for students, scholars and all those interested in politics to understand the role, importance and best/worst practices of journalism. To the general public, the book serves as an eye-opener to critically look into the information that they receive from the media.

The book is priced Rs. 500.

DISCLAIMER: I have been a student of Prof P Kharel throughout my college career and he also supervised my master level dissertation.

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