Throughout its 120 years of existence, Gorkhapatra has been imparting invaluable services to the citizens- informing, educating and entertaining conscientiously. In its heyday, the oldest paper of the country attracted a slew of readers- the learned, the cultured, the rulers, the ruled and many more by the virtue of being the only newspaper of the day. Being able to buy or read a newspaper would be deemed a luxury for many well-heeled people in the hoary past when the Nepali society was not open to the outer world.
Informing and Educating The principal business of a credible newspaper, no one would not deny, is to inform readers objectively about the prevailing situation, events or incidents that would have greater impacts on the life of a nation. Gorkhapatra appears to have carried out this responsibility successfully over the years. As a state-run daily, it carries the major responsibility of informing the readers about an actual situation involving an event, incident, individuals or overall state of affairs of the nation. The paper, as a state-run entity, requires disseminating news and information in a manner that would not contradict the state’s overall principle of providing accurate and credible news on current events, incidents, individuals or other affairs. Even in this era of a cut-throat competition wherein producing sensational stuff for attracting more readership and income has become a common practice, the pioneer Nepali language state daily does not enjoy any luxury of publishing sensationalising materials. Neither can it act the way many privately owned newspapers act while publishing news and views. The papers run by private media outlets can engage in partisan activities to promote or suppress issues and matters as per their likings or that serve their agenda. They can also engage in unfair or non-journalistic activities for expanding readership and profits or for advancing partisan commitments. The Gorkhapatra management regards printing baseless, incorrect items as a cardinal sin and prefers to unwaveringly disseminate accurate and fact-based information to its readers. As the newspaper has shunned to print unsupported, unsubstantiated items on its pages, serious readers have demonstrated their faith in the government-owned daily from the time Gorkhapatra used to rule the roost of the country’s media sector. It is often said that readers resort to Gorkhapatra daily to ensure whether the materials printed in other broadsheet dailies are true. Many have thus high regard for Gorkhapatra that allows them to assess the authenticity of any printed matter. Readers often get confused regarding the presentation on news items in private papers. To check the accuracy of a particular piece of news, they often turn to the oldest newspaper in the country. Established by the liberal Rana Prime Minister Dev Shumsher and managed by the advocate of humanism, Jaya Prithvi Bahadur Singh way back in May 6, 1901, Gorkhapatra witnessed an exponential growth till the time other newspapers emerged in Nepal’s media realm, post the historic revolution of 1950. In the aftermath of the popular people’s movement of the 1990s, the oldest newspaper witnessed the arrival of several competitors in the form of broadsheet dailies. Gorkhapatra was first published as a weekly, and then twice a week in 2000 BS, and thrice a week from 2003 BS before it was made a daily newspaper. After 59 years of its first issue, Gorkhapatra was swung into a daily paper in 1960, or Falgun 7, 2017 BS. In its nascent days, the daily used to carry news items as if it wanted to eulogise the then Rana rulers and their hangers-on. Besides, it would publish pieces of stuff about domestic and international events in such as way that it appeared not only to inform but to educate the readers of a closed society. The only daily of its time became a mirror of the changing Nepali society as it carried news and other stuff that hinted at the growing changes that our society embraced.
Social Responsibility A cursory glance at the daily’s past and the present suggests that Gorkhpatra has discharged its duty of state-owned newspapers efficiently. Besides shunning unfounded news items, it has declined to print adverts that would prove detrimental to the health of society and people. Besides sticking to the government decrees on such advertisements, the national daily publishes only those blurbs that promote social harmony and public interests. In the meantime, it does not entertain any advertising matters that have hidden agenda of promoting deceit, misrepresentation or that are outright harmful to an individual or institution. To ensure the trustworthiness of any such ads, it often seeks official confirmation before printing them. The newspaper thus adheres to the principle of promoting the people’s and society’s welfare by imparting its social responsibility. Even though it earns its income through advertisements, it does not go blind in printing any stuff as would many private newspapers have done. Gorkhapatra is carrying out its responsibility to the state, people and society in the best suitable manner. The popularity of the paper helps earn incomes through adverts that are enough to sustain the institution. Intending to provide newspapers within the day of publication, the Gorkhpatra Corporation, established in 2021 BS, has started publishing Gorkhapatra from Biratnagar and Kohalpur to circulate its products to all parts on the same day of publication. It has now set up offices in all provinces. Likewise, the corporation has been bringing out four other publications- The Rising Nepal, Yuva Manch, Madhupark and Muna for the past many years, besides adding language pages in the Gorkhapatra daily.
The Road Ahead However, the future of GC publications, inclduing the oldest newspaper, is fraught with unseen predicaments, thanks to the convergence of online and social media. In this digitised age where various digital platforms have taken shape, the survival of newspapers seems an uphill battle. Several readers have gradually given up their habits of reading newspapers and resorting to online media more. Ditto is the case with advertisers. Readers are happy to surf through their mobile phones, tablets or laptops to read the stuff that carried information on current affairs. News websites present all kinds of news as they take place, which makes the internet-driven media quite popular among modern readers. This growing popularity has helped online news portals thrive. They have not only progressed a lot but have also grabbed a sizeable chunk of advertisements, making a dent in the income of newspaper owners. In this competitive age marked by the heavy presence of online and social media, the Gorkhapatra management should pay heed to take its publications to online portals. It is high time the management paid greater emphasis on running a full-fledged online Gorkhpatra portal. The present GC online portals appear minuscule, which can nevertheless be turned into a thriving, vibrant portals. The management would not have any difficulty in grabbing adverts, a lifeline for any media, because the oldest and popular daily has already become a brand that can sell as compared to many other broadsheet dailies. The GC management must not delay in embracing a vibrant online format of all its publications so that it can compete with rival private news portals. With strong backing from the government, the daily can become an upbeat and vibrant online news portal. The existing resources are enough for it to employ skilled, talented journalists adept at discharging duty as per the demand of online media, helping it to raise the number of its readers, which will attract more advertisers, vital to the growth of any media.