Silver Jubilee carnival for Kaliabor Press Club

That was an amazing experience to attend the foundation day of a 25 years old press club in central Assam on a lazy Sunday, where a number of senior citizens along with rural scribes and novice journalists were waiting to listen to my speech.

Silver Jubilee carnival for Kaliabor Press Club

That was an amazing experience to attend the foundation day
of a 25 years old press club in central Assam on a lazy Sunday, where
a number of senior citizens along with rural scribes and novice
journalists were waiting to listen to my speech. It’s easier to
address a journalist’s meet- where we can discuss many issues with
liberties, but while the audience include respected senior citizens
and young people, it becomes a difficult task to speak to them

First, the question that arises, how much should I highlight the
eroding credibility for the mainstream media around India in general
and Assam in particular and secondly what may be the role of social
(alternate/digital) in reshaping the newspapers and satellite news
channels! Thirdly, I must discuss the abundant opportunities brought
out by the internet services, which has almost redesigned the present
socio-cultural, political and economical landscape around the world.
As I got down from the long-drive bus at a point near to
Jakhalabandha stoppage, it was Jayanta Kumar Sarma  who came to escort
me for the function. Jayanta, secretary of  Kaliabor  Press Club, gave
me the initial briefing about the organization and the function. Soon
Nayan Saikia, a Guwahati-based senior journalist- who continues to be
a supportive hand to the local press club, welcomed me for the
program. Before the meeting began, we had some time for lunch, which
was simple but tasty.

After a few formalities, including a welcome chorus by some local
girls who performed a spirited song of Dr Bhupen Hazarika, the chair
asked me to address the gathering. Prior to it, the organizers greeted
me (along with Nabin Borthakur- associated with  Asom Sahitya Sabha
and Pranab Mahanta, a media enthusiast on the dais) in traditional
ways and the press club president Tapan Saikia introduced me to the
audience. Some of the distinguished listeners (Hemadhar Hazarika,
Bhupen Sarma, Dhruba Borgohain, Puspendra Saikia, Pulak Bora, Ajit
Bhagawati, Jayanta Kr Khound, Bipul Hazarika, Achyut Saikia, Krishna
Mahanta, etc)  were even known to me.

I tried to analyze the crisis faced by the mainstream media outlets
with the advent  of an aggressive social media. The shrinking space
for newspapers was multiplied during the Covid-19 pandemic induced
national lock down, as rumours spread that the physical paper would
carry the coronavirus. Slowly the readers turned to alternate media
(precisely the news portals) and many of them did not return to their
age-old habit of reading a newspaper in the morning hours. Once a
sizable number of committed readers go away, the newspapers have lost
their influence on them for good.

Across India, we should have over 50 crore mobile phone (connected
with internet) users and many of them continue to read newspapers. The
problem began, when the readers started questioning the contents of
newspapers columns as often old, one-sided and non-comprehensive. The
issue did not end here, as many internet users began to criticize the
newspaper (also satellite news channel) contents in digital media
space. Some of them even went on criticizing the editors with personal
attacks. So gradually the editor-journalists have found themselves in
an awkward position while facing the public.

Hence it’s the time for the mainstream media persons to be more
cautious, authentic and credible to the readers, listeners and
viewers. Perhaps, we have arrived in a period where we can no longer
generate news items according to our convenience. If we keep our
accountability aside, the social media users (some of them may be
retired working journalists) will remind us of it. The reminders may
be polite in nature or even aggressive (and we will have no other
option than acknowledging it).

Finally, I insisted that journalists may continue to be popular,
inspiring  and influential,  if we can maintain our credibility and be
honest to the respective  audience. The so-called glamour, wealth and
political affiliation would be useless in the days to come. A
challenging time for professional journalists has welcomed all of us
and we must survive with our truthfulness, dedication and commitment
to the medium, our society and the nation.

For records,   Kaliabor  Press Club was formed by some struggling
rural scribes on 17 July  1997 and the present set of members (not
more than 50) are celebrating their silver jubilee year. State
minister Keshab Mahanta, hailing from the locality, launched the year
long celebration at its premises on 16 January last in presence of
distinguished personalities including performing artiste Jina
Rajkumari. The press club members organized the foundation day program
on 16 and 17 July.

A journalist workshop (in memory of two pioneer journalists from
Kaliabor namely Govindaram Bhuyan and Abhiram Bhuyan) was also
organized at Jakhalabandha HS School auditorium  where Asom Bani
editor Dileep Chandan and NKTV news reporter Biswajyoti Sarma were
present as resource persons. It was followed by a competition for
information gathering and news presentation among the aspiring
students. Senior rural correspondents Kanak Hazarika and Narendranath
Hazarika guided the event, which was assisted by Tarun Muktiyar,
Bhaskar Saikia, Ashish Saikia and others.

My proposals for the local press club include a media health check-up
camp (where their families would get the benefit of traditional and
modern healthcare), regular sittings with classic movie shows, cartoon
exhibitions and  discussion on new books, interactions with celebrated
personalities, and programs with video conference engaging
journalist-authors across the globe time to time, so that the local
scribes can make them updated  with the latest trend in national and
international journalism, socio-political and environmental scenario
for their own benefits.