The recent Express Tribune experiment certainly would not inspire confidence among marketing types. Sources indicate that despite its superior production values, ET's subscription base is still well under 1,000 copies, of which some 155 were previous subscribers to the International Herald Tribune anyway. (It should be pointed out that the official circulation figures of all newspapers, including English market leaders such as Dawn and The News are wildly exaggerated, often up to 3 or 4 times their reality - The News' subscription base in Karachi, e.g. is estimated to be under 5,000 copies though it has higher circulation in Islamabad; however, ET's figures are quite low by comparative standards and even taking into consideration the fact that ET is still a new paper.) In fact, there are indications of some panic within the Lakhani publishing house even before the launch of ET in Lahore and Islamabad, precisely because of the feedback from newspaper agents.
Nevertheless, the gears are churning for the former The Nation editor Arif Nizami to bring his promised baby into the market. Pakistan Today, as it will be called, has already placed advertisements in Dawn to recruit staffers and is in addition going a slightly unconventional route by also advertising positions on job hunt sites on the net. More on this in a bit.
What we do know so far about Pakistan Today is the following: it definitely has the financial backing of Pakistan's richest businessman, Mian Mohammad Mansha, who of course made his money in the textile sector and owns among other things, Muslim Commercial Bank. It is also said to have investment from London-based millionaire Izzat Majeed who made his fortunes in the petrochemicals sector in Saudi Arabia. The new media group which will publish the paper is to be called the Nawa Media Corporation and
"...intends to bring out a series of publications – in both English and vernacular languages – and also make a foray in electronic media in due course."
One can understand this project being crucial for Arif Nizami's ego and credibility (remember he promised to start his own paper when he was sacked by uncle Majeed Nizami from The Nation). But perhaps as we surmised with ET, there are reasons beyond simple business logic for other people to climb on to the media bandwagon.
We also know the following:
1. That Pakistan Today is set to be a three-city newspaper, like Dawn and The News and (eventually) ET to be published simultaneously from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad though the head office will naturally be in Lahore.
2. That ex-Karachi bureau chief of The Nation, Javed Mahmood, has been appointed the Resident Editor in Karachi, formally labeled Editor-in-Charge.
3. That former Lahore Press Club president Sarmad Bashir has also joined the team.
4. That, according to the website journalismpakistan.com (I am not linking it here since the site apparently hosts some dangerous malware that may harm your computer), the office of the paper in Karachi will be in the infamous Kawish Crown building on Shahrah-e-Faisal (Some may recall that the building is reputed to be owned by a notorious Mumbai don and has been the target not only of litigation by civil society groups for its alleged contravention of building laws, but also a couple of bomb attacks by unknown people.)
Now, coming to the net-based recruitment drive, here is a job listing for Pakistan Today on one such website. According to the description of the paper on the site:
"Headed by one of the most credible names in
’s newspaper industry Mr Arif Nizami, Pakistan Today has among other personalities of high net worth, the financial support and backing of the best-known corporate entity in the country – Mian Mohammad Mansha. Post-modern and contemporary in its outlook, Pakistan Today will espouse core values of independence, authenticity and credibility. With its fresh and vibrant approach, it will definitely make a huge impact on our polity and create a broad-based readership that cuts across all segments of the society. Pakistan
Pakistan Today is an equal opportunity employer that values merit and professionalism. At our website you can explore new career opportunities, meet our key people and learn about the culture and working environment at our organisation.We offer unique opportunities for recent college and university graduates, as well as for talented professionals who are looking for a more dynamic experience. There are numerous opportunities across the entire organisation where your skills and talent can make a difference - to you and to us."
This particular ad is to recruit News Editors for Islamabad and Karachi. Slightly unsettling is the requirement that the News Editors (the most senior position in a daily after the Editor) need only be educated up to Intermediate / A-Level. One understands that some of the most best news editors Pakistan has seen had no formal degree qualifications but a wealth of hands-on experience and that finding good staff is a challenge in the best of times. But what is bizarre is that while News Editors and Senior Sub-editors need only be educated up until Intermediate / A-Levels, Reporters and District Correspondents, whose copies they will be editing and vetting, must be at least graduates.
Obviously the June 2010 stated launch date for the paper is also not going to be met. So far, from the evidence of the recruitment drive, the paper still seems many months away from being launched. No information so far on what might be a realistic timeline.
The bigger question still remains: is there space for another English language paper? Or is this basically an attempt to wipe out The Nation and Majeed Nizami's right-wing Nazariya-e-Pakistan philosophy? Not that that would be such a bad thing in and of itself, mind you.