Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bennett gives new Indian paper full marks

By Kara Segedin: Pacific Media Centre

New Zealand’s newest ethnic newspaper was launched to a rave notice from Social Development Minister Paula Bennett at the weekend in Waitakere City.

“It’s very informative and has the sort of light-hearted information we want,” she said after being presented with the first edition of the Indian Weekender.

The launch was part of Race Relations Day celebrations to mark the Holi Mela festival at the Trusts Stadium. Bennett is also MP for Waitakere.

The Indian Weekender is a free, English language newspaper covering stories of interest to New Zealand’s Indian community and the general public.

Editor Dev Nadkarni said organisers have been busy planning the paper for six months.

He said the paper would cover India and many other countries where there is an Indian diaspora.

Along with several Auckland-based reporters, the paper has put together a group of experienced foreign correspondents who will write exclusively for the Weekender.

Currently printed fortnightly, the paper will eventually become a weekly publication.

Shared culture
Nadkarni, who has lived in Fiji, said the Weekender’s main audience would be people of Indian extraction who shared Indian culture and values, but not necessarily from India.

“People have been living out of India for as many as four or five generations,” he said

There is a substantial market within the Indian community.

In the 2006 Census, 104,583 people identified their ethnicity as Indian, with 71 percent of the population living in the Auckland region.

“While there have been media outlets catering to Indians we thought that there was a gap in the market - both in content and the way that news and information is presented,” Nadkarni said.

The Indian publishing industry is highly advanced, with many publications tied to international brands such as the Washington Post, Financial Times and the Daily Mail.

“They have a very high standard of both journalism and layout, which has been sadly lacking in publications directed at Indians in New Zealand,” he said

Nadkarni said New Zealand’s existing Indian publications look dated and seem to be “stuck in the 1970s”. The team wants to bring New Zealand-based publishing on a par with Indian standards.

Nadkarni wanted to make the content accessible and user friendly.

“People don’t have time to read 2000 word articles,” he said. “In this day of txt and the internet, we are really looking at shorter stories, pieces that drive home the point and add value to a typical migrants’experience here in New Zealand.”

More colour
With an emphasis on original stories, pictures and colour, the paper will give readers information from New Zealand and their countries of origin.

“Our stories are going to be more focused. It’s going to be variety family reading for the weekend.”

So far the response from the community has been positive. “It’s been in the market only three days, but we’ve already run out of copies,” said Nadkarni.

Bhav Dhillon, a director of the publishing Kiwi Media Group, said the positive feedback was “a lot more than what was expected - people are impressed by the look and feel of the paper”.

His first time in the publishing industry, Dhillon’s responsibilities include finances, organisational management and distribution.

Dhillon said the paper would be stocked at 85 locations around the Auckland region, with plans for up to 1000 door-to-door deliveries

It is expected the paper will also be available in Hamilton, Tauranga, Napier, Hastings, Wellington and Christchurch.

Dhillon said plans for a website were underway and this was expected to be running in several weeks.

Publisher and director Giri Gupta said that while most community papers were run by a couple of people adopting a “cut-and-paste” process to creation, the Indian Weekender was a team effort.

The paper’s goals were to “increase frequency, circulation, and pages numbers,” he said.

Two purposes
Melissa Lee, National MP and former television broadcaster, said cultural newspapers like the Indian Weekender are important.

“They reflect the views and opinions of the community,” she said.

In the case of the Indian Weekender, Lee said it served two purposes. Not only did the paper reflect the Indian community’s needs, but as it was published in English it gave other New Zealanders a better understanding of the Indian community.

Lee would like to see increased interaction between the ethnic and mainstream media.

Associate professor David Robie, director of AUT University’s Pacific Media Centre, said the challenge for new community papers was identifying what the community wanted.

“There seems to be a mood that a more positive paper is needed than they’ve had in the past,” said Dr Robie.

“I think the first edition looks fairly promising. It’s bright and it’s got a range of different topics.”

As with new publications the stories were light - “it takes a while to bed down to getting some of the hard stories. But I think that will come,” he said.

One of the strongest factors in the paper’s potential success was the talented and experienced individuals in charge.

Nadkarni was head of journalism at the University of the South Pacific, is a respected business journalist and is involved with the Islands Business magazine in Suva, Fiji. Chief reporter Ranjit Singh was a former publisher of the Fiji Daily Post and currently contributes to a number of publications.

As with any publication, the future of the Indian Weekender is tied to its economic success.

Marginalised
“Community papers seem to be the most successful in NZ at the moment,” he said.

Dr Robie said most ethnic communities were marginalised by the mainstream media.

“The mainstream media doesn’t do a good job reporting important issues for the communities,” he said.

This means Auckland’s 75,000 strong Indian community is not given enough voice.

“The best thing that mainstream media can do is actually have newsrooms that reflect the communities around us,” said Dr Robie.

He said the challenge for mainstream media organisations was to go out and get more ethnic journalists.

He said journalism schools also had an important part to play - “they’ve actually got to put a lot more effort into attracting an ethnically diverse range of students.”

Picture: Social Development Minister Paula Bennett with editor Dev Nadkarni (centre) and publisher Giri Gupta. Photo: Kara Segedin.

Kara Segedin is a student journalist on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.

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