Steering clear of the media bandwagon, Sunil Dang, Editor, The Day After, plans to chart a new course in news dissemination. He prefers to call the endeavour “ongoing journalism”, a synonym perhaps for ‘participative journalism’.
Drawing inspiration from the response generated by the online version of The Day After, Dang plans to launch a Hindi online news service under the banner ‘Rajdhani Times’. But unlike the conventional news wires, Rajdhani Times will be powered by real time reports from a network of 350-400 journalists and writers, none of whom would be employees of The Day After. “They are all friends of mine who would pitch in because they believe in the concept and the work we do,” Dang told exchange4media.com.
Further, with a network that is geographically distributed across small towns and cities, Dang believes the news service will be able to provide accurate, robust news real time, which is what every print and electronic player would need.
He plans to provide this service for a mere annual subscription of one dollar. “We will also provide 300-350 pictures a day, though to begin with we upload 20-25 pictures a day,” he said.
The news service concept is borne out of the same passion with which Dang nurtured The Day After, a fortnightly magazine that was launched in May 1985. Nineteen years ago, on May 27, 1985 The Day After in its inaugural splashed a cover story titled ‘Gujarat Boiling Couldron’. “The story holds good even today. At that time, we saw that Gujarat was going the Aligarh way with communal tensions. That has remained so till date,” Dang said.
But the near-two decade stint has not placed The Day After in the big league of magazines. By and large a marginal player with a claimed circulation of around 12,000 copies, the magazine essentially cuts ice with “decision makers in the government who are open to healthy criticism”.
“I have no corporate house backing my publication,” he said, “but we have made profits from the very first year of inception.”
While most ‘anti-system’ stories were perceived as healthy criticism by those in focus, on a few occasions The Day After did come under severe Government pressure. Back in 1991, the magazine reported that some ministers had misled Parliament on some key issues; “The Government cut off power supply to our office, cancelled our newsprint limit, gave demolition orders. But journalists protested against the violation of Freedom of Speech and eventually the Government had to retract from its position,” Dang recalled.
Dang has actively participated in several key media and advertising bodies. As life member of Delhi Advertising Club, he sought to increase the participation of advertising professionals in the Club’s activities. “The Club was essentially made of publishers whereas the advertising professionals remained in the background. I tried to encourage the advertising professionals to take active interest in the Club’s activities,” he said.
Dang has also held various posts in the Indian Newspapers Society (INS). His stint as Chairman of Delhi Regional Committee (DRC) of INS however drew criticism. “I have held posts in INS for a long time. In 1997 I became the DRC chairman for the first time but resigned in 13 days. In 1998, I once again became the DRC chairman,” he said, adding that during these stints the advertising market in Delhi grew from Rs 285 crore to Rs 615 crore.
Dang resigned from the executive chairmanship in 2002 but once again became the DRC chairman in 2003. During this period, he took up the cause of advertising agencies who have had to deal with clients who were defaulting on payments. “I proposed that the newspapers should jointly boycott such clients but some of the players did not agree with the plan.”
“Additionally, I also insisted on physical verification of the presence of advertising agencies since some of them were functioning as ‘briefcase agencies’,” he said.
Dang believes that in occupying a public post and in initiating such action, he would have attracted criticism from people whose vested interests were being trampled upon.
For now, Dang is focused on kickstarting ‘ongoing journalism’. Time will tell how well the concept gains ground.