Friday, December 23, 2011
By Jurmi Chhowing
ATSARA will be a weekly newsmagazine that approaches the news of the day, and of the week, in a manner reflecting featurism with a lot of emphasis on satire.
The weekly newsmagazine is an idea borne of the necessity of the times. With all due respect, most of the print media, whether dailies or weeklies, have become so saturated in terms of their contents and design that instead of encouraging and increasing readership, the opposite is the norm, unfortunately.
I’ve worked as editor, journalist and in the capacity of a consultant for or with most of the newspapers currently in the market. In all my dealings, I’ve found the one fundamental weakness common among most of the publishing houses is the misperceived role of a newspaper as such; and the others, amongst many, is the non-importance, and in many cases, the blatant disregard and the ignorance of the newspaper’s medium. The role of artists such as a cartoonist, illustrator, photographer, designer and the like are unfortunately misplaced.
This idea was born, after one two many sour experiences and dissatisfaction with the publishers I was working for or with. The lack of a proper forum suitable in being a platform to air the stories and highlight the situation and circumstance thereabouts, of all sections of our society, and to tell those stories with the full justice and credibility deserving of the subject, and the reader was another motivating factor.
Professional want such as established printing facilities, effective circulation, the reach of the paper, the readership, along with more professional wants such as designers well versed in the art of presenting stories, trained photographers who understand the fundamental role and aspect of photography and others of the ilk such as the lack of artists were all measured to give birth to this venture.
The scenario as it stands is telling one story the same way from as many as ten different people, so to speak. As an avid reader, I keep myself abreast of developments by reading all the dailies and weeklies. It has now reached a point where the heart pushes the head to buy a copy.
The answer is very simple – there is nothing the papers can present with some panache. If anything, the opposite is the reality. Devoid of imagination, fundamental elements such as professional analysis, the usage of irony, sarcasm, and satire via either the letter or the image is gravely absent. Hence what is left is a sense of sheer agony and dullness written with an equal amount of mediocrity bordering on the gibberish, and at times, totally nonsensical and comic.
Laughing at a newspaper is good if you are looking at the funny pages; a pity and a tragedy if you are reading the headliners or the editorial.
A fundamental shift in the way news is approached and covered is the call of the day, with nobody heeding the call. If one asked the editorial team to point out the shortcomings in the papers, the blame game begins. The editorial room blames the management chair and vice versa. The truth is rather simple insofar as the paper is concerned.
Managements are divorced with what is their fundamental product, the paper, and with that perception comes the utter ignorance of seeing the needs of the public, the reader, and being attuned to their needs and sensibilities; quite an important aspect of the reporting business. In some other cases, grave trends are being set whereby the newspaper is almost a fronting face that has a degree of respectability being abused to usher in other works that have no connection whatsoever with journalism.
This is fundamentally cheating the public, the readers and cheating them off their taxes and the government, as the largest advertisement revenues still pour in from government coffers. It is a disturbing trend that must be curbed. In that respect, ATSARA neither seeks profits nor influence. The aim of this weekly is to simply provide what is glaringly missing and more importantly, to provide a publication that interviews, engages and tells stories in as many different ways and means as is necessary to tell that particular story but does so in a way that is at once appealing to the intellect, discerning to the educated and understandable and engaging to the layman as well.
The idea is to generate an ever growing and increasing sense of participation and identification. At first, ATSARA will aim to appeal to the readers’ heads, and should that fail, to their hearts and should that also succumb, to their humor.
In any case, ATSARA believes that after a brief passage of time, readers would be interested enough to subscribe. Subscription is thus the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. ATSARA will aspire to become something inspirational, like the rainbow and the quiet drizzle of rainfall that enables the manifestation of that rainbow. In this particular setting, the readers are the blessed showers giving rise to a magnificent presentation.
In a nutshell, this is the sole inspiration for ATSARA - a newspaper imbibing the look, feel and touch of a newsmagazine that covers issues with a refreshing approach and attitude and then presents it in an artistic form. As in life, so too in journalism, with art, craft and the human imagination playing the central roles of creators. ATSARA will be anything but clichéd.
THE DRUKPA EDITIONS:
In 2010 I had a dream come true when I was able to realize a long cherished dream: of publishing a monthly magazine that embodies many of the facets mentioned earlier. I was able to bring out a dozen editions of what was turning out to be quite a well-liked magazine.
