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Not activists but ‘factivists’, says former Ahmedabad Mirror editor Deepal Trivedi on her upcoming digital news venture

To be launched by the end of May, the multi-lingual website aims to strike a balance between what the young diaspora needs and what it wants to read. Apart from a website and a mobile app they also plan to enter into the OTT and book publishing space

Deepal Trivedi

After working in the print medium for over three decades, Deepal Trivedi, former editor of Ahmedabad Mirror, will soon be launching a digital news website under her recently launched venture Virago Media Pvt Ltd. The multilingual website will be available in English, Hindi, and Gujarati and will have a website and a mobile app. She later plans to enter into the OTT and book publishing space as well.

“We are not going to be hankering after normal breaking news. We are going to follow a format of a good narrative, investigative, interview-based, long reads. While Gujarat is the epicentre of news, there is no such professionally-run comprehensive website. In the present context, I don't see any English digital media doing enough justice to Gujarat and stories originating from here. However, the contextual subtext of our stories would not just be Gujarat, it would have an impact beyond Gujarat,” she said.

Trivedi says that the USP of Virago would be its content for the diaspora as well. “There is no website in India which gives the younger diaspora what they want and not just what they need. But we are going to strike a balance between what they need and want through the audio, video, and digitally written format of the stories,” she said.

She currently doesn’t plan to put a paywall on the platform and the revenue would be generated through advertising campaigns and events.

Trivedi also intends that her new website will not have any leanings. “We will not belong to any sort of ‘ism’. We don't want to end up as activists, we will remain ‘factivists’. It's going to be a very neutral, unbiased platform, without any ideological leaning,” she said.

However, she admits that it is also going to be challenging to achieve that balance. Another challenge she sees before her is that her new venture consistently makes profits so that she can have onboard good professionals. “We need to have consistent profits otherwise we will not be able to sustain. Even if we don't make huge profits, we have to take care of our expenses as we are going to be a big team. There should be a level-playing field for the digital media to expand and prosper,” she said.

Virago comprises a team of 105 people across the globe with freelancers and stringers. While Trivedi herself has 32 years of experience in the print media she says collectively the entire team of Virago has a consolidated media experience of about 335 years.

The organisation’s policies are quite unique for a media house. They have reserved 50% of their jobs for women, apart from providing two-days menstrual leave every month. They also have affirmation policies for jobs for the marginalised and minority communities and castes and additional paternity leave for men. They also have a special Mental Health Leave for all employees, specially curated fitness and meditation classes in the office.

“These were the hassles that I've faced, especially while reporting to a male boss. Also, mental health has a stigma attached to it. So someone had to make the big first step. The unfortunate thing about the media industry is that we are very good at nitpicking the issues in other areas, but we don't give enough time to introspect and reflect upon our own policies,” she said.

As they prepare to launch by the end of May, Virago has put in place a strong marketing team and they propose to market it through social media, outdoor, and radio.

Launching at a time when digital news is plagued by fake news and a general lack of credibility, Virago has a tough task ahead of them. To tackle it they propose to subscribe to some nationally and internationally recognised fact-checkers and also have an inbuilt system to ensure that they don't propagate fake news.

However, Trivedi believes that it's a misconception that digital doesn't enjoy people’s trust as much as print media.

“The dynamics have really altered after COVID, with people having given up the print media. I would agree with this comparison when it comes to television as that has no credibility today. Today’s generation wants to consume their news from their phone rather than the newspaper,” she said.

Speaking about her switch from print to digital media, she said, “Every journalist is told to learn every day. But after certain years, it's not the learning that matters, it's the unlearning. I've realised the impact of digital media. With our smartphones in hand, nobody's going to wait for the next day for the newspaper and most print organisations have realised that they also have to go beyond the news to keep themselves sustainable.”

Trivedi welcomes the government’s new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 for the digital news medium. However, she feels that it shouldn’t stifle the platforms. “I think it's a very good move. Compliance is a must whatever the government policies are set. But at the same time, it should not be something very autocratic that stifles startups or companies. It has to be neutral and not biased towards a certain section of society.”

Before spending the last decade as the Editor of Ahmedabad Mirror, she has also been the Editor-in-chief of the Sambhaav Group and launched the newspaper Sambhaav Metro. She has been the Editor of Asian Age in Mumbai and Ahmedabad and also relaunched Abhiyaan in Ahmedabad. She has also had newsroom exposures at New York Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Straits Times in Singapore, and Mail on Sunday in London.

Speaking about how she decided to make the switch she said, “Digital media is not as much a  capital intensive industry, like a newspaper or a television channel. I found the power of print waning after COVID. And I dreamt of entrepreneurship. At the end of the day, I'm a Gujarati and entrepreneurship is in my DNA. So I thought I shouldn’t wait longer and I had to do it before I got too old.”

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