National

The Year That Was At Outlook: How We Stood Out

After many brainstorming sessions, we felt the best way to give the Outlook reader something unique, something of value and substance, something interesting was to take up a theme, deep-dive into it with all our reportage and analysis force.

Outlook Magazine's October 3 issue on Ram
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The strange year of 2021, a year of loss and lament for most of us, was slowly coming to a close. The virus’ sting seemed to be getting dulled but many of us were still searching for valuables, of memories and remembrances, in the debris it had left behind. And yet again, there was doomsday talk of the print media, especially weekly news and feature magazines, how they were an anachronism in the lightening fast world of social media and push notifications. People were consuming news by the minute, and a week was a lifetime in this frenetic chomping of news, whether anything got digested and assimilated or it all just went down the fissure between the right and the left cerebrum.

We at Outlook decided we would get off this bullet train. We didn’t have the wherewithal, the financial muscle, and most importantly, the inclination, to join this bandwagon. After many brainstorming sessions, we felt the best way to give the Outlook reader something unique, something of value and substance, something interesting was to take up a theme, deep-dive into it with all our reportage and analysis force. Outlook editor Chinki Sinha was clear about it from the beginning — that this was the only way we could stand up to the cacophony and jumble of news on a million other platforms. While the theme of the cover story was examined in an holistic way by our reporters and columnists, for more variety we introduced the Political Overlap section for pure political news and Substrata for cerebral reading which had book reviews, excerpts, short stories, poems and other thought-provoking articles.

The other big changes was to make Outlook visually compelling for the reader — something newspapers (due to the format and space constraints) and web portals (because of the scroll-down design) can’t do. In a breakthrough in news and feature magazines, Chinki, with her understanding of the art world and artists, wanted to use paintings, artwork, and sculptures for political stories. This richness of images, right from the stunning covers, made Outlook stand out in the crowded media bazaar.

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Outlook Magazine's January 3 Issue on Oting tragedy in Nagaland OL

To emphasise these ideas, let me discuss a few cover stories that we did this year. The very first issue of this year was on the violent killing of civilians by the army at Oting village in Nagaland’s Mon district for which Chinki Sinha travelled extensively in the region to unravel the complex political, social and cultural realities of Nagaland. But along with this detailed report we also carried poems by Temsula Ao (who sadly passed away in October this year), who has been chronicling the North East’s cultural history through her writings and poetry. The cover package also had an incisive article by the young Naga writer and scholar Beni Sumer Yanthan, a report on AFSPA from the neighbouring Manipur by Ninglun Hangal, another sterling article on growing up in Nagaland under the shadow of the gun by Riathung Ngullie, and so rounding up a holistic look at the region.

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Outlook Magazine's January 24 Issue on Love and Relationships OL

Soon we switched track and came out with an issue on the theme of love and relationships. Then the Uttar Pradesh elections were upon us and our cover story was a political analysis of the undercurrents in the electorally most important state. A few issues later we did a cover story on horror films — that’s how eclectic our choice of cover themes have been. We took up all the political and social issues — joblessness, price rise, the attack on federalism, upheaval in Kashmir, politics of food, imposition of Hindi and other language issues in the country, the emergence of southern cinema, on climate change, Punjab’s violent music culture, on encounter killings.

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Outlook Magazine's July 25 Issue on Punjab's violent music culture OL

The other two stand out issues, both politically charged and socially relevant, have been on Ram and Shiva, which are being discussed elsewhere in these columns. Here again the idea was to take up a relevant news topic which has raged in the recent years and look at it from the point of view of writers, historians, poets, artists, musicians as well as hard-core political analysts.

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Outlook Magazine's October 31 Issue on Shiva OL

This is the philosophy of covering news and politics we hope to consolidate this coming year, to give the Outlook reader wholesome food for thought which she may not get from any other magazine, newspaper or digital platform.

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