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Special Reports have a Special place

One of the most enduring aspects of a newspaper is its ‘Special Reports Section,’ which is invariably misused to fill space or appease advertisers or both.

“Space is rare and using it for all and sundry is unfair,” veteran journalist Kushwant Singh used to say, whenever he found Special Reports’ in Times of India.

Daily Newspapers have since long used Special Reports as an important and often easy source of revenue. Marketing personnel found it an easier way to access the News Room and get away with ample space for ‘advertorials.’

As Billy Wilder mentioned in his Irma La Duce movie script, “Everyone looked the other way, everyone was happy, until disaster struck, with the arrival of a professional and honest…”

From their dubious reputation of space killers and money grabbers, marketing personnel are today required to be more credible and acceptable than their counterparts did 45 years ago, about the time this writer launched his career in journalism, hoping to define, defend and promote professional ethics.

Financial benefits

In a market marked by fierce and often cutthroat competition with unhealthy and unethical practices, publishers become an easy prey for the greatest temptress of all – money. Believing as they do that Special Reports are meant to give a ‘plug’ to the advertiser, they bypass the editorial cordons to patronise their patrons. This then becomes a take-receive-demand-get never ending vicious cycle. As an Economist Editor once told me, “Everything in every Special Report becomes a farce. Nobody wants it, nobody reads it and yet everybody advertises in it.”

In the modern era of Google and sophisticated software, publishing Special Reports can be as easy as a Google search and ‘cut and paste.’ News Rooms are seldom worried about the task of writing for Special Reports and creating that additional value for readers. With the eye on appeasing the advertiser, very few are concerned about promoting the best interests of the advertiser on the one hand and that of the readership on the other.

Our Special Reports

Which is why, Indian Newslink is different; none of our Special Reports are apologies. They are not written by spin-doctors; even if they were, such writings would be subject to extensive copy revision. We take our business seriously and Special Reports merit special attention in the Editorial Department. Press releases are always treated to give that uniqueness for which we have a penchant. These Reports are not exercises in deception but efforts to foster the corporate and product image of advertisers and add value to our discerning readers.

Another factor that distinguishes this Newspaper from the others is that we invest substantial time and efforts in selecting proper themes, occasions and events that would not only accrue revenue but also promote the best interests of advertisers. There is a certain relevance and exclusivity that we bring to our editorial copy, which advertisers say is a source of endearment and enduring value.

As well as focusing on special communities and the festivals that they value, our Special Reports throw the spotlight on areas, business interests and other factors that have always proved their worth. Thus, an Eid Al Fitr Special would appeal to our Muslim readers and commercial entities that do business with them, while Baisakhi Special and Guru Nanak Dev Birthday Special would interest our Sikh community, while proving to be of educative value to other communities.

Our Diwali Special of course would have even wider readership, since the Festival has now become a national event, attended by hundreds of thousands of people at all major centres around the country.

The Challenges

Special Reports come with special problems and challenges, the foremost of which is remain relevant, non-repetitive as far as possible and be inclusive. All religious festivals occur every year and their origin, need for celebrations and basic beliefs to remain constant. While the marketing team faces the task of procuring advertisement support, the editors counter the challenge of maintaining the quality of articles, both in-house and those of correspondents and contributors.

Happily, our Reports have passed the test and are eagerly awaited and well supported and widely read. We express our thanks to advertisers, well-wishers, contributors, correspondents and readers for their continued support.

The Energetic Gujaratis

While our Special Reports have always marked festivals such as Diwali, Eid, Baisakhi, Christmas, Guru Purnima and other observances, our efforts to highlight the progress of specific communities have also been successful. Among the earliest of such Reports was Gujaratis in New Zealand published in our August 2002 issue. It received enthusiastic response. We received more than 150 email and fax messages stating that it was one of the most useful and useful reports published by Indian Newslink. “Your good work will keep us happy and progressive,” some readers said.

Reverence and Relevance

As a publication and as individuals, we respect every person and his or her religious beliefs and reorient ourselves accordingly. The multi-cultural approach of our Gujarati community was attractive, while their success in business was inspiring.

Research, interviews and discussions form the core of many of our Reports and hence the Special that we produced on Gujaratis in New Zealand in August 2002 drew widespread attention. Many readers said the contents of the Report were informative.

“Gujarat has its own character, distinguished civilisation and a rich history that makes the state a whole in itself. Different creeds and castes came to Gujarat, lived like the children of the land, developed a specific character, nourished the culture and became a part of the state’s growing regime. The people of Gujarat have never stopped at achieving but have journeyed ahead leaving the past behind, like the flow of the river, expanding at one place and contracting at another, falling here and mounting there,” we had said in our introductory remarks.

Sikhs and Muslims

Our interaction with other communities including Sikhs and Muslims has been punctuated by respect for their faith, their relentless struggle over the centuries and their successful business ventures in New Zealand.

Over the years, we have produced a number of Reports to celebrate their special events including the Birthday of Guru Nanak Dev and Prophet Mohammed, Baisakhi, Eid Al Fitr, Eid Al Adha and so on.

Anniversaries and special occasions such as the arrival of 31 Saroops of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Holy Book of Sikhs, from Melbourne on April 17, 2010 also formed the basis for our Special Reports.

National and Commemoration Days

India’s Independence Day in August is marked with a note of patriotism and respect by Indians from India and Indian Newslink has strived to produce Special Reports, although in recent years, lack of adequate advertisement support has been a challenge. We released a 60-Page Report in our August 15, 2007 issue to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of India’s Independence. We believe that this was the single largest Report of its type in the Indian ethnic media in New Zealand.

Indo-Fijians remember the arrival of their ancestors as indentured labourers in Fiji on May 14, 1879. Their sufferings, struggle for a decent life with basic needs satisfied and their determination to succeed were all part of our Special Report titled, ‘125 years of Indians in Fiji’ in our May 15, 2004 issue.

Our coverage of Fiji was perhaps at its best when we produced a 24-Page Special Report, somewhat hurriedly put together (in three days), carrying exclusive interviews with the current Prime Minister Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, business leaders and others in our September 1, 2009 issue, after our return from the South Pacific Nation. The Report was widely applauded.

There have been other special occasions that warranted Special Reports. The announcement in April 2006 that Anand Satyanand would be our next Governor-General warranted a ‘Written Celebration.’ The result was a 16-Page Report that was included in our April 15, 2006 issue. With exclusive pictures that dated back to his formative years, contributions from people who had known him for many decades, the Report was regarded as a ‘Collectors’ Issue.’

The list of our Special Reports is too long to be mentioned here; suffice to say that Indian Newslink will continue to progress in this section and bring the best reading material and photographs in its service to readers.

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