Nepali Times
This Is It
Paradigm shrift


Nepali media is in crisis, and the main reason is that it has become financially unviable as a business. There has been a sharp decline in advertising revenue, production costs have shot up, and there is fierce competition for audience and advertising. Journalists haven't been paid for months, and publishers face huge debts.

When a media company becomes financially weak, it soon loses its political independence and is vulnerable to advertising pressure and cash-rich politicians eager to buy influence. This does not bode well for editorial freedom and journalistic integrity in Nepal when the country is at a crossroads and press freedom is needed to defend democracy. The enemies of press freedom don't need to vandalise delivery vans, burn presses or beat up journalists anymore, they just buy off media that is critical of them.¬

Nepal's politics is in limbo, and the transition will probably drag on indefinitely. The media's role at times like these should be to make sense of the confusion, interpret and explain events objectively and offer solutions. Instead, sponsored news and manufactured stories have become the order of the day. A paper or tv station's coverage depends on which party boss just bought shares in it.

The crisis offers us an opportunity for introspection, to rethink our priorities. What is the direction that we want this country to take, what are the core values we want to protect, and what is our vision for society? How has our stance on certain issues shaped the country's present state? Has our unquestioning acceptance of a political ideology clearly averse to economic growth, democratic values and open society made us a part of the problem?

It is the media's obsession with the day-to-day, who-said-what brand of political reporting that lends itself to manipulation of content by political spin masters. The tendency to tar all politicians, ex-CA members, police and the bureaucracy with the same brush has spread cynicism and hopelessness. It is time, perhaps, to profile the honest cop, or second generation politicians who show vision and integrity, or the ministry secretary who sticks to her principles. We would have been much better off investigating and highlighting the political background that leads to the neglect of agriculture, the corruption that keeps us poor, and the exploitation of our migrant workforce by our own.
By now, readers have learnt to take everything with a pinch of salt and don't trust the news, especially tabloid tv and opinionated political op-eds, at face value. Which is why the eye-balls have swung over to social media. Readers are attracted by its dynamic content, interactivity and immediacy.

But new media has its own limitations, its raw content can't yet completely replace conventional media because of the digital divide as well as credibility issues. The internet also has a tendency of locking people in their own little worlds of self-held beliefs and values. People surf pages whose content they approve of, interact with people who hold same opinions and prefer not to engage with opposing views, unless it is to personally, and anonymously, abuse someone they don't agree with. This ghettoisation does little to foster dialogue and debate. Lately, the ethnic polarisation of Nepali society has turned social media into a platform for extreme hate speech.

The onus is on the mainstream media to reclaim its credibility, extend its internet reach through robust online presence, and focus on content that will heal society instead of dividing it. The Nepali media is either event-driven, or opinion-heavy. There is almost no middle ground where we follow-up on events, analyse and investigate economic and development issues. What happened in the aftermath of the Seti flood, or for that matter the Kosi flood? How are those who survived the earthquake in eastern Nepal last year faring?

There has been no follow-up on the bomb blast in Janakpur that killed Ranju Jha. The alleged culprits were caught, but were they really responsible? Who are the big fish who masterminded the attack? Who ordered the killing of Justice Rana Bahadur Bam last week and why? Bam has already dropped off the headlines.

Journalism today needs a paradigm shift to relentlessly pursue such stories, instead of idle and endless speculation over whether or not the Maoists, or the UML or the NC are going to finally split.

Read also:
The assassin creed

The messenger is to blame, ANURAG ACHARYA
The platform for debating national problems has itself become a part of the problem

1. Mr. Poudel
Is it meant to be Paradigm SHIFT and not SHRIFT?

The meaning of ShRift is quite different...

2. Dinesh
Kudos to Rubeena for boldly highlighting the political story behind the recent change of editors in one of the largest media houses in Nepal. Interestingly, the media house, which was unflinchingly taking strong position on democracy, democratic values and norms, switched to the leftist pole after the change of editors. As the rumors go, it must have happened after the powerful leader of the largest party purchased some shares of the newspaper. By selling some shares to a politician, the publisher may have had some financial gain, and the publisher may have thought that he can make a best out of his engagement with the most powerful political leader in Nepal. But the publisher seems to have missed an important narrative that the newspapers run by politicians and political parties are not newspapers as such, they are but political pamphlates and they lose both money and readers in the long run!

