By Thomas Scaria
Mangaluru, September 12, 2019: Vincent D’Souza is a veteran journalist who has contributed substantially to the concept of neighborhood journalism.
Twenty five years ago, he resigned his well-paid job as a special correspondent to the “The Week” magazine and BBC, and started “Mylapore Times,” a neighborhood magazine.
Although a Mangalorean he has lived in Chennai, initiating and promoting solutions to the local issues. Known in the Catholic media circles as a fearless advocate for truth and justice, Vincent served as a teacher in journalism, an entrepreneur in media and a community leader.
As the Mylapore Times completes 25 years in neighborhood journalism, Matters India spoke to Vincent during his recent visit to Mangalore.
MI: What is Neighborhood journalism?
Vincent D’Souza: Neighborhood journalism is the news coverage of generally a small area be it village, ward, small town or zone in a city. It deals with the local issues, covers local news, discusses solutions to the issues affecting local people and highlights local events. While they have many sources to get regional or national news, neighborhood newspaper deals with news in their neighborhoods.
How did you get attracted to it?
Although I am from Mangalore, I grew up in Chennai. The dynamism and diversities of Chennai was always an amazing experience for me. This quest for knowing and living with local community in Chennai inspired me to start a neighborhood magazine and I started the Mylapore Times. It started small and remains small even now but became a powerful print media locally.
You were already into national and international media working for The Week, BBC etc. Why were you not satisfied with them?
I am still contributing to them. Also to the Catholic media occasionally. But as a journalist, I wanted full freedom and I started the Mylapore Times.
I was keen to publish in print journalism. When the local coverage in Chennai’s dailies opened up some avenues: I chose neighborhoods. Eventually, I started my own.
What were the initial challenges?
My challenge was to quickly make newspaper popular and rub that experience on to advertisers. Delayed returns and sometimes rising newsprint costs made us struggle a bit.
What are your biggest accomplishments?
Biggest accomplishment is that we are a brand respected for local journalism and ethics. That it has affected positively on hundreds of local people. It is read closely. I have my audience and my advertisers. Thus, I survived for 25 years!
Will the onslaught of social media affect neighborhood journalism?
Not at all. It has only added to the relevance of neighborhood journalism. In fact, I have increased my circulations in the last 10 years when social media was more active. Information on people, local events, utilities and space for grievances remain relevant in this age.
We have noticed that you also carry out a lot of travels to the interior India, Sri Lanka and so on. What has been your mission?
I believe the soul of a nation vested in small communities and neighborhoods. To know that national realities, one should experience local realities. My travels to the Sri Lankan villages, interior Karnataka, recently widened my vision and knowledge substantially. Wherever I go, I make it a point to visit their villages and historic places so that I understand the wider realities locally. It is genuine and realistic.
You were also associated with the Heritage walk, an educational program. Can you explain it?.
Heritage walk is not my invention. It is a worldwide movement and I did little bit to promote it in Chennai. It is a walk with curious enthusiasts to visit, learn and experience local heritage sites, communities, and cultures whereby we gain a better understanding in everything. It is a powerful learning process, a linking factor and a soul searching exercise. Sometimes we ignore the heritage in our own neighborhoods.
Are there any other hobbies you have passion?
I am developing an archive with all sorts of current print items and digitalizing them for future generations. During my walks, I also collect whatever print items like notices, bus tickets, notifications, leaflets, movie tickets, etc, and add to my archives which might throw some light on current trends, developments, economic conditions, technology, etc to future generations.
What are your future plans?
Future plans include devising products for digital age and remain relevant in this electronic age. We need to grow with the technological advancements and use digital technology to the better use of new generations. So, I have been quite active in social media these days.