So, precisely as we told you last October and predicted, things have come to pass at the Dawn Media Group. The Editor of Dawn and DawnNews (the tv channel), Abbas Nasir has resigned. And his position will be taken up by Zaffar Abbas, currently the Resident Editor of Dawn in Islamabad.
The announcement was officially made internally at Dawn at an 'emergency meeting' called by Dawn Media Group owner, Ms. Amber Saigol, a couple of days ago. Nasir will continue in his post till June, when the changeover would take place.
As we reported earlier, Nasir's resignation had been in the works for a while now and was motivated mainly by personal reasons - he and his family would like to move back to London. However, there had also been murmurs of resentment within the group about the slide in Dawn's cache as the paper of choice for readers as well as, for some, in its quality. For what it's worth, I personally think it had really improved in certain aspects such as the front page and its reporting from the Frontier and tribal areas. Former editor Ahmed Ali Khan's era is often touted as the golden era of Dawn, yet in reality was also one of its most boring and staid periods, where you were more likely to find what was happening in Togo on the front page rather than in Karachi. Abbas Nasir had at least brought Dawn back to earth in Pakistan.
The problems at the paper had much more to do with increased competition from the electronic media (television and the web), falling revenues because of economic conditions (leading to ill-advised moves like the confused amalgamation of all the magazines as Images on Sunday), and the white elephant DawnNews that the newspaper was burdened with.
In fact, the fall in revenues has been so drastic that reports say Dawn is off by 50 per cent on its advertising targets. Obviously this is largely because of the recessionary trends in the country as a whole, which has seen marketing budgets slashed across the board in Pakistan. Couple this with dollar devaluations and rising costs - of newsprint, printing machinery and salaries (which Nasir raised all over Dawn to his credit) - and you can pretty much see where things are headed. The result has been retrenchments, the first bunch of which occurred at DawnNews a few months ago, and which have now been supplemented by further sackings within Dawn.
According to sources, many people in production sections have already been laid off recently while the next to go are likely to be those on contract (i.e. not permanent employees), which includes a number of people on the editorial staff as well as those seniors hired post-retirement. These fresh retrenchments have obviously also led to employee resentment within Dawn and may have hastened Nasir's departure.