Mixed Media extra! Pradyuman Maheshwari on whether the Jagran buy will mean sunnier times for Mid-Day

Pradyuman Maheshwari rues the sale of a Mumbai institution to an ‘outsider’, but believes that the Jagran acquisition will do Mid-Day’s print publications a world of good.

by Pradyuman Maheshwari
Published - May 6, 2010 8:46 AM Updated: May 6, 2010 8:46 AM
Mixed Media extra! Pradyuman Maheshwari on whether the Jagran buy will mean sunnier times for Mid-Day

As a Mumbai boy, it’s sad to see Mid-Day sold to a non-Mumbaiwallah. For, in the 31 years it has been in the business, Mid-Day is as much a Mumbai institution as, say, the bhelpuri, vada pav, cutting chai or even the Gateway of India. The vendor selling “Mid-Day Mid-Day Mid-Day” at traffic lights and young execs trying to crack the crossword in the Virar local are familiar sights.

But I am glad that Mid-Day has been acquired by a progressive, hungry-for-growth media company like the Jagran group. Heck, it’s the publisher of unarguably India’s biggest newspaper – Dainik Jagran. More importantly, it’s being acquired by a newspaper company that’s not going to let it languish. So, to twist the famed Bollywood dialogue: “toh ghabrao mat Mumbaiwallon, tumhara paper safe hands mein hai!”

Do I see a tremendous future for the paper? Well, the Jagran group has reasonably deep pockets. It’s willing to take risks (the iNext project or the various hyper local supplements it has been launching in markets where it has zero presence being prime examples). I don’t think Jagran will dilute the irreverent flavour of the paper… and, no, I don’t think they’ll replace the bikini-clad ‘mates’ with sari-and-veiled behenjis from the hinterland.

However, there’s a lot that needs to be achieved. My personal view is that editorially, the paper could do with some aggressive re-engineering. In its primary Mumbai market, it has lost its editorial constituencies big time. It started with Bombay Times running away with the glamour quotient. Then came Mumbai Mirror, set up with then help of several ex-Mid-Day staffers, which is a big success. The other new papers in the metrop – Hindustan Times and DNA – added to its woes and also ate into some of its topline.

My heart goes out to the Ansaris – specifically Khalid and son Tariq – who have run the paper with enormous energy and enthusiasm. I was with the group for seven years starting 1993, as a Deputy Editor, when Tariq had briefly taken editorial charge, though as Chairman, Khalid would also take an active interest. A prolific writer, Ansari Sr would send his despatches from across the world and check with the desk if all was well, with the passion of a rookie scribe.

Could Khalid and Tariq Ansari have run the paper differently so that they would be more prosperous today and not have sold their print business to Jagran? Perhaps, yes. As someone who has tracked the paper ever since it screamed “Hello Bombay” on a rainy June 27 in the year 1979, it’s sad to see the paper selling out. But, I’m relieved that it’s the Jagran group that has acquired it, which will, I’m sure take the paper – editorially and in business – to greater heights.

(The views expressed here are personal. Post your comment below or email me at pradyumanm@exchange4media.com.)

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