Live COVID-19 trackers and news channels that invariably only reported fatalities caused due to the virus was the reason why three Gurugram boys — Abhimanyu, Agastya, and Mihir Rao, all students of Class 10 from Shiv Nadar School, decided to launch their own e-newsletter called The Paperless Press. Their only focus was to bring positive and good news for all age-groups.
It all happened in July 2020, when the boys were wondering how a change can be brought about in these distressing times. “Lest we forget what positive news looked like, we decided to launch our own source of joy,” Agastya tells The Better India.
While Abhimanyu and Agastya are twins, Mihir has been their best friends for over five years now.
“We bond over the Marvel universe reading, and computer games,” Abhimanyu says.
And it is this bond that led this trio to publish 32 newsletter digests so far, with 4 interludes published during their exams. From conceptualising the theme, researching for the articles, conducting interviews, and even editing the articles, these teenagers do it all.
Speaking about the name ‘The Paperless Press’, Agastya says, “We were sure of not wanting to consume any paper to put this newsletter together and at the same time we wanted to bring positive news to our readers. Being an online version helped with the paperless bit and hence the name.”
Mihir says, “We wanted a break from being overwhelmed by the COVID-19 situation. Being cooped up at home, juggling between online learning and homework, was all a bit too much.” It was Agastya who penned the first article for the newsletter which was all about taking small breaks in between the online classes. He was advocating for lesser homework because even that involved looking at the computer screen for extended periods of time. Taking off from that, Mihir, who is also a very enthusiastic gamer, wrote about the future of gaming.
“The first piece I wrote was all about staying busy to avoid the temptation of stepping outdoors,” says Abhimanyu.
They drew inspiration from other newsletters they subscribed to, and with each new digest, new elements were added. From movies and books recommendations to easy recipes to put together at home. What’s interesting is that they now have also started accepting contributions from their readers.
Adding to this, Abhimanyu says, “While we started out with recommending books and movies, we have now moved to a video format. This, we realised, holds the attention better and more people seem to click on the videos.” When asked whether they sought help from any adult, Agastya jumps in and says, “We didn’t particularly need to. We collaborate using Google Docs, and that gives us the flexibility of working on the same document. In the beginning, it took us time but now it flows rather smoothly.”
The teens, cumulatively, take about four hours every week to put together the digest. “We love doing this, so up until now it hasn’t felt like a task,” says Abhimanyu. Depending on the length and the amount of research each article demands, the time taken for it varies.
Speaking about the process, Agastya says, “We start brainstorming on Wednesday and by Sunday we have the digest ready to send out.”
Speaking about the relevance of the newsletter, Abhimanyu says, “We could not have launched the newsletter at a better time. We need more positivity and happiness to surround us, now more than ever before.” With each feedback the team receives, they feel pushed to work harder and bring out more stories. The intent is also to get more young readers to both subscribe and contribute to.
When asked where they wish to take this endeavor, Mihir says, “We’d love to explore how we could work together in a post-COVID situation. At the same time, we are also looking to on-board new voices and writers. We’d love to bring in different perspectives.”
With a little over 170 subscribers, the team looks forward to getting more readers to subscribe to The Paperless Press.
Tips from the young journalists to start your own e-paper:
- Find an overarching theme that you wish to retain for your newspaper/newsletter.
- Find free online tools to help you design your newsletter.
- Have a clear idea of how the newsletter should look – layout, number of pages, columns, etc.
- Ensure that you follow a schedule and stick to the publishing cycle.
- Always have a back-up article ready in case of a last-minute glitch.
- Try and diversify your content to appeal to a larger audience.
- Be thorough with the research you do for every article.
- Stay focused, enjoy the accolades and learn from the feedback.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)