COVID-19 impact on newspaper industry in Nagaland- Part I
Dimapur | August 6
Worldwide, the COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted print news media, chiefly in the form of dwindling advertisement (revenue) and sharp drop in readership due to disruption in circulation.
Some of the cascading effects of the pandemic on print media include journalists being laid off; some publications folded, while others were forced to cut down on the number of pages.
In Nagaland too, the newspaper industry is walking a tight rope—trying to keep afloat financially and at the same time keep readers informed. Despite the hard times, newspapers in the state have remained committed to giving wide coverage of the pandemic, combating misinformation, providing public health updates and, not bypassing entertainment to help people cope with the virus’s impact.
Editors and publishers of some Nagaland-based daily newspapers (both English and vernacular) shared their views on the uphill challenge i.e. rolling out news print during the pandemic— the impact of the pandemic on advertisement and circulation; and contribution of newspapers in terms of employment and local economy.
The editors also equally underlined the impact of newspapers in the collective fight against the pandemic.
Editor, publisher and proprietor of Nagaland Page, Monalisa Changkija, said all Nagaland newspapers face the same challenges, including the numerous pulls and pressures from various quarters, all of who basically want publicity and to be front-paged, even if they are not really making the “news.”
“The litany of woes newspapers confront daily is long but for now, suffice it to say that our people are yet to fully understand and appreciate the role and responsibilities of the Fourth Estate in any self-respecting democracy, which could be because our society is not yet a fully matured democracy,” she said.
She also pointed to infrastructure deficit, particularly power disruptions for long hours and poor quality of power supply, which adversely affects machinery. “Then there are problems of untrained human resources and their disinterest or resistance to learn and self-improve. That adversely impacts the quality of our papers,” Monalisa added.
Editor, Tir Yimyim (Ao vernacular), K Temjen Jamir, said if one looks at the commercial aspect of the newspapers industry in the state, most newspapers are running on deficit because of small readership, less advertisement revenues from public and private sectors, erratic power supply and non-availability of subsidised news prints and transport subsidy.
“We also incur loss in transporting news papers to different places owing to very poor road condition and communication system. These are some challenges we experience daily in trying to connect people with news and information,” Jamir said.
Sinking ad revenue
“It is actually a surprise that some of our papers haven’t folded up as yet because of the pandemic, as so many have across the country and the globe,” Monalisa said. She however said if the pandemic and the lockdown continue and there is no supply of consumables from outside the state, then there was no option but to fold up the newspaper.
As for advertisement, she said because of the lockdown even major private sector companies and corporations didn’t function and, likewise the private advertisers. “Also, in Nagaland, it is basically the big-sized papers that get huge volume of private advertisements, whether large companies and corporate or from local and private advertisers. So, we small-sized papers always had, and continue to have, a precarious existence,” she said.
“Because of lockdowns since late March, we had to stop our print editions for over a month, which had completely cut off employment of our distributors and hawkers. Even when some of our papers continued with their print editions, there were no takers; in fact, in some colonies in Kohima and Dimapur, our hawkers weren’t allowed entry,” she said.
Editor, Capi (Angami vernacular), Mhalezolie Kire, said newspapers, especially vernacular papers, have been hard-hit as advertisements have almost come to a standstill. “We have been running at a loss since the past five months and now our main concern is how to keep the paper as well as employees alive. Till date, we have somehow managed to pay salaries of our staffs but we don’t know how long we will be able to sustain,” Kire said.
He also said circulation is at an all time low; while some hawkers have left for their homes, some who stayed behind were also restricted from entering colonies or wards in the initial stages. In addition, transporting papers to other districts has been affected due to restriction on vehicular movement, he said.
According to the Tir Yimyim editor, the newspaper industry is among the worst-hit by the pandemic. He said owing to travel restrictions for the last five months, subscription of newspapers are being stopped in many places. As a result, print copies have also drastically reduced.
“Incidentally, almost all the daily newspapers are Dimapur based and due to continuous restrictions, newspapers are not going beyond Dimapur and Kohima since the last part of March 2020, till date. However in the interest of the readers, we make available online news service free of cost,” Jamir said.
This report is the first of a three-part series
Nagaland: Newspaper economy in deep crisis - COVID-19 impact on newspaper industry in Nagaland- Part II
Newspapers in collective fight against COVID-19 pandemic - COVID-19 impact on newspaper industry in Nagaland- Part III