Tehelka - which shot into instant fame with its headline-gabbing sting operation aimed at exposing corruption at high places and the vitriolic political reaction that followed the exercise - is back in the reckoning with a newspaper. The weekly, espousing 'public interest journalism at its core', was launched on January 30, 2004. Offering an invitation price of Rs 10, Tehelka - The People's Paper is being sold at newsstands, and will sport a price tag of Rs 15 at the close of the invitation offer.
Headquartered in Greater Kailash, south Delhi, and a staff strength of 80, the weekly was launched with a print run of 1.5 lakh copies. Tehelka aims to have four print centres eventually - Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata. Besides Delhi, Tehelka's Mumbai and Bangalore bureaus are already up and running.
Touted as a well-rounded independent weekly newspaper, the media house is clear it will not be aligned to any political party or business house. True to its journalistic intent of being the people's paper, the publication has raised money from the people through the founder subscriber and advance subscription route. Says Tarun J Tejpal, editor-in-chief, "It's been created by raising advance subscriptions from the people, and it will attempt to see things through the prism of public interest. In short, its alignment will be with no political party or business house but public interest. Hence the People's Paper."
A year's subscription of Tehelka costs Rs 520, for two years it is Rs 990, and for three years the rate is Rs 1,450. Tehelka offers and interesting special offer to subscribers "who wish to support the paper in greater measure". According to the Tehelka website, readers could take a subscription to the Tehelka Engaged Circle, for which they have to pay Rs 6,000 for six years or Rs 10,000 for 10 years.
Surely, the paper is not looking to be a "regular" news digest. Like sibling Tehelka.com, the weekly would not stop from asking "unsettling questions". Says Tejpal, "All good journalism is to an extent anti-establishment and defiant. The purpose of journalism is not to give puff jobs to people in power and people with vast amounts of money; that's the job of PR. The core purpose of journalism, in any healthy democracy, is to ask the uncomfortable questions - questions about the abuse of public money. The positioning is not a business decision. It's a moral and professional decision."
However, the question is, will this anti-establishment stance find favour with the masses given the much touted 'feel good factor' permeating the economy at this point? In other words, is the product right for its time? "We are not here to knock the feel good factor, or to tap into the youth angst," says Tejpal. "We are here to practice the kind of journalism we believe in - independent, well-rounded, stemming from a strong moral centre, aligned to public interest. Will it appeal to the masses? Two days into the first issue, the answer seems to be an overwhelming yes," claims Tejpal, who has spent more than two decades in the industry as journalist and publisher.
Tejpal insists the paper will appeal to the "engaged" citizen, "whatever the nature of his engagement". "Anyone who's concerned about more than just his own little life," Tejpal elaborates. "And I think there are hundreds of thousands of such Indians out there - concerned, engaged, waiting to be agents of some kind of positive change."
The paper may find support among the people, but one cannot turn away from the business reality. Will the paper find support among advertisers? Will brand custodians freely associate with another brand sporting a pronounced anti-establishment stance? What kind of rub-off will it have on a brand struggling to create a market for itself? "One of the most gratifying things has been the response of advertisers," claims Tejpal. "It's nothing short of terrific. The O&M brand audit had revealed that Tehelka is dominantly associated with values such as truth, courage, and public spiritedness. I suppose these values have a sound rub-off to them."
For all his detractors, Tejpal is confident his people's paper is here to stay. "Enron shut down despite several billion dollars bolstering it. So there are no guarantees about anything," says Tejpal. "Intent, track-record and hope - we are okay on all three. I think we will survive for well over 10 years." © 2004 agencyfaqs!