Newspapers of different kinds

As a part of graduate course of media studies at the International Summer School 2010 at the University of Oslo, I visited, along with classmates, two different newspapers of Norway. Where as Klassekampen, a lowly circulated socialist daily, pride being a serious newspaper with clear ideological stance, Dagblalet, the third-largest selling tabloid pride itself in being innovator and economically sound.

The offices of the newspapers reflect their position. Klassekampen has a relatively small office spread in two floors with everything put tightly together. To accommodate 15 of us, the acting news editor, Pål Hellesnes, briefed us in the canteen in a semi-formal dress.

Dagbladet
was housed in two big floors of a building facing the sea and its editor-in-chief Lars Helle briefed us in a meeting hall with high-tech projection facilities (and, o yes, served us the drinks and fruits) in formal attire.

While both the journalists put forward their views bluntly, sometime even harshly, there were striking difference between their statements and highlighted basically the difference of a serious yet non-neutral perspective newspapers and a market-driven best selling newspaper.

Hellesnes pointed that the paper has long ceased to be a party paper and their perspective is only reflected in opinions, letters and editorials. “The news are factual, accurately reported as per the principals of journalism,” he said adding that the newspaper has been able to increase its subscription in last eight years by marketing campaigns despite threats from digital media.

Helle, describing the long legacy of the newspaper, was blunt that they need to put something on the front page that forced people to pick the newspaper as 97.5% per cent of its sales was single-copy sale. “We have been widely criticized for our expression because we need to sale everyday,” he said. “We need to be sharp on front.”

Dagbladet published a drawing of Prophet Mohammad depicting as pig long after the ‘Cartoon Controversy created by Danish newspaper disappeared’ which generated much of fuss in Norway. “It was news and we can’t protect any religion,” he said adding that ‘the newsroom knew that the news was going to create controversy.’ He defended it with freedom of expression (Although I have nothing to say, I believe it could have been avoided for the better).

ONLINE THREAT

Dagbladet circulation is going down. It was 230,000 in 1994, a year before the paper becomes first mainstream newspaper to jump into the digital edition and now it’s 105,000 copies a day.

According to Helle, when he became the editor-in-chief, he promised that the decrease would slow down. Due to it, they cut down staff and integrated the website into its newsroom to cut the costs.

For Hellesnes, Klassekampen has ignoring the threats from digital media in lack of economic model. “Our subscription is increasing and we don’t want to go to online unless there is a economic model.”

It makes a quite interesting comparison!

OWNERSHIP & CREDITIBILITY

Dagbladet has quite an interesting ‘story’ for their attempt to keep up the creditability. When the newspaper went tabloid in 1983, there were concerns that the change in size may affect their credibility.

And, after much of discussion, they decided to form Dagbladet stiftelse – a foundation of independent people that has the authority to turn down or approve board’s decision on two matters – the appointment of the editor-in-chief and secondly, any change in the proclamation that the paper prints everyday on the top of second page. The foundation’s duty is to ensure the continuation of the paper’s legacy.

Isn’t it quite interesting?

Continue Reading

A feminist writing

[Review of Samrat Upadhyay’s Buddha’s Orphans]
Samrat Upadhyay’s new novel – Buddha’s Orphans – is atypical to his earlier books. This isn’t because his novel is as good as his earlier three books but rather because it’s a book that, thanks to criticism, doesn’t have excessive sex.

Upadhyay had announced that his forthcoming (this) book would be “something different,” and he has lived by his words. Buddha’s Orphans has a kind of aesthetics in it that satisfies literary hunger despite being a long book with its events stretching over a long period – four generations of characters, to be precise.

Raja, the protagonist, and Nilu, the girl he is fated to love and marry, not only provide two contrasting characterization, but the author has also tried to explore, through them, the meaning, boundary and values of various types of relationships, and their contrasting relationships with their families.

Despite being thrown away, Raja feels constantly connected to the unknown mother and tries to envision the ideals of motherly love within the love he finds from women – his foster mothers – one of whom is a poor street vendor, and the other an affluent childless woman with a mental illness, as well as his wife and his mistress.

Nilu, a daughter of privilege who has lost her father, creates a strong bond with Raja, the son of the serving woman, while detesting the relationship with her mother.

The story begins in a fascinating way: how a beggar discovers a newborn infant and how a street vendor, Kaki, becomes his foster mother. The descriptive beginning of the novel gives a perfect idea of what the city of Kathmandu looked like a few decades ago. In addition, the author, who directs the MFA program at Indiana University and teaches creative writing there, has done a masterful work to keep readers interested in what can be the most boring section of any novel – the setting.

Kaki’s love for the child forces her to work for an affluent family that promises her child a better education but runs away for she feels like the child is being snatched away from her. Her new job, in a rich family, lets the protagonist meet the woman of his destiny. Raja is then kidnapped, and Kaki is unable to get him back as the family bribes a hospital official to make papers to claim the child as their baby.

As destiny would have it, Raja and Nilu meet, fall in love and run away from their families to live in a rented room. Whereas Raja continues to search for the meaning of life and love, Nilu holds the family together with her job. The happiness brought by the birth of their son, and the grief brought by his demise, along with their mid-marriage crisis due to their inability to accept each other in the way they are, creates a void in their life; and they look for “alternative love” as Raja lives with a mistress, and Nilu tries a relationship with a young man.

Upadhyay ensures that they keep together, for their necessity and love, and that her second child, a girl, keeps them tied. The girl’s travel to the US and her return, impregnated by a man she had no serious relationship with, and her acceptance into the family, completes the novel in a happy note – just as what readers like.

