नेपालका पत्रिकामा काम गर्ने, विज्ञान सम्बन्धि लेख र समाचार लेख्ने पत्रकार साथीहरुलाई मित्रवत सुझाव स्वरुप यो लेख्दैछु। यस किसिमको नमागिएको सुझाव मैले पहिले पनि दिने गरेको छु, टुइट र यहि ब्लग मार्फत। मोन्सान्टोको सन्दर्भमा होस् वा “बाबुरामले धेरै कर उठाएकोले सबैभन्दा राम्रो अर्थमन्त्री” भनेको सन्दर्भमा होस्। एउटा उदाहरण यहाँ छ।
विज्ञान मात्रै हैन, अर्थतन्त्र वा अन्य प्रविधि र विषयगत ज्ञान चाहिने फाँटका धेरै रिपोर्टहरुमा समस्या देखिराख्छु। म पनि यि विषयको विज्ञ हैन, तर केहि उपयोगी सुझाव तैपनि दिनसक्छु भन्ने लागेर यो लेख्दैछु। नेपाली पत्रकारीतामा विज्ञानको बारे सबैभन्दा बढि दख्खल र चासो राख्ने व्यक्ति शायद कुन्द दिक्षित हुनुहुन्छ। वहाँसँग यस बारे थप सुझावको अपेक्षा गरिन्छ। कुन्द दिक्षित यस विषयमा नेपाल मात्रै होइन, दक्षिण एसियाकै अग्रणी र विश्वकै कम पत्रकारहरुमध्ये पर्नुहुन्छ। नेपाली पत्रकार र सम्पादकहरुलाई उडाउनेहरुले अरुको दक्षता र विज्ञताको सम्मान गर्नु पनि जरुरी छ।
- आविष्कार, खोज, अन्वेषण, प्रयोग आदि फरक फरक कुराहरु हुन्। कसैले हेलिकप्टर बनायो भने त्यो अाविष्कार हुँदैन। हेलिकप्टरलाई चाहिने प्रविधि निकै पहिले विकास भैसकेको छ। फेरी हेलिकप्टर बनाउनु “उत्पादन” गर्नु हो, जुन बढि औद्योगीक काम हो, वैज्ञानिक हैन। त्यसो गर्ने मानिसहरुको पक्कै सम्मान गर्नुस्, तर उचित रुपमा। त्यस किसिमको उत्पादन गर्दा उनिहरुले केहि सानो नयाँ कुरा सिकेका हुनसक्छन्, कुनै घरेलु प्रविधी प्रयोग गरेका हुनसक्छन्, इन्धन जोगाउने तरीका अपनाएका हुनसक्छन्, वा पहिले प्रयोग नभएका सामग्री प्रयोग गरेका हुनसक्छन्। बुझ्नुहोस्, र तीबारे लेख्नुहोस्। केहि नभएपनि कुनै प्रविधीको नक्कल गर्दा पनि धेरै कुरा सिकिएको हुन्छ, त्यसको निम्ति चाहिने ज्ञान आर्जन गरिएको हुन्छ ,त्यसलाई सोहि रुपमा लेख्नुहोस्, तर हेलिकप्टर पहिलोपटक बनेजस्तो समाचार नबनाउनुहोस्।
- आइन्स्टाइनको फर्मूला गलत सावित भएको लेख्दा होसियार हुनुहोस्। यस किसिमका समाचार धेरै पढ्न पाइन्छ। आइन्स्टाइनका काम गलत सावित हुनैनसक्ने पक्कै होइनन्। तर कसैले भन्दैमा त्यो गलत हुने हैन। कोहि प्रोफेसरलाई सोध्नुहोस्, वा अरु कुनै विज्ञलाई सोध्नुहोस्। कहिलेकाहिँ सावित हुनुभन्दा पहिले प्रश्न मात्रै सोधिन्छ। प्रश्नबारे खोज गरेपछि मात्र त्यो सहि वा गलत भन्ने थाहा हुन्छ। दावी गरिरहेको मानिसको प्रश्न राम्रो हुनसक्छ, तर त्यसको अर्थ उसले आइन्स्टाइनलाई गलत प्रमाणित गरिसक्यो भन्न मिल्दैन। धेरै मेहेनतपछि बाकिँ वैज्ञानिक समुदायले स्वीकार गरेपछि मात्रै त्यस्तो दावी गर्न मिल्छ।
