A Year of Sun
BY: SUN EDITORS
Jul 13, CANADA (SUN) The Sampradaya Sun celebrates its one-year publishing anniversary.
Today marks the first day of the Sampradaya Sun's second year of publication. We thought it fitting to recap our first-year effort, and share with readers what the experience has been like from our side of the screen.
Let us begin by offering our most heartfelt thanks, first to the editorial assistants, writers, and regular contributors who continually stream high quality content onto the Sun's front page. Without your diligence and support, the Sun couldn't rise each day. Second, we offer our warm thanks to the readers for your interest and support. Without you, there would be no point in our daily practice of publishing the Sun.
We have learned so many things over the course of the year, we're hard-pressed to know where to begin in sharing them on this first anniversary. For several years we read the VNN and Chakra sites with great interest each day, and wondered at the effort it must take to publish a paper on a near-daily basis. We now understand just how much effort it actually takes. Launching the Sun was a bit like having a baby, late in life. We're up early, awake late into the evening, and have an extended family looking over our shoulder, commenting on how well we do each day as we guide the growth of this project.
We take it as a good sign that the reader feedback we receive is about 70-30%, with the majority complimenting and the minority criticizing the Sun's content and presentation. We take it as an even greater sign of success that the 30% is representative of all the reader 'camps' -- ISKCON, independents, Rtviks, Gaudiya Math, etc. We regularly hear from critics who accuse us of being biased in the direction of one or another of these groups. We take this as a sign that we have succeeded in presenting a balanced viewpoint and that no individual group has been denied access.
Some of the harshest criticisms we have received challenge the journalistic integrity of the Sun, and we take these most seriously. The most difficult to accept are the occasions (thankfully few) when we have made substantive errors in our reporting. In one instance, we inappropriately printed the name of an individual in a story that amounted to a breach of privacy. We hope never to make that mistake again. On another occasion, we had to retract a story that proved to be a silly urban myth (something to do with dinosaur bones that looked like a Bhagavatam demon…). Some of the most entertaining 'letters to the editor' come as a result of the Saturday Laffs cartoon page, which stirs up controversy from all quarters.
We are also challenged by readers who assume based on our daily news format that we are no different from CNN or the New York Times, and have a buzzing newsroom full of reporters, copywriters and editors who spend the day scouring the globe for stories, fact-checking each and every one before publishing. While we do aspire to this scenario, it's far from our current circumstance. We are fortunate to have a growing network of reporters and editorial assistants, but we certainly don't have the capability to do detailed fact-checking on each story submitted. We rely on the integrity of our contributors and the newswires for much of our content.
This might be a good opportunity to clear up another point of confusion about Sun Bylines. One reader has written in consternation that we falsely take credit for stories that we have not written, because the byline says "Staff Correspondent" or the dateline says (SUN). In fact, newswire items are always indicated in parenthesis, and many wire stories come to us with a "Staff Correspondent" byline. In some cases the writer is actually a Sun staff writer, but in many cases it is a reporter for another publication. When the byline says "Sun Staff" it means one of two things: either the story was authored and submitted by a Sun staff person, or it was submitted by Sun staff and written by another individual, in which case the writer or source is always referenced in the article.
Aside from such technical complexities, we have learned many other lessons over the course of this year about the function of a daily news site. Having published the HareKrsna.com website for ten years prior to launching the Sun last July, we were very familiar with the dynamics of freedom of the press and the right to speak publicly and independently, even in the face of harsh criticism. Many times we are challenged on this front, and our stand is firmly fixed. We are independent and willing to pay the personal price to speak freely ourselves, and to facilitate others to do so.
What the previous ten years did not prepare us for was the unique nature of a daily news site responsible for transmitting news about personal tragedy. The immediacy, accuracy and discretion required when reporting such news is daunting. This lesson first sank in on August 9th of last year, when devotees from the New Orleans yatra were in a serious traffic accident that took the life of Saci Dulal prabhu and put others at grave risk. A short while later we covered the New Orleans flood drama, a news series that kept us all on the edge of our seats. Most recently, we published the sad news of Ananda McClure's suicide. In circumstances such as these, the immediacy of personal communications out-shadows the daily mood of news and controversy, and reminds us of the great responsibility that comes with the job of putting out the daily news.
We are very grateful to have this opportunity to serve Srila Prabhupada and the devotees, and hope that each day's Sun is in some way pleasing to the Sampradaya Acaryas. We humbly apologize at the feet of any Vaisnava we have offended, and ask you to forgive our errors.
While no single reader may like all the news and views published here on a given day, it seems that the artwork is universally pleasing. We get a steady stream of compliments on that front, from all quarters, and promise to keep the visual nectar flowing. Our archive of transcendental art should allow us to present new images each day for many years to come. They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and we take pleasure in seeing Sun images re-surface elsewhere on the Net.
Aside from reader comments, the Sun's success is evident in our site traffic statistics. Over the course of this year, we have seen a steady monthly increase in traffic. By summer's end, we expect to pass the 1.5 million hits per month mark, a wonderful increase in traffic from our start one year ago. Of course, we also have the benefit of the rest of the HareKrsna.com website, which brings significant traffic from those who come to read Srila Prabhupada's books, sample the prasadam recipes, read the philosophical papers, or learn about sadhana and the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition. In the future, we hope to do a better job of showcasing that site content in the Sun.
Please also look forward to the return of the Sun Blogs, which were discontinued due to a serious technical glitch, and have remained down only due to our lack of time to get them re-installed. We hope to attend to this soon, and look forward to welcoming back the excellent writers who inhabited that blogspace.
Please continue to send us your comments and criticisms, and help us to continually improve the Sampradaya Sun. Again, thank you for your patience and readership, both of which enable us to serve in this capacity.
your Sun Editors,
Rocana dasa and Jahnava devi