Youth Make Headlines
A news portal creates a space for India's youth to air their views on topics they feel strongly about. With over 1.8 million readers a month, Youth Ki Awaaz is making news.
It may be a youth news portal but the topics it covers include issues like “Elderly Abuse in Old Age Homes” and the “Effects on Loved Ones After a Suicide.” Youth Ki Awaaz is a news platform for and by young people but don’t expect the glittering, entertainment-studded displays that are usually touted as news for young adults. Started by Anshul Tewari, who graduated with a degree in journalism from Delhi University in 2011, it is a platform for news and views that found no place in the mainstream media.
“I contacted newspapers, magazines and even sent in letters to editors. Basically, I did everything possible to make some space for what I might have had to say, but nothing worked. That’s when I thought that the Internet is probably the best way to go about it,” says Tewari. Youth Ki Awaaz started in 2008 and as Tewari started writing blogs regularly, he realized that young people in India needed such a space exclusively for their opinions and thus Youth Ki Awaaz was made public.
Today, it has a dedicated team of 16 editors, more than 600 correspondents and student journalists and a readership of over 1.8 million a month. “My reaction to start this might have been spontaneous but after two months, I started reading up as much as I could about blogging, social media, Internet journalism—basically everything that goes into building a content-based Web site,” says Tewari.
In April 2010, it won the award for Best Blog on Social Causes in India from indiblogger.in, and in September 2010, it was awarded the World Summit Youth Award by the International Center for New Media and the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development, for best practices in online journalism, in New York.
For Tewari and his team, this recognition is encouragement to do even better. Shruthi Venukumar, senior editor, says, “The good thing about Youth Ki Awaaz is that no matter how hard the times are, there are always people on board who believe that forward is the only direction we are going to move. We work in sync and communication makes us tick and crack the toughest of situations. It pays to have a large, inclusive group of active members and advisers.”
The site has faced its share of problems. “When YKA went mainstream I had to understand that here, since there are not many independent news Web sites, you are either fighting with the top in the industry or are not in the competition at all. This often diminishes your [view] of where you exactly are and what the next level is. But we are quite clear that we are not here to compete, but to complement the media to help better sense prevail,” explains Tewari.
Shraddha Sankhe, Mumbai editor, adds, “We had to recognize that while problems are many, the resources (time, people, initiatives) to solve or change those circumstances, very few. We at YKA seem to prove naysayers wrong every time we publish a story about...drug addiction or an honor killing. To me, YKA is proof that Indian youth sure have a voice and a strong one to resist being termed ‘apathetic’.”
Their repertoire of stories shows Indian youth to be anything but apathetic. An entire section devoted to domestic violence, for example, covers the gamut of the issue including tips to check if readers are victims as well.
They face the same editorial dilemmas as any mainstream news platform. Youth Ki Awaaz believes in showing all the opinions associated with news topics. “Our approach toward news makes sure that young voices do not get ignored, even if they oppose popular trends. Of course, with apt reasoning and facts,” says Tewari.
They are still experimenting with a lot of funding models. “Our primary sources of income are the display ads which we have on the Web site, which help us sustain the Web site on high quality, secured and dedicated servers,” says Tewari.
Their internship program is one element they are proud of. Interns sign up and can work from anywhere. Rahul Sharma, an intern, says, “I especially got my internship extended so that I could gain more experience and increase my knowledge about the various issues covered here.” Parul Sabherwal, assistant editor, who manages a large batch of interns, started as an intern herself.
The site has redesigned the featured news section on the home page as well as integrated Facebook and Twitter in a way that makes Youth Ki Awaaz more social and easy to connect to. Plans are on to have a parallel micro-blog which will enable young people to voice themselves in a Q & A format.
Paromita Pain is studying journalism in a graduate program at the Annenberg School of Communication, University of Southern California. She is a former journalist with The Hindu in Chennai.