Mostafa Kamal Majumder
The inside pages of The New Nation needed to be uplifted to increase its readership. I found the district page was two days’ stale. The man in -charge was not computer literate and was totally at the mercy of the computer section. Of the two wire services, Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) by then started transmitting news items through the Internet while the United News of Bangladesh (UNB) still continued to use teleprinters but was at the stage of switching over to the Internet. District Correspondents started sending dispatched through emails. Thus although there was hardly any need to compose news items when composed items were available from the news sources. But as the man doing the page was unable to operate the computer he used to work on printouts of copies and get those composed from the computer section. Pages were still being done using printed out tracing papers. The computer section used to compose news for the District Page at their convenience. The page in charge used news items composed on the night before and was thus one day behind other pages. He could not afford to discard surplus tracing prints and stored those for use the following day. Thus some news items were stale by three days.
I solved the problem by assigning a computer literate person to do the page. He worked online and edited copies coming through the Internet on the computers and forward those directly for tracing prints. Thus the District page became up to date and started accommodating current news. In just one go the district paper was made readable to people. The readers in the districts were more interested in current news items on their localities. This was important also from the advertisement point of view because the Deputy Commissioners and Superintendents of Police, the Executive Engineers of the Department of Public Health, Power Development Board, Rural Electrification Board and people of the Department of Agricultural Extension were more interested in news items on their activities. They were also the advertisers at District and Upazila levels. Publication of local news also made the District and Upazila correspondents more relevant to readers and the advertisers.
The business page of the paper also used to carry stale standing matters like shipping intelligence and old news items because of the lack of drive to collect up to date news items. The stock market page was based on statistics freely available and arranged alphabetically without classification and analysis. I was appalled the see that a 3-month-old standing matter on shipping intelligence was still being used. The dates of arrival, berthing, loading and unloading of ships and their departures were over weeks ago. On query, the page in-charge said the computer section did not cooperate with him in composting up to date matter from press release sent by shippers. But this was no excuse. I reduced the pressure on him by subscribing to a professionally organised stock market page at affordable costs. He had less pressure in doing the remaining one page.
The sports page had a page in-charge and a reporter. The Reporter was resourceful in contacts but he did not know how to compute and was dependent on the page in-charge to prepare reports based on his info. He believed he was incapable of computing skills. He had good market value and was offered job for better pay at a new newspaper. I asked him he will not be able to sustain in another paper without the love and care he was getting in The New Nation. He stayed back and overtime with my encouragement acquired computing skills and still remains an asset for the paper.
The woman doing the entertainment page left for another paper where she was offered higher salary and benefits. My friend Shahid Alam brought to me a new pass out from the IUB for a job. I made her in charge of the entertainment page under the joint guidance of my esteemed colleague AM Golam Haider and myself. She was doing good. But for reasons unclear to me, the General Manager handed over to her a letter of dismissal signed by the proprietors days before one Eid festival. Such kinds of interference were aplenty from the time I joined the paper as editor. I was told, another man who was doing the Art & culture page expressed his interests in doing the entertainment page. As I was trying to consolidate proprietors appointed an Executive Editor with whom I was at good terms as a professional colleague but also knew his limitations. Another man who had been working at the paper as the chief reporter was promoted to the post of City Editor and also made in-charge of a page. A reporter who was recruited by me was made chief reporter without my consent. A long-time companion of the owners was at good terms with the three men and used to accompany them at their meetings with owners. Aware of the follies, I managed to remain unperturbed with my positive bent of mind. All three people in the course of time proved incompetent and were sacked by the owners without requiring my intervention.
I recruited some new hands as reporters and used to guide them starting from giving story ideas to the production of finished copies. This was a Herculean job because all I did was in addition to my doing the editorials, guiding the central news desk plus editing or writing commentaries. I invited legendary journalist Hasanuzzaman Khan to work with us as rewrite man. Then Lone surviving founder member of the National Press Club and an Ex-Managing Director and Chief Editor of the BSS he was passing retired life but used to come to the National Press Club regularly. He gladly responded to my invitation. His work helped improve reporter’s copies not only in respect of language but also their content. A knowledgeable man he was a mobile reference library. But I lost Hasan Bhai when I expressed my unhappiness with the quality of reports coming from the BSS and took this up with its new MD and Chief Editor Amanullah Kabir. The BSS MD in his turn called back Hasanuzzaman Khan to the BSS for a higher pay. The pressure I was relieved of came back to my shoulders. At the end of Amanullah Kabir’s tenure as MD and Chief Editor, Hasanuzzaman Khan again became jobless and I brought him back to The New Nation. But this time a man from the Financial Express showed interest in him. Hasanuzzaman Khan told him in reply, ‘People think I still can work whenever Kamal Majumder calls me to his place. Nobody enquired about me when I remained jobless for four years after retirement from the BSS.’
Mostafa Kamal Majumder