The feedbacks and the reviews were mostly favorable, what was not, at the end of one year, was the persistently meddlesome role or the absolute refusal to be interested in manners pertaining to the publication from the publisher. That uncompromising and conflicted stand gradually drove the magazine to its zenith, with the Managing Editor (myself) having to voluntarily resign on account of conflict of interests. That was the only honorable exit left, and rather than see the magazine wax and wane in a humiliating fashion, I made the painful decision to submit my resignation.
But the better times are remembered, and to that end, I’m proud of the fact that we decided to cover issues in a thematic fashion. Our first edition was focused on “Youth” where we covered all kinds of issues related to the youth. Education, Unemployment, Alcohol and Substance Abuse, the Rural-Urban Drift, Loss of Innocence, the Changing Face of the Bhutanese Youth were some of the topics.
Thereon, DRUKPA successfully tackled themes such as the Economy in its second edition. The third edition was about homage and a tribute to some selected Bhutanese who had made a difference to the country in celebration of His Majesty the King’s 30th birthday. The fourth edition focused on global warming and its effects on Bhutan in a theme called “Fragile Environment.”
The sixth edition picked up where the fourth one left off, hammering the environmental message coinciding with the SAARC Summit with its theme aptly titled, “Talking Climate Change.”
We covered the precious yet fragile development of the need to develop and preserve the local arts and crafts industry and its talents in the last edition titled “Art, Craft and Entertainment.” The July issue dealt with His Majesty the King’s Kidu initiative and land distribution – of such a paramount importance to the Bhutanese people.
Quite simply put, the idea is to be wholesome without being crude. ATSARA will stay on a course that is non-controversial, minus conflict yet relevant, informational, educative, entertaining for the average reader. It’s my personal and those of my team members’ philosophy that the weekly does not, in any way, shape or form, becomes embroiled in tabloid journalism, sensationalism or biased. The weekly’s first and only rule is to become the “People’s Platform” - in that we want to write and report about the consequences of the day on the common citizenry rather than planning and pushing an agenda or speculative agendas.
ATSARA will, because of the nature of its content and presentation, carve a unique niche for itself that is made up of credibility, consistency and class. The intention is to become a quality magazine associated with engaged journalism, inasmuch as the contents are concerned and without a doubt, of credible source; prompt and tempt the reader to subscribe, together with unsolicited advertisements that has no influence whatsoever with the editorial room.
Seeing the local markets saturated with the dailies and the weeklies was another reason why I feel the weekly is ripe for the plucking. The need for such a weekly periodical is paramount in terms of steering the media to a sensible direction and yet is able to sustain itself for that very reason. In that sense, I wanted to bring about a newsmagazine that not only abridged gaps and provided a platform but also offered a newspaper that could become a collectible, with a longer shelf life and a longer life span.
The old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” was probably the key to the name, or the masthead – the most important aspect of its personality, or any publication’s for that matter. My team and I also believe in the other adage of first impressions casting lasting footprints. “In Buddhism, the Pali variant ATSARA is literally "The Teacher". It is associated with one of the two teachers of a novice monk, the other being the Upādhyāya. In Mahayana traditions the epithet ATSARA is widely used as an honorific indicating great scholastic renown; somewhat more general and essentially, the ATSARA is the DUPTOB/SIDDHA that challenges conventional trappings using CRAZY WISDOM, so aptly practiced, taught and propagated by Lam DRUKPA KINLEY; hence the name.
The importance of print media in Bhutan cannot be understated and the weekly’s sustenance and growth will be the primal target. I chose upon the name to best reflect what the weekly will represent.
I believe that “good reading” enriches a reader’s life – and thereon the person’s approach to temporal issues and even life itself. With this in mind, ATSARA will develop and market a wide range of themes, all founded on the same basic philosophy of informing and entertaining – through reading. The other important facet next to the masthead is the publication’s slogan. True to its motto of “PROUD TO BE ONE”– the monthly magazine DRUKPA emphasized the importance of the written word, ensuring that readers return and stay loyal to the magazine time and again. With “RIGHT VIEW” as the moral compass and slogan, derived from the Eight-Fold Noble Path.
I believe the same can be achieved, if not bettered. The more issues you read, the more informed and aware you can become. Information is an ever-changing world, and therefore, the ATSARA team will work systematically with a variation of themes and flavors that will continually change and transform - based on research among the most happening or forgotten news and events of the day.
With an albeit small but a team of highly motivated individuals with impeccable backgrounds as far as the growth of media in Bhutan is concerned, we are confident that we will proffer the best deal possible in terms of news content, presentation, even as far as ad design, layout, branding and marketability.
