Newspapers have never been more important to society

The WAN-IFRA India Conference, the 22nd annual conference, got back to New Delhi this year, after nine years. It’s been a decade of unprecedented change for the news publishing industry, particularly for the printed newspaper, as K. Balaji, chairman, WAN-IFRA South Asia Committee, and director of Kasturi & Sons, said in his remarks at the inaugural.

According to Magdoom Mohamed, WAN-IFRA South Asia’s MD, this year (2014) has been “the toughest with the mood of the industry swinging from month to month”. In the circumstances, it was remarkable that there were 375 registrations. As Magdoom said, it was perhaps an indication of the keen desire among publishers in South Asia to learn from one another and collectively address the challenges of the industry – improving efficiency, engaging with readers, or monetizing content being some of the critical ones.

So were there new ideas, answers and inspiration to tackle the challenges ahead? Did the participants feel they benefited? Perhaps WAN-IFRA receives feedback from those who attend the various sessions at every conference and the expo. It will be interesting to know what the participants think or what they find useful or lacking.

An interesting announcement at the conference was about a record 17 winners from India (out of 115) at the International Color Quality Club (INCQC) Competition, second only to Germany. Ananda Bazar Patrika gaining entry into the Star Club of INCQC is a recognition for the newspaper winning the award five years in a row. Clearly, quality has become a way of life in most Indian newspapers.

 At the conference, while sharing updates from World Press Trends, WAN-IFRA’s annual report (focuses mainly on trends in circulation, advertising and digital newspaper performance, based on inputs submitted by member associations and individual country reports),Vincent Peyrègne, chief executive officer, WAN-IFRA, referred to the worrying attacks on press freedom. One the one hand, people say newspapers are declining; why then when there is a political crisis, are there attacks on editors and journalists, he wondered. If we are no longer relevant why would they bother, he asked the audience, stressing that newspapers have never been more important to society at large.

News about the Rural Media Network Pakistan (RMNP) presenting its 2014 Sadiq Press Freedom Award (supported by WAN-IFRA) to the son of murdered journalist Malik Mumtaz Khan makes us pause and think – of the dangers journalists around the world face daily, who yet plod on relentless. As RMNP President Ehsan Ahmed Sehar said, the award is “a symbol of the struggle for the right to information and a reminder to the international community about the tragic conditions Pakistan has been suffering since the War on Terror began following the 9/11 attacks”. The sacrifices journalists like Malik Mumtaz Khan, James Foley, Steven Sotloff and others have made must never go in vain. We must continue to tell the truth fearlessly. And fight hard against attacks on editors and journalists. 


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