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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 8, February 9, 2013

Growing Importance of Independent Journals

Friday 15 February 2013, by Bharat Dogra

At a time when increasing trends of corporatisation and heavy-handed commerciali-sation have led to the increasing alienation of the media from the real concerns of the people and society, small independent journals have an increasingly important role to play in arti-culating and representing the real concerns and needs of society. It is true that in a world increasingly dominated by big business interests the space available to such journals is shrinking. Indeed even the survival of several such small independent journals is threatened. Yet there is no doubt about the important role that such journals can still play in strengthening democracy and articulating the real needs and priorities of society.

It is in this wider context that the recent completion of 50 years by Mainstream can be seen as not just an achievement of this journal, its founders, editors and close associates, but also as a larger achievement of India’s democracy and media. This feeling was very much in the minds of a distinguished group of journalists, social activists, academics and others who gathered for a rather short but nevertheless significant celebration of 50 years of Mainstream. True to the spirit of Mainstream, it was a small event (at the IIC Conference Room in New Delhi) but what was discussed —‘Indian Media Scene Today: Potential and Reality’—was truly important.

As eminent social activists like Medha Patkar, Nikhil Dey and Aruna Roy (who spoke very briefly) as well as senior journalists like Kuldip Nayar emphasised, a journal like Mainstream may have only a small presence in the overall media scene, but over the years this journal has played a very important role in providing space for (and encouraging in other ways) some very significant social movements. Medha and Nikhil recalled this contribution in the specific context movements like ‘Narmada Bachao Andolan’ and ‘Right to Information’. Kuldip Nayar emphasised that this role of the media in supporting social movement is invaluable.

Subhash Borker drew pointed attention to the growing corporate influence on the media, a situation in which the role of journals like Mainstream becomes even more important. Dr Assem Srivastava also drew attention to such a trend in the specific context of recent events, while Dr Chaman Lal stressed the need for increasing interaction among various indepen-dent journals.

Later Harsh Kapoor, who has helped in maintaining the website of Mainstream, told this writer how the reach of this journal is much bigger than is commonly believed. On the basis of the figures for 2012, he explained that on an average per day the Mainstream website— www.mainstreamweekly.net—has about 5000 direct visitors, and in addition there are about six times more (around 30,000) indirect hits per day.

This provides one an indication of the wider reach of Mainstream; but in addition it is also well known that such independent journals have a much longer shelf-life and several issues of these journals are passed on from reader to reader and sometimes preserved for several years.

The author is a free-lance journalist who has been involved with several social initiatives and movements.

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