Sunday, April 27, 2014

On News, Bad News and Breaking News

By Rabin Man Shakya

Despite a host of components of a newspaper, such as, news, features, articles, columns, photos, editorials, interviews, book reviews, letters to editor, obituaries and so on,  news always was and is still the indispensable and essential item in a newspaper, meaning we can't imagine a newspaper without the news. On an average, 75-80 percent of space of the newspaper contents (except advertisements) is comprised by news.

News is a key and essential part of human life. I would rather skip my morning coffee, but I can't move ahead without my morning paper, many Americans in their 40-50s say. So what is news? When a dog bites a man, it is not a news, but when a man bites a dog, it is a news.

Any incident or accident that interests or affects a large number of people in a community is a news. News is something which some celebs, tycoons and pols as well as organizations and governments want suppressed. News is new and exciting information or a report about something that has happened recently.

However, technological innovations have made great strides in the qualitative development of newspapers. These innovations have unprecedented impact on the news as well. People across the world are talking not just about news, but about the breaking news.

That's because the very essence of news is changing in a world of transparent social media where it must be assumed that 'breaking news' and not just news is all that matters. Today, unlike 10 years ago, social media is a very important source as well as part of news and breaking news. There are a number of cases where  the source of breaking news happened to be the social media sites, and not the mainstream media outlets.

If today any important information or news is intentionally skipped  or ignored by the mainstream media because of vested interest, pressure or bias, that piece of information or news is immediately out in the social media sites rendering the old saying about news "News is what the newspapers print and radio and TV broadcast" as irrelevant and outdated.

There were many cases when a number of news triggered panic among the people, but we should remember it's not the stupid news which causes people to freak out but the catastrophe or accident itself. A news story just details about what (what, who, why, where, when and How= five Ws and one H) happened. So news does its thing regardless of anything. News just tries to satiate the 'ravenousness' or 'curiosity' of the people about some incidents, accidents or catastrophies.

In journalism, sadly enough, a bad news is a good news.That is why today  more than ever sex, rape, crime, violence - all are news. Good news about someone seldom gets past the door but bad news will travel a thousand leagues away. The old saying "Bad news travels fast like a bad shilling" rings true too. 

And this is also true that in a world ravenous for scoops, journalists and reporters do anything to become first to break the news. They simply forget that being first to break the news is not as important as being true and correct. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Pulitzer Prize, Snowden and Press Freedom in the US

Rabin Man Shakya

The United States is a great democratic nation which has always been the trail blazer in field of democracy, human rights and press freedom. But lately there has, unfortunately, been some setbacks in the field of press freedom in the US. According to details published by Reporters Without Borders (RWB) in 2014, the US has fallen to 46th in the ranking of the press freedom index faring worse than countries like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Surinam, Botswana, Ghana, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovenia, El Salvador etc.

Roger Shuler, an Alabama blogger was forced to remove blog posts in order to be freed from a US jail. Jeremy Hammond was jailed for 10 years after hacking into the website of private intelligence company Stratfor, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

But the decision of the Pulitzer Prize Committee to honour two newspapers that revealed government secrets about spying by the National Security Agency - The Washington Post and The Guardian - with the Pulitzer Prize for public service was yet another feather in US journalism's cap.

Meanwhile, the Guardian, in one of its news stories published April 14, 2014 mentioned:"The Guardian and The Washington Post have been awarded the highest accolade in US journalism, winning the Pulitzer prize for their groundbreaking articles on National Security Agency's surveillance activities based on the leaks of Edward Snowden."

The Guardian news story went on to say:"In the series of articles that ensued, teams of journalists at the Guardian and the Washington Post published the most substantial disclosures of US government secrets since the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War in 1971."

It is to be noted that Edward Snowden, an American computer specialist, a former CIA operative and former National Security Agency contractor who disclosed classified NSA documents to several media outlets, has been grabbing international headlines continuously since May 2013 up to now.

Snowden, who is currently living in Russia and who has been charged with espionage and faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted, recently again captured the headlines for (1) asking Vladimir Putin on live TV if Russia also spies on its citizens like the US and for (2) reporting on NSA spying winning the Pulitzer prize.

Meanwhile, venting his reactions to the Pulitzer prize news, Edward Snowden , in a statement recently said: "Today's decision is a vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government. We owe it to the efforts of the brave reporters and their colleagues who kept working in the face of extraordinary intimidation, including the forced destruction of journalistic materials, the inappropriate use of terrorism laws, and so many other means of pressure to get them to stop what the world now recognizes was work of vital public importance."