We invite you to become a part of “ATSARA” to ensure that we can sustain it as a weekly newspaper all Bhutanese can be proud of and in that process, also help steer the other face of a working, vibrant and transparent democracy, without underscoring the need to imbibe a reading culture among the youth.
The strategy is one of a “Shared Vision” with aims to build a brand new publication company and capitalize on the paper’s strengths, work on its flaws, and eventually brand it as a synonym for creativity, credible information and entertaining literature that encourages the reading habits of the youth and those disenfranchised with the media.
THE ATSARA PLAN:
• Lead the media fraternity in adopting “Reportage and Coverage with a Conscience”
• Inform, Educate and to Entertain the reader
• Refocus on issues that go way beyond government policies and implementations
• Increase readership via Content, Quality, Presentation and Credibility
The strategy for the years up to 2012 and beyond underlines the continued importance of focusing on building a sustainable business platform for the paper’s future development.
The situation facing all media houses is that consumers, customers and competitors pressure them from many quarters, apart from the conflicts in-house. ATSARA will also counter such challenges but with a difference; a steely determination to bind the average reader, potential readers, general consumers, and retailers even closer to the organization. It will continue to be this organization’s primary purpose of supplying wholesome content and artistic design – developing today’s students and helping them to face the challenges of tomorrow through sensible material.
At the same time ATSARA will continue to improve its range so that its latest issue will always be ready to face the competition. As far as consumers are concerned, the most visible changes have taken place in increasing readership. At the same time, the paper will be continuously revitalized in the virtual world via its online activities.
COVERAGE & CONTENT THEMES:
Given the six days a weekly paper typically receives before printing an issue, I believe the time is ample enough to bring out a quality befitting a newsmagazine. During the time I was running the monthly DRUKPA, editorial meetings would take place once an edition was out. The team gets together to brainstorm what appropriate theme should be adopted and covered for the next issue. The same methodology will be at play here with pretty much the same team.
Typically, the themes are chosen on account of the “effective, affective and recurring impact” it has on the lives of the common man. Then strategies and angles are worked out to get the best out of the situation as far as information is concerned. Stories, contacts and other vital information are delegated and assigned to the reporters to best cover the stories.
METHOD, NETWORK & CONTRIBUTORS:
I am mostly responsible for the Concept and Content. After a consensus is arrived at and tasks delegated accordingly, stalwart media-back grounded-contributors-at-large in Los Angeles, California, New York, London and other non-Bhutanese who are Bhutan-aficionados pitch in with creative ideas and written contributions. Off late, respected and syndicated electronic mediums such as Project-Syndicate has written to me allowing exclusive rights to use their contents, penned mostly by senior people such as Prime Ministers, Presidents, former government cabinet ranked ministers, CEOs, Scientists, Philosophers and other well known luminaries. Sometimes they submit photography or do specifically requested articles. The team’s creative core is made up of the Chief Editor, the Deputy Editor, and Reporters, a team of Designers, Artists and Photographers. All are experienced media-related professionals associated with a number of assorted national publications. The marketing team comprises of a young and dynamic team of individuals. What they lack in relative experience is more than compensated by their passion and enthusiasm in the art of marketing and branding. However, we do not formally stipulate that our team members must have formal trainings; selection is based on hands-on work and face-to-face interviews.
The team comprises an eclectic group of media professionals that run an ad hoc Ad/Media Firm called Turtle Tree Creations. The team has vast experience and is thoroughly professional delving in media related fields such as writing, designing, artistry with a wide network of established contributors and photographers who bring in invaluable material.
The Team are teamsters. They are experienced guerillas well versed in the art and craft of working in unpredictable environments with firm deadlines delivered.
We publish the biannual travelogue formerly known as DISCOVER BHUTAN. The travelogue was launched in 2008 as a comprehensive travel-magazine reflecting the tourism industry and enhancing the tourism potentials of the kingdom. However, the magazine failed to entice the local as well as the international traveler. Bereft of ideas and in need of a fresh start, the magazine ran two issues in 2008 and went idle. Upon ABTO’s proposal, we took up the offer and the challenge, which we saw as a good business proposition as well as a challenging creative outlet. The revamped edition of DISCOVER BHUTAN is now called “THE PILGRIM.” The first issue is already out in the bookstores, as well as the international market. Furthermore, we execute government and private sector consultancy works, design and layout, including brochures, web write-ups and design and audio and video ads, infomercials and advertorials.
