1. To produce content that’s local and independent
Local stories didn’t go beyond udghatan (inauguration), durghatna (accident) and hatya (murder). We spent many years reading and critiquing these stories, and then in 2002, we decided to do something about it. We launched a newspaper with hyperlocal content. We covered stories on corrupt officials and murders by ‘dabangs’ and all hell broke loose! We received letters from the dabangs, threatening to file defamation cases against us and our reporters were told to not act ‘too smart’ for their caste. KL had arrived as a local, independent newspaper- beyond the influence of the administration and the local powerholders.
2. To bring a feminist voice into local media
“Will we write about women pradhaans that are corrupt? Aren’t we a feminist news agency?” a heated debate took place in one edit meeting in the early days of KL. This sparked a discussion on what does it mean to be feminist? It had to deeper than just portraying women in a positive light in a context where they were only ‘bechari’ (helpless) or ‘besharam’ (shameless). It had to be about looking at the use and abuse of power by people, institutions and systems. It had to be about not stereotyping gender in the way that other media did by their headlines that screamed- do bacchon ki ma premi ke saath faraar (mother of two on the run with her lover)!
3. To establish women as journalists in small towns and villages
We were told by the district magistrate that KL was the ideal collective for his programme that trained women to make achaar (pickle) and papad. We would definitely be eligible for his fund since our collective had women who were Dalit, tribal and Muslim! The DM couldn’t imagine that the collective was started precisely to challenge this social stereotype that restricted women’s access to opportunities. It was started to break a male bastion in the strongest possible manner. It was a collective that was committed to skilling and establishing women as reporters, editors, designers, photographers and do everything that the DM could never imagine!
Khabar Lahariya’s origin is rooted in a creative answer to an emerging question in the 1990s: how could neo-literate women in UP’s Banda district sustain their literacy? Many women had enrolled for adult education courses and literacy camps as part of the government’s innovative Mahila Samakhya programme. But once the courses ended, given the paucity of material in their local languages, how would they continue reading and writing by themselves?
The answer came in the form of Mahila Dakiya, a four-page broadsheet that was the precursor to Khabar Lahariya. Mahila Dakiya was unique not just for its content, but also in the way it created and produced that content. Breaking the barrier between ‘writers’ and ‘readers’, newly-literate women were trained to write for themselves and for their peers, entering a world of print publication that had hitherto been reserved for men. Not only did the resulting publication break caste and gender barriers, it also enabled the sustained production of reading material in local languages and promoted an overall environment of learning.
When the Mahila Dakiya experiment ended in 1995, it left behind a legacy of literacy, a hunger for information and a model of women’s empowerment. In 2002, Khabar Lahariya stepped in to the shoes of its precursor, starting with a group of seven women who wrote and produced a fortnightly newspaper in Bundeli and Hindi, covering everything from the local to the global.
The rest is history.
Or the future of media, which is what we call ourselves now. We are 30 women who run a hyperlocal, video-first news channel, broadcasting news primarily to audiences in remote areas of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. 100 million views, 300,000 subscribers. Next stop, reporters in every district in the country, and global domination! More seriously, a new voice for a new age of journalism.
KL is a for profit media organisation. Our revenue at the moment comes from being commissioned to create rural content, programmatic advertising and subscription to exclusive content. We actively solicit content and brand partnerships with like-minded agencies which support the idea of independent, local media.
Through a unique and history-making process, soon to be documented! In the meanwhile: we publicize the fact that we are hiring through word of mouth, in newspapers, on Facebook, and through NGO networks in a district where we are looking to hire. Applications are invited, and applicants are shortlisted on the basis of their basic qualifications (class 10 pass), woman, rural location and preferably from a marginalized background. Senior KL members travel to the districts to interview shortlisted candidates: a process that involves talking about their aspirations, family circumstances and testing their confidence, general knowledge and technical aptitude. If we think a woman has it in her (a factor we have come to know, after 15 years of training rural women to be professional journalists in a region where there are none), then she is called for a training and then an internship in Chitrakoot. You can read more about one of our early rural journalism trainings here.
We’re always looking for researchers, writers, translators, video editors, archivists, social media junkies. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yes you can!
We actively solicit content, brand and research partnerships with agencies who are like-minded, and share our vision of the world, and are keen to make great quality rural content, or engage with rural audiences.
We also solicit partnerships which will enable us to train and establish women reporters in other parts of the country and publish news from their districts.
Get in touch, at email@example.com, or call us at 011-46012574/ 98213 82999
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