In Nepal, local media are 'scrambling, and doing well'

[caption id="attachment_340319" align="alignright" width="400"]A Nepalese man carries a child as he walks past destroyed buildings that collapsed in Saturday's earthquake, in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal.  (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha) A Nepalese man carries a child as he walks past destroyed buildings that collapsed in Saturday's earthquake, in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)[/caption]The timing of former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Lucinda Fleeson’s latest assignment to train journalists could not be more memorably perilous.

She got to Nepal last week and got a bird’s eye view of the state of media in a small, developing country-- before the earthquake hit.

The devastation and both the human tragedies and heroism are already well documented. But what about the state of media in a far-off land little understood by most Westerners?

By and large, she finds a surprisingly vibrant universe, especially for a developing nation, where print and broadcast outlets are multiple, qualitatively green but improving and low pay is predictably the norm.

For example, there’s Kantipur TV, the largest, private, moneymaking and influential network, which had to move some of its operations to the street outside its headquarters.

Fleeson was doing a narrative story elling and reporting workshop there, as she had at an economic daily and a university mass media department. Her work was partly sponsored by a grant from the U.S. State Department.

As best she can discern, much of the media and the English-language newspapers to which she’s drawn, such as The Himalaya Times, are doing a good job with the story. That includes breaking some decent tales about death tolls and recovery efforts.

There’s also the English language Kathmandu Post, Karobar Economic Times, Nepali Times and National Republica.

“All are scrambling, and doing well,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday.

“The day after (the earthquake), the Himalaya Times put out a black and white edition with a morning salute to the dead. It was good news and good photos of before and after of the most famous sites that had been affected. I wish I could read all of it all," she said, alluding to the preponderance of non-English media.

“They have beats and reporters tied in with police and the Justice Department” in journalistically beneficial ways, she said.

For sure, they may not reflect the depth we’re accustomed to, partly exhibiting a lack of basic training many possess. But there are strong editors, she said, with a few possessing U.S. journalism backgrounds, including Prakash Rimal of the Himalaya Times.

In addition, she finds “an incredible crop of community radio, with about 300 stations in a country where there are more than 120 languages.”

For 11 years, Fleeson ran a program at the University of Maryland for international journalists and knows their frequent plight in nations short on democracy. Those are places “where journalists get picked up and disappear.”

It wasn’t that different in Nepal a decade ago, with an estimated 60 journalists languishing in jails. A democratizing of a still very fractious political system has made reporting a less dangerous calling.

And these days, she said, no journalist in Nepal is behind bars.

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    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.


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