Development in India is placing enormous challenges before institutions and individuals. Increasingly complexity in the economy, a looming ecological cliff's edge, and persistent and deep inequities abound. But keeping oneself aware of these, and being able to comprehend the various issues involved is increasingly harder.
Tons of people - internet empowered citizens, concerned individuals, teachers, administrators, journalists, businesspersons and students - want to be informed in depth on public interest matters but are unable to find the right content. They want to understand social, political and policy processes as they unfold, but both print and broadcast commercial media in India are usually short on depth when it comes to consistent coverage of developmental and public interest matters. The ever-rising quantities of content online also make it harder to sift through what's out there, and figure out what matters, and what ought to matter.
A lot of different people have roles to play in sorting this out, and perhaps you are one of them. Our hope is that India Together is at the intersection of these roles.
- Researchers and experts or concerned individuals with a special interest are looking for some specific information on public matters and want to make a quick beginning, pick up a few pointers, and get started with their work. But this isn't easy with information sources like conventional media.
- Authors and writers find that editors at major newspapers are inaccessible, not responsive (timeliness) and in general may not match their effectiveness parameters. There are many more concerned individuals with specialized knowledge and expertise to share than there are outlets. Worse still, mass publications are sometimes likely to edit authors' material in such a manner that when it gets published, it's not them anymore!
- Practitioners, experts, or professionals want to share expertise, insight and concerns on public interest matters, but are unable to find responsive editors and a publication that is easily accessible to a broad, interested audience.
India Together has been around a long time; we put up the first article in 1998. But it's by no means alone in the space; there are others. What we've observed, however, is that development and policy magazines typically specialise in a particular sector (environment, agriculture, etc.). Professional journals provide another channel for communicating ideas, but these are restricted in access, unwieldy in formats and requirements, and are often intended for specialist and scholarly audiences only. We believe there's a very different kind of publication that can address these gaps. If done right, here's what it should look like.
- Publications on development and policy issues need to focus on processes, not events. Readers must see the process at work, not merely the events playing out. Credible professionals and practitioners must be able offer their expertise as part of a healthy balance between public interest journalism and informed opinion.
- Such publications must additionally organise their information both for the general readership as well as the specialists without specifically favouring one over the other, so that both types of audiences and contributors can leverage each other in the publication itself. They must encourage interaction.
- Editors of such publications must also be the stewards of informative discussions around issues. They must interact with authors to structure and strengthen the material and remove weak arguments. They must recognise that most development issues are inter-linked and leverage the Internet effectively by placing an article in a far more informative context than possible in print.
Why don't all news publications on the Internet do this already? Mass media is not allocating much space for depth because advertisement revenue is key. Second, commercial media primarily provide news of a perceived immediate utility for a mass audience, and this drives them to cover events and instant news, and offer only limited analysis. Three, many commercial news organizations believe that their audiences are not interested in policy and development matters. Four, many chief editors remain inaccessible to practitioners, experts and other individuals with specialized knowledge, except to the most popular gurus and select others.
This, then, is the canvas we set out to repaint, and continue to work on. India Together provides information and news on issues that matter to discerning readers. Our stories and articles are categorized over 15 major developmental topics, and also over the states of India. Because of a simple, easy-to-access website and our exclusive focus on the public interest and development, readers go away feeling they've been informed by an intense but well-designed magazine.
Every item on the website is categorized so that specialist readers can access information in their favourite issue pages, while general readers can access the latest from the front pages and regional pages. Equally, we help developmental and policy experts, academicians and scholars and leading journalists take their ideas, research and public interest concerns expeditiously to a broad and interested national and global audience. We believe this has helped build a community of writers who look to us as natural publishers of public-interest material, and an audience that expects the same.