Web Journalism in Orissa

mrinal-chattergee(Editor notes: Internet journalism in Orissa at several layers has been working as a developmental communication. It is gaining wide acceptance by most readers of traditional mass media, following the online potential to disseminate and organize news, as well as enabling the readers’ active participation. Orissa, with its highly promising information technology sector, has been on the forefront of online activism since quite a few years now.

The following article is authored by Associate Professor Mrinal Chatterjee, of the renowned Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Dhenkanal.
This is the first comprehensive, and most authoritative history of Orissa Web Journalism. OrissaMatters is delighted to showcase it for our valued readers.)

The Beginning:
History of Web journalism in India is just about 10 years old. The Hindu of Chennai is the first Indian newspaper that launched an Internet edition in the country, in 1995. By 1998 there were at least 48 newspapers in India that had launched their Internet editions, as observed by Sri Kiran Thakur of University of Pune in his research paper on Internet journalism in India. “These constituted less than one percent of the total 4719 dailies that were registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India, as of December 1997. Language-wise break-up of Indian online newspapers was as follows: (In brackets are numbers of print dailies in the respective language being published as of December 1997) English 19 (338), Hindi 5 (2,118), Malayalam 5 (209), Gujrati 4 (99), Bengali 3 (93), Kannada 3 (279), Tamil 3 (341), Telugu 3 (126), Urdu 2 (495) and Marathi 1 (283). The researcher could not locate online editions of print dailies published in Assamese, Manipuri, Punjabi, Oriya, Sanskrit, Sindhi and other languages of India though there are print newspapers in these languages.” All India Radio got connected to the Information super highway by introducing an experimental online information service on the internet on 2 May 1996.

Present status:
By 2006 almost all major dailies and most of the established news magazines and television channels of India have their net edition. Newspapers and magazines, however, are not the sole players in this game of online news delivery. They were joined by newsportals, news congregators and internet companies like MSN, Yahoo, Google. Many news-centric websites like cobrapost.com also surfaced.

In Orissa, Sambad started its net edition on 1 April 1999. The development in this sector has been very fast in Orissa. For example, a survey by IIMC students of IT facilities used in various newspapers in 1999 found Samaya did not even have an internet connection. Now it has its website. So has almost all the major newspapers and newsmagazines and television chanells of Orissa. Samaja even has a e-paper version. Besides, there are about a dozen Orissa-centric media sites with focus on Orissa related news. Orissa-centric news web sites are new phenomena. Subhash Chandra Pattnaik, who runs orissamatters.com is probably the first accredited Oriya ‘web journalist’. Similarly Prakash Rao was a print journalist before he became the editor of insightorissa.com, another Orissa centric news site. Sites like mahanadi.com has news content but the focus is different- culture and business.

Barring few websites, web journalism, so far the content is concerned has not yet evolved as a separate genre in Orissa – in its form, presentation, texture, tenor and full utilisation of the potential of this medium.

The Internet edition of Oriya Newspapers still basically use the same text and photographs that form the contents of the print dailies. These newspapers hardly have news and features prepared exclusively for the Internet edition. However, it is also not that the online editions contain every news, feature and photograph used in the corresponding parent print newspaper. About 60 per cent text is ‘shovelled’ from the print to the web edition.

Most of the Orissa-centric websites are bilingual. They use English and Oriya script. But the interactive part is in English. Most of them try to disseminate need-based info, besides regular news. For example Samaja site (June06) has HSC results, Pragativadi and Dharitri site have train and aeroplane timings.

Editorial process of production:
Most of the newspapers in Orissa treat the online editions as part of their present publication business. Same scenario prevails at the national level too. Some mainstream newspapers like Times of India, however, is gradually separating its online paper as separate entity. But in general, it is still treated as a part of the print edition.

The editorial matter and advertisement copy from the respective departments reach the web section through LAN. The content for the Internet edition is selected here. The copy is edited once again on the computer screen and passed on to the systems department, which puts the contents onto the web pages. These are uploaded to the servers. And then, Internet edition is available to the millions of readers who access the newspaper on their computers. Most of the Oriya newspapers on Internet are uploaded at around midnight, that is, when the print edition is put to bed. Some of them are updated more frequently. But there are some, which do not update regularly.

Staff for the Internet Edition:
Most Oriya newspapers have a bare minimum staff for the web edition- one or two sub-editors. There is no additional staff for procuring advertisement for the net edition in most Oriya newspapers, unlike papers like The Times of India and The Hindu Online where some staffers work exclusively for the web department. Similarly, the staff of the systems department looks after the work for uploading the edition. Some newspapers have outsourced this task to private players. The Internet edition is thus run without incurring heavy investment in infrastructure and human resource. The publishers do not find it prohibitive to bring out these editions, even though they do not make profits. But things are changing.

With the growth of internet users and Oriya diaspora, Internet edition of Oriya newspapers and news-centric websites are becoming popular. Orissasambad.com, net edition of Sambad claims to get about a lakh hit per month.1 It is now attracting online advertisements.

