Sahina Shrestha, Digital Products Strategist
As the results of the Sharecast Initiative Nepal Survey 2020 featured in this issue show, Nepal is going digital in a big way. There is a dramatic increase in ownership of mobile devices, a vast amount of video content is being uploaded on YouTube and Facebook, and internet use is set to grow further with demand for smartphones and data plans.
Following this trend, Nepal’s media companies are also opening up to the use of digital tools in storytelling. There has been an explosion of news and entertainment portals and YouTube channels. It is fair to say that the Nepali Times was one of the pioneers of online journalism in Nepal. It was ahead of the pack in 2000 when it started a digital edition even before making a splash with its first print copy.
Over the years, even as the hardcopy version took precedence, we made sure to experiment with data visualisation, audio-visual content and interactive graphics. After the 2015 earthquake, Nepali Times adopted a digital-first policy, uploading content online before a version appeared on Friday in print.
Today, as more of our audience meet us online, we are rethinking not only our product but also our business model. Journalism worldwide is increasingly dependent on and being influenced by the likes of Facebook, Google and Twitter. These are no longer ‘just platforms’ for our content. On the one hand we compete with them for audience and ad revenue, and on the other we rely on them for technologies and dissemination.
With shrinking budgets and revenue pressures, ‘legacy’ newsrooms like that of Nepali Times are being forced to think innovatively with the resources we have. As a traditional news organisation seeking innovation, growth opportunities and sustainability, we will continue to explore new platforms to distribute content and grow audiences. We will continue to work around the algorithms and experiment with social- and mobile-optimised formats that are shareable and quick to ingest.
I am glad to be back at Nepali Times in this new position just as the paper marks its millennial milestone and am looking forward to streamlining a new media strategy for the future.
Sonia Awale, Associate Editor
Welcome to this 1000th print edition of the Nepali Times weekly that also celebrates the 8 March International Women’s Day. It has been a two-decade long journey, during which my predecessors who have transitioned through this newsroom have witnessed history first-hand: the war, the 2001 palace massacre, the royal-military coup of 2005, restoration of democracy, a prolonged political transition, the earthquake, the Blockade and finally federal elections in 2017.
The earthquake struck on my first week as an intern at the Nepali Times five years ago. Reporting on the aftermath of the disaster was like being thrown off the deep end. In 2017, after completing my master’s in digital journalism, I returned to the paper with a focus on covering health, environment and the climate crisis.
Unlike other newsrooms, the Nepali Times does not have much hierarchy, and we are not rigid about beats. I was involved in the team that redesigned the online edition of the Nepali Times, which has seen a three-fold increase in reader numbers in the last three years. We have tried to bring the newsroom and the audience closer, refined our multimedia content and come up with original, in-depth coverage of a Nepal outside Kathmandu.
For the past two decades, the Nepali Times newsroom has pursued context and process, rather than simply covering events. This gives the hard copy edition a longer shelf-life, and the archives impart research value to Nepal-related topics that will be useful into the future.
Every week, www.nepalitimes.com has more than 100,000 unique visitors, most of whom have bookmarked the homepage and begin browsing there, instead of clicking on story links on social media. The average reader spends five minutes per page, which is remarkable in an age of short attention spans.
Nearly half of the Nepali Times’ readership online is women, mostly in the 25-34 age group. Contrary to common perception, more than 80% of readers are Nepali, and 35% reside in Nepal. Most diaspora readers work and study in the United States, India, the UK, Australia and the Gulf, in that order.
Thank you, readers for being with us the past 1,000 times. We in the Nepali Times newsroom look forward to the next 20 years of making sense of the three-pronged crises of democracy, media and climate that Nepal and the world face today – and trying to find solutions.
Alisha Sijapati, Correspondent
Starting when I was six years old, my grandmother had me read the headlines from the Nepali newspapers out loud to her every morning. She enjoyed hearing me read the news and as I became a better reader, I read whole articles to her. My interest in journalism developed from this morning practice that we still share.
My career as a journalist started with internships first at The Himalayan Times and then at Himal Southasian. The journey of a trainee journalist is not always rosy, but these experiences taught me a lot. Later, as a full-time reporter at The Kathmandu Post, I was on the culture beat, but also had the opportunity to do business reporting and some investigative stories.
Leaving a large daily for the smaller newsroom of the Nepali Times has been a big change for me. This place is a breath of fresh air. There is a calmness here even during frantic deadline pressure, and as media becomes faster paced the way our newsroom operates has lessons for everyone.
In preparation for this 1000th issue of the Nepali Times, my colleagues and I flipped through the archives of the paper, and I got a glimpse of its underlying philosophy of 'solution journalism'.
This means not limiting ourselves to a description of the problem, but looking beyond the current difficulty and searching for answers. It may take the form of analysis or profiles of people who have overcome obstacles despite tremendous odds. The Nepali Times has consistently and doggedly pursued issues that matter, always holding out for a better future and suggesting how we might get there.
After seven years in journalism, there are some important understandings that I take with me from one newsroom to another. I believe that we journalists work for our readers and viewers and that we must be accountable to and sensitive towards those we write about even as we strive to uncover wrongdoings through honest and unbiased reporting.
Monika Deupala, Photojournalist
Two years ago, during my internship at the Nepali Times, my editor told me: “You have the eye to see things others don’t.” That was the first time anyone had recognised my passion for photography.
Soon, I was a Nepali Times staffer, but while shooting events I saw how few of us women were out there taking pictures. This is a problem. In a competitive field, the gender gap manifests in people not taking women as seriously. I am still not very confident in crowds.
There are advantages, too: being women gives us access that many male colleagues would find difficult. But it will take time to make people understand that female photographers are good on their own merit, and not because of their gender.
Back in high school, I was part of a class group that monitored the daily newspapers. We had to arrange them in rows before morning assembly. I was not much of a reader, but was intrigued by the photographs. I told my teacher I wanted to be a photojournalist, and he frowned, asking if I thought it was a profession for a woman. But I pursued my goal. I took a media course in college, bought my first DSLR, and honed my camera skills during class assignments.
The last two years at the Nepali Times have been a journey of self-exploration for me. I understand my abilities now beyond limitations, and have more confidence travelling alone to new places and talking to strangers I am photographing. This paper has shown me what true professionalism is.
Sanghamitra Subba, Reporter
Fresh into my first job, I entered the welcoming, sunny and dog-filled newsroom of the Nepali Times. I came in as an intern, bright-eyed and ready to learn from the editors and reporters whose work I had admired as a student rifling through the colourful newspaper every Friday in the library.
Into my first week, I was invited to join a journalism dialogue between graduate students from India, Pakistan and Nepal. Those three days provided a crash-course in crossborder journalism, and fired my interest in reporting. This was the first of many amazing opportunities that I have had working at Nepali Times.
With the freedom to pursue the topics that I wanted to and the generous encouragement of newsroom colleagues, I covered everything from community homestays in Panauti to multiethnic marriages. At every step, I received the generous guidance of seniors, who taught me everything they knew about being an effective interviewer, editing videos and most importantly, maintaining composure during even the most challenging assignments.
This women-dominated newsroom has been both a source of inspiration and a reliable support system. While my peers struggle to find their footing in other jobs, I have a positive work environment that has helped me grow as a multimedia reporter, and as a woman finding my way in the world.