On July 30, 2005 the HareKrsna.com website will celebrate it's 10th anniversary as a virtual presence in the Vaisnava community. As the site continues to grow in content and readership, we are constantly looking for ways to improve our service offering. To mark our 10th year, we're pleased to announce the launch of the Sampradaya Sun, a full-service independent Vaisnava newspaper. We trust that the Sampradaya Sun will grow to express a unique editorial voice and will serve to fill the current gaps in online Vaisnava news coverage.
History of Vaisnava News Sites
When the HareKrsna.com website was first launched, in July 1995, we hoped it might serve as a virtual gathering place for the disciples of Srila Prabhupada. The Garuda Express and Dharma Mela forums were two of the first interactive venues to let devotees freely communicate about the issues of the day. In January 1997, the Vaisnava News Network (VNN) launched as the first independent online news service for the devotee community. Being the only online news site of its kind, VNN quickly gained a strong readership of articles presenting both ISKCON and independent viewpoints.
In December 1997, the Chakra news site was launched at the request of Tamal Krishna Goswami, who felt the need for a controlled news space that could rebut negative articles appearing on VNN and present a fully pro-ISKCON position. Chakra served in that role for a number of years. Over the last eight years, Chakra and VNN have provided consistent, broad coverage of news and events.
In late 2002, the Dipika.org website began publication under the management of Umapati Swami. Having previously been a managing editor of Chakra.org, Umapati Swami's Dipika.org also presented an archive of "old Chakra" content, noting that the old Chakra was now closed, and his ongoing participation would be focused solely on Dipika.org. Over the years, Dipika.org became a primary news venue for the ISKCON community, enjoying some of the highest site traffic of all the devotee sites. On October 8, 2005, Umapati Swami announced his retirement of the Dipika.org service. The site content is to remain publicly accessible on the Net.
In early 2004, VNN's editorial voice began to shift significantly, placing increased emphasis on Gaudiya Matha news and views. Articles that were critical of Gaudiya Matha personalities found less and less favor with VNN's editors, and older articles critical of the Gaudiya Matha were even stricken from the VNN archives. As this trend developed, Chakra also underwent a change of editorial leadership, and their editorial voice slowly transformed away from a single mindedly pro-ISKCON mood towards a more neutral presence that welcomed independent views.
In early January 2005, the VNN size ‘froze', and no new content has been posted since that time. In the absence of any explanation from the VNN editors, we can only assume that some sort of struggle for power and/or resources is underway there. Meanwhile, Chakra's content has increased in volume, so much so that long delays are sometimes experienced before submitted articles appear on their front page. A few other news sites provide intermittent news coverage for ISKCON and the Gaudiya Matha, but no other active independent news sites are currently operating on a large scale. The Sun will make every effort to fill that void.
The Sampradaya Sun
The Sampradaya Sun will endeavor to fill several unmet needs in the field of Vaisnava news coverage. First and foremost, our editorial voice will strive to be a philosophically-centric one. While our editorial viewpoint will help to shape headlines and content, it will also be heard in the form of traditional Editorials appearing in the Sun. We welcome submission of articles from all readers, and have provided details on submission guidelines elsewhere in the site. The Sun will emphasize a Srila Prabhupada-centric position, just as the HareKrsna.com website currently does. We welcome news and articles from all of Srila Prabhupada's temples, worldwide. We welcome philosophically based critiques, and will accept philosophical articles and position pieces from all parties - ISKCON, independent and Gaudiya Matha alike. The Sun staff will freely editorialize about issues from all viewpoints, as HareKrsna.com has always done. We will be less likely to publish current events stories, announcements, or similar articles promoting the Gaudiya Matha or other non-ISKCON camps. Other online news sites are available and better suited to accept that content.
As is evident on the Sun's front page, we are taking advantage of the latest technologies to aggregate and enhance the Sun's news stream. An RSS Blog Feed will provide readers with a real-time view of various independent devotee blogs and TribeCasts. The Sun will also serve as a Vaisnava blog and podCast aggregator, allowing readers to ‘subscribe' to various individual Blog and podCast streams.
We've also launched the Sun Blogs, a unique layer of interactive news support. Individual authors who submit news stories, position pieces or current event articles will be given their own temporary Sun Blog space. This will enable individuals submitting content to the Sun to directly engage their readers in visible, public dialogue about a specific article. When an author opts to use the service, their Sun Blog will hold a visible space in the Sampradaya Sun for the duration of the discussion. Sun Blog spaces are not controlled by the Sun's editorial staff, but rather give each author or submitter an opportunity to discuss, debate or promote their message.
The Sun staff will endeavor to process submissions quickly, and will actively seek out local and international community news, event announcements, and in-depth stories. Our ability to function as a strong reporting organization will undoubtedly take time to grow into the kind of robust Vaisnava news service we hope to become. We welcome the assistance of all the devotees. Please see our guidelines for submitting an article, which includes information on how to become a Sun staff contributor.
The Sun Editors