Bengali daily ?Ekdin? downs shutters, 120 out of jobs

KOLKATA: Eastern India has seen many a print publication being put to sleep over the past two years, courtesy the growing influence of the internet, and the concurrent, economic slump. Now, the Siliguri-based Darpan Press has joined the ranks of those who have cut the lifeline to a newspaper. It bought Bengali daily ?Ekdin? from the Chakra Group late last year, and around three months later it has chosen to wind up the broadsheet, leaving close to 120 employees including journalists and technical staff jobless.

?On January 14, at around 3.05 pm, we heard that the RNI registration had been transferred in the name of Darpan Press from the Chakra Group. And at 5.05 pm, the owner called a meeting and said he had decided to close down the daily newspaper,? recalls a senior journalist from Ekdin. ?We are shocked. How can a newspaper close in a day?s notice? Again on Wednesday, that is, January 15, there was a meeting between the employees and the management, and the latter confirmed its decision of not continuing with the newspaper,? he adds.

Founded by veteran journalist Suman Chattopadhyay, who was also the first editor of Ekdin, the newspaper was sold off to the Chakra Group after Chattopadhyay joined Eyi Shomoy, The Times Group?s Bengali daily. The Chakra Group later sold Ekdin to Darpan, which has owned the daily since 1 October, 2013.

That Darpan had promised that Ekdin would never shut shop and its more than 100 employees would never lose their jobs at the time of taking over the newspaper, had reported earlier.

Another journalist from Ekdin recounts that while there were salary payment issues under the Chakra Group, he was sure they wouldn?t have closed down the daily in such an unprofessional manner. ?There is a story behind the closure of the newspaper, and it needs to be explored further,? he says, pointing out that though Darpan is supposed to pay Ekdin employees till March 2014, the staff has been paid only for the period up to14 February 2014. Many are keeping their fingers crossed that their cheques will get cleared.

On his part, Darpan Press chief executive officer and director Sandip Choudhary says: ?We have closed the paper temporarily and plan to come back in a big way in the next three to four months or so at the earliest. The earlier management did not do much to run the newspaper smoothly. We are trying to address such issues.?

However, the senior journalist from Ekdin recalls that within minutes of the closure announcement, he started getting phone calls from fellow journalists and so did his colleagues. However, the management requested them all not to reveal any of this to outsiders or simply say the closure was temporary. ?Why should I lie and become the cause for my own doom,? he rues. ?If the closure is a temporary phase, why did the management pay us for one and a half month and hint that we look for other options?? he questions.

According to the distribution department of Ekdin, which was published from Siliguri, Durgapur and Kolkata, while the newspaper?s circulation was around one lakh, the last few months had seen a dip in this figure to just 40,000.

Readers of the Bengali daily feel that while the content was first-rate and encompassed all areas, sometimes, the paper covered too much of state political news for the administration to be comfortable about it.

A media analyst reasons that Darpan Press, with its two newspapers ? Bharat Darpan (Hindi daily) and Himalayan Darpan ? has expertise mainly in printing and machines. So much so, when the group launched the Kolkata edition of Bharat Darpan, it had to close it down within three months as it could not make a mark. ?Again after acquiring Ekdin, it closed down after three months. Only the coming days will tell if there is a story behind the closure of Ekdin as the employees are claiming, or the management is truly planning to revive it in a big way,? he says.

Another media analyst has a different take on the matter. He feels it is unwise to close down the newspaper before the Lok Sabha elections as most newspapers, however small, will be flooded with advertisements of different political campaigns.

A third media analyst reasons it was no longer financially viable for Darpan to carry on with Ekdin which is why shutters were downed. While we can only speculate as to why Ekdin shut shop, there?s a piece of news that might point in the right direction. At the time of the acquisition of Ekdin by Darpan, Chakra had filed an FIR against the former for not receiving the promised payment....

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