But let us first look back at George Orwell and his prophesies
Journalism is no longer the domain of a few, who, through qualifications and tough training, get their first by-line after a year or two of cub-reporting.
In a fast-changing socio-economic landscape, almost everyone is a scribe, thanks to social media such Facebook and Twitter, people can report people, events and opinions. The world thrives on instant posts- messages, reports, pictures and even love and hate.
The Big Brother in 1984
My first reading of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’ a classic novel in content, plot and style by George Orwell, was one of petrification. I read it as a teenager (the book was actually published in 1949) and did not think of it as a literary political fiction and dystopian science-fiction as many others did at that time.
I was astounded because it was beyond human imagination of a time when everyone would ‘feel naked’ even when fully clothed in public or even private. I did not perceive then that there would the Internet of Things that will carry your words instantly from one corner of the earth to the other, crossing time-zones, seasons and political territories. Life was simple; we read books and newspapers, holding them in our hands or occasionally placing them on little stands. We never thought that the world itself would be in the palm of our hand, waiting to be tapped and clicked.
Many of the concepts propounded by Orwell, startling then, are reality today.
Many of his terms, such as ‘Big Brother, ‘ ‘Double Think,’ ‘Thoughtcrime,’ ‘Newspeak,’ ‘Room 101,’ ‘Telescreen,’ ‘2+2=5 and ‘Memory Hole,’ have entered common usage.
‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ popularised the adjective ‘Orwellian,’ which connotes official deception, secret surveillance, brazenly misleading terminology and manipulation of recorded history by a totalitarian or authoritarian State.
In 2005, ‘Time’ chose ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ as one of the Best English-Language novels from 1923. It was awarded a place in both Lists of ‘Modern Library 100 Best Novels,’ reaching Number 13 on the Editor’s List and Number 6 on the Readers’ List.
In 2003, the Novel was listed as Number 8 on ‘The Big Read,’ the BBC Survey.
Change and Constancy
While lifestyle of people has changed dramatically, information gathering, and analytical reporting fortunately has a place even in today’s rushed-world.
That is where Indian Newslink has retained its steadfast beliefs in quality and investigative journalism, becoming a forthright fortnightly. As it is often said, it is relevance and not frequency that matters.
However, our presence among our people has been strong and pronounced. We reach them several times a day through new posts on our website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, twice a week through our Newsletter that reaches several thousand people on our select list and every fortnight through our print edition.
We have just completed 19 years of publication and stepped into our 20th Year, strengthened by your patronage, care and oftentimes, constructive criticism.
Nineteen years may be a wink in the vast canvas of time, but it becomes a milestone in the history of a newspaper.
Nineteen years brought with them challenges, hardships, struggle, mishaps and a mixed bag of bouquets and brickbats.
Nineteen years of constant battle with the ends, to make them meet, so that a publication keeps ticking in its attempts to reach it readers.
Nineteen years of anxiety coupled by excitement and despair, accompanied by hope.
Nineteen years of professional pursuit to reach up to the expectations of its audience.
These short nineteen years seem like a millennium for a small community newspaper that ventured out of the mind of a sole individual whose penchant for the media industry played with a passion for marketing.
It all began in the Spring of 1999 when there was not a publication around to speak for the growing Indian community.
There were voices that were never heard.
There were concerns, issues and matters that existed but never raised.
Simply because there was no platform to allow a dialogue to take place and for exchange of information and experience.
And then appeared an individual who dared to act. A one-man army that was prepared to launch, lead and sustain a campaign with a sense of purpose.
There was no bank balance or venture capital to speak of, there was no one willing to lend an ear for the project, leave alone lend money but there were plenty of people to run down the idea.
And the failure of the Auckland Star that year did not help either to boost one’s morale or assuage the feelings of those who were apprehensive of the concept.
“It will never work.”
“You are wasting your time.”
“Who will read your newspaper?”
As the sound of the detractors and doomsayers became loud, the determination to launch the product and allow for public reaction grew even stronger.
The idea had already begun to grow into action.
People who never tried would never know if they would fail or succeed.
It was nineteen years almost to the day when this special issue was planned that from an obtuse surroundings of an East Auckland home, a Special issue to commemorate the Festival of Lights was published.
The Diwali special, released in September 1999 was to test the waters and evaluate the market potential and response.
It was a prelude to the launch of a regular publication.
The special issue was priced $2.
The pessimists had their field day; the response to the special issue was not exactly overwhelming but not sufficient for any entrepreneur to enter the media world, given its specialties and risks.
But this was not ‘any entrepreneur.’
The launch issue hit the market in November 1999, carrying with it some copies of the Diwali Special as a gift.
The first issue of Indian Newslink was a much discussed topic.
There were a few who encouraged its continuation and many who still considered it a nonstarter.
It was not long before they were proved utterly and depressingly wrong.
The market seemed to have accepted the product, but a number of challenges remained.
For, producing a newspaper, aiming to institute itself as the voice of the community was not easy. It required resources – financial, no less human, with all the attendant issues of marketing, production, printing and distribution.
There was no competition but erstwhile efforts of some to publish a community newspaper had fallen into troubled waters, enough to dissuade similar attempts.
And yet there was no looking back.
Despite the challenges, even problems that at times appeared insurmountable, the newspaper rolled on, issue after issue, carrying news, reports, events and developments that either affected or appealed to the larger Indian community.
There were indubitably moments of despair but never a throw of hands.
Because we wanted to be counted.
As Indian Newslink began to evince reader and advertiser interest, one issue was of serious concern and discussion.
How to sustain reader interest? Was it enough if the newspaper was a give away? What about the duty owed to advertisers who had reposed faith in the individual who had invested his meager savings into the project?
Responsibility-that’s what perhaps distinguished Indian Newslink then and now.
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 year came and went, so did the second, bringing with it increasing market support, accentuated by advertisers and readers.
And then disaster struck.
November 11, 2001 was the day when the offices of the publication were gutted by a merciless fire that raged through the precincts.
Everything perished-computers and computer equipment, software, newspapers, documents-three years of hard work reduced to ashes in less than three hours.
Everything went up in smoke.
Except our determination and the will to carry on relentlessly in our professional pursuit.
Less than 24 hours later, we were back in action, with the work station shifting from place to place every 24 hours, giving way for loss adjustment officials, builders, painters and others to do their job.
Indian Newslink was released on schedule, thanks to the cooperation of the then production team.
But 11/11 became a nightmare in our thoughts.
That 17 years ago.
Today, the newspaper wears a new look-smarter, stronger and more responsive to the needs of the community.
It has been a journey characterised by a mixture of rough and smooth rides, success and failure and achievements and drawbacks. The one has instilled in us a spirit of fortitude and the other a sense of humility.
- The horizon yonder remains bright and clear-the Twentieth bird has just risen (Pixabay Picture)
- George Orwell and 1984 prophesies are realities today
- The first Diwali Cover (left) and the latest, released on December 1, 2018. Between the years and the covers, there is a sea of change.