Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Thanks for dropping in. And welcome to The Journalist – Going Beyond News. The Journalist is a weekly newspaper newsmagazine based in Thimphu, the capital of the Kingdom of Bhutan.
Like the kingdom itself, The Journalist is a young and vibrant journal that we hope will become a publication every Bhutanese and every reader can connect with and become proud of.
The journal was founded by a group of reporters, to keep alive not only their professional integrity and moral obligation but to do what they loved doing – writing.
Today, Bhutan has, apart from The Journalist, three English weeklies, two English dailies and three Dzongkha weeklies. If you follow the footprints of this Mahayana Kingdom, you’d be well aware that Bhutan became the world’s youngest democracy in 2008, the eve of the centennial celebration and coronation of His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the Fifth Dragon King. The year was thus a twain celebration of not only the beginning of a new era for the people in terms of democracy but also for the monarchy, an institution that is closest to the hearts and minds of the Bhutanese people.
Yet democracy itself was not demanded, rather it was decreed and delivered by His Majesty the Fourth King, who abdicated to make way for the Crown Prince.
The year 2008 was thus a seminal point in what has been a relatively young and harmonious history. It was also the year, in which the media – the private sector, really took a foothold, creating a strong impression and bond that has grown tighter and bolder in the ensuing years.
The Story So Far:
So here we are, in 2011, and the media has not just grown in terms of experience and maturity but has, more importantly, provided a very necessary platform for the people and of course, the government.
The people working in the editorial rooms of the Bhutanese media sector are probably one of the youngest in the world. Their lack of experience is more than made-up by their energy and enthusiasm. These are exciting times for the burgeoning industry. The Fourth Estate is living up to the tag and the omens are good. Together with the print-media, there are five radio stations, with two going national. There is one television network, the Bhutan Broadcasting Station, and it won’t be long before private networks hit the cable.
Besides mainstream media, there are a number of periodicals and audiovisual firms. The music and film industry, called the Motion Pictures Association of Bhutan, has actually managed the impossible – they have now totally phased out Hollywood and more pertinently, Bollywood, from film theaters in the country.
Hence when The Journalist joined the bandwagon in 2009, it was done so keeping in mind journalistic ethos. The founding party eventually sold their shares in the company and a new management took over in the winter of 2010. To keep the paper rolling, they roped in Jurmi Chhowing, a roving reporter, freelance writer and co-founder and managing editor of the country’s first monthly thematic magazine, DRUKPA.
After what was a painful departure from the magazine, Jurmi Chhowing took a brief sabbatical from what is the whirlwind world of Bhutanese journalism and went to see his son in Holland. When he got back, the plan was laid-out. The Journalist was going to become a weekly newspaper-magazine. The hard news was being broken by the two dailies. The other weeklies had their niche: business, news-tabloid and rural-oriented. What was obviously missing was a newspaper that gives importance to design, first and foremost, the layout and the look, and then came the contents. What do we want to cover? The answered was rather simple – everything! Hence began the second journey of The Journalist, and it probably won’t be the last.
The Second Coming:
The first changeover came in the front page. Instead of running text-heavy stories that could have been inter-changed with the other weeklies (as the layout were and are still very similar) without anyone knowing any better, The journalist decided to do cutting-edge cartoons, artwork, illustration or photography, depending on the week’s topical issues.
We followed that up with a box called “The Weekly Zest” in the editorial page, highlighting sensitive news with cartoons. Likewise, in the leisure page, an original cartoon strip with two characters, based on the national animal, the takin, was introduced. Known as Tag and Kin, the two discuss topical news from a layman’s POV, usually over a game of carrom or in a bar.
Bloggers got a platform in the center spread, created to give the umpteen Bhutanese writing on the Blogosphere a stage. The page is called “BlogYul” and it features articles that best highlight the week’s topical news. A page called “The Fairer Species” does the same, but for women and written by women. “ArtoGraphy” showcases art and photography. The idea was simple – provide artistes the necessary platform and keep them inspired, and in business.
