A 2012 picture of Dasho Karma Ura

The Bhutanese and the Golden Mountain

By Dasho Karma Ura

The main trends for the last 10 years of our country as a whole has been nothing less than dramatic. Three factors that fuel each other have contributed to this: The rise of youthful population, political parties, and social media. Within broader changes of the country in the last 10 years roughly after the onset of a new period of elections at parliamentary and local government levels, a plethora of newspapers, radio stations, and countless social media sites have emerged.

Looking back and around, The Bhutanese has certainly been the most credible non-governmental and independent weekly newspaper in the country.

The success of a newly founded media institution such as The Bhutanese is sustained only by the commitment and the ability of its editor-in-chief. The quality of its content and the editorial standard are innately associated with the editor-in-chief. To his credit, the editor-in-chief of The Bhutanese has forged a substantive weekly with both domestic and international readership. I am inclined to think, although I do not have comparative data that on the basis of word length, that it is a very cost effectively run newspaper.

Covering cost can be very difficult for an investigative newspaper as it is manpower intensive to uncover information from averse and antagonistic sources, and it is a sign that it is run efficiently.

The attention to substantive issues reflects partly his academic background from a highly reputed college (St. Stephen’s College, Delhi) and his rich experience as a reporter in a range of newspapers from Indian Express to Kuensel. By and large, most readers have views of The Bhutanese as an investigative paper. The preponderence of relatively new investigative reports in The Bhutanese reflects his searching nose for tracking baffling, suspicious and unscrupulous actions, where others would have given up. It is a measure of good order of our society and respect for role of professional journalists that The Bhutanese could carry out such news without any retaliatary threat.

Admirably, The Bhutanese has also not shied and looked away from raising usually considered awkward and averted issues in foreign relations. In this sense The Bhutanese contributes to speaking to greater powers and issues of which understanding is necessary to foster a better citizenship in a world becoming more complex.

The continuity of our mundane thoughts and identities depend from moving from what we think we were in the past to the present, and what we think what we are in the present to the future. It is the same with The Bhutanese. Having built a reasonable presence and identity in the current flux of events especially among readership in Thimphu, what is most important now on the occasion of its 10th anniversary is contemplating what it can be in the near future.

In a relatively young population with each holding a data-enabled phone, people will increasingly turn to timely in depth reports rather than online sources which merely string a series of  empty headlines from  secondary sources. Thus The Bhutanese might consider broadening its pages more towards original investigative journalism rather than less. There will always be readers for such journalism while purveyors of headlines from secondary sources will be bypassed by the readers who will directly go to individual sites posting information instantly. What will be more challenging is how to raise money to cover such investigative journalism.

Journalism and media are cultural, artistic, educational and scientific spaces, and they have tremendous effect on the population if they are positive. As the classical Buddhist saying goes, those who live on a golden mountain will become golden and those who live on a poisonous mountain will become poisonous.

Media is such a space or environment today because of its pervasive influence on the population.

The Bhutanese, I’m sure, will continue to be part in the creation of a golden landscape in our country. I offer my felicitations for what you have been so far and my good wishes for the future.

The writer is the President of the Center for Bhutan Studies and Gross National Happiness Research.

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