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May. 27 2010 - 5:42 am | 95 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

The True/Slant voice from distant Himalayas

I write from a place where you get a broadsheet  newspaper only a day or two after it is published from neighboring India. The newspaper industry in this Buddhist Kingdom of around  700,000 people is small. We have two daily tabloid-size newspapers and four weeklies.

Cinema in Thimphu

Image via Wikipedia

But this country, which had its first national elections for a democratic parliament in 2008 after 100 years of royal rule is important geopolitically.

Wedged between the worlds biggest markets, India and China, this country of deep ravines and dense forests, prides of a development philosophy called Gross National Happiness.

Economists like Joseph Stiglitz are deeply engaging with the idea as a workable alternative for the Wall Street driven capitalistic model.

Though rich in natural resources, Bhutan has pledged in it’s Constitution signed with golden ink  by the  30-year-old Oxford-educated monarch, that 60% of the country will be forests for all times to come.

Bhutan is also a global warming touchstone, thanks to the fast melting glaciers that feed its economic power houses, hydro power power projects.

Due to its isolated nature, the international media has been portraying  Bhutan as a shy Shangri-La and the last bastion of Tantric Buddhism after the fall of Tibet. Much of the coverage has been too romanticized and sometimes is even  filled with lies, like the award-winning Washington Post correspondent who wrote that yaks wait for a signal from the traffic policeman in capital Thimphu.

Foreign correspondents fly in for a day or two, churn out a feel-good story, and leave. My urge to write for an international audience was encouraged by the way this region, including my country, India, has been represented in the international media.

Edward Said has written about how Muslims of the Middle East were often depicted as filthy-rich oil sheikhs or terrorists. But no one has substantially studied about how Buddhists are being depicted as one-dimensional saints who smile 24/7 and cannot come to grips with modern ways of life (read democracy, banking, English language etc).

True/Slant has provided me an opportunity to present this region as honestly as possible without bordering on the exotica, but at the same time write stuff that interests this site’s audience. I am not a paid writer here, so I am not worried about what happens to me when True/Slant enters the Forbes fold. This Daily Finance piece  by T/S Contributor Jeff Bercovici sounded interesting, reflecting the fear of many other writers here.

True/Slant, the blogging platform for journalists and other experts, is in for a major overhaul underits new owner, Forbes Media. Lewis Dvorkin, founder of the former and newly appointed chief product officer of the latter, previewed some of the changes in store during a Wednesday morning conference call with True/Slant contributors. (There are 300 or so, including me.)

Dvorkin was careful to say that it’s still early days and there remains much to be determined, but the overall thrust is pretty much what you would expect: A lot of the True/Slant content that doesn’t fall intoForbes’ areas of focus — business, investing, economics, government, health care, etc. — will likely disappear, and the writers who produce it will either need to find new topics to write about or new outlets to write for. “Forbesis different than True/Slant,” Dvorkin said. “There are a lot of things they don’t do. They don’t cover ice skating [for example].”

“More Directed, More Focused, More Angled”

All T/S bloggers will be kept on and paid through June, but during that time, Dvorkin andForbeswill determine which ones to keep and which to drop. Niche blogs in areas outsideForbes’ ken — such as, say,a fan blog about a single football team in the NFL’s smallest media market– are likely to go, but so are those blogs whose focus is too nonspecific. “Moving forward, the generalists’ role … would not be the best way to go,” Dvorkin said. “A lot of the pages will be more directed, more focused, more angled.

In a humane touch, those writers who aren’t invited to stay on will have the option of migrating their archives onto a new WordPress blog with technical assistance from True/Slant. See full article from DailyFinance:http://srph.it/9pjHNn

Even T/S has the power to generate the same insecurity that traditional media layoffs created. In such times, you return to the music of the evening pines. Maybe that’s why people love to read about Shangri-La.

From outside my window, I can see a riot of colors as the first spring flowers are still in bloom.  An evening rain has cleared the sky, a few reluctant clouds still hang from mountain tops like a sulking child. Today is full moon and Buddha Parinirvana, Lord Buddha’s birthday. People, young and old, dressed in their best attire are returning home after visiting monasteries. Life is Good!!!


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    About Me

    It all started by dropping newspapers at doorsteps on chilly mornings riding a bicycle that broke down often.

    Newspaper-years later, now I ride a two-decade old motorbike to office and spend late nights banging my head over subject-verb agreement and perfect headlines.

    The bicycle owner was a school-going teenager from a below-the-sea-level village in southern India. The motorbike owner works in the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, wedged between giants, India and China.

    See my profile »
    Followers: 21
    Contributor Since: December 2009
    Location:bhutan