Welcome to Strive, a podcast of IPS News, where we chat with new voices about fresh ideas to create a more just and sustainable world. My name is Marty Logan.
We’ve all made asses of ourselves at one time or another. But today’s guest actually made a career out of it — not of messing up but of being The Ass, the author of a satirical column that ran on the back page of the Nepali Times newspaper for more than two decades.
As full-time publisher and editor of the weekly paper he says that writing the column went way beyond horsing around. In fact, more than once during our chat he describes satire as serious business — it’s a way to hint at what is really going on in the halls of power without playing by the regular rules of journalism, but if you cross a line and hit too hard — or too low — you could find yourself in a heap of — well, you know what.
We also discuss the evolution of the Times. It started as a business decision but soon became immersed in war journalism, reporting on the decade-long Maoist conflict. Gradually it developed its brand as a paper that went out of its way to report on the state of the country outside the Kathmandu bubble. Simultaneously it chronicled momentous events including the high stakes, post-war peace process, the downfall of the monarchy, the birth of republican Nepal and the devastating 2015 earthquake.
Post-Covid-19, Nepali Times has resumed printing a hard-copy version to accompany its website. But The Ass, aka Kunda Dixit, believes the physical paper has at most a three-year future before mobile phone readership will render it obsolete. The big challenge, larger even than fending off pressure from anti-democratic forces in government and beyond, will be attracting enough ‘eyeballs’ — in competition with Facebook, Instagram and other social media — to finance operations.
A quick note: early in the episode The Ass talks about the panchayat, which was the party-less system of government that reigned in Nepal before democracy was restored in 1990.