Mixed Media: So many Sunday papers, so little to read

Or so tweeted Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt on the current crop of the Sunday newspapers. While it’s too early to predict whether The Times of India’s new weekend paper Crest will do well, it was clearly not a case of love at first sight with the paper, writes Pradyuman Maheshwari.

e4m by Pradyuman Maheshwari
Updated: Oct 5, 2009 7:05 AM
Mixed Media: So many Sunday papers, so little to read

A few weeks back Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt tweeted that the current crop of Sunday papers weren’t good enough. “So little to read. Used to look forward to the Sunday papers,” Barkha wrote. Since they are located in New Delhi, the two don’t possibly read DNA and Sunday Mid-Day, so does it mean that their verdict would’ve been different had they been located in Mumbai? I don’t know about Barkha, but here’s what Rajdeep said: “Pity the Sunday papers remain so poor. There isn’t a single really good Sunday paper in the country, the odd good column isn’t enough.”

As it happened, these comments were made just a week before The Times of India made yet another attempt to launch a weekend newspaper in the form of ‘Crest’. The group would run ‘The Metropolis on Saturday’ in the ’90s and shut it despite an interesting content mix. I think it was a combination of rising newsprint costs and low revenues that did ‘MoS’ in, but those were the days when the TOI group was on an overdrive on experimenting. But then, Crest isn’t a Sunday newspaper – ‘The Sunday Times of India’ continues to co-exist. It’s a weekend paper that one is supposed to read Saturday through Sunday. In reality, that doesn’t quite happen easily with a publication in the tabloid or broadsheet format.

The problem with the current crop of Sunday papers is that they don’t quite engage us as they ought to. Like Rajdeep says, there may be a column or two that I enjoy reading and I do make a point to look up HT’s Brunch and Sunday Mid-Day, but as a package, there is no Sunday paper that’s truly unputdownable.

A few years back, The Indian Express launched a Sunday paper with much fanfare. I liked it initially, but it hasn’t grown to the next level as one would’ve wanted it to. The Telegraph is a good read, The Sunday Times of India had a wholesome mix not too long ago, but I haven’t seen a Sunday paper as refreshing as The Sunday Observer used to be when edited by Vinod Mehta. Even the genius in Mehta couldn’t do an encore with the Sunday editions of The Indian Post, The Independent and The Pioneer that he edited later, though he did bring in the same feel with Outlook.

It’s a little too early to comment on Crest. I personally preferred the second issue over the first, though I must confess I spent the maximum amount of time on the SOTC holidays ad in the October 3 edition. There were some nice stories, and I’m sure the paper will evolve. But it was clearly not love at first sight… the kind I had when I saw the inaugural issue of Lounge, the Saturday edition of Mint.

Bringing out a quality Saturday or Sunday paper that connects with readers as well as tickles their senses can’t be done by hurriedly putting together long features, assorted reviews and interviews. While a structured paper is essential, the moment a weekend newspaper gets predictable, there is little hope of the publication doing well.

By the way, even as Rajdeep and Barkha are (or at least were) peeved that the Sunday papers didn’t have not much in them, the same holds true for Sunday News TV too. Save Barkha’s good ol’ ‘We The People’ and the occasional special feature on CNN-IBN or Times Now, there’s nothing arresting on the news channels too. Sad. I still remember the Sunday night bulletins that Rajdeep and Barkha hosted once upon a time… I would look forward to the weekly review package from them then.

There is a plus with the poor show of the newswallahs on Sundays. One can spend quality time bonding with the family, and getting time to do one’s own thing. Or watch a movie or some reality shows or the Hindi flick on GECs. As for me, it makes no difference. However much I may have tried to write this column earlier in the week, I actually get down to it only a few hours before deadline on Sundays. Damn!

(The views here are personal. Post your comments below or email at mixedmedia@exchange4media.com.)

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