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www.thehimalayantimes.com WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 2011

glorious years
The Himalayan Times
... AND STILL UNSTOPPABLE

MY JOURNALISM GURU
The great editor of Himalayan proportion

W

hen I was asked to ‘write something’ on our founding editor — as I was among one of the first seven trainee journalists of The Himalayan Times (THT) — the one and only question that popped on my mind was, ‘What would be the word limit?’ But in retrospect, it would not matter really because all the pages in this supplement and all the words in my vocabulary would neither suffice to put my thoughts about Ram Pradhan in writing nor adequately justify what he meant to the paper or the people who had the privilege of working under his leadership. Ram sir, that is what we used to call him, may have meant a lot of things to a lot of people. But for me personally, he was a mentor, a friend, and even a father figure. I may seem biased in my opinion, but my reasons to hold him in such high regard is not unfounded because while every individual will have wonderful things to say about the one person who moulded their career, I am one of the lucky few who can truly say that I always felt THT was my ‘home away from home’. And I accredit it to Ram sir, who made me feel I belonged here. I still remember the initial years — the long and endless working hours, the stress to meet the deadlines and finally the indescribable satisfaction of seeing my name on the paper for a deserving story. And yet, there were always those lingering doubts about my own capabilities — whether I was a good enough reporter, especially at the face of uncertainty that surrounded the newspaper in the beginning. During those times, it was Ram sir’s belief in me that quelled my worries and motivated me to carry on. In the editorial marking the first anniversary of THT titled ‘Working with the young’, Ram sir had mentioned that it was the young men and women who stood behind him that gave him the confidence that the enterprise called THT was here to stay. But if I were to speak for the team of the young people, I would say it was his relentless push for us to continuously strive for better, his patient mentoring and unshakable faith in our ability — and most importantly on us — that gave us the confidence to withstand each and every adversity that we chanced upon. In line with our

editorial policy of ‘fear none but be fair’, we dreaded nothing, except perhaps getting a memo from Ram sir if we were slagging in our performance. Simple as our goals were — good journalism, professional handling of issues and constant awareness of public’s right to know the truth — the feat of guiding THT to the position of number one daily was nothing less than worthy of a standing ovation. They say nothing is constant in this world, except for change. And while a lot of things have changed over time, a number of things have remained the same in THT. His assurance in the first edition of THT in 2001 to our valued readers and advertisers about our

commitment of constant improvement still stands. In fact, the ship of THT is still steering ahead with every crew vying to further enhance the paper. William Shakespeare has been quoted as saying, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” I am at dilemma about which category he falls under, however, there is little doubt (and here, I speak on behalf of all the people whose lives he touched in THT, if I may) that Ram sir truly was a ‘great editor of Himalayan proportion’ (that is, how he liked to refer to himself). In our lifetime, we meet a lot of people. Mostly we remember them by what they were. But in case of Ram sir, I would like to remember him for what THT became because of him — a great newspaper. Much of what I learnt and what he taught me has influenced me so much that it has even governed my personal life to some extent. I have tried to live (to the best that I possibly could) by his ‘no-regret’ disposition. Yet, I cannot help but have one — that our plans to meet up never materialised.

THT evolution with IT revolution
W
hen I joined The Himalayan Times (THT) back in 2003, I was not its loyal reader. Nine years have passed, but I hardly read the newspaper even now! Thanks to the internet and advancement in information technology (IT), I can access its online version and the developing stories on its website from anywhere, anytime. THT — that is how the newspaper is popular among its readers — has evolved with the revolution in IT, and spread its reach to the tech savvy readers as well as the ones living abroad in the recent years. I have witnessed the gradual changes on it — as an employee till 2005 before I quit my first job; as a reader for three years or so when I went to pursue further studies and was a passionate blogger; as a competitor when I was looking after the Kantipur Publications’ ekantipur.com and, of late, as an employee again with greater responsibilities at its Online Department since June, 2010.

— Prashannaa Chitrakar Senior Sub-Editor Special Projects, THT

but with the addition of new features. ‘Latest News’, ‘Breaking News’ and ‘Guff Shuff’ were introduced to provide the readers with the update on developing stories and entertain them with extra-paper contents. Career journalists from within the publication were involved in its daily operation by then. This added a milestone in the THT evolution and its stint in online journalism.

Ratna Sagar Shrestha / THT

Punnen: Man of many virtues and few vices

ayantimes.com) that replicates the print content, in April 2009. Also introduced simultaneously was free newsletter to the online subscribers. The new website is based on PHP technology, and MY SQL database. THT was the first newspaper to launch the mobile-friendly site, e-paper and newsletter in Nepal. It has also provided a platform for the bloggers and wannabe writers. It has built separate sites for the regular or special supplements, and has been covering special events with special pages — making maximum use of multi-media contents like photographs and videos, along with the text. It has been launching several contests for the readers also. With the growing popularity of the social media, we have made our presence felt on Facebook and Twitter. A significant number of readers follow us on Twitter (@thehimalayan) and Facebook (http://on.fb.me/kO6Cd0) and catch up with the news, views and other materials.

