10-16 November 2017 #883


Nepali Times invites readers to this space to comment regularly on its content, correct inaccuracies and offer suggestions.
Julia Thomas
Amidst a print culture where headlines across Nepal’s newspapers are often homogenous, Nepali Times’ storytelling stands apart with an approach that humanises its subjects. In the 13 October issue, a rosy-tinted cartoon entitled ‘Bed fellows’ paints three leftist leaders as snuggled beneath the sheets, while another front-page story in August displayed small images of Govinda KC’s condition with each passing day of his 23-day hunger strike. These put faces, caricatured and real, to the news, and to actions that might otherwise become headlines ridden with party acronyms.

I spent the past three months observing the production of Nepali Times, watching stories unfold and come together on the page. Other pieces examined how recently-elected mayors in Chitwan, in particular a female mayor, more efficiently allocated relief funds or floods. Rather than break a story, Nepali Times often provides historical analysis and digs deeper into context, with an emphasis on impact.

The paper has evolved consistently over time, cutting word length to accommodate large and vivid visuals, taking up video storytelling, but has also stayed more rigid in its editorial voice than most other newspapers. The primary leadership of Nepali Times has not changed, thus the ideas presented in politically focused articles carry much of the same flavour. The paper often takes a stance in favour of upholding the status quo, and doesn’t necessarily advocate for more radical change even if its content points towards an undeniable need for action and the current lack thereof.

Each week, at least one article is lifted from the Nepali media and translated into English as a means of offering a different voice. But what if this process was reversed, and some portions of Nepali Times' media, such as videos, were also published in Nepali?

Presenting these stories in English allows the paper to reach a more upper-class, educated population concentrated in Kathmandu and abroad that might not otherwise have such a major source of information on realities in Nepal outside of the major centres. Because other papers are not necessarily telling these stories, Nepali Times could perhaps fill a gap and expand its reach by translating a portion of its content in Nepali.

As a platform that holds human justice and advocacy for the democratic process close to its heart, the paper could do more pieces that set a timeline and historical depth to its stories. Let’s see more accounts of less consistently addressed issues, such as rebuilding after the earthquake or current dynamics in the Tarai after local elections, from reporters in districts outside of Kathmandu. Rather than editorialising or towing over familiar topics, let’s see more lived perspectives from local reporters from areas or backgrounds that are often not addressed explicitly or consistently in the mainstream media.

Nepali Times does offer space for testimonial and first-person perspectives in its longer features and columns, and continuing to experiment with different forms and evolution over time is its strength. With its growing digital presence, there is room to reach further to new audiences and mix up format and vision.

Articulating change is the essence of news. So, Nepali Times should publish by the same standards, by taking a step back to re-evaluate the thinking that shapes its perspectives.

Julia Thomas is a 2017 recipient of the Watson Fellowship and spent three months in Nepal.

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