The bare storyline doesn’t, however, indicate the beauty of the book’s woven words, together with the political, social and historical backgrounds of Nepal giving a tasteful reading that keeps readers stuck to it. No story is great; the greatness of literature lies in the mastery of words to weave the presentation of the story; and in Buddha’s Orphans, Upadhyay indicates he knows it better than any other Nepali writer.

The novel could pass off as a feministic writing, as Nilu has more protagonistic characteristics than the central character of Raja.

Upadhyay was criticized, mainly in Nepal, for his overly sexual and sometimes unrealistic portrayals of Nepali society in his stories in Arresting God in Kathmandu (2001), the novel The Guru of Love (2003), and the collection of short fiction in The Royal Ghosts (2006). But in Buddha’s Orphans, he has neither used excessive sex nor has portrayed the society unrealistically.

The novel justifies the San Francisco Chronicle’s praise for Upadhyay – “a Buddhist Chekhov…with a sense of cyclical nature of life and its passion and that makes Buddha’s Orphans an absolute must-read from an author who has strode forward to redefining Nepal to the world by the means of words.”

(As published in Republica)

Continue Reading

Falling in love with Norwegians

After two weeks of stay in Oslo – Norway’s capital – for a six-week study at the International Summer School 2010, University of Oslo (UiO), there are a few things I am amazed about. But one thing that I like most is the Norwegian people.

I have always heard about the ‘smile of Nepali people’ and many foreigners find it amazing that Nepali people are so smiling and hospitable. It’s true [we always tend to smile at people and believe guests as god].
Norwegians are different than Nepalis – they are more happy people.

Why I am saying so? Because I find at least three very good characteristics of those people: firstly, they seem to very simple, secondly, they enjoy what they are doing and finally, almost all of them have a sense of humor.

Yesterday, I attended a Norwegian Cultural Evening. It was an evening to remember – of course more for the performances that were truly amazing – for people displaying all those qualities I like.

A professor at the UiO was the MC and was making us laugh at every sentence. He came up with this brilliant idea of giving away a ‘prestigious award’ to somebody who had helped to save the ‘dairy industry of Norway’. Dressed up as a cow, he brought this empty container with a string and announced the person ‘who had in desperate attempt to save the dairy industry have helped consume 5,000 liters of milk in last few years’.

The award winner was the ISS 2010 director and he received the award; wore it around his neck throughout his closing speech and even later.

This is something unthinkable in Nepal. People like Einar (the director) – professors or directors or something like that – will probably consider such an act as an insult (and I have never seen a professor or people of that level becoming an MC).

And, at Natadal Farm House, where we spent a night during our Telemark trip, the owner (who also happened to be a professor of tourism at Telemark University College) briefed us about the farm, the old life and why houses were built in the way they are (of course with a lot of humorous tales – ‘I tell a lot of lies and I have a license to tell lies’.)

We also had two sisters – from the minority Sami community – who presented us their traditional dresses and chanting. And, I enjoyed watching them talking to each other and smiling (even laughing) shyly. That was always evident whenever there are formal programs – it feels like simplicity (or being informal) is the formality of Norway. I just love it.

And, those seven people who presented us the traditional Norwegian dances were all past their 60s but they were enthusiastic and happy to perform for us. Probably they missed a few steps but who cares of steps – all I was watching was how happily they were performing and how proud they were to do so.

Performing people – musicians and dancers – did perform in front of us but I know they were more playing instruments and dancing for themselves – the satisfaction on their faces (rather than strains) was satisfying to us as well.

And, how can I remain without falling in love with Norwegians?

Continue Reading

The Hostel Life… at UiO

Hostel life is not an alien for me – for I had stayed almost year in hostel during my final year at school back in Nepal. The hostel was 10-minute walk from my house and I was staying in the hostel because my parents want me to study, rather than play and stroll around, during the last days for the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) examinations.

Right now, I am housed at the Blindern Dormitory – a student house in the area of the University of Oslo (UiO) where I am studying at the International Summer School (ISS) for six weeks.

And, though there are lots of similarities; the hostel life here is an amazing experience than that of my old hostel days.

The prime reason: because the Dormitory is also housing many hundred people from all around the world whom I could meet everyday during breakfast, lunch or dinner. And, amazingly, even after six days here, I always see a few totally new faces.

Secondly, the food is always curiosity. At breakfast, I can now assume what’s there but at lunch and dinner, it could be a plateful of food items for me or just a quarter-full of (that’s because I don’t eat beef). Two dinners were something like ‘rice and sauce’ for me (good thing is they always have tea/coffee, juices and breads).

And, there are always a few people in the courtyards – either talking in couple/groups or drinking coffees or sitting/sleeping idly. The lure to walk down to the courtyard, saying hi to a few people and watching others or sitting with friends is always inviting.

Fourteen years ago, when I was in hostel, it’s felt almost like a prison because we were required to study for most of the times and play for only an hour a day. The breakfast, lunch and dinner were served at time, and of good quality, but then there were only a dozen fellows on the table – all of whom I know very well.

I hadn’t played much in here (I used to write poetries 14 years ago, but not here). Once I played football with a few friends from and it was quite interesting. I have seen others playing volleyball, table tennis, badminton and pool (ahm – why they have always programs/meetings in the evening so not letting us play much of the sports?).

I still have five weeks more at the Dorm and I hope that the experience here will prove a memorable one.

Continue Reading