Tanay Sukumar, November 12, 2016
Looking back at NTMN’s legacy – as one of the earliest satirical websites in India and a premier youth platform during some of millennial India’s defining moments
Two international awards for best online content. Over 400 authors published and trained. Hundreds of thousands of daily readers. Stories that became part of popular culture for those few days and weeks. News satire that made sense. A young team that learned on the job, and enthralled, entertained and enlightened diverse audiences during its best years.
It has been nearly seven years since I wrote the first story under the banner “News That Matters Not”. Today, I write my last.
Today, we say an official goodbye. You might be one of our earliest, most loyal fans, or one of the newer ones bewildered at the slow frequency at which we have published lately. Whichever set you belong to, I apologize for breaking the bond we created. Here’s one final note, on our legacy.
Power is overestimated. And treated as if it were too exclusive: meant to be in the hands of some specific, important people.
In the last seven years, we at News That Matters Not also have had the power, to be part of a revolution that could challenge the real powers.
The early years of this decade – when NTMN was at its peak – saw three large-scale mass movements in India, which led to an unprecedented change in the way we engage, think and talk about our role as citizens of the nation.
All these three events were centred at New Delhi, but the scale was huge because the place where these movements were built was largely the social media. The internet brought those debates that were limited to the intelligentsia, to every youngster who can click “Post” on Facebook. Not without its own sets of troubles, but it did.
April 2011, Anna Hazare began the anti-corruption movement in New Delhi. Controversies aside, the discourse of corruption finally entered the drawing room. Comments such as “India is so corrupt” changed to “Even I aid corruption when I bribe the traffic policeman”. Observations such as “Nothing can happen” gave way to youngsters coming out on roads to protest and seek change.
December 2012, a brutal gangrape in the national capital shook much more than just the news coverage for a couple of weeks or months. As in the previous case, ideas that “We should respect women” had suddenly given way to realizations that “I also unknowingly do things that are based in a patriarchal mindset”.
How did this happen?
Through these years with NTMN, I have realized that the impact of writing may often be painstakingly slow, but that impact will never come if we avoid expressing altogether.
What happened to be our peak years – late 2010 to early 2013 – were also the years when the social media graduated into becoming the force that it is today: and being at the helm of a leading satire platform in those years was an experience not everyone can boast of.
These years told us: people could use humour to express anger. Do think of the role of satirical websites like ours and other youth platforms in building the humorous discourse to express anger in those years.
Until then, how often had you seen public outrage to the extent that a random youth could express anger on a public platform?
Until then, how often had you seen jokes on politicians in India? Memes, cartoon strips, Facebook status updates, tweets: all were angry. In those days, politics was not polarized into the right and the left; the polarization was between the political class and the citizens.
It was not that the tools of satirical writing had not been used before. The written expression is as old as the alphabet, but public involvement in these tools in India has never been as much as the post-2009 social media years.
Two international awards for best online content. Over 200 authors published. Over 200 interns trained. Over 25,000 Facebook followers. A lakh visitors on its peak day. Stories that became part of popular culture (read, viral social media). News satire that made sense. A team that learned on the job, and enthralled, entertained and enlightened varied audiences during its peak years.
Today, we say an official goodbye. You might be one of our earliest, most loyal fans, or one of the newer ones bewildered at the slow frequency at which we have published lately. Whichever set you belong to, I apologize for breaking the bond we created.
The power of one website. The power of writing. The power of humour. The power of some common people.