CyberOrissa, an Orissa-centric general interest website has 5-6 staff. They make do with revenue collected through their other service-oriented websites like swayambar.com, a matrimonial site.2

Web Journalism developing a different ‘flavour’ and culture :
Web Journalism is gradually developing a ‘flavour’different from print journalism. This is primarily because of the nature of the medium. In a website, ‘there are less of spatial and temporal restrictions as both latest and oldest information can exist together (latest updates and archives)’ 3 It is easier to collect, process and disseminate information on net. It is much cheaper to host and operate a news web site than say to publish a newspaper or to run a television channel. That is why more and more news-centric websites are coming into being. It provides more freedom- in every sense of the term to the journalists. The number of users of computer in India is also growing by leaps and bounds. The IDC India survey reveals that the Indian computer market grew by around 25%(PCs) in 2004-2005. According to this survey Indian IT market crossed US$25 billion mark in 2004 and it is predicted to grow at 21% for the next five years. 4

According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) the internet user base will grow from 39 million in 2006 to 100 million in 2007. 5

Net connectivity is also improving. All these are helping in generating more news centric websites and more journalists opting for web journalism.

In fact in recent times most of the investigative stories have been initiated and actualized by web journalists (tehlka.com, cobrapost.com, etc.). Some of these websites are also forming strategic partnership with other established media organization for wider reach.

Another factor that has prompted journalists to work on web- is the ease of research on web. Since retrieving information is easy on web- many journalists are relying on internet for research. Most of government departments of Orissa are now making information available on net. All the 30 districts of Orissa have their websites providing vital informations. It is making journalists’ task of retrieving necesary information easy. It is a separate matter that many of the websites providing government information are not updated and maintained properly. The infrastructure is in place. Application is lacking. With more and more journalists demanding information through internet, the government machinery will be forced to provide that.

Web journalism is changing the way journalism is practised. There is, ofcourse, nothing new in this. It happens whenever a new technology arrives. Web journalism is gradually developing a different culture of immediacy. Since updates in a website can be effected easily and immediately, web journalism warrants that sense of immediacy- like say in a news agency or 24×7 television channel. But technology has provided the opportunity to web journalism to be even faster. A web journalist can update its site even when the news is unfolding. In journalism, if one can, one does.

Samaja has started its e-paper (samajaepaper.com) in 2006 with easy navigation. Browsing through an e-paper is a totally different experience from accessing an online or web edition of a publication. The difference between web edition of a paper and e-paper is : e-paper looks exactly like its printed edition. But web edition of newspapers looked different from their print edition in terms of pagination, placement of advertisements, classifieds, etc. When readers wanted to see their favourite newspaper exactly as it looks on computer- the need for e-paper arised. Infact e-paper takes us back to the start of the cycle in the early mid-90s. Then newspapers merely converted their print editions into web editions- with no value additions. However this time around there is a difference. The e-paper looks exactly like the print edition, but it has all the features of an online edition. 6 Thus the electronic newspaper is a mix of print looks and web tools such as search and digital clipping. Many newspapers like for example Hindustan Times and Times of India have both web edition and e-paper edition. Samaja has started this trend in Orissa.

Citizen Journalism:
Internet has provided opportunity to ordinary people to disseminate information and their views and comments to the entire world. Net-savvy people have taken to this in a big way. It has created what is now called ‘citizen journalism’. In Orissa some websites are encouraging people to send news and write their views and experience. Some journalists have opted for this kind of journalism for the freedom it provides. Subash Chandra Pattnaik has started a website : saubhasya.com. In its editorial titled torana(Gateway) he writes: ‘…internet journalism has provided me the opportunity to express myself. There is no barrier between me and my readers.’ 7 Many net-savvy journalists are creating their own websites and blog sites. Many e-groups are being formed which exchange news and views within the group.

There are two differing views on this . One view considers this development as a boon as it is broadbasing and democratising journalism. The other view questions the credibility of citizen journalism. The argument is: without proper training and news-gathering experience, one tends to be biased; and that is the bane of citizen journalism.

Whatever may be the views- the present status is: citizen journalism is growing in Orissa.

A List:
Here is an indicative (by no means exhaustive) list of websites of Oriya newspaper and magazines and some Orissa news-centric web sites:

Samaja: www.thesamaja.com
Sambad: www.orissasambad.com
Pragativadi www.pragativadi.com
Samaya www.orissasamaya.com
Dharitri www.orissakhabar.com

Kadambini www.kadambini.com

Orissa-news centric websites:

Notes and References
1. Advertisement published in Sambad, Angul edition, 6 July 2006.
2. said Dayananda Ratho CEO of cyberorissa.com . in an interview over telephone. 20 June 2006
3. Web journalism. Retrieved December 26, 2005 from olimu.com/Web Journalism/WebJournalism.html
4. IDC.(2005, July 6)IDC Press. Retrieved December 26, 2005, from http://idcindia.com/Press/6%20july%202005.htm.
5. Retrieved 20 March 2006, from www.economic times
6. Sharma Dinesh C., Web Editions versus Electronic Newspaper, Journal of the Press Institute of India- Vidura, Vol.43, issue No.2, April-June 2006
7. Retrieved 4 July 2006 from soubhhsya.com.

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