Weekly is a tough job

After 27 successful years as a weekly, Chattan turned daily. Its editor Tahir Mohi-ud-Din talks about the emergence of Chattan as a political weekly, and the decision to go daily in an interview with Majid Maqbool  

Kashmir Life: Tell us about the birth of weekly Chattan?
Tahir Mohi-ud-Din: When I was in college, I decided to become a journalist. Those days it was difficult to become a journalist as there were lesser options available and no role models to look up to. If you chose journalism as profession, people would call you mad.

I joined daily Aftab in 1977 as a reporter and worked there till October 1983. When I left I was the editor of the paper. Apart from Sanaullah Bhat I was the first person whose name was in the print line of the paper.

Chattan was launched in 1985 with initial run of 1000 copies. When we started Chattan, I had another partner, Wajih Ahmad Andrabi. Together we started Chattan in 1985, but in 1991 he left. Till that time I was the editor, and after he left I became the printer publisher as well as the editor of Chattan.

KL: Many say it is difficult to run a weekly newspaper successfully. Is it so?
Chattan began as a weekly newspaper in 1985. For 27 years it remained a weekly paper. I think it’s the longest period any weekly has survived. Earlier there was a famous weekly Aiana edited by Shameem Ahmad Shameen, but in 1974 it was turned into a daily. There are hundreds of dailies here, but there’re no mentionable Urdu weeklies.

Chattan essentially was a political weekly. Chattan always had more circulation than other publications, but on official occasions, Chattan was ignored as it was a weekly newspaper.

KL: How was Chattan different from other newspapers and what made it popular among masses?
Chattan broke many conventions in Kashmir journalism. In the past there was a stale press here, and newspapers would not touch controversial issues. Chattan touched issues which many other publications didn’t cover. Over the years it became a forum for historical debates. I remember when Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani was imprisoned; he would send his writings to Chattan from jail.

At the initial stage of Chattan, I remember when Sheikh Abdullah’s autobiography Aatish-e-chinar came out in 1886, we wrote about it and it became a debating point. Our circulation at that stage was around 1000 to 2000 copies, and suddenly after we wrote about it, our circulation shot up to 10,000 copies. Chattan has made its name internationally and is popular in the Kashmiri expatriate community. It is also widely read in the diplomatic circles in Delhi.

KL: What has been the contribution of Chattan in the past two decades of conflict?
Noted writer A.G Noorani says that Kashmir history during militancy period can’t be written without consulting Chattan. Every facet of struggle has been covered in the Chattan. We would write about militancy related issues, publish interviews of militant commanders, and also criticism of militancy. Chattan extensively covered the militancy period. Chattan created its own team of writers as well and they were widely read. There is a book that compiles the interviews of Abdul Gani Lone that appeared in Chattan.

Chattan had writers even among militant ranks. One of them was Masood Ahamd Tantray, a commander in Hizbul Mujahiddin. He started writing when Hizbul Mujahiddin (HM) announced ceasefire in 2000. He wrote about the ceasefire decision by HM, and then he continued writing on other issues as well. He was later killed by the Task Force. Had he lived, he would have been a great asset. His was a big loss, and I felt very bad – more for losing a writer like him. His book has also been published, which is a compilation of his write-ups that appeared in Chattan.

KL: Chattan was running successfully as a weekly, why did you go daily?
The decision to turn Chattan into a daily is a sort of surrender or you say a result of exhaustion. The toughest job is to run a weekly paper. Chattan would come out on Mondays.

The general impression was that we work on Sundays and bring it out on Mondays! But it would take us a week to bring it out. In daily newspaper, there is no news crisis as such, but in a weekly you have to give commentary, analysis, and views. And it’s a very difficult job. Running a weekly paper is a consuming job.  I was cut off from family, social life. When I look back, I wonder how I could do it for 27 years.

KL: What has been the response of readers after Chattan went daily?
Many readers are not happy about Chattan becoming a daily newspaper. Many asked to keep a weekly issue, along with the daily edition. But they don’t know the resources that are required to bring out a weekly newspaper.

KL: What is the circulation of daily edition as compared to the weekly?
As a weekly, Chattan had a loyal readership of around 3000 to 5000 after 1990. As a daily now, around 3000 copies go in the market.


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