Journalism for Storytelling in Nepal
Storytelling focused on public issues should thrive, offline or online, writes KRISHNA SHARMA.
One fine evening recently, I received an unexpected call from an unknown lady in Nepal who was inquiring if I could contribute stories for her newsmagazine from my current location in the United States.
Since I am not a jet-set reporter I could not understand why she made that long distance call to request articles from me. After hanging the phone down I was left wondering if the editorial processes of Nepali media (or sections thereof) had in fact begun to see solicitations as important sources for a journalism of growth and improvement. A few days later I received in my mail box a thick envelope with two copies of Solidarity, a newsmagazine. The lady had apparently mailed it for my perusal.
My observation is that the new breed of journalists from Nepal (a newly dawned Republic) is an enthusiastic and an enterprising lot. This new generation has been charismatic in reaching out to the public, thanks to the access to information technology that knows no geographical or political bounds. Many of these enterprising ones have both professional and personal web sites, often with their stories they love to share with readers. Some feed their stories on YouTube or other sharewares. Others blog.
Yet, one persisting feature of Nepali journalism is its continued enthusiasm with ink and paper. Nepali print journalism has grown exponentially at a time when western print media outlets are seriously challenged, and in some cases, surpassed by online media.
The Washington Post, one of the world's most widely circulated newspapers, published out of the US capital of Washington DC, recently reported that it lost $ 77 million in print advertising revenue and could collect only $ 5 million from online business. The Post case is representative of the rest of the media in the Americas and the Europe.
Nepal may not be an exception to this ongoing but invisible battle over leadership among print, visual and online media in the 21st century. And at this crossroad, the future of print media and the journalists working for such media may seem little bleak.
I would perhaps never forget a recent incident. A young college student from the neighborhood who was waiting on the sidewalk to see a friend seemed a little surprised to see me collect that early dawn my copy of the Post newspaper from the mail box.
"Won't you browse the latest news instead from your home computer?" he asked.
I told him I did have Internet connection at home but I enjoyed reading the news in detail while I was having coffee in the backyard garden or while I am in the restroom or I am traveling. He seemed a little confused. How would he know that for me picking up the paper and turning each page have always been like opening Christmas or birthday gifts, the gifts of words and sentences that carried great stories.
I am mindful that the new generation does not regard print journalism seriously while it experiences the allure of visual and online media. Except for people like me, newspapers are no longer birthday or Christmas gifts which people open with great interest and talk about. Neither may the new generation like to fancy about how the newspapers would be printed while they do citizen journalism from their PCs.
I am sure they would not like the noise of the press which I still do. They would also perhaps abhor long-haired, self-appreciating and Mr. Know-All type editors who would fool around the juniors bragging about the olden days.
The newspaper industry always fascinated me. It may be difficult to exactly say how I joined journalism while there were many other lucrative professional openings by the time I joined it in the nineties. However, I can answer the question of why. I loved journalism because I loved to listen to the stories and then report them to others, with as much precision and accuracy as possible.
It was in the mid-nineties. I arrived home after taking my finals in college. I experienced an uneasy silence at home. The Maoist insurgents had taken my brother hostage the previous day. They had set fire on the loan documents of the farmers. They had looted all the money deposited at the "Small Farmers' Development Project" at its rural office in Bimalnagar, Gorkha where my brother worked as the manager. That was one of the first Maoist attacks since their violent movement against the democratic government in February 1996. With their main political agenda of abolishing monarchy and establishing a communist republic in the 'once peaceful' Himalayan nation of only 23 million people, the Maoists were targeting banks and government-run development projects in the name of relieving poor people out of bank and other loans.
I still remember him telling me from the hospital bed that the Maoist movement that had just begun would not only unsettle peace but would also take a heavy toll on the lives of people and their properties before political negotiations were made. A political science student who chose to become a banker, my brother always inspired me to pursue the kind of education that could contribute to public policies so that the public needs could be addressed before the frustrations are expressed violently.
It took me a while to realize what my brother actually was talking about. When I entered university, I began to see the conflict widen and the absence of government in the grassroots. My acquired knowledge in history, economics, government and communications added to my understanding of the complexity of the problem Nepal was facing. My brother's wish for me to become a sort of policy analyst or a societal watchdog always remained at a corner of my heart. And there was this journalism waiting for me to give a ride.
There is no doubt that the print media will exist as long as the human civilization ceases to stay alive. However, it would be wise for the new breed of journalists to be literate enough in all the genres of journalism – print, visual, online and etc. -- so that they could conceive, create and contribute their share of storytelling in any medium they are required by the audience. And it is satisfying to note that the new generation of Nepali reporters is at par with their counterparts worldwide when it comes to being media savvy. All they need now is to learn to write or tell the stories, not just accurately and responsibly, but also in such a way that contributes to public good and an understanding of public problems and issues. In the end, it is not the medium as such that matters, but the quality of content. A true story-teller will continue to thrive in modern-day journalism, no matter what genre or platform he or she excels in.
Krishna Sharma is staff writer of Nepal Monitor.
Posted by Editor on August 23, 2008 10:40 AM