Surviving a year in wide web world

The Thumb Print, a portal on Northeastern states, has survived solely on readers’ goodwill and the abundance of selfless contributors. RADHIKA MB writes about the ezine completing a year.

A year ago, my former colleague Teresa Rehman wrote in what was to be ‘giving words’ to her dream online, a heartfelt arrival note about The Thumb Print ezine in an online universe dotted with a zillion URLs.

It was a start-up that kick-started with paltry resources. In her ‘we are here’ note about the ezine she dubbed, ‘an international magazine with a Northeastern soul’, she quote words from The Beatles’ – “Listen to the colour of your dreams” from their Tomorrow Never Knows album. For me, the option of saying ‘no’ to contribute to such a venture hardly existed.

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India’s Northeast region packed into eight expansive states gets lost in an Indian media’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with Bollywood, Cricket, IT and the mighty. For me who always wanted to know more about the region, this was a God-send. Teresa started the portal, from her living room, in the middle of her two toddler kids’ cacophony. Her former colleague Monideepa Chaudhuri joined in with a sound know-how of the region’s dynamics.

What was the need for such a magazine? Would it make a dent at all in an online world replete with big investments, and aggressive marketing? Would it be able to make past the first six months at all? The need was for a voice to be heard – a voice that did not scream that the region was being victimised, a voice that wanted to show what the region had, beyond the mundane reportage of violent protests, incursions by a neighbouring country or army excesses. The need was also accept – stories from India and the world.

Teresa says, “We are too tiny to be able to make a dent. But we can at least leave an imprint.”

In a world where currency notes get prime-time pageantry over everyday joys, in a world where even charity gets veiled with opportunism, our paperless magazine has survived solely on readers’ goodwill and the abundance of selfless contributors. That is how this e-mag’s dream really found its meaning.

The choice was either to complain non-stop about India’s neglect of Northeast, or do something to bridge that mindscape gap between mainland thinking and the region’s ethos. Yes, the region continues to be in news for wrong reasons. Yes, the region is grossly under-reported. A mass exodus of Northeastern people from Bangalore, racial targetting in Delhi, continued force-feeding of Irom Sharmila.

But The Thumb Print’s USP is about by-passing convention – its effort to maintain a precarious balance between the region and the world, its aim to go global with local stories, its willingness to learn from the experience of others. Its conscious effort to run stories pertaining to environment, arts and literature. Its eagerness to share.

Stepping into the merciless world of money-driven media madness takes courage. Frightening for a start, because its failure could put us all off, we began anyway, with the first step and scarce knowledge of internet technology. Working from our homes – Tezpur, Mumbai and Delaware (US) for a start, we utilised time-zone difference to fullest. We realised the might of the internet and we managed to storm our way into cyberspace.

It got an unexpected welcome from readers and well-wishers. And the ezine surged ahead, with enthusiasm. It crossed every month’s milestone with effort, sometimes stumbling, at other times staggering, but moving ahead nevertheless. Thanks to those who were willing to bestow their writing upon the site. What else could explain selfless contributions through writing that so many writers made and continue to make? We hope to grow not just in numbers and figures but as an institution. The Thumb Print dream finds meaning through readers’ willingness to push it ahead, in a world where only the Big rules (read Big Money). It has partnered with other like-minded organisations to start Conversations, that seek to address issues pertaining to the region. What is heartening, is the zest for participation, from the young and elderly.

No. Problems of a region as complex and diverse as the rest of the world cannot be wished away in a jiffy. Yes, the process has begun. People want to know more about Northeast India.

One year is not a big deal when media giants have survived a century and more at times. One year, is hardly anything of a benchmark for a news magazine’s survival. But one year, is a whole 12 months and 365 days of thinking good stories for the ezine. It’s an assertion that if readers will, a media effort, however small in size, can thrive. An effort like The Thumb Print can go places.

Radhika MB is Consulting Editor, The Thumb Print. She is also a blogger and recycle crafter.

Courtesy: The Hoot