By Violet Cho: Pacific Media Centre
A new ethnic newspaper, the Indian Weekender, has been launched in Auckland – and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett was handed the first copy at the Holi Mela festival last weekend.
Chief reporter Thakur Ranjit Singh says the mainstream New Zealand media tend to cover the negative side of the Indian and other migrant communities and there is a need for something new.
“Indian people have needed their own new newspaper to help fill the gap,” Singh says.
“NZ has become cosmopolitan. A lot of migrants are coming here but you can hardly find them in the media.
“You can look at the New Zealand Herald, TV1, TV3, the Dominion Post and they hardly have any people from migrant communities to reflect the cultures, traditions and sensitivities of this country”.
Starting at 32 pages, the Indian Weekender will be published with at least 6000 copies every fortnight from now on.
But the paper plans to go weekly with 10,000 copies in the future.
The target market is predominantly at least 120,000 Indian people from the sub-continent and also diasporic communities from Fiji, Malaysia, Singapore and South Africa.
“We felt that there was a vacuum and there was a need for a paper like this. It’s important to have a community-based newspaper,” says Singh.
“Something that binds people together to give the information that's relevant to them.”
The paper was welcomed with enthusiasm by media academics, media personnel and politicians in New Zealand.
Associate professor David Robie, director of Pacific Media Centre, says a paper like the Indian Weekender can focus on issues important to the ethnic Indian community.
“Mainstream media in New Zealand fails in reporting for ethnic minority communities in the country. There are so many tremendous positive things that have been done by a whole range of communities.
“It is really important for the community to have its own media, not just relying on the mainstream.”
Parliament’s first Korean MP, Melissa Lee, former executive producer of Asia Down Under, says ethnic media is important in reflecting minority views.
But she warned that the editorial team should make sure that the standard of journalism is upheld and not to rely on publishing “advertorials”.
“The Indian community has a variety of newspapers, which I think is very important. Competition is always a good thing.”
The first edition of this paper features national and local news in New Zealand, India and Fiji, as well as business, education and entertainment.
Editor Dev Nadkarni says the paper is trying to give well-rounded content produced for the people who live away from their original home.
“There are columns written by experts on IT needs for businesses, taxation, mortgages and all the valuable information that Indian experts living in NZ need.
“For women, children and young people, we have separate sections. For the first time in the newspaper here, we have two pages dedicated to children only. These talk about Indian values.
“There are also comics and illustrations for children,” he says.
Starting the newspaper during the global economic downturn is a challenge for the group, says Nadkarni.
“A lot of people say it’s probably the worst time to launch the newspaper. Everybody talks about the economic downturn which makes advertising hard to come by.
“But our management saw that it is probably the best time - we are at the bottom and we can only go up.”
Another challenge to compete with is another long–established newspaper, Indian Newslink, which is distributed fortnightly around New Zealand and has a circulation of 65,000, according to its website.
It also has similar objectives, aiming to be a platform for Indian community issues and to raise the profile of the community.
Picture: Director Bhav Dillon and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett launch the Indian Weekender at the Holi Mela festival. Photo: Violet Cho.
Violet Cho, from Burma, is the 2009 Asian Journalism Fellow and on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.
Violet Cho on the Karen website Kwekalu.net