Bharat Koirala is helping to introduce modern journalism to Nepal. A former reporter and editor of two of the country's largest newspapers, he is well qualified.
The New Idea
Bharat left his safe, prestigious work to found the independent, non-profit Nepal Press Institute (NPI), an organization devoted to improving the press skills of Nepal's urban and rural journalists, both established and just starting out. "Our job is to help create a new generation of journalists. They will bring life to the press."
Today in Nepal, despite the rising literacy rate, there has been a decrease in the readership of the nations' newspapers. Readers complain that newspapers are poorly written and that the news is uninteresting.
There are probably limits to how interesting a constrained press can become, but the press has recently won greater freedom, and Bharat believes he can help by strengthening the journalists. He can give them skills, and can help them develop a modern sense of intellectual and professional standards.
He also believes he can help journalists write about development issues of concern to the common person, and increase their reach in the process.
At the Institute, located on the south side of Kathmandu, Bharat and his colleagues conduct training classes for students who are the equivalent of college sophomores. These students pay an admission fee and are trained in the fine art of reporting and writing a news story.
Bharat and his colleagues are also training established journalists in better methods of reporting and writing. At a seminar the Institute just conducted for 25 leading journalists in radio, television and the press, journalists were trained in new technologies and were given refreshed courses on reporting and writing. At the other end of the scale, he's also helping many of the journalists putting out one person journals at the (lively) bottom of Nepal's press. He is also running a program of seminars for rural journalists.
Bharat has hopes that he will eventually be able to support the Press Institute through consultancies that the Institute can do on contract for the Nepal government and for international organizations. For instance, The National Press Counsel, a government body, recently commissioned a paper on the working conditions of journalists in Nepal from 1901 to the present. The National News Agency, which is presently being subsidized by government, also commissioned a study on how they could become self-sufficient financially. It's a beginning.
Bharat believes that building a research effort will be an added element of not just income but also prestige for the Institute. He notes that there is nowhere for people inside or outside of Nepal to run for even the most basic information on media within Nepal. For instance, simple questions such as: how many radio listeners or television viewers does the country have, or what do readers of newspapers in the country like to read about, are unanswerable at present. The Institute is beginning to fill this need.
The Press Institute has also recently begun a wall newspaper for the villages. It focuses on rural development and local news for rural people in Nepal and is the first effort of its kind in Nepal.
UNICEF has just pledged six years of support for the wall newspaper, which will come out once a month. Bharat's co-workers travel throughout the country looking for relevant stories and developing the newspaper's sales and distribution.
A recent issue had articles on the need for vaccinations for rural cattle, oral rehydration formula and how to mix it yourself, a plant that protects crops from insects and animals with its strong smell, a type of manual pump that is effective in many areas of Nepal, helpful hints on the storage of seeds during winter, a Bangladesh hen that has a higher egg yield, and a story on a Japanese peanut with higher nutritional content that can be grown easily.
He also uses carefully researched success stories. A recent issue featured a town that had worked together to install an innovative small scale irrigation system. Another issue had a story about a cobbler's wife who was able to get credit and begin her own business.