*For Visual Backgrounds on some of the works we have executed, please visit: -
**For a sampling of assorted writings, please check out: -
(www.iamdrukpa.blogspot.com) (The number one blog in Bhutan at the moment.)
***SOME OF OUR OTHER CREATIONS:
• Write-Ups for Tashi Delek, Drukair’s bimonthly in-flight magazine
• Launch & Publication of a monthly magazine called DRUKPA
• Revamped Bhutan Today
• Created our own logo in tribute and in celebration of the wedding of Their Majesties
• Created the Bhutan Media Foundation logo
• The MADE-IN-BHUTAN merchandizes in honor of and to celebrate the Auspicious Wedding of His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck to Her Majesty Jetsun Pema
• Published a coffee table book called The Royal Wedding Felicitations on behalf of the Bhutan Media Foundation
• Inaugural publication, print, design, layout and content of ABTO’s biannual travelogue called THE PILGRIM
• Revamped Bhutan Observer with its new layout, look and content
• Concept, content, design, layout, copywriting, editing and launching the Bhutan Observer biannual magazine Faces of Bhutan
• Running Bhutan Times when its Editorial Team walked out leaving the weekly in a quandary
• Design, layout and content of numerous other publications.
YET MORE SPECIALITIES:
• Storytelling (Scripts, Screenplays)
• Logo Concepts & Design
• Multimedia Consultancy
• Media Start Up/Up Starts
• Conceptualization & Design
• Copywriting, Editing. Proofreading
• Volunteering (Social/Community Works)
• Social Awareness /Advocacy
• Event Management Consultants
• Media & Multi Media Management
DO-NAMO PUBLICATIONS/TURTLE TREE CREATIONS/ATSARA
PO Box 321, GPO, Thimphu.
The Transcendental Clown (From DRUKPA)
By Tashi Phuntsho Jr.
The first thing that strikes you about the Atsara is literally the nose. It’s huge and it’s bloody red. Then comes the exaggerated facial features, and as if to mock you to submission, there is this perpetual grin, amok and in your face, to the point where you feel slighted. But it’s all in good nature, and so is the feeling once you have survived the initial scare. Then the attire gets you, somewhere between a sixties hippie and a gypsy doing an Arabian dance. Meet the Atsara, the Bhutanese nemesis to Batman’s Joker.
But don’t let the careless appearance and random antics fool you. They are meant to but there is more to the character than meets the eye. Atsaras are Dupthobs, enlightened beings who have realized the Samsaric truths – defying contemporary norms and defining socially accepted human behavior. They rise above feelings of shame, remorse, desire, anger and the like. At their level, they realize that emptiness and the futility of emotional bonds. They feel no shame in begging, no humility in being obstinate, or remorse in what we’d term “unethical”. They neither crave nor do they want. And that is because Atsaras were amongst the Dupthob Gyabchu, the 80 disciples of the Buddha and it is from amongst them that the founders of Drukpa Kagyu emanated, of which the likes of Naropa and Tilopa flowered. Therefore, the importance and significance of Atsaras are in a way down played in our minds as we tend to look upon them more as jesters these days.
The name Atsara is derived from the Sanskrit word Acharya meaning holy teacher. The term Acharyas slowly transformed to Atsara as a result of travel and tongue. According to Lopen Pem Dendup, Tsaezin of Trongsa Dratshang, the tradition of holding Tshechus starring Atsaras were popular only in Trongsa and a handful of other places. It was only during the reign of the 2nd king that the tradition of Tshechus gained momentum in other Dzongkhags and Atsaras were introduced. Atsaras are our version of the Sutradas, a storyteller who gives the information and background of the mask dances as they are performed.
In the Buddhists context there are three main functions of the Atsara, namely Pchi- external, Nang – internal, and Sang – hidden.
The external act of the Atsara is in assisting the mask dancers in cases of mistakes and mishaps made, either with their costumes, gears or the dance steps. Common people are not allowed to help them, only the Atsaras have the privilege of doing so.
On the inner level not all people watching can understand the essence of the Chams. For the ones who do not understand, the Atsaras provide comic relief, thereby, making sure that they are also entertained.
On the secret level the Atsaras have attained such levels of understanding the perpetual adventure in pursuit of eternal salvation that they are totally above worldly attachments, feelings and other desires. They are in their own ways trying to pass down the message. In the past they even went to the extent of adopting nudism, somewhat like the Hindu Sadhus.