- अनुसन्धान एक्लै गरिँदैन। “नेपालीले क्यान्सरको औषधी पत्ता लगाए” लेख्न पक्कै मजा आउँछ। भारतीय मिडियाको यस्तै समाचारको प्रभावले हामीलाई पनि काउकुती लगाउँदो हो। तर प्राय विज्ञान एक्लै हुँदैन भन्छन्। नेपाली सामेल टोलीमा कतिजना थिए। उसको भुमिका के थियो। यस्ता प्रश्न सोध्नुहोस्। तपाईँलाई समाचार दिने व्यक्तिले बढाईँचढाईँ गरेको हुनसक्छ। सिधै वैज्ञानिकलाई लेखेर “तपाईँले यो क्यान्सरको औषधी पत्ता लगाउने कामको फलानो फलानो कामको नेतृत्व गर्नुभएको हो?” भनेर सोध्नुहोस्। प्राय वैज्ञानिकले आफुले नगरेको काम वा त्यसरी दावी गर्न नसकिने कामलाई हो भनेर भन्दैन रे। उसले “हैन, त्यसो भन्न अलि मिल्दैन, यसो भन्नुस्” भनेर जवाफ देला। समाचारको श्रोतको मात्रै भर नपरेर माथि भनेजस्तै कोहि विज्ञलाई पनि सोध्नुहोस्। उनको पनि राय समाचारमा राख्नुहोस्।
- धेरै नेपाली वैज्ञानिकहरु छन्। आजकल नेपाली वैज्ञानिकको पहिलेजस्तो कमी छैन। विश्वभरका नामी अनुसन्धान शालाहरुमा नेपालीहरुले विश्वकै कठीन वैज्ञानिक प्रश्नहरुको हल खोजिरहेका छन्। विद्यावारीधि गर्ने नेपालीको पनि कमी छैन। त्यसकारण कसैले विद्यावारीधि गरेको विषयलाई नै दुनिँया बदल्ने आविष्कार जस्तो गरी समाचार लेख्नु अघि विचार पुर्याउनुहोस्। कसैको विद्यार्थी कालको काम त्यति चमत्कारिक हुने संभावना निकै कम हुन्छ। केहि वर्षमा नेपाली मूलका एकजना अर्थशास्त्रीले नोबेल पुरस्कार नै पाउने संभावना रहेको छ। त्यसकारण सबै वैज्ञानिक कामहरुलाई नोबेल पुरस्कार नै जितेजस्तो गरी प्रस्तुत गर्नुअघि सोच्नुहोस्। अरुसँग बुझ्नुहोस्। अनि बल्ल लेख्नुहोस।
- अरु धेरै स-साना तथ्याङ्क, शब्द-चयन आदिमा ख्याल गर्नुपर्ने कुरा होलान्, तर माथि भनेजस्तै म विषय विज्ञ नभएकोले अरुले त्यस्ता कुरा कमेण्टमा लेख्लान् भन्ने आशा गरौँ। तर माथिका केहि कुरा ख्याल गरे धेरै गल्तिहरु आफैँ कम हुनेछन् भन्ने लाग्छ। तपाईँको कामको निम्ति धन्यवाद र शुभकामना।
This is a guest post. The writer wants to start blogging on economic matters and wanted this post published to know if readers would be interested in similar posts. Please help the writer with your feedback.
The writer wants to remain anonymous for this post.
