Interviewee: Sutirtho Chakraborty, Chief Reporter, Sambad Pratidin
Interviewer: Sreetama Karmakar, Intern and Student Member, PRSI
Date: 22nd July, 2014
Venue: Office of Sambad Pratidin
“GET SOLD, TO SURVIVE”
1. How was your life before coming to hardcore journalism?
Ans: It just happened. Coming to journalism was something which was not pre planned. I did my Post Graduation in Economics from Calcutta University. Fortunately then through some source, I landed with a job in Protidin. After bagging the job, I stated liking the profession of journalism and that’s how it started and till now I’m with the house.
2. What is the editorial policy of “Sangbad Protidin”?
Ans: Talking about the editorial policy, I would say it’s a fair, independent and unbiased Bengali daily. But you know might say looking at the trends that if the newspaper has got inclination towards any particular political colour, then it’s like all the media houses are now leaning towards their political favouritism or somewhere which suffices the demands of their house. But this is again not something stationary. Time plays a vital role while chosing the colour to highlight. So our editorial policy is just the same like any other newspaper.
3. So you agree to the fact that partiality must be kept for the survival?
Ans: No. Partiality should never exist. This is because the media is considered to be the fourth estate in the democracy and if this democracy gets hampered in lieu of protecting partiality, we cannot ask for the other three estates, executive, legistature and the judiciary to remain free and impartial. And if news media inclines towards biasness, democracy gets endangered. The accountability gets killed. But in this cut throat media scenario, at times to safeguard its business interest, they have to undertaken the support of colour favouritism. This is the naked truth. Nobody is going to provide us with financial help in near future. The production cost does not acquired at the end of the day’s circulation. The loss is huge. We try to fill that deficit through advertisements. Even the owners are profit oriented from day 1. They do not run the business with their own money. We have to compromise to earn atleast some profits.
4. Can this concluded by the statement, “business comes prior to impartial information”?
Ans: No. News can never get more priority than business. Selling the information is a business. And this is quite natural looking at the present scenario. The amount of money with which the readers and the audience subscribe the mediums, none of of the houses can survive properly in the long run. The ground reality is, media has to play the role of a corporate house in order to stay in the competition, otherwise it would not be viable. Many news media houses have pulled down their shutters.
5. Again, the same question would arise. Business comes prior to impartial information. No matter how much distorted it gets.
Ans: This is happening and that’s the reality. Business at times get more priority.
6. Is there any way in which this mechanism can be changed?
Ans: There’s no alternative revenue model as of now.
7. Print media seeks for detailed analysis. The readers are always keen to know what’s next. Keeping these tensions aside, how does “Sangbad Protidin” move ahead?
Ans: We try and gather as much of information as possible, because post editing, many of the topics are considered unimportant. In electronic media there is the scope of aiding the stories with visuals. The story lines say what happened and the visuals say how it happened. So keeping this reality at the back of our mind, we prepare the stories. We cannot only provide the lead of the story. Our entire analysis needs to have the essence of the crux.
8. Looking at the statistics, can we safely conclude that in India print media is only a member for a few more years?
Ans: My personal opinion would be, yes. More than electronic media the bigger challenge according to me would be social media. In our college days, there were mobile phones. So to get all the information, we relied on newspapers. Then there was television. But now you can access to any information via your smart phones. Bandwidth has extensively reached the jungles of Sundarbans as well.
9. Since majority portion of the ad revenue is being curbed by the digital media, this also plays a vital role in the backwardness of print media.
Ans: That is the biggest reason. As long as the revenue model stays, the owner of the house will run the production of his company. Though I would say, not much of the revenue is poured into the vessel of digital media. Electronic media still stands out to be the winner, going by the revenue share. But how to build a proper revenue model for digital, is still under discussions.
10. Is there any way out through which the idea of reading newspapers can be inculcated among the mass all over again? What changes could be brought about in the format?
Ans: Now that’s a tough question. See, at the most we can think of making it different from the other dailies through certain means of action. It has become a regular querry for all of us. What do write and publish. We can only delve into some interdisciplinary approach, like convergence to digital. But there is definitely no specific way out.
11. If Sangbad Protidin at some point of time faces the same crisis situation?
Ans: For that reason we might take the shape of a digital format. Like ABP, New York Times. There digital presentation is remarkable. Print media, hardly 15-20 years maximum.
12. What is your opinion about the budget?
Ans: For the middle class people it indeed very good. There’s some relief in the tax payment. From 2 lakhs the margin has been increased to 2.5. Though it did not call for big reforms, there is a way, i.e. more privatization.
13. Community Radio has been allotted Rs. 100 crore in this year’s budget. Has the government taken any initiative towards print media or is ever likely to take so?
Ans: I don’t think so, because technologically print is going to be obsolete. So there would be no profit for the government if they invest money here. There’s no way in which print can be survived. You have to change along with technology.