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Big boost for rural journalism as Gaon Connection gears up for English website

14-October-2016
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Big boost for rural journalism as Gaon Connection gears up for English website

Rural newspaper Gaon Connection will soon be launching an English website. The project is slated to go live in the next ten days. In the initial phase, a small team of fewer than ten journalists is supposed to work on the assignment based out of Gaon Connection’s office in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.

The editorial leadership of the new website will rest with Mayank Chhaya who resides in Chicago. Chhaya has over three decades of experience in reporting on South Asia and the United States. The publication had also revamped its Hindi website recently.

“Gaon Connection will be completing its fourth year in December. We are celebrating it with a massive outreach programme called Swayam that will hold 1,000 events across 25 districts,” said Neelesh Misra, Editorial Director at Gaon Connection.

He added that the new English website is tied to this growth. “The idea is to connect content creators at the grassroots level with the English-speaking world,” he told exchange4media. The popular radio storyteller stated that there is a huge disconnect between policy makers and rural India that results in government initiatives being premised on half baked knowledge.

The English website will aim to change that by reaching out to the policy makers who are comfortable in the English language. “We hope to diversify further into other non-Hindi, non-English Indian languages,” he mentioned.

Misra explained that though the new website will have the same domain name but it was not going to be a translation of the Hindi one. The website is expected to have its own worldview and generate original content. Reports picked up from community journalists will be rewritten and rehashed accordingly.

The organisation is confident that the Hindi website will also benefit from its counterpart in English whose work would be syndicated to foreign news brands. “Why should Gaon Connection not syndicate content to international media,” asked Misra. 

Misra launched Gaon Connection in December 2012 with the intention of bringing a professionally-run newspaper to rural India. In the inaugural year only, the broadsheet went on to receive the prestigious Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award for “Uncovering India invisible” through its reportage. More awards followed in the succeeding years.

For long, rural India has been left uncovered by the mainstream media. But courageous attempts have been made to alter the media narrative. In 2002, Khabar Lahariya began with the intention of empowering marginalised women dwelling in the rural parts of the country. Over the years, the publication has helped women journalists from “Dalit, tribal, Muslim and backward castes” tell “everyday stories of everyday people”.

The biweekly newspaper that reaches out to an estimated readership base of around 1 Lakh persons stepped into the digital space with the formation of its website in 2013.

After exiting from The Hindu, celebrated journalist P Sainath founded People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) also aimed at chronicling “everyday lives of everyday people”. While Gaon Connection and Khabar Lahariya are largely focussed on the north with Uttar Pradesh and Bihar being the primary markets, Sainath’s PARI has brought forth news stories from the south, east and west. 

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