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Published in the 1-15 July 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

MEDIA
Madhyamam- media revolution in the south
By E. Yasir

A vernacular newspaper started a decade and half ago now prints seven editions, has more than 50 bureaus across the globe, occupies the third position in circulation and readership, employs a workforce exceeding 5000 and thousands of reporters and agents. This is the story of Madhyamam daily published in Malayalam, which is the official language of Kerala.

Madhyamam was born with a slogan of "A milestone in the news media," with a mission of value-based journalism and the role of 'voice of the voiceless'.

Madhyamam began its journey in 1987. At Silver Hills near Calicut, it was inaugurated by Kuldip Nayar, veteran journalist. Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, the doyen of modern Malayalam literature, saw in it the birth of a silver star. A prophecy that lent substance to the evolution of the paper. The paper was led in its infancy by luminaries like KC Abdullah Moulavi, former Ameer, Kerala state Jamaat-e-Islami, PK Balakrishnan and KA Kodungallur, two distinguished men of letters. 

Madhyamam is run by the Ideal Publications Trust, which aims at providing non-partisan and value-based journalistic service beyond considerations of profit and the demeaning compulsions of the market. Its policy emphasises the need for the media to rise above sectarianism and market-driven profiteering pressures that have beset the post-Independence Indian journalism.

Madhyamam’s website introduces itself with the following words: "The launching of the paper was a landmark in Malayalam journalism. Madhyamam set new trends in news content, advertisements, visuals and social commitment. Sixteen years down the line, it can boast of achievements that are not small. It was with a lot of hope and greater apprehension that Madhyamam set out on a course that appeared too ambitious to scale. Hope, because a need for value-based journalism was keenly felt in Kerala, and there were a great number of readers who wanted something more than the incomplete and prejudiced half-truths that normally get touted as news in much of the mainstream media. And appreciation, because the challenges of the competition were forbidding. Madhyamam has in its own small way molded the reading habits of the discerning Malayali readers, setting the agenda for serious debates through its editorials, features and its weekly edition".

It did create history and has carved out a niche for itself in the field of journalism armed with these qualities. It is the pioneer in the journalism of morality at least in the state of Kerala. Morality in the sense that it strictly ignores cinema, lottery and other nasty advertisements while these form a substantial chunk of advertisements the mass media gets in our times.

Madhyamam has already made its presence felt — a presence that has meant unease for exploitative forces and relief for the downtrodden. It turned the scale against financial frauds like goat farms and fraudulent farms rackets, exposed the powerful liquor lobby, manipulative trade practices like multilevel network marketing companies and usurious institutions. It brought into public attention the travails of marginalized sections like the Adivasis and Dalits. It has also stood in the forefront of environmental causes, and ruthlessly exposed how the industrial giant Grasim in Mavoor near Kozhikode was squeezing the neighboring villages dry, and the polluter finally had to close down.

Though the founders and employees in large numbers are non-professionals, Madhyamam keeps its perfection. It upholds a careful strategy of presenting news. It takes a stand on issues , they international or national.

Madhyamam has been in the forefront in bringing out exploitation and injustices against any section of society. Many of such stories may be cited be it against multi-level marketing or supporting the adivasis in the recent police firing. Iit keeps a sharp watch on issues which concern the downtrodden, neglected, deprived and marginalized sections of society

A direct impact of Madhyamam was that many age-old newspapers where forced to change their attitude in presenting and promoting news, especially about Muslims. Madhyamam also helped the voiceless to get a place in the political and social arena. 

During the elections to various legislative bodies, Madhyamam plays lively and creative role. It weighs strategies and manifestoes of both the Leftist and the United fronts, which are the two prominent coalitions in Kerala politics, assesses candidates and finally gives a clear message to the people.

This way Madhyamam participates in the process of nation-building. The readership of Madhyamam may be one which can be compared to that of The Hindu in English. It cuts across the barriers of religion, class and creed. The reason for this lies in it’s neutrality, ingenuity and the positive role it plays in shaping society. A very good illustration of this can be cited from the inaugural function of the Cochin edition of Madhyamam when Justice VR Krishna Ayyar, the prominent social activist, ended his speech waving his wrist in air and shouting, "Madhyamam zindabad, Madhyamam zindabad, Madhyamam zindabad"!

Madhyamam set a new trend of covering world affairs in greater detail. Its coverage of the Gulf War of early 1990s, the Afghan tragedies during the Soviet invasion and later the US onslaught, the September 11 attack and the consequent US-British aggression and a great many others, helped inform readers about the issues involved.

Apart from the five editions across the state of Kerala, Madhyamam also brings out two interstate editions. In addition to these, Gulf Madhyamam is published from three places in the Gulf: Bahrain, Doha and Dammam. 

Recently the people behind Madhyamam have started Madhyamam Health Care Programme to provide financial assistance for treatment of individuals from weaker sections suffering from chronic diseases. This exhibits the social commitment of the paper. Hundreds of patients have already availed of this facility. Madhyamam management frequently publishes reports about this scheme. 

Apart from the daily edition, Madhyamam also publishes Madhyamam Weekly, Sunday Supplement, Kudumba Madhyamam, i.e., supplement for families and children.

Madhyamam also issues career, education, business and info supplements every week. Madhyamam publications have set the terms for informed debates within Kerala society, firmly taking the side of the common and deprived man. It has reshaped the reading habits of the Malayali by focusing on real issues instead of the sensational sob-stuff and soft porn carried by the mainstream media.

In a nutshell Madhyamam has become a movement, rather a revolutionary movement. Replication of this movement in English is indeed the need of the hour.
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