Snowden  further emphasized that his actions in leaking the documents that formed the basis of the reporting "would have been meaningless without the dedication, passion and skill of these newspapers."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Celebration of New Year 2071 BS in Portland

Rabin Man Shakya
Advisor, Nepa Chhen, Portland, Oregon, USA

Every new year brings new optimism, new hopes, enthusiasm, happiness and cheerfulness and it is no different with this New Year 2071 BS. Well, Nepal is a very tiny Himalayan country, territory-wise, of course, but there are different calendars of different ethnic communities in Nepal.

In economic terms, our country Nepal may be a poverty-stricken country, but in the front of arts and culture, there are reasons for Nepal to be proud of her cultural heritage, ancient arts and architecture. Ethnic diversity is one of the distinctive characteristics of Nepalese nationalism.

Nepalese people, no matter, where they are, like to celebrate Dashain, Tihar, Nepal Sambat and Lhosar festivals. The Bikram Sambat New Year is an official holiday in Nepal, but is not enthusiastically celebrated in Nepal, it is just another  day off for the people, whereas Nepalese across the world celebrate the Bikram Sambat New Year as part of maintaining Nepalese traditions and culture. It is to be noted that different ethnic communities of Nepal celebrate different new years, such as, Nepal Sambat and Lhosar festivals of different communities.

To celebrate the Happy New Year 2071 Bikram Sambat, a pot-luck reception was organized by Nepa Chhen at Neku Singh Memorial Theater, West Coast Hollywood Taekwondo in Portland, Oregon. About 80 people from different walks of life from among the Nepali community attended the reception.

The New Year reception in Portland was a happy confluence of wining and dining as well as lots of music, dance, poetry recitation and other fun (such as bingo game). The live performance on the occasion by a Nepali pop group in Portland was another feather in Nepa Chhen's cap.

The celebration of the New Year 2071 Bikram Sambat in Portland, Oregon by Nepa Chhen is a testimony to the fact that Nepa Chhen serves as a broader platform that accommodates the interests not only of the Newars, but of Nepal as a whole. I have been reiterating that Nepa Chhen should always distance itself from Newar, non-Newar dichotomy, and include everyone like it has been doing.

Actually, Nepa Chhen is the embodiment of Nepalese feelings and emotions. And the pattern of the presence of participants at the New Year's program clearly demonstrates the fact that diversity of the Nepalese ethnic communities in Portland were taken care of.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Media, Social Media Freedom: Turkey in Murky Waters

Rabin Man Shakya

In the months since Turkey has been facing political turbulence, this Muslim-majority nation has found an unlikely foe: the social media. Turkey was without the access to Twitter for 13 days, thanks to the Turkish government ban on it. But the government had to lift its block on access to Twitter Inc recently after the Constitutional Court ruled the ban - imposed by the government in March just ahead of local elections - was unconstitutional.

But Turkey is still without the access to YouTube because the Turkish government had blocked it following an audio recording leaked on YouTube had revealed that top officials in Turkey were plotting to fake an attack against their own country as an excuse to wage war on Syria.

According to the Wall Street Journal (April 4, 2014), "Many Turkish users celebrated Twitter's return by posting pictures lampooning the government for banning it. One widely shared image showed Twitter's blue bird logo being released from a cage cloaked in Turkish colors. But the lifting of the ban may not reverse the damage done to Turkey's international reputation."

No wonder, Turkey ranks 154th among 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RWB) on Feb 12, 2014, just behind war-torn nations such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Turkey has failed to make progress in its press freedom record. Turkey continues to rank among the "world's biggest prisons for journalists," according to the latest index released by RWB. In Turkey, dozens of journalists have been detained on the pretext of the "fight against terrorism," above all those who cover the Kurdish issue, the RWB report added.

Therefore, the uncertainty in Turkey's journalistic and social media spectrum is far from over, especially when arrogant Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared: "We will not leave this nation at the mercy of YouTube and Facebook. We will take necessary steps in the strongest way."

There is no doubt that the knee-jerk reactions demonstrated by the ruling Turkish officials about the social media is totally inappropriate and unsubstantiated. This is a testimony that Turkey is not serious about the press freedom and freedom of the people to use social media.