The annual subscription of Republica Daily (with IHT) in Nepal costs NRs 7000. With the exchange rate of USD 1 = NRs 82, that amounts to USD 85.4, almost 16% of the country’s GDP per capita (7% when adjusted by purchasing power parity) and 14% of the per capita income. Few days ago, some Nepali daily papers jointly hiked their price by 100% to about USD 45, roughly 9% of the country’s GDP per capita (4% when adjusted by purchasing power parity) and 8% of the per capita income.
The only question I have is how fair that price is? In a country where many can’t buy basics of survival with their little money, isn’t the price of this annual subscription totally outrageous? This almost equivalents the price of luxury item given the fact that University level education at many Government owned Universities comes comfortably at that price. However, the quality of both University education and the news on the paper is arguable.
In a totally different context I remember this concept of political economy of “Guns versus Butter”- money spent by Government on military versus money spent on non-military matters/goods. One comes at the expense of other. I couldn’t find this exact data for Nepal. Maybe, I need to try harder and push some buttons on my own calculator. Lets save that for some other time. What we all agree is that this balance is increasingly tilted towards the former. The balance is disturbed more in these days when there are a lot of post-war adjustments going on. Some money goes on damage repair and some on damage prevention. We all know by now, war costs whooping lots and it keeps on draining the national budget for years. That is how this spending is justified. But it is high time now there be some substantial spending on “butter”, or else this “damage repair” loop will bind us forever.
Lesson: learning to prioritize is vital.
P.S. How many of you already subscribed to Republica Daily?
Let me start with some examples.
Kantipur as a tool of Maoist propaganda: “Prachanda shortlisted in the 100 eminent personalities of the world chosen by China”
Kantipur functioning as a tool of Maoist propaganda: "Prachanda among the 100 towering personalities chosen by China"
On 16th march 2010, the official mouthpiece publication of Nepal’s Maoist party wrote (Krishna Sen Online): “UCPN-Maoist Chairman Com. Prachanda has been selected among the 100 towering personalities from the different sectors of the world to take part in the Shanghai Expo that is going to be held after two months in Shanghai, China. During the period, continuing for 6 months, Prachanda will take part in a special interaction programme there. In the Expo, science and technology, industrial production and economic development will be exhibited.”
In reality, the organizers of the World Expo Shanghai had approached many celebrities for it’s campaign named “100 celebrities talking about the World Expo Shanghai.” The official notice of the organizers from 2009 says that they had received manuscripts from 90 such celebrities and expected the number to exceed 100. No other credible news source talked of it as China’s recognition of the personalities as “the 100 most eminent in in the world.” It was just a publicity campaign and an attempt by the fest organizers to gather wider recognition..
It was a time when Maoist Chairman Prachanda was trying desperate measures to get back to power. To increase his bargaining power with others (including India), he was trying to portray that China was giving him importance. Such a publicity gimmick was given front-page coverage by Kantipur just a day after it was published in the Maoist mouthpiece (see picture). Another daily paper Naya Patrika went as far as to say that Prachanda was selected as one of the 8 world leaders.
The reader comments in the above pieces show how these papers succeeded in garnering support and sympathy for Prachanda. A few months later, Kantipur ran a report from the Expo. It read: “although it was advertised that Chairman Prachanda would address the Expo, he did not participate in any such event. The Nepalese Embassy in China said they had no knowledge of his participation as a special speaker in the event.”
If they were mistakes, I am not aware of the paper which calls itself the country’s largest selling daily apologizing for them, leading me to believe that it was deliberate. I have also written of some other examples of Kantipur operating as a PR agency for the Maoist party.
Dinesh Wagle of Kantipur asked for suggestions from his twitter followers: “It wld be nice 2 know fellow Tweeps’ views re. Nepali papers, #Kantipur in particular. Suggest wat it shld change/add (no politics, pls).” I have a few complaints regarding the paper’s editorial stances in the recent past, but I will keep that for myself in this post. I assume Wagle wanted to engage the paper’s readers and get some new and possibly radical ideas about what they want to read apart from the editorial or political material in the paper. Here are a few I have in mind. I think these ideas would apply equally to other major vernacular dailies in Nepal. My words might sound a little preachy, and I apologize for that- feel free to comment and disagree.
