Saturday, July 19, 2008

What's up at Sakaal?

The latest English Daily to hit Indian news-stands, Sakaal Times run by the Union Ministry of Agriculture (sort of) has seen a show down between the guys who run the paper operationally and the old fogeys who are the editorial chaps, leading to the two top operations guys - Sandeep Bamzai and Amitava SinhaRoy getting into an argument with Paddy and Badshah. The fight stems from the fact that the old fogeys can't quite understand why they are so unimportant, Paddy for one has never reconciled the fact that he is not the editor of ToI anymore, in fact when the new leadership at Times took over a few years ago they were horrified to find out that the guys kept on touting himself as 'The Man' - so much for having anonymous editors (even though, I doubt that is the case anymore).
We hear that Abhijit Pawar is coming here on Monday to sort out the issue, because several young Sakaal insiders tell us that the paper is doomed without Sandeep and Amitava. I have my doubts about the product which I saw in Pune last weekend and was extremely disappointed in the quality of the paper. I know this is a strange thing to say about a publication, but the truth is that the quality of the paper gives one a sort of sonfidence in the product. Anyway, this might also stem from the fact that newsprint is bloody expensive nowadays (I believe that Times' newsprint costs are in the Rs 1,200 crore region) and even several large media organisations are using B-grade, recycled newsprint for upcountry editions.
Back to the point, if the nephew cannot sort out issues at the organisation, their plans for a August launch of their Mumbai edition might be put on hold. The paper was planning an extensive launch program through the second half of the year across the western part of the country and even a Delhi edition. But it appears that the paper might die even before it took off. Pity!


Anonymous said...

Will the govt survive the trust vote? What do you think K?

GBO said...

I live and work out of both Pune and Delhi, and had a regular weekly signed column at MH/Sakaal for years, along with a dozen local Pune people of various leanings. I can say this - MH/Sakal never ever interfered with what we wrote about, even if it was pithy hometruths about The Families That Are Relevant In Maharashtra. Give the Bossman and his Brother that much credit, if not more.

The new dispensation, "Paddy" and "Badshah" or whoever else, have destroyed a perfectly decent (and powerful) regional newspaper. Hopefully they will not be allowed to go anywhere near the Marathi language edition.

At the same time, DNA (199/- rupees a year), TOI (better vaue by weight on resale), Indian Express (The Pune edition is still their best in the country) and now even HT (lands up from Mumbai in time for the early morning distribution) are all providing very strong competition in a city where newspaper reading - and dissecting - is an art form.

You have to see the early morning newspaper round robins - half a dozen guys buy one different newspaper each after their morning walk, then sit down somewhere with their limejuice/tea/coffee and swap the newspapers for about 30 minutes, then they dissect them.

And yes, the columnists, some of whom are national names too, are all being snapped up by other publications. With far better internet exposure, which is the real name of the game, if you ask me.

"Paddy" and "Badhshah", sounds like an Irani Restaurant on East Street, if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

Not at all surprised to read about the Sakaal Times. I am referring to its Pune edition, and don't know what the Delhi one looks like. It's a scrappy newspaper and I've seen it from the time it used to be the Maharashtra Herald. One thought it would be an improvement on the MH but it's as bad. At least the MH, in the early days, before it was acquired by Pawar, could take refuge in the fact that it was a local newspaper with not too much finances to back it up. But one thought it would improve post-acquisition. The problem lies with the kind of people who work there. Except for a few exceptions, the rest of the guys are pretty mediocre. And btw, Paddy cut his teeth at the Poona Herald, which later became Maharashtra Herald!