Monday, 11 May 2015

Open Letter: Dear western media, we need to talk



Somewhere in August 2014, Huffington Post and Times Internet announced their tie up to launch the Indian version of the website. Earlier that year, Atlantic Media launched their Quartz India. In February 2015, Mashable made headlines when they revealed their intentions to launch Mashable India. Everyone was happy as western media made their intentions clear about entering the growing news business in India. Buzzfeed was not far behind as they also launched their India version.

What happened next? All of them barring Mashable launched their Indian versions. Everyone was happy with the Indianised versions of opinion pieces, lists and news. While Huffington Post hired some well-known faces from the online world to run their business, Quartz did all that without much media attention. Buzzfeed, on the other hand, got one of their New York office to run their website.

So far, so good. But then, why I am writing this letter?

While I, and many young journalists like me, appreciate the move to open the Indian versions of your award-winning and notable websites, I really wonder how much you will earn. Journalism in the West is significantly different to the journalism in this country. It is more a business here, unlike in the West, where it is about reporting and being the first to break and inform the public about what is happening in the world.

I understand your intention to make your presence felt, to earn those extra bucks, to become global brands in the true sense of the word. However, I have a request and suggestion, which may brighten the future of journalism.

There was a time when publications exchanged employees from one city to another to teach and enlighten them on how the different city bureaus worked differently. Remember the international student exchange programme? Why did that start, in the first place?

When multinational deals are made, the chief management usually travel around the world to see how different newsrooms work. This is something I could never fathom. More than the management, should it not be the employees who need to travel to different bureaus to see how journalism is different across the world?

Why? While the editors take final calls on editorial decisions, it is finally the writers and reporters that help complete the final product. Understanding how different newsrooms work teaches employees more, and in return, helps editors also in making the work more comprehensible.

It is not only that. Sending employees on foreign trips that include fun and work will also make them feel more wanted. Am I making sense?

So it is time that the sub-editor, reporter and even the designer get the flight ticket to other branches and get to learn how journalism works in USA. The management can, of course, keep making those business trips. One less would not hurt them.

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