The Journalist also provides the first full length TV guide called “The Tube.”
These are the lighter, albeit reflective pages. Supplementing these reads are pages developed specifically to encourage serious professionals who can write to write about the subjects they know best. A sampling of these pages: Echoes, U-Turn, Imaginarium, Natural Milieu, Blogger’s Block, Tidings, Limelight and Rearview.
And we pay our contributing writers! Given the financial burden faced by The Journalist, as well as the other papers in general as competition mounts and ads go lean, the amount is generous.
Sometimes the best practical motivation is money – one feels rewarded, and that in turn spurs the inspiration, to write and write fiercely but honestly.
Lending Jurmi Chhowing more than a helping hand is the crew. They like to be called “Guerillas” and take the legendary Dr Hunter S Thompson’s maxim seriously: “That when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”
The Road Ahead:
Now where will The Journalist go? The answer is again simple – to you and to the masses. And how do we do that? By asking you to subscribe, asking you to become a part of the page and help us gain independence from government ads (which is the major source of income for all media in the country).
Here we take inspiration from similar publications abroad, such as The Sun and its founder, Sy Safransky and Ode’s Jurriaan Kamp and Helene de Puy, besides other socially oriented publications such as Tricycle, Shambhala, and Reader’s Digest etc.
Around the globe, ordinary people are taking action in extraordinary ways every day. And if you’re like us, you’re looking for a powerful way to make a difference too. We humbly ask you to subscribe and help us help you so that we can reflect the hundreds and thousands of stories walking around us every day. It’s like what Jurmi Chhowing believes in, that in the end, “we are all stories.” The question is whether your story will be told or not. And we’d like to tell every story worth telling if it means touching a soul here, making a heartfelt connection there, or of simply spreading the word.
Helping Each Other:
We offer more than just bland pages. We want to make your products and services as aesthetically beautiful and presentable as possible. We’ll do samples so that you can make have options, make it easy for you to make up your mind and trust us to deliver. We want to work with you on innovative, integrative print and online packages to help you tell your story to our audience. Your company is part of our family. But most of all, our people want to hear your story. We’ll help you tell that story but you have got to write to us, then we can begin communicating and get to know each other better. Our offices are literally open 24/7 and we appreciate folks who just walk in and shoot questions.
It’s a hands-on approach.
The Journalist is an ode to you and your world. It’s investing in yourself. You’re banking on the idea that along with your fellow subscribers, our Internet family, our staff and the guerillas whose work we deliver to you, we can make your and everybody’s world a better place. The Journalist has always been independent and that will never change, for that is its strength.
The editorial and creative rooms are fiercely independent but sensibly selective and sensitive, maintaining the higher moral ground and always, always keeping the interests of the people and the country in its mind.
Buy a copy of the Journalist. Order a subscription for your friends and family members. Any contribution helps. The old adage about the thousand steps beginning with a small one, the first one, is the essence. We believe deeply in The Journalist and its place in society; in its mission to achieve the vision of running a publication that rises above the muck in which it is rooted.
The imagery is one from Buddhism, where the Lotus flower is invoked: it thrives in murky surroundings yet rises beautifully from that very muck, transforming not just itself but all its environs.
In a nutshell, that is The Journalist, cut and dry, pure and simple. We want everyone to be able to participate, regardless of race, color, creed or financial circumstances. The idea is to nurture a community-supported venture rooted in a sense of belonging and appreciation, trust and belief, strength and wisdom, courage and freedom.
We challenge ourselves to change our world, and as Gandhi said, become the change we all want to see.
Meanwhile, please continue to support this effort in any way you can, and share our messages with your colleagues, family and friends.
In conclusion, be with us, stay with us, for we are all stories, and there’s nothing sadder than an untold story - with warm thankfulness and a renewed sense of all that we are, all that we can become and everything that we share. Cheers!