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‘Entrepreneurial journalists on a par with traditional media’

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Bharat Gupta of Dainik Jagran, speaking on “Newspapers: Multi-media, growth business,” during the third session at the 62nd World Newspaper Congress, 16th World Editors Forum and Info Services Expo 2009 held in Hyderabad on Wednesday.
Bharat Gupta of Dainik Jagran, speaking on “Newspapers: Multi-media, growth business,” during the third session at the 62nd World Newspaper Congress, 16th World Editors Forum and Info Services Expo 2009 held in Hyderabad on Wednesday.

G. Ananthakrishnan

Hyderabad: Journalists who have made the transition to independent online publishing measure themselves against the same professional bar that print journalists do, and are equally differentiated as credible sources in much the same way as newspapers are.

Only, the traditional media were holding them to a higher standard than its own, members of a panel discussion at the ongoing 16th World Editors Forum of WAN-IFRA here argued.

If anything, some sections of the traditional media had blurred the line between editorial integrity and commercial considerations, which was reflected clearly in their publications.

Journalists, the panel members noted, were by nature sceptical, questioning, willing to promote themselves and capable of viewing things after taking a step back – qualities that made them successful entrepreneurs if they chose to go into online publishing.

However, such independent journalism was not to be confused with “poolside entrepreneurship and blogging from the bedroom,” said Rafat Ali, editor of paidcontent.org, the entrepreneurial journalism website that was acquired by the Guardian group. It involved the same rigour, the “blood, sweat and tears,” 24x7 schedules, and the readiness to “burn the candle at both ends and in the middle.”

The loss of journalism jobs in the developed world was permanent, and these were unlikely to return when the economic downturn was reversed. Professionals should, therefore, use the low cost of tools and launch themselves online, said Mr. Ali.

The situation, however, was different in the developing world, which was relatively unaffected by “byline Darwinism.” One of the panellists, Sanjay Gupta, editor of Jagran Prakashan, pointed out that such concerns were less relevant to India, where low print media penetration, rising literacy, low Internet access and slow growth of bandwidth all provided scope for the continued growth of print.

However, the Internet was creating a new segment of young readers.

The panel members, who included Olivier Creiche, vice-president of Six Apart (providers of low-cost, enterprise-grade social media platforms for leading news companies), and Frederic Filloux, editor, Schibsted International, traced the trends that were helping people promote themselves online, and the need for institutions offering journalism education to train students in exploiting emerging opportunities.

Students keen to make their online personality noticed would invariably have a domain name, a blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook page, have posted professional material on the web, commented seriously on blogs, and made a downloadable resume available.

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