When big dailies are struggling to bear the brunt of the lockdown, imagine the plight of a small neighbourhood newspaper that is circulated free and survives solely on limited advertising revenue. Mylapore Times has had to suspend publication. The paper may be down for a while. But not its Editor and Publisher Vincent D’souza.
So instead of throwing up his hands, this pioneer of neighbourhood journalism decided to expand his turf to the whole of Chennai. The online version of Mylapore Times has been revved up. Leveraging the social media’s force multiplier effect, Vincent has been posting crisp videos of precisely what Chennaiites want to see.
On the day of the Janata Curfew, Vincent criss crossed the city with the energy of a fresh cub reporter to bring us a slice of the standstill. The next day, his videos of people walking in droves on the Marina Beach, despite the appeal to stay indoors, created enough public opinion to nudge the authorities to shut down beaches in the city.
Known for his resourceful nature and an indefatigable spirit, Vincent has been focussing on all the right issues – from the need to allow home delivery of food for senior citizens and lists of grocery shops, tea stalls and pharmacies open, to the requirements of NGOs or the plight of hungry animals and even ‘sundal boys’ on the Marina or what disinfectant the Corporation is spraying. His appeals to steer clear of hurling epithets like ‘idiots’ for desperate folks at bus stands and to cooperate with the police have had a salutary effect on readers.
Tagging influential stake holders and opinion makers and sharing posts with information on the procedure to apply for emergency ‘curfew’ passes, Vincent has emerged as a one stop repository of all useful information on the Corona Lockdown.
The latest offerings are his audio bulletins every day, through a simple mojo (mobile journalism) kit. By asking the right questions and alerting the authorities, for instance, about social distancing going for a toss outside ration shops, Vincent plays a vital role in these critical times.
In hindsight, having to suspend publication of his paper turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The story of Mylapore Times, in its many avatars, goes on. A stumbling block as stepping stones!
(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate practising at the Madras High Court, Columnist, Author & Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7)