T

he Himalayan Times (THT) is known for its catchy headlines today because of one man — PC Punnen. He was the news editor for more than six years since THT’s inception and played a big role in THT changing the face of Nepali media for good. Though he was a bachelor, he was married to journalism and its defining value — honesty. So much so that he did not spare his own media fraternity, when he sensed they were hiding the truth. He exposed them in his columns in Pioneer, an Indian daily. Though that was before internet became popular and newspaper archives could be viewed online, two such articles can be seen on rediff.com. But by doing so, he broke the unwritten rule of Fleet Street — dog does not bite dog. This did not endear him to the media houses in India. Perhaps that was why he moved to Nepal after burning his bridges in India. He was already a veteran journalist when he came to Nepal. He had worked as news editor with Pioneer, the Business and Political Observer, Current Weekly, the Free Press Journal of Mumbai and was a senior news editor with Indian Express group way back in early 90s. He hails from Kerala, where communists are in a

majority. Perhaps that is why he had a leftist leaning. Though that seldom showed in THT’s news coverage, it was evident from his minimalist approach to life, his aversion to accrue wealth and disdain for tennis, which he thought was a sport meant for the wealthy. Though he liked talking about soccer, a game of the masses, the game he loved to play was chess. He would spend hours playing against the computer when THT in-house chess tournament was on. And when he beat the computer, which he did often, he showed childlike delight. Though I cannot recall him using chess terminology in news headlines, in his book Nepali Drama: Toppling of an Avatar, titles of two chapters are in chess jargon — In Zugswang and Fianchettoed Bishop (though the book is full of typos, he got these two tongue twisters spelt

right!). He subscribed to erstwhile proprietor of The Times Lord Northcliffe’s idea of news: something that someone somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertisement. Perhaps that is why he had quite a few detractors and often had to fight to have his way in editorial matters. But fighter he was to the core. Probably that is a reason why he had a liking for Khukuri rum and Khukuri cigarettes. But if Khukuri rum was not at hand, he would drink anything that was — even cheap country liquor. And that took its toll. He suffered a cerebral stroke and had partial memory loss. In fact, the last time when I met him in Norvic Hospital, he had forgotten my name and could neither write nor read, not even the headlines. I hear he is recuperating in Kerala. The fighter that he is, I believe he will win this battle too.

THT’s website www.thehimalayntimes.com was launched soon after the newspaper hit the stand in the end of 2001. But the site was static, and very primitive back then. A few selected stories from newspaper used to be uploaded — needless to say, only to be replaced by other stories the following day. Though Mercantile Communications started archiving the print content of some newspapers published from Kathmandu since 1997, and launched nepalnews.com as an integrated news portal the following year by publishing developing news also, the term ‘online journalism’ was something unheard of, if not a non-existent phenomenon. It was because mainstream print media’s focus was on the newspaper only. The news websites, by and large, were a mere duplication of the print editions — probably in operation to show their online existence only. In March 2003, the THT website was upgraded, taking up the ASP technology and MS SQL database. The new site and the system continued for three years and three months. The modus operandi, however, did not undergo any change during the period. The website sported the stories published in the print edition only and the technical team was taking care of the business. In June 2005, the website was revamped with the technology used earlier intact

Later in 2008, two new dailies — one each in Nepali and English languages — were announced. The new venture started two separate news portals with giant teams of seasoned journalists completely dedicated to online journalism before the print editions were launched. The new competitor on the block incited the existing big media houses to face the challenge. To be in the swim and more than that, to be one step further, THT launched its revamped website along with its mobile version (http://m.thehimalayantimes.com) and epaper (http://epaper.thehimal-

— Anuj Arora News Editor, THT

THT

This new trend has been helpful in interacting with the readers, and increasing their number as well. With a dedicated team of journalists and technicians and, of course, with the support from all other departments, our website has succeeded in becoming one of the top Nepali news portals. Meanwhile, I turned nostalgic while punching the keys to prepare this write-up. I recalled queuing up in front of the only computer at the Editorial floor that was hooked up to the internet. Doing so had been my routine, as I had to do some online research before writing editorials and selecting articles from The Guardian and Christian Science Monitor websites for the Oped page back in 2004 and 2005. Now all computers have internet access and I look after the Online Department that works on internet round the clock. There is no question of resting on our laurels. Each day is a new day, and we are ready to face new challenges in the days to come. www.thehimalayantimes.com, has evolved , and has to grow further!

— Keshav P Koirala Deputy Head Online Department, THT

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