Making editorial pages from scratch
Most people wouldn’t move from an established newspaper to one that is still several months from publication. For a risk-averse person like myself this was a major move to make - the challenge was to not become a replica of the competition and to try and find new writers.
My last job was at The News where I edited their editorial pages for more than three and a half years. It was an interesting time at the paper and there was a tug-of-war between various sections of the publication. For instance, the Karachi edition was run by the thoroughly professional and sensible Talat Aslam (who had prior to that edited Herald for a number of years) and its front page was decidedly saner than its counterparts in Islamabad and Karachi. The organisation, editorially, at The News was different. Each city edition has its own editor and each edition is also made independently of the other. This is different from the other newspaper I have worked at -- Dawn – where there is one central authority, the editor, based in Karachi, with Lahore and Islamabad having resident editors. The resident editors are basically nothing more than the equivalent of a city editor because their remit is mostly concerned with the metro pages for that city’s edition.
The move to The Express Tribune took – as most professional moves should – quite some time. In any case, I offered to serve my entire notice period of a month, in case I changed my mind. After all, most people wouldn’t move from an established newspaper to one that is still several months from publication. Of course, money plays a role – those journalists who think it doesn’t, or shouldn’t, are not living in this world – but still for a risk-averse person like myself this was a major move to make. One reason, perhaps, was that at some stage in one’s career, one writes or edits for an audience and a readership and with a newspaper that has yet to be born, this would mean writing for an audience that isn’t even there – yet. Those who have been reading the editorial pages of this newspaper – and I mean more in print because the difference becomes all the more clear in that medium – will know that (and I am not talking about content) stylistically and design-wise it is quite different from other newspapers in the country.
As far as content is concerned, the challenge was to not become a replica of the competition and to try and find new writers – not the has-beens, the ones that you find in Dawn or The News, and certainly not ones who have been writing for years, 1,500 words or more at one go and with not much of a readership. Of course, this is not to say that The Express Tribune has managed to break away thousands of readers from its competitors (question: do all its competitors even have ‘thousands’ of readers) but that at least an effort has been initiated to bring out a different product.