Death of a newspaper

IN Regional Media | 25/04/2013
In its short lifespan of 18 months, the Seven Sisters Post owned by the Saradha Group made a mark in the North-east.
TERESA REHMAN says its closure is a real loss for readers.

Newspapers come and go. Some perish but leave a lingering imprint in the hearts and minds of people. One such ‘hyper-regional paper, giving extensive coverage to the entire North-eastern region’ launched with rather ambitious goals, lived and died after a brief span of glory. Seven Sisters Post promo ads ran as ‘From Assam to Arakans, from China to Chittagong – We Miss Nothing’ and as ‘The New(s) storm with your tea cup’.

The website no longer functions but the Facebook page is still active. The description reads: “The Seven Sisters Post, which began publishing in November 2011, is a brand new daily being published from Guwahati. We believe that, with time, the newspaper will make a major mark on the North-east, and subsequently the national, media scene because of its focus on providing bare information to the reader shorn of any political colour. Some of our contemporaries do this already but we would like to believe that we will excel in this task because we are beginning with a clean slate, in a manner of speaking.

“The reader will of course judge whether we will have done the job creditably; we can only promise that we will be earnest in our endeavour to do so. Apart from bare news, we will also strive to provide the reader with thoughtful views on a variety of subjects on our editorial and opposite-editorial pages, some of which will be penned by well-known national and international names. Our sports and business coverage will also strive to be on the cutting edge, the daily and weekly supplements like Postscript and The Sunday Post providing the icing on the cake.”

A USP of the paper was indeed its literary page. Prior to its launch, literary editor Uddipana Goswami had written calling for submissions, “The Northeastern Post has been renamed the Seven Sisters Post. As the Literary Editor of the Seven Sisters Post, my aim will be to showcase the literatures produced in the North-eastern region to a wider audience as well as to make readers in the region aware of the richness of their own literatures. Literature from the North-east is usually treated as a homogenous entity, but my effort will be to bring out the diversity within it. It is hoped that this will establish a dialogue of equality and harmony among the many constituents producing the various ‘literatures’ of the Northeast. The critical writings/features could relate to any aspect of the literature of any of the regions within the North-east. They may also deal with particular writers or texts or genres. I am also looking at ‘mainlanders’’ views of North-east literature.”

Noted writer Mitra Phukan says, “The literary section was of an extremely high standard, a surprise (let's be frank) in a paper from this region, whether English language or a regional language one. It showcased local writings and authors, but the perspective was global. Fresh ideas about literature were often mooted in those pages. The editors of those pages did a very good job. Much of what Uddipana put on those pages had never been written about in quite those terms before. Her overviews of the literatures of the States and peoples of this region were really enlightening.”

Smriti Kumar Sinha, a prolific writer of Bishnupriya Manipuri literature adds, “The newspaper tried to highlight translated work from the various ethnic communities of the region. It was an immense bridge-building exercise which was not done by any other media house from the region.”

In fact, the newspaper had infused a new sense of professionalism in the media business in the region in terms of its pay package for journalists. Kh. Kabi, Assistant Professor, Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, says, “It set a new kind of trend in terms of the salary structure of its employees. Most of our students came back from the big metros and joined the paper. We were optimistic that the other media houses would also follow the trend. Unfortunately, the paper became a victim of business, political and media nexus and died an untimely death. Moreover, news is about proximity. The newspaper had a delectable range of stories from the region as well as South East Asia which is so close to us and which we can relate to.”

Guwahati-based youth activist Megha Kashyap says, “It had everything one would seek from a newspaper. Even small happenings in the city would be covered, unlike some renowned newspapers ignoring them. I also loved the editorials and opinions. It was definitely one of the emerging topmost papers in the region. “

The newspaper owned by the Saradha group succumbed to the chit fund scam, leaving its employees in the lurch. The Business Standard reported: The Saradha Group-owned Bengali daily Sakalbela journalists and other employees staged protests here, following the closure of the daily. Saradha Group-owned English daily Seven Sisters Post which was published from Guwahati, also stopped operations. Journalists and other employees of both the newspapers have complained of not receiving salaries for three consecutive months.

The Hindu Business Line reported, “The landlords of houses where the group’s various offices were located in Zoo Road, Lal Ganesh and other areas of Guwahati were also not paid rent before the newspapers closed down in March-April, they claimed.”

Senior journalist Utpal Bordoloi’s post on the Facebook page seemed prophetic. “Your Editorial Content is probably the best of any English paper published out of Guwahati (we are not including The Assam Tribune here because their formula you cannot beat – and you cannot capture their market). But your weak link is marketing: this is where your paper will rise or fall. Anyway, best of luck. I like reading your paper.” 

 It is also time for introspection for the media. Patricia Mukhim in her column in Assam Tribune on April 25 wrote: "It is also a sad commentary on all of us mediapersons that we never questioned Saradha's source of wealth and the splash it made. We never asked whether the company and its multiple diversifications from real estate to media etc were above board." 


Teresa Rehman is the Managing Editor,





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