Hosting over 425 delegates from across 22 countries, the Wan-Ifra conference began on a high note at Chennai’s ITC Chola Hotel on 13 September 2017. The conference kicked off with a welcome address by KZ Magdoom Mohamed, managing director, Wan-Ifra South Asia, followed by an address by KN Shanth Kumar, chairman, Wan-Ifra South Asia Committee and director, The Printers Mysore, and Somesh Sharma of Rashtradoot Saptahik daily and president, Indian Newspaper Society.
In his opening address, Kumar highlighted the rapid growth of the digital sphere while praising print for its consistent performance and steady growth. Sharma stated that the vernacular dailies are out-scoring the national English dailies by miles with their robust growth. According to him, print media is slated to see strong growth in both India and China with improved literacy levels.
“With press freedom and financial support concerns around the world putting unprecedented strains on journalism, this conference, which gathers the best of India and Asia, is more important than ever for discussing these vital issues,” said David Callaway, chief executive officer of The Street and president of the World Editors Forum, in his keynote presentation. Callaway condemned the recent murders of journalists Gauri Lankesh and Pankaj Mishra, calling for the prosecution of the assassins as a first and necessary step.
He further added that it is imperative to take a stand and talk about the specific concerns about press freedom in India, as also the growing oppression in places like China, Turkey and the U.S.
The conference, co-sponsored by The Indian Newspaper Society, hosted a parallel World Editors Forum – South Asia Summit, which addressed issues such as journalism in the digital age, trust of news and engaging with audiences.
“Despite the challenges, more people worldwide need and are consuming news than ever,” Callaway said. “The opportunities for us are enormous if we can work together to understand and support each other.”
Launch of World Editors Forum – South Asia Summit
Unarguably the largest conference for news publishers in South Asia, the event included an expo with more than 35 suppliers from both India and abroad displaying their products and services for the newspaper printing and publishing industry.
The event also featured the World Printers Forum Conference, where delegates discussed printing efficiency, innovation, business models and more. One of the highlights of the program was a panel discussion on the future of media business and of print. The speakers and panelists included Sitaram Shankar, managing editor, Network 18, who examined the exercise of presenting news to new age readers and Mukund Padmanabhan, editor of The Hindu, who talked about attracting paying readers for good journalism, saying, “I really worry about digital journalism which has led to a series of bad practices. We must avoid poor headlines used as click-bait and find a better way of projecting our content. Arun Ram, editor of The Times of India, Chennai, also shared his perspectives on the quality of journalism and ways to address the issue, as did Raj Chengappa, group editorial director, The India Today Group, who talked at length about reimagining India’s number one newspaper. Knud Kraft, head of production at Axel Springer, Germany, made a presentation on adopting innovative methods to retain the attractiveness of the printed newspaper; and PP Prakash, vice president – materials, Malayala Manorama, who spoke at length about managing newsprint costs and logistics. Apart from outlining Manorama’s best practices in reducing waste, his key observation was that reducing wastage yields nominal benefits in comparison to the reduction of newsprint grammage, which can yield considerable cost savings.