- Conduct a readership survey
It is high time the papers understood their audience. A lot has changed since Kantipur started publishing in the early 1990s and there’s no official figure about the paper’s readership. For the most part of last year, I have only read the online version of the publication and I assume a lot of people do it that way, but the paper has not adjusted itself very well to such readers. I think this is because they are not aware of their readers themselves. It would be useful to know about the kind of people who read this paper a lot.
- Let some fresh air in
I appreciate that a lot of young and smart people are now part of Kathmandu’s journalism fraternity, including Wagle himself. They write equally well in both English and Nepali, they are very efficient and professional and I’m sure a lot of young readers read the papers only because of them. But a lot of other things in the paper demand change- for example the op-ed pieces are written by almost the same group of people for many years now. For such a young and rapidly changing population, a little more respect would be alright. It would also make the papers more relevant. At least to me, it is an irony that the mainstream of our society, including the media seems out of place and often irrelevant. But only a readership survey could verify it. Are the issues receiving attention and space really relevant to the people who read it? Is it what they want? Or are they misplaced?
- Try radical ideas
- I think Kantipur should try a day or a week if possible, without its regular contributors. Get out to random but relevant people and put their perspective on print. Give importance to the significant opinions of otherwise insignificant people. Give place to young people from villages, cities and businesses. Try to see if your readers like it. I think they will. Op-eds about curbing corruption from a member of a corrupt establishment sound very hollow- let someone at the receiving end of the brunt say it. I’d like it more if I get to read real issues from real people.
- Try guest editors- maybe for some sections, for some random days.
- On some random days, and maybe for selected sections, try crowd-sourcing- let people on the internet or elsewhere (I don’t know where) decide what material gets to be published that day. Let them find or write articles, organize them and design them. It is good if you pay, but I guess people would do it anyway and I think your readers will like it. Maybe this effort will help you identify a set of new people and readers who you can consult with in the future too, and keep improving the paper.
- Break away from the tradition on some days. Declare it beforehand if you want to see how people react to it. Don’t publish what the leaders said at some function- instead write about other people in that function, or the background work and hardworking people related to it. Completely ignore what most people want to be ignored anyway- and value other important events, heroes and issues instead. It might be difficult, but until you try, you don’t know if it’s worth the effort.
You guys repeat a limited number of issues and opinions so many times that maybe you stress out a lot of people. You spread a lot of negative energy. During a discussion last year with my father, he told me, “your problem is that you follow Kantipur too much,” I tried following his suggestion and found he was right. For sometime, I was listening to 6 AM Kaayaa Kairan (newspaper reading), Kantipur FM 6:30 AM news, Kantipur FM 7 AM talk show and read Kantipur and TKP on a pretty regular basis. In reality, all of them have the same subject and material day-in day-out. I think there are a few, maybe some 100-200 words that occur in different permutations everyday (somebody should do an experiment and come up with an accurate figure). I think you guys make people more irritable and prone to mental conditions 🙂
- Take it seriously
I don’t know how reasonable it is to expect this, given the realities of payments, skills and other daily distractions the writers in the publication might have to face. During the past couple of years when I’ve had the chance to observe the way Kathmandu’s press works, I have been convinced that many journalists don’t want to work hard. They don’t realize the power their words, pictures and visuals carry and their effect on the psyche of the people who read, hear or watch them. Media is very powerful in our society and many common people still follow them religiously. Of course it is ok to treat media as just a business and journalism as just another occupation, but with the kind of influence they have in our society, someone- I don’t know who, maybe the editors, publishers, government, citizen society, businesses- has to gradually make an effort to improve this. It is in a way, like the education system, which can shape the future of the society and the opinion-making process of our whole population.
