The Himal Media Mela 2022 continued on Saturday following the keynote address of Ravish Kumar, group editor of NDTV India.
The day-long conference of Nepali media professors, researchers, and other stakeholders involved four panels in which speakers which included members of the press, had wide-ranging conversation about the media industry and its changing narrative.
The first panel on Election, Fake News and Media Literacy included Ramkrishna Regmi, Sama Thapa, and Salokya in a discussion about how fake news and disinformation can influence elections as Nepal counts down to the local polls next week.
“The mainstream is getting driven by social media, which operates with non-processed content,” said Ramkrishna Regmi. “This has led to the omission of important issues around events including elections, in turn devaluing the significance of local polls.”
Added Sama Thapa of AP1: “Misinformation is not just fabricated news, it is also wilful ignorance and disproportionate coverage, even half-news that centres only on certain people, communities, and ethnicities.”
During the second panel on Ethical and Responsible Journalism, editors and reporters from the print, online and broadcast medium discussed the responsibilities and roles of journalism in the age of unfiltered digital and social media.
“Democracy is a behaviour as well as a way of life,” said Yuvraj Ghimire of Desh Sanchar. “But Nepali politics lacks accountability and our media reflects it.”
“Unless political parties are responsible, how can we expect the media to be?” continued Prateek Pradhan of Setopati. “But that is not an excuse for those of us in this profession.”
“As a profession that informs others, the media has to be informed itself. And for that, we need character and courage,” Ghimire noted.
“Credible and truthful information must be celebrated and supported by the public,” said Pradhan.
Prateek Pradhan delivered a rebuke of those he described were in the profession to eventually obtain political, diplomatic and other prestige positions.
He said: “Journalism requires passion, and a belief that the work and the stories will have an impact on those who see it.”
Meanwhile, journalist Sona Khatik, station manager of Radio Kapilvastu where she has worked for more than a decade, talked about the sustainability of radio in Nepal as media transitions to the digital.
“Radio is not and has never been for those in the upper echelons of Nepali society. It is for the people who still do not have access to proper networks to have conversations, data connectivity for mobile internet, money to buy and watch television and channels that represent their communities,” she says. “It is for those who are unable to read and understand newspapers or access it on time. Radio is going to sustain.”
If the media itself does not make space for Dalit, Madhesi, and marginalised people, how are they then going to represent those communities, asked Khatik. “Even then, there needs to be an understanding that it requires work to comprehend somebody’s story, not an hour-long phone conversation for a news story.”
On the third panel of the day, Tomorrow’s Journalism, panelists Madhu Acharya, Arun Karki, and Sahina Shrestha spoke about how journalism at present is dominated by the reader’s trust in social media, and the need to integrate data in news.
Madhu Acharya of the ShareCast Initiative shared results of the Nepal Media Survey 2022 that reflects the growing prominence of digital platforms in Nepal as the country becomes more connected through mobile networks and internet data. Indeed, the survey revealed that 41% of more than 5,000 respondents got their local news via Facebook, while the percentage of people who got their news from radio, tv, and newspapers stood at 25%, 4%, and 2% respectively.
“Social media dominates news as well as opinion formation,” said Acharya, “Traditional media needs to catch up.”
“What does it mean when we say readers trust Facebook? It means they trust their friends and families, in short readers believe readers, and our newsrooms need to reflect that,” added Sahina Shrestha, Editor Online of Nepali Times. “This is why we need to involve the audience in content curation.”
Arun Karki of the Centre for Data Journalism slliated the challenges to data storytelling, data’s role in debunking misleading information, and the need for data literacy in Nepal, which he emphasised should be a basic requirement in newsrooms.
“It takes time to produce quality journalism, and we overlook such time-consuming stories in favour of speedy news,” Karki explained. “Nepal’s newsrooms need to be prepared to create data journalism in real-time.”
Shrestha also spoke about the responsibility of the Nepali press to fact-check themselves. “Fact-checking should not be limited to fact-checking institutions, they should be brought into the newsroom,” she said. “We should be fact-checking our own stuff.”
During the fourth panel, on the political economy of media, Ameet Dhakal, Aarti Chataut, Sudheer Sharma—prominent editors from Nepal’s traditional and digital media spaces—discussed how Nepal’s media grapples with the digital transition.
Sudheer Sharma, editor of e-Kantipur, said that although digital media has reached the mass, print still sets the agenda when it comes to bureaucracy and policymaking.
“Amid the changing media landscape, Nepal is on the path to an integrated media.” said Sharma.
“There is an ongoing paradigm shift in media, the means are changing, not the content or format,” continued Aarti Chataut. “The medium is the message.”
“Digital media is a two-way traffic between content creators and readers,” said Ameet Dhakal of Setopati, adding that it had democratised the process of content creation.
“Now, one media institution no longer controls the narrative, which has also kept the press in check,” Dhakal added. “Our mistakes are amplified, but that also means that our corrections are quick.”