Twenty Years of The Kandy News
It gives us immense pleasure to note that this month we complete twenty years of publication of The Kandy News. The first issue of this newspaper appeared in October 1994. Kandy, and for that matter some other cities in Sri Lanka, most notably Colombo, Galle, and Jaffna have had local newspapers from time to time beginning in the 19th century. After 1994, following the birth of this newspaper, several others “Kandy” newspaper were born, including one that came out as a weekly supplement of a well-established national newspaper. However, none lasted very long.
Our experience over the last two decades has taught us that there are a number of reasons that make city newspapers in Sri Lanka unsustainable. The major reason is economic. It is very hard to raise advertising revenue for a local newspaper. First, Sri Lanka being small country, advertising is generally done nationally rather than locally. The fact that about 43% of the nation's income is generated and spent in the western province (mostly in the Colombo district) that accounts for only 29% of the population is another reason to make not only the print media but even the electronic media outside of Colombo area economically unviable.
Second, it is only when one takes on the responsibility of publishing a newspaper that one realizes the sheer dearth of good writing talent in the country. The Kandy News has a mixture of news and articles in English and Sinhala. Our readers may not be surprised to learn that it is very difficult to find skilled reporters and writers in English. The fact, however, is that it is not easy to find skilled reporters and writers even in Sinhala. This is notwithstanding the fact that there are several degree programs and diploma programs in mass communication in our universities. Either they fail to produce quality graduates to meet the needs of the country. Or the graduates opt to work outside the media industry for reasons such as better pay and prospects. Or the electronic media is preferred to the print media. The other possibility, which our experience suggests is the most likely, is that small newspapers such as The Kandy News serve as training grounds for young media professionals who then move on to the national media.
Third, the reality not only in Sri Lanka but globally is that the growth of electronic communication has caused a decline in the traditional print media. The younger generation has largely moved away from newspaper reading to getting news via mobile phones and the like.
Given the above adverse environment, The Kandy News has survived for twenty years, albeit with very considerable difficulty, for three main reasons. First, we have had a faithful group of readers and a very supportive small band of advertisers. The latter in particular have supported us not so much because of commercial benefit they derive from adverting with us but because they recognize the community service that this newspaper renders to Kandy.
Second, this newspaper was not conceived as a profit making enterprise but as a community service project. As such those who were involved in the founding and running of the newspaper have made very considerable personal sacrifices to keep it alive.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, The Kandy News has very strictly adhered to the highest standards of journalistic ethics. We can proudly say that this newspaper has, knowingly, never misreported an event or written anything that is not factually accurate. Out motto has been, in the words the celebrated editor of the British newspaper Guardian, C. P. Snow, “comment is free, but facts are sacred.” During our twenty years of existence we were challenged on two or three occasions on the facts and on all such occasions we invited the aggrieved party to state the facts as they saw them and we declared our readiness to publicly admit and apologize for any error of commission or omission. None took up the challenge confirming that we were correct on the facts.
What of the future of The Kandy News? It would be disingenuous for us to say that the model that we have followed in the last twenty years can be maintained unchanged for the next ten years let alone twenty. This newspaper has had a web edition for the last twelve years. In the future it is likely that the newspaper will have to rely more on the web edition as reading habits move in that direction.
One other major challenge that The Kandy News has to resolve is to find a few members from the younger generation in the Kandy community who are prepared to take over the running of the newspaper. Perhaps there may be some who read this editorial who would wish to volunteer to help The Kandy News. We warmly welcome such help.
Kandy's Pathetic Cinema Halls
Barring the capital city of Colombo, cinema halls in Sri Lanka are a poignant affair. A visit to a cinema hall in my hometown of Kandy will proves this fact. The post-war urban economic boom is making a big difference to city life in Colombo in particular and to a lesser extent in some other major provincial towns. However, cinemas in Kandy have been left virtually untouched.
Coming home to Kandy for the summer holidays I decided to watch a few films in Kandy cinemas. I started with the Arena Cinema Hall in Katugastota, buying a balcony