Saturday, 4 December, 2021

Gorkhapatra Must Have Strong Online Presence: Experts


Aashish Mishra


In his 2007 book "Print is Dead," author Jeff Gomez states, "whether, in the form of getting news online, reading a blog or contributing to a wiki, the general population is shifting away from print consumption [and] heading instead to increasingly digital lives." Looking around, his words seem to have described reality perfectly.
More and more people are getting their news from online sources. A survey conducted last year by the Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation (TPO) Nepal among 2,014 respondents found that a whopping 92 per cent used social media, mainly Facebook, to obtain information. At second was television with 75 per cent using it, third was radio with 61 per cent and print was dead last with just over 54 per cent of the respondents claiming to get their information from newspapers and magazines.

♦ Things To Come
This is a sign of things to come. Print will lose its relevance and be replaced by internet-based media, multimedia, says Chandi Raj Dahal, assistant professor of Media Studies at Kathmandu University School of Arts. "The future is in digital, immersive media and we have already begun moving towards that with the adoption of technology like virtual reality and drones," he says.
On a global scale, the internet has taken a bite out of print’s reach and Nepal has also not remained untouched, explains Umesh Shrestha, founder of the Nepali-language blog MySansar and editor at Nepal Fact Check. He said that while there were no concrete statistics in Nepal, the circulation of newspapers had decreased and was certainly less than what the publishers claim, as is happening in other countries around the world.
Furthermore, the easy access to information that the internet has given the public has also challenged the print’s authority and credibility, Shrestha, known better by nom de internet Salokya, says. “There used to be a time when printed letters were considered infallible. But no longer so. Because of social media and the internet, people can check and point out the mistakes the media make.”
Dahal also believes the same. “In the many-to-many communication environment that the internet has created, everyone has access to the information that the journalists have and hence, can check the validity of the news. The media must verify before publishing any information.”
So, with the relevance decreasing, reach declining and authority falling, what position do legacy newspapers like Gorkhapatra hold in today’s online world? Well, not an encouraging one, according to experts Dahal and Shrestha.
Because the new generation is not very exposed to print, Dahal says, many youngsters may not even know of Gorkhapatra. The paper has a long and proud history but today, Shrestha observes that people only seem to read it for government notices and updates.
The situation is similar for other legacy media as well which have value but are fast becoming antiquated.

♦ Digital Media
So, dread it or fear it, the future of media is digital. Digital platforms allow for the use of multiple formats – text, audio, video and more – to create a more engaging experience for the audience. They have a wider reach than print because they are not bound by the traditional geographical and financial constraints that newspapers or magazines are. They are also more accessible, often available free of cost on one’s computer or smartphone.
But, as blogger Shrestha highlights, digital media have its limits. For instance, they are limited in the length of the content they produce because people cannot focus on a single piece for a long time when in front of a screen. Their attention wanders. Similarly, because of the rush to break stories, online portals tend to make errors.
Assistant Professor Dahal also points out how, in an effort to report a story first, online outlets sometimes do not give the complete news. They do not answer the basic 5W and 1H questions that every news story must strive to answer. They also may not properly verify the information and their language leaves much to be desired.
And it is in these areas where online falls short that print can establish itself. "Instead of retelling the news that has already been reported by the online outlets, the print should now go beyond the headlines and present analyses and descriptions. People invest themselves in reading newspapers so they do not have to shorten their content. They can truly explore an issue and give something new to the readers that they do not get from social media or digital platforms. This is how print can stay relevant," Shrestha recommended.
For Gorkhapatra specifically, both Shrestha and Dahal urged it to move out of its role as the government’s mouthpiece and become a public service publication. “For this, there are various international models it can follow. It can be brought under the ownership of the parliament where it will function under the people’s representatives. A tax scheme can be introduced for its funding,” Dahal said. “Gorkhapatra must meet the interests of the audience, it must give content that the audience wants to read on a variety of topics.”

♦ Changing Landscape
Similarly, Gorkhapatra must also evolve in line with the changing media landscape. “It should be present on social media. It should be striving to attract viewers to its website. Multimedia, multiple channels and diversified content are the key,” Dahal added.
"Gorkhapatra is a media with a long history so the branding will not be a problem. All that is needed is for Gorkhapatra's management to be willing to develop and transform the publication into a media for the new generation," Dahal said.

(Mishra is a TRN journalist)