- Do more research, put more effort
Most journalists want news to come to them, they won’t go seeking for it. They will go seeking for it only if the news is happening in a star-hotel and there are free-foods and special treatment for scribes. In the districts, they go seeking news only if the CDO or the DSP offers them certain favors. Otherwise, they will side with the opposition party, seek their favors and seek news against the CDO and DSP. I will present some example (non-political ones).
- Example 1: Most material about telecom or internet in Nepal is copied directly from the press release of NTA and made into a half-page material. When Environment day comes, most papers will have the same thing- some material provided by some NGOs, some interviews with a known set of people and some mundane op-eds.
- Example 2: I remember a civil servant from the PMO whose integrity I admire (I don’t know him much, I admire him for whatever I know of him). He wrote a piece in Nagarik about the ordeals of his road-travel from his home in Lumbini zone to Kathmandu. I think he did a pretty good job, and I respect him for that. Kantipur carried a story about the same incident, and cited policemen and some political cadres in Chitwan and maligned the civil servant. The paper carried the words of a few of those people as the ultimate truth. It was pretty clear that Kantipur either did it on purpose or failed to check the facts. In a time when good people, especially in government service are rare, and good ones should be encouraged and protected, I felt that the most influential paper was doing a major harm to the society. I totally don’t like it.
- Example 3: Ok, it wasn’t Kantipur, but it could easily have been (and it often does). This was in Nagarik. I have read some pretty outrageous pieces about VOIP in that paper. There was one very long article which seemed clearly to have been sponsored by VOIP-mafia of Nepal (influential people, including those in NTC, NTA, government, politics, etc). The story essentially was a slew of words about the evils of VOIP technology and how it would cause a lot of losses and should never be allowed. It showed the proponents of legalizing and regulating VOIP in a very bad light, almost like criminals while almost all of the developed world and many of our neighbors have done pretty well legalizing and regulating it. It didn’t say a word about the other side of the argument, and was clearly a miserable attempt to influence/form public opinion of a particular bias. I don’t know what makes some journalists think that Nepal is still in 1970s, when there was only Gorkhapatra, and whatever written there was the official version of truth. There are many version of truth these days, and there are many people who know which one to believe in.
- Don’t bluff or beat around the bush
This is true for other areas too, but especially about technology. Most pieces are just bluff. I have tried talking to some journalists, trying to explain some concept for some material they were preparing- but I found out that they didn’t have either of patience, interest or capability do try to listen and understand. And then they pretend they understand, but in the end, they write what they were writing anyway. Is this a national disease? Do we think not listening and just beating your trumpet is how to do things? And is this what we are teaching to others who might be looking upon us, and to the younger people? Our leaders do the same, our journalists do the same- who will set examples? While I said this is more common with tech-issues, now I think this is a familiar syndrome with everything that is not about national politics, leaders or celebrities, like: economy, and similar specialized subjects.
I will not delve upon other topics that are likely to be suggested by other people on twitter. Things include more interaction in the social media, more youth-oriented material, grammatical correctness, and so on.
- Replicate Successes
Analysts who know a lot better than me have written that many serious material in the press are planted- but that is not the subject of this post. Pieces in our newspapers are so one-sided and carry the biases of the writer or whoever provided the information so blatantly that it becomes hard to realize we are reading news-paper and not a tabloid or a monologue. Of course I am not expert, but there has to be some effort to change this, and there are already a lot of examples amidst Nepalese journalists themselves (right now, I can think of Deepak Adhikari, Dinesh Wagle, Ujwal Acharya, HimalMedia, BBC Nepali Service, some independent journalists who write and correspondent for agencies, and a few younger scribes at Nagarik/Republica and Kantipur too). Journalists should take their jobs more seriously, do more research, back every sentence they write with facts, references or balanced mixture of sources and present a complete picture to the readers. I think the good and successful journalists (mentioned above, and others) should make an effort to instill their values and work ethics in others. Maybe they can start a business out of it- a professional journalism training school- or maybe an experimental niche-market media outlet that practices those values and delivers quality material to its readers, and in process shows how to do it right.