Memorable days in the career of an unsung newspaper editor

Mostafa Kamal Majumder
When I was offered to be the editor of The New Nation, Dhaka on 4 May 2005, I had already worked there as Executive Editor for nearly two years. I thought it was time for me to take responsibility. The management of the paper was happy with the services I rendered as Executive Editor under editor Mohiuddin Alamgir, my mentor and older brother. He later joined the Naya Diganta, the largely circulated vernacular daily as its editor. The post of editor in The New Nation fell vacant when his successor, my respected brother Golam Tahaboor, a former Dhaka bureau chief of AFP, decided to quit.
Before being appointed editor I took a number of initiatives which led to the rise in the popularity of the paper. I gave a reporting drive with whatever hands we had in The New Nation and started overseeing its news make-up. With the help of a self-educated freelance cartoonist, I started using cartoons to increase the paper’s attractions to readers. Editor Alamgir Mohiuddin was very supportive of my initiatives. Golam Tahaboor Bhai also lent support and guidance to me.
This doesn’t mean there was no opposition. There were some people who took me as an alien trying to take control of things. The Central News Desk and other News Desks were cooperative. One part-time shift-in-charge, however, believed that his sense of photo editing was superior to that of mine. He often used to murmur that there was no creative photo editing in the paper. One day this man applied the scissor on a news photo in such a way that only the subject was intact the environment above and on its two sides were cut-off. I called Syed Afzal Hossain, then a Senior Sub-Editor, to ask the said shift-in-charge to collect the cut-off pieces of the pic and join those with the help of transparent tapes to remake the whole photo. I then used it on the front page of the paper.
As Executive Editor I used to draw the highest salary. I did not bargain to be the highest-paid man in the paper when I was requested to come back from The Independent in June 2002. I just said I can honour the request to join The New Nation, but that cannot be at the cost of sacrificing more than a half of what I was paid in The Independent as monthly salary. Mr. Javed Hosein, the elder son of the proprietor did the bargain and said as a director in the paper’s management he would see to it that I was adequately compensated for joining the paper. I agreed. This high pay by The New Nation standard was not liked by those who used to look after the administrative side of the paper. When I got the appointment letter I saw these people avoided putting me into a higher scale of pay, and instead made my gross salary larger by adding some special allowances. I did not care to take this up with the owners of the paper for correction. It was my nature. I prefer the environment of work, post, status and a comfortable gross salary, and always care less about minor details. I recall when in the 1975 Eid-ul-Fitr festival I got slightly less money as my Eid bonus than three others who were on the same scale of pay in The Bangladesh Times (now defunct). While the three others pampered the General Manager of the paper by addressing him as Managing Editor, I refrained from doing so and got the ‘punishment.’ The paper’s Shift-in-Charge Hossain Komol had advised them to pamper the General Manager and they complied.
Anyway, when proprietor Barrister Mainul Hosein offered me the job of editor, I was 52 confident of my ability to prove equal to the task. He said he was ready to offer me to be either acting-editor or editor. He had no objection to whichever post I accept. One close associate of Barrister Saheb who was the lone witness to the meeting that changed the course of my life suggested, initially it would be better for me to work as acting-editor. I firmly said I want to be an editor because ‘acting-editor’ post will make me weak and unable to assert as a key decision-maker. Barrister Saheb was graceful and offered chicken nuggets with bread and coffee before asking me to take charge from that day. I thought the time had come to do the job that I had worked for all my journalistic career. My career began in 1974 when I was a third-year honours student of political science at the University of Dhaka.
Another chance that came in my life to play a bigger role in a newspaper was way back in 1991 when I successfully persuaded the then Local Government Minister Barrister Abdus Salam to grant golden handshake to the aged employees, who drew a large part salary, of The Bangladesh Times with a view to making the limping trust-owned paper sustainable. Barrister Abdus Salam was kind enough to take up the thing with then Finance Minister M Saifur Rahman who gladly agreed to the proposal. By the time decisions were being made in this regard I, however, joined The Daily Star. Yet I arranged a meeting of The Bangladesh Times management with the Local Government Minister. Acting Editor Raquib Siddiqui, Unit Chief Sadrul Hasan and a senior member of The Bangladesh Times staff Syed Iqbal Chowdhury were among those who attended the meeting. When they entered the minister’s office room, Barrister Abdus Salam asked, ‘Where is Kamal?’ Sadrul Hasan informed me. The gentleman minister had thought of a bigger role for me at the Bangladesh Times. Let me honestly tell I was not equal to such a task 15 years before.