Khabar Lahariya: How a local print newspaper still makes a difference
The Columbia Journalism Review has this beautiful, inspiring story about a local print, biweekly newspaper called 'Khabar Lahariya' ('The Wave of News' in English) in the local bundeli language, staffed by 20 local women, who are either high school or college grads and freshers.
Started some seven years ago, Khabar Lehariya has a circulation of 35,000 and sells for two rupees (four cents, roughly the cost of a cup of tea in Bundelkhand, a hot and dry region in central India, famous for its bandits, harsh landscapes (think of Robert Rodriguez's Mexico movies), the place where Lord Rama lived and most importantly, for rains that almost always disappoint.
Focus of coverage: To cover all "local issues", all that the main press ignores - untouchability, dominance of upper castes, banditry, women's rights education, governance (rather, the lack of it)...it is an endless list of problems in India's heartlands, mercifully untouched by the malls.
A paper like this might do great with help of cheap technology like mobiles, for example, for filing voice and SMS-based reports.
How much will take for similar local village journalism initiatives to bloom in 600-odd districts throughout India?
At 20 reporters per district, Rs. 5000 ($100) per month, that comes to $24,000/year per district and $14,4000,00/year ($14.4 million) for whole of India. That is what I have in mind. At the current budget for the completely unnecessary Commonwealth Games, we could have funded this 'non-profit local news across India' initiative for 50 years, at least, give or take another 50 years.