3. Srijana Shrestha
Maybe its time for Web Media or Digital Media or simply Internet Media. No more cost for paper based media ! Just need  1 good and fast computer ! This way, the electronic media would be free from the pressures and clutches of dirty politicians.  PKD thinks he can control public opinion by using print media. Wake Up.  We need private sector aid with money to build free electronic libraries and teach people how to use them. The goal here is to have a truly Independent Journalist that do not have to beg for crumbs from criminal politicians. Its time for a radical change.      

4. There is Nothing in Name
Nice piece of article. Kudos to Rubeena.To bring change in the society, one has to start from own. I don't know ,how much the publisher of this article is also doing justice on the theme of this article. Media should not be biased and target a group of people.This brings bitterness among the people. 

5. kumar paudel
A very nice read indeed. Very bold presentation. It hurts when almost every wings of this nation is getting corrupted. MONEY is the new KING now. 

6. sajin
"When a media company becomes financially weak, it soon loses its political independence and is vulnerable to advertising pressure and cash-rich politicians eager to buy influence".

Reflects the state of your sister publication "Himal". This publication has become a complete "mukhpatra" of UML party, just take a look at last twelve issues and see the space given to UML ko "daharna". OMG we used to take Himal seriously while growing up.

Similarly Kantipur has become the voice of Bahun dominated "in the middle political soch" with anything anti bahun blashmenous..few cows killed somewhere....bang in the front page, while the delayed monsoon in Nepal is destroying millions, but absolute no mention.

If some one starts a professional and non partisan media outlet in Nepal, it will sure do well. So until a professional outfit starts take a break mahato.

7. Naran
It's not only in Nepal, but everywhere. Until journalism is perceived as a business, and not a social service, this trend will exist forever. Perhaps itis one of the dark sides of capitalism. The system we live in is to blame, not just some media outlets (which has to thrive in market no matter what wrong courses it might take).

8. Scott
The role of the press cannot be underestimated in forming a working society. I agree with the journalist's views on how it is functioning, or not, in Nepal at this time. I hope you will join us at the soon to open Nepal Youth Network where you can fully and freely publish your stories.

9. Salil
Paradigm 'shrift'? Intentional or inadvertent? 'Shrift' does not make any sense in the context of the article ! 

10. gurkha
Media & mediapersons are all too willing to be bought and paid for. Most of then are not even qualified to hold a pen forget about writing with it.

Its everywhere - 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th world. The standards have been on decline since the introduction of 24 news channels (CNN). Call it whatever - Capitalism, commercialization of news, paid news, consolidation and concentration of diverse sources of news in a single media entity ex. News corp.

But.. the real test is are journalists willing enough to speak the truth - without any tinge of serving their own ideological, political and selfish reasons. I think not - we as humans are devolving not evolving.

The only hope are Citizen journalists - experts in their fields - not generalists - not reliant on incomes from writing as journalists who blog/share about issues they care about, to speak the truth, to share what they think is important.

11. Flexible 1
I think Rubeena has raised a significant question about making a paradigm shift. She says:
 "What is the direction that we want this country to take, what are the core values we want to protect, and what is our vision for society? How has our stance on certain issues shaped the country's present state? Has our unquestioning acceptance of a political ideology clearly averse to economic growth, democratic values and open society made us a part of the problem?"
At the heart of this quote she mentions core values and vision, two vital issues for Nepal's politicians who would do well to pay heed to them in relation to nation building. A paradigm shift is for ALL, not just the media, but the media and politicians hold a powerful position as role models, and unfortunately core values based around "might is right", bandhs and their violent enforcement, lies and deception are currently the core elements of the existing paradigm.
I was recently subjected to the media's lack of a moral code when I was interviewed and asked about my organisation's efforts to provide training for teachers in Kathmandu. The journalists final question to me was "what message would you like to give to our teachers and children?" with my answer being "learning is for life, for all of us whether you are a student or a professional teacher". And what did they print as my answer? I supposedly said ..... "All stakeholders in education should stop being liars!" This is what they printed, refused to print a retraction or to give me a copy of the tape/digital file. So how representative is this of the media's core values?

12. biraj c dhital
my father Mr. DEEPAK MANI DHITAL,the acting General manager of Nepal television was asked to step down today from his post for broadcasting live the

13. prevent the maoists from manipulating electoral environment
#12. biraj c dhital

Your father should have rejected to do so and later on gone to the supreme court in case he's been dismissed forcibly, although Nepal TV is not what i expect national television to be, the matter is of public interest and so it should be treated. Baburam and company wants two-third majority at any cost, just go on looking around all will notice what he is capable of.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)