‘No full stops in the newsroom’: bdnews24.com celebrates 15 years of unwavering journey

The full stop is probably the most essential punctuation mark in writing. About half of all punctuation marks used in writing are full stops. It terminates a sentence and gives clarity to writing, but it also means a complete cessation.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi, who built bdnews24.com from the ground up with a young team 15 years ago, reminded his colleagues of their roles in the newsroom and beyond as Bangladesh’s largest news publisher stepped into a new day.

“It’s a 24/7 newsroom. And there will be no full stops,” the editor-in-chief said on Saturday, as he scooped up a slice of the giant anniversary cake, surrounded by colleagues from all departments.

Khalidi, a former BBC journalist, took cues from “No Full Stops in India”, a book written by Mark Tully, another BBC journalist, on the human realities of life beyond the confines of full stops.

Khalidi’s vision reflects the world of news guided by ethical practices but unshackled by external factors.

The journalist, who led the journey of Bangladesh’s journalism into the dot-com era, criticised the media for providing wrong information in the dangerous race to publish stories first.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi, who built bdnews24.com from the ground up with a young team 15 years ago, reminded his colleagues of their roles in the newsroom and beyond as Bangladesh’s largest news publisher stepped into a new day.

“We have ignorance, we have illiteracy. Newsrooms are packed with untrained people; then there’s a culture of wrongdoing and the dominance of black money.”

Khalidi cited a Facebook post by an unknown person who praised bdnews24.com for staying away from the allure of black money at a time when the Bangladeshi media largely survives on black money. “One of them made an exception. It survived without black money despite its struggle.”      

The editor-in-chief remembered the contribution of bdnews24.com to exemplary journalism in Bangladesh through events that have become mixed memories now.

“It’s actually a near-epic full of happiness and sorrow. We had happy moments, festivities and victories. And there were many cases of pushback and reprisals. We held our ground and tried to resist wrongdoing.”    

“We came out victorious most of the time. It has made us stronger. It has increased our mental strength.”

The bdnews24.com newsroom recently resumed in-person operations at full capacity after months of virtual presence of the workers mostly from home. Health guidelines are still followed strictly as the coronavirus pandemic has not ended yet. Celebrations in 2020 were also scaled down.

LIGHT UP, SHINE BRIGHT

Oct 23 is not only bdnews24.com’s anniversary, it is also the day when Bangladesh’s online news publishing began its journey with the first 24/7 as-it-happens services.

It had all begun in early 2005. Then known simply as BDNEWS, it had worked as a news agency for the other media outlets. It became the first media outlet to ever operate over the internet in Bangladesh. The other agencies were still using teleprinters to supply news.

In 2006, the new management led by Khalidi brought sweeping changes to the news publisher. The 24/7 journey began in a new form.

The staff of bdnews24.com celebrate its 15th anniversary at a homely newsroom event.

bdnews24.com has earned plaudits for introducing many firsts as a digital news provider, including mobile sites and breaking news SMS alerts. The bilingual newspaper is also the first Bangla internet news media. It launched the first Bangla website run by child journalists.

As Khalidi spoke to his colleagues in the newsroom on Saturday, a string of candle lights shone bright. He pointed to one of them and said, “Darkness will come, and we will shine a light.”

Some of the staff members brought along their families. Several child journalists of bdnews24.com’s Hello came with their parents.

The newsroom "without a full stop" became a place for sharing memories as the attendees savoured delicious food. A raffle draw was also held.

The bdnews24.com journalists and support staff took photos in a frame based on a design that looks like the website’s Spotlight.

15 YEARS IN GRIT AND GLORY

Recalling the days of the beginning, Khalidi said, “We were No. 1 in Bangladesh in the beginning in terms of reader base, popularity and credibility.”

bdnews24.com championed a national news gathering operation in Bangladesh. “It was so courageous! Many described it as craziness, but we succeeded.”

For revenue, it was difficult to make people understand the business model of managing correspondents across the country and a large newsroom, he said. “But I explained it. We innovated all the time and tried to collect revenue. Sometimes we succeded, some other times we failed.”

“We faced another problem – not everyone took our success well. Many envied us, tried to thwart us, tried to hit us below the belt. But we always turned around,” Khalidi said, crediting his newsroom colleagues for the success.

News operations never stopped during the 15th anniversary celebrations at bdnews24.com as the motto is “No full stops in the newsroom.”

Describing the pressure it tackled during the 2007-08 caretaker government and later, he said bdnews24.com stood out in media management and finance as well.

“But for being exceptional, we faced problems,” Khalidi recalled. “We’ve become the minority so much so that no other organisation stands beside us. We however survived because of the huge number of readers, viewers and listeners.”

After introducing many firsts to Bangladesh, and the world, bdnews24.com could not continue doing all of them because of the financial crisis, he said. “Many of our competitors, who started on our success and business model, and imitated us and followed us, are now ahead of us.   

“Because we had to swim with our hands and legs tied. I don’t know who profited from this. But I’m certain it has brought no good to Bangladesh’s journalism, society, people and the state.”

PRESSURE

Khalidi said there was a common perception that the media faced pressure from the state and politicians only. “At many times, the pressure comes from influential people, a mischievous class of businessmen, big companies or people who have suddenly become the owner of tens of billions of takas.”

Former colleagues joined bdnews24.com journalists at the internet newspaper’s 15th anniversary celebrations on Saturday, Oct 23, 2021.

“You will feel helpless when they come together to attack you. Because they use money and other things or buy important parts of the state machinery by using the politicians, or buy individuals.

“These individuals never work for the state, government or the people, but for the rogue businessmen. It creates problems for organisations like ours. Many of them have no accountability. Rather the people running the state take the blame.”

“They become rich and finally the people, the state and society bear the brunt.

“We’re trying to resist this. We’re trying to protest. We tried to write stories and publish them. There was pressure to remove the stories.

Editor-in-Chief Toufique Imrose Khalidi marks bdnews24.com’s 15th anniversary with the child journalists.

“These people are very powerful,” Khalidi warned, “They have the ability to abuse the state machinery. They try to buy political power with money.

“Our fight is on and it will continue. We will never concede.”

He vowed to march forward and set examples in journalism. “It is still possible to do journalism honestly and ethically. Society has suffered decay, and we go through bad times, but still, there are good people. Many good jobs are still being done. People have tremendous power of innovation. Still, this country achieves economic development despite so much corruption, so much rogue politics.”