Apublishing house is as good as its publications; a publication is as good as its contents; and professionalism is as good as the staff undertaking it. Easily the grand old lady of the Nepali publishing world, Gorkhapatra Sansthan, has the distinction of several firsts. Its two daily newspapers - Gorkhapatra and The Rising Nepal - are the oldest dailies in circulation.
At 110, the Gorkhapatra is the only centenarian in the country and also one of the oldest existing dailies in this part of the world. The Rising Nepal, nearing 46, is Nepalís second oldest daily and oldest English daily. Madhuparka is the most regular Nepali literary journal with the largest circulation for its genre. Muna holds a similar distinction for the childrenís world. Yuvamanch, focusing on the youth, is the leader in its sphere.
Many institutions built during earlier regimes are found to have discontinued, dismantled or simply allowed to fade away. Newspapers, too, came and went. The 1951 revolution heralded a new era in Nepali journalism. Overnight, news publications sprang up and mushroomed. Jagaran became the first private sector weekly, launched in February 1951. Four days later, Nepalís first ever daily, Aawaj, hit the newsstands. This was only the beginning. More followed suit.
Scale of pace
Journalism had finally arrived on a competitive scale. With the multiplicity of choices, Gorkhapatra started as a weekly in 1901 and was published thrice a week before taking the plunge as a daily in the spring of 1961. The political condition of the prevailing times were not congenial for large-scale investments in the news media, but there were more than a dozen tabloid daily papers in the capital city and virtually none outside the Kathmandu Valley as far as regular publications were concerned.
In December 1965, The Rising Nepal made its appearance in a market that already had a number of English dailies competing for the limited market in terms of circulation and commercial advertisements.
The 1951-60 decade recorded a period of multiparty polity when the floodgate of newspapers was opened. The first Nepali and English dailies were brought out by the private sector. The decades spanning 30 years from the 1960s to 1980s did see the institutionalisation of a national news agency, and the growth of daily and weekly newspapers, which, however, could not criticise the partyless panchayat or openly champion the cause of multiparty polity.
The 1979-1989 decade witnessed a more liberal atmosphere. During the campaign in connection with the 1980 national referendum on the choice given to voters between the partyless Panchayat system with suitable reforms and multiparty democracy, there was open and vigorous discussion for and against both the choices of governance. The Rising Nepal and Gorkhapatra gave a fairly balanced coverage of the referendum campaign contents and political speeches at a time when most private sector newspapers were openly taking blatantly partisan stands in what they termed "mission journalism".
The government-owned dailies continued to enjoy the largest circulation and revenue simply because their coverage of especially non-political news was considered to be far better than those by their private counterparts.
With the restoration of multiparty system in 1990, media freedom has come to stay and get consolidated. And all along, the Gorkhapatra Sansthan has weathered many challenges and competition and constant attempts by the powers that be to use it as a tool for furthering their interests instead of promoting the premier publishing house as a public service institution. There have been changes in the editorship of the Sansthanís publications for some 45 times since 1990. Yet the papers have managed to survive.
In the last 60 years beginning from the first successful revolution for a democratic set-up, hundreds of dailies and thousands of other periodicals have come and gone; only a few managed to survive and just a fewer thrived professionally. Launching a paper alone is not a major achievement. Sustaining it is. The Gorkhapatra Sansthan throughout the decades is the No. 1 tax-paying publishing house - year after year after year. In terms of variety, diversity and quality, the Gorkhapatra daily has done better during the era of six decades of competition than during its first half century under the Rana oligarchy. It gave a forum for many literary luminaries and other intellectuals even during the autocratic political regimes.
However, the long-reigning glow of the Gorkhapatra Sansthanís publications needs to be matched by fresh input in terms of contents, readersí interests and choices through competent, qualified and energetic hands. Journalism demands relentless dynamism on the part of the leadership and unceasing professionalism on the part of the entire staff. Failing to grow with the times is an invitation to decline and decimation.
Merely being the first or the oldest is, therefore, not enough for appreciable access, reach and influence. The Gorkhapatra Sansthan needs to upgrade its publicationsí content quality for more variety, greater diversity and extensively nationwide coverage to define and declare what public news service is.
The Gorkhapatra daily today perhaps has the best all-embracing opinion pages today. Never in history had so many pens with diverse political persuasions found and availed of space in the paper.
Let content speak
Not many might agree with the late Shiva Adhikaryís description of the Gorkhapatra daily he once edited as "the veda of Nepali journalism" but many respected and popular journalists with decades of work experience in the private media vie for heading it. This is a tale in itself.
In recent years, the grand old lady of Nepali journalism is undergoing many small and not so small tremors but has survived all of them. These are signs of the stupendous task and challenges ahead. A robust sense of collective responsibility of not just the editorial departments but the Sansthanís entire staff members together with imaginative and energetic leadership can assure the publications a significant station in the Nepali media in the future, too.
Many centenarian publications in developed countries have had to close shop for failing to cope with the tide of the times and meet the prevailing challenges on time and effectively. Adequate dose and blend of managerial skills, vision and competence in terms of skills producing quality contents are what sustain a news media. Acquiring a chair is an opportunity; it is performance that should show and reward.