Sambad: 24 and counting

Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee

Sambad, the largest circulated Oriya daily turns 24 on October 4, 2007. Having brought about a renaissance in Oriya media industry both in terms of content and form, substance and style, it also ushered in professionalism.

Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee had worked for Sambad for over 15 years since its inception.

His evaluation of Sambad and its contribution to Oriya media industry.

As Robin Jeffrey wrote, “Until the 1980s, Oriya newspapers fell starkly into a particular category: they were put out by people of influence to demonstrate and bolster that influence.
“Unlike the other states”, wrote the journalist Arun Sinha, “Orissa has a press managed by politicians, and not businessmen”.

Some newspapers, it seems clear, were run at a loss because their proprietors valued the prestige and leverage within the tiny elite that dominated Orissa politics from the 1930s.
Circulation, technology, advertising and profit were not the key considerations of owners; status, influence and ‘education’ were.

But in the 1980s, this began to change. Between 1981 and 1991, daily circulations quadrupled and the proportion of Oriya newspaper readers went from roughly 7 per 1,000 to 22 per 1,000.”

It was Sambad, a new daily that ushered in the change.

Srimoy Kar, Resident Editor of The New Indian Express writes, ‘Oriya newspaper industry had to wait till the mid-eighties for the launching of the Sambad by Soumya Ranjan Pattnaik to come of age. The credit for introducing many firsts goes to this pioneer of the media industry.’

The Sambad, launched on 4th October 1984 (on Vijaya Dasami) had Surendra Mohanty, welknown author and journalist as its first editor. Later Surendra Mohanty became the Chief Editor and Soumya Ranjan Pattnaik became the editor. For a brief period Sampad Mohapatra (who is presently working as Orissa Correspondent of NDTV) became the editor. Presently Soumya Ranjan Pattnaik is the editor.

Sambad (Which means ‘news’ and/or ‘dialogue’ in Oriya) revolutionized the Oriya daily scene by introducing for the first time technological innovations like photo type setting, offset printing and color printing. This was a turning point in newspaper industry in Orissa from technical point of view. The placid look of Oriya newspaper changed to smart and snazzy.

Sambad also changed news content and presentation of average Oriya dailies. It introduced a separate sports page and more features. The old stereotyped news presentation was substituted with a more reader-friendly approach. Striking layout and visuals replaced the tired old format. A whole new package offering multi-editions and weekend supplement was launched. By introducing morning edition in a big way it brought in the concept of immediacy of delivery of news in Oriya dailies. Earlier almost all Oriya dailies had single editions and evening edition was the norm. The time it took for a paper from the printing press to readers’ doorstep varied from 2 hours to 24 hours. Sambad attempted and succeeded to change that. It forced other papers to change their publication schedule and to publish morning edition.

As Sambad went for aggressive marketing, advertisement revenue increased and dependence on government sources lessened. For the first time the print media began to get the status of an industry. The quality of journalism too went up as bright, highly educated young men and women were lured to the Oriya media scene with the offer of better pay and perks, and career opportunities. For the first time on the history of Oriya journalism highly educated men and women joined Oriya journalism not out of missionary urge only, but to make a professional career out of it. This was the defining turning point – from mission to profession. Sambad forced other Oriya papers to follow suit.

Thus, eighties saw the coming of age of Oriya journalism from several aspects. From technological point, off set printing, photo type setting and later Desk Top Publishing (DTP) were introduced. This improved the production quality and look of the newspapers. There was a marked change in the content of the newspapers. A sense of immediacy was introduced. Reader friendliness became the watchword. More investigative stories appeared in the newspapers.

Eighties also saw rapid increase in circulation of newspapers. As Jefrry writes, “three processes were at work in the circulation explosion. First, literacy and urbanization had increased, and the pool of accessible readers had grown. Second, technology made it possible to produce better-looking newspapers faster. Third, as circulations began to rise, advertisers saw potential buyers.”

Sambad ushered in a renaissance in Oriya media industry. It did not rest on its laurels. It tried to innovate.

It is the first Oriya newspaper to start regional editions across the state. It also provided training to its journalists in an institutionalized manner.

As a result of the innovations, two and half decades later, Sambad has become the highest circulated Oriya newspaper with over 3 lakh circulation with eight editons across the state.

Sambad has also tried to discharge its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) by starting various activities like ‘Sudha Oriya likhana’ (Write correct Oriya), a movement to improve the reach and use of Oriya language, Blood donation Drive etc.

Recently Sambad has started a journalism school, another first for the Oriya media industry. It has also a sister concern, Radio Choklate, the first private FM Radio station of Orissa.

Hence, it will not be an exaggeration, if it is said that Oriya media came of age in 80s with arrival of the Sambad in the Fourth Estate.

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