On the face of it, a decade is no big deal for a newspaper. There are many in our own country that have turned 100 years or more. The Otago Daily Times will complete 150 years of its existence in 2011, while the New Zealand Herald, the country’s biggest paper, was established in 1863 and has grown from strength to strength, although changing ownership several times in recent past.
Elsewhere in the world, The Post Och Inrikes Tidningar of Sweden, boasts of being one of the oldest newspapers (1645), while the London Gazette and the Times of London are now respectively in the fourth and third century of their publication.
Eleven years therefore is not even a blink on the vast canvas of time.
On that score, you may say that this anniversary is nothing to shout about; but when you consider the context and the environment in which a newspaper like Indian Newslink operates, you would perhaps find a justification.
Firstly, the current year has been one of the most challenging periods in recent memory, with a majority of businesses struggling to cope with the downturn in the economy, perpetrated by the global financial crisis. Many were hit by poor cash flow, slow recovery of their bills receivable and decline in activity.
Secondly, bleak forecast of economic prospects over the next two years witnessed a drop in business confidence, orchestrating a series of measures including scaling down operations and curtailing expenditure.
Thirdly, competition has not only become fierce but also cutthroat and unhealthy, creating inroads into commercial propriety and ethics. Business approach appears to be based more on ‘slaying the other’ rather than to compete on an even-playing field.
On such a score, there appears to be justification in celebrating our Anniversary.
Because it marks a major achievement for a small newspaper.
Because it narrates how odds and ends were overcome.
Because it relates a story of success, built on a saga of struggles and challenges.
Because it demonstrates how a publication can arrive, wading through rough weather.
Because it is a story of hope and confidence and not despair and diffidence.
How it began and how a single fire destroyed everything we had and how it outpaced itself to become a newspaper of standing forms the best part of our next story.
True, Indian Newslink cannot boast of a flash office in Auckland’s central business district; it still emerges out of a functional, if not obscure, precincts in East Auckland.
But size and location are not issues to becoming a forceful member of the Fourth Estate.
Brickbats are free
Today, this eleven-year old child raises the concern of the community, along with its voice and carries it to the people who matter and makes them listen and act.
True, we have tended to be contentious in the process, having suffered the wrath of some.
We have been chastised, chased and excluded.
All because we have put our faith on the finest qualities of journalism, of taking people’s woes and trying to solve them.
All because everyone does not share the same ideals and principles that we hold dear.
All because we stand alone in the community, holding the torch of free and fearless expression, without expecting anything in return.
We have learnt in these eleven years that it takes courage of conviction to be the sole crusader on behalf of the people- be it vis-à-vis the government, a mission, an organisation or even a voluntary body.
We have also learnt that such lonesome battle could be expensive.
But we have relentlessly carried on our campaigns, often times to the chagrin of some, and seen some successes and some failures. Every failure has encouraged us to strive harder with strengthened determination.
Small is beautiful
We know we are not perfect (show us a single person or entity that is, please).
We know we are not opulent as the word is commonly understood.
We know we are a small player in a small market.
And yet we believe we are a veritable platform for exchange of ideas, information, problems, challenges and views.
Indian Newslink belongs to that club which believes in constant introspection and has a penchant to be different and objective.
Responsibility-that’s what perhaps distinguishes Indian Newslink from others.
From its inception, one objective was clear: there must be integrity, transparency and honesty in all operations and the publication should stand the test of market scrutiny.
The first issue was an experiment, so was the second and the third.
The market, including advertisers and readers was testing the veracity of the publication.
There were promises of support and they were delivered.
In a sense, every edition is a success story for every newspaper.
The challenges of course are many and continue to multiply by the day.
A publication given away free is often seen as frivolous, with news and features mercilessly and blatantly lifted from other media (and traded as one’s own) and as an entity too sweet to speak the truth. Issues are sidelined and criticism if any is camouflaged in chorus.
Which is again why, the celebration of our 11 years is justified.
As we move towards the realisation of our objectives (there are many), we are constantly aware of the characteristic changes that the print medium is constrained to undergo, at times altering the course of journalistic values.
The audio and visual medium, not to overlook the vast strides being made by the Internet, are beginning to bite.
The future of the print medium rests on its ability and willingness to embrace change and cope with the times.
But it remains uncertain what mix of advertising revenue, tips and subscriptions will fund the news providers of the future, and how large a role today’s providers will have.
What is clear is that the control of news, what constitutes it, how to prioritise it and what is fact, is shifting subtly from being the sole purview of the news provider to the audience itself, be it the reader, listener, viewer or site hopper on the web.
Newspapers must learn to understand their role as providers of news independent of the old medium of distribution, the paper.
The stodgy newspaper business has officially woken up to the realities of the internet age.
Indian Newslink will judiciously invest in resources – human, financial and material – to serve its readers and advertisers, fostering in the process, its avowed principles of justice, liberty and fairness towards all.
We believe the future would be exciting and replete with challenges.
And we love them.
Now tell us, do we deserve to celebrate this Anniversary?