Gaon Connection, a14 pages weekly is dedicated needs, issues, success stories & innovations of rural India. Launched in December 2012 in Uttar Pradesh by the Chief Minister of the State, GaonConnecton is quickly becoming the mouth piece of rural India. Approximately 70% of Indian population lives in rural areas, yet their voice rarely travels down to the cities where policies for their welfare are made.
The unstated mantra of Gaon Connection is ‘rural cool’, says Misra. “The paper will write about issues villages face but it won’t be filled with just that. The idea is to document changes and trends in these areas, feature new innovations and inform readers about what is in vogue here, including what people are eating, watching and wearing,” he elaborates.
“The highly urban mainstream media still looks at rural news stereotypically. They typically report ghastly things, crime, floods….” But the aspiration level in small town India is growing as much as in urban India and going pretty much unreported. “people in villages are texting each other like in urban areas, they eat chowmein and momos, There are young people who are using mobile phones, downloading songs, wearing jeans, watching IPL, buying more motorcycles,the rural income level is rising too. But they hardly shape public opinion. I would say, we should not undermine this change.”
The newspaper is targeted at villagers, rural citizens residing in urban areas and NRIs who wish to stay abreast of rural developments (through the newspaper’s website).
The pilot project planned by Misra and his partner Karan Dalal, who has been an intellectual property attorney, and director at a software products company, and involves printing 50,000 copies that will largely be distributed in rural Uttar Pradesh and to opinion makers across the country. The copies will not be distributed in cities. Urban readers and NRIs will be able to access the paper online. The GC team plans to tie up with local shops, schools and cart pullers to stock the newspaper and will also use a travelling library — a converted jeep — on fixed routes.
The 12-pager (e-paper available at www.gaonconnection.com) includes information about agriculture on a page called ‘KhetiKisaani’, reportage from rural India on a page called ‘Badalta India’ (Changing India), a page on women called ‘Nari Diary’, two pages called ‘Baat Pate Ki’ with information on various issues, and a full-page photo essay on a theme. Our ‘Manoranjan’ (entertainment) page now features India’s homegrown comic book icons—Super Commando Dhruv, Doga and Nagraj—all under an association with Raj Comics, which supports the efforts by allowing Gaon Connection to use its content free of cost.
Some of India’s leading media personalities are already writing for the newspaper. Ravish Kumar of NDTV India, one of India’s most loved TV journalists, does a regular column called ‘Ravishpanti’. RichaAnirudh, anchor of the popular IBN7 show Zindagi Live, writes a weekly column on our women’s page, called ‘ZindagiRicharge’. Osama Manzar, who heads the Digital Empowerment Foundation, does a weekly column called ‘Digital Dehaat’. Chicago-based senior journalist MayankChhaya does a column called ‘Amreeka Diary’. NeeleshMisradoes a column called ‘SadakChhap’.
Misra is armed with years of journalistic experience and is also a published author. His tryst with journalism began while still in school in 1989 writing for a Hindi newspaper called Swantantra Bharat. He went on to write for The Pioneer and after earning a post graduate degree from Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Misra worked with Reuters and India Abroad News Service (IANS). Misra has also had long stints at Associated Press (AP) and Hindustan Times. He quit Hindustan Times in 2010 as the deputy executive editor.
Among Misra’s published books are 173 Hours in Captivity, End of the Line, Once Upon a Timezone, The Absent State and one he co-wrote with his father, Dr S B Misra, Dream Chasing.
Besides journalism, Misra has also pursued interests in cinema in the past decade as a lyricist and scriptwriter. Among his recent projects include EkTha Tiger, the script for which he co-wrote. He also hosts a radio storytelling show on 92.7 Big FM called ‘YaadonKa Idiot Box’.
Gaon Connection has a four point mission-
1. to Bring democracy to villages-
Gaon connection is India’s first professionally managed rural weekly newspaper, created by the villagers for the villagers and of the villages of the region, but backed and mentored by some of India’s top journalists and development professionals.
It’s not just the rural-urban divide that the newspaper seeks to overcome. The project’s co-founder, Karan Dalal, a law graduate and an IT expert from Mumbai, says that it is also the rural-ruraldivide which they seek to conquer. .
“We want to share information between villages too and share best practices”, he says.
2. to Give a voice to rural India Although 70% of India still lives in villages, there is no platform or medium focused entirely on them. Not only will the newspaper focus on the problems agitating the ordinary people like unemployment and scarcity of agricultural inputs, it will also be a mouthpiece of success stories, best practices in farming and other rural businesses innovations and interventions. In an era where India’s media industry is booming but increasingly reflects only urban concerns, we strive to give rural citizens a voice of their own.
Although 70% of India still lives in villages, there is no platform or medium focused entirely on them. Not only will the newspaper focus on the problems agitating the ordinary people like unemployment and scarcity of agricultural inputs, it will also be a mouthpiece of success stories, best practices in farming and other rural businesses innovations and interventions. In an era where India’s media industry is booming but increasingly reflects only urban concerns, we strive to give rural citizens a voice of their own.
3. to Provide urban India a lens into its villages
GaonConnection aspires to provide rural market intelligence to urban businesses that will help them understand the changing trends and needs of rural India.Did you know that the purchase of Video players and washing machines in villages has increased by 200% year on year? Or that rural India accounts for 49% of motorcycle sales? The next wave of growth is expected to come from India’s rural sector.
4. Generate white-collar employment
Alarmingly, a large number of the youth in rural india is forced to sit at home without a job, for the simple reason that they are educated. And can find no source of income fit enough for their skills. GaonConnection will create white-collar employment in villages, so that the educated do not flock to cities for low-paying jobs. It also aims at Employing rural reporters, who will be trained to use technology and mentored by some eminent journalists of the country.
Funding is something that the founders of Gaon Connection are not very concerned about either. Although the initial money is coming from the founders’ pockets, they are confident of getting advertisements in the times to come as the response from companies with advertising budgets has been good. However, they are certain that like so many smaller publications, they are not going to let their reporters also become marketing agents and editorial integrity will remain supreme.
When asked about competition from other Hindi language newspapers in the area, Manish Misra had said that they go only as far as the pakkisadak (proper road) goes. But Gaon Connection will go into the kacchisadak (dirt road) and into the hands of the farmers.
The greatest harm that TV news has (unintentionally) done to print media is that it has made print journalists lazy and slothful. They see the 10 TV sets hanging in the newsroom and assume that if they have those stories, they know what happened in India that day. Field reportage is swiftly shrinking. Reporters are too lazy to go “out there”. We will not let this happen at Gaon Connection, the rural newspaper.
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