KARACHI: Pakistan Today, an English daily headed by Arif Nizami, the former editor of The Nation, has launched in Lahore and is preparing to launch in Karachi. It has joined the growing list of English dailies the public now has to choose from. Amidst rumours about its style and substance, there is genuine curiosity about what a new publication can offer to readers.
Babur Nizami, the chief operating officer of Pakistan Today, had high hopes for the paper and was confident of its success. “The paper was launched to a very good response. We’re targeting the market leader – that is, Dawn-and expect that in six months time we will be in at least the number three slot,” he said. He backed up his ambitious claim with a description of what the newspaper will be offering. Above all, Pakistan Today is aiming to provide a publication which is reader-friendly, with bright graphics, coloured photographs and creatively designed layouts. “Even the Op-Ed pages will have pictures and we are offering coloured comics for the first time,” said Nizami.
Rumours about the newspaper being a tabloid were firmly squashed and attributed to a misunderstanding about type and layout. Pakistan Today was launched in the Berliner format, with different page dimensions compared to other newspapers. “The Berliner is not the tabloid format,” said a former Pakistan Today staff member. “It’s just a flexible and reader-friendly, but I think there is some confusion about the term,” he said. The newspaper ran a piece about the format on page 4 of their October 5 issue.
Journalists from leading English publications are looking forward to seeing where its editor will take his infant paper. “I think the launch of Pakistan Today is good news. Arif Nizami is a seasoned journalist,” said Shamimur Rehman, from Dawn. “We are looking forward to the launch of an independent, neutral newspaper,” he added. Muhammad Ziauddin, the executive editor of The Express Tribune, shared his hopeful attitude. “Arif Nizami is an experienced journalist who has been working very professionally for over three decades. I hope he makes this venture successful,” he said.
All new ventures require good employees and it remains to be seen how successfully Pakistan Today will recruit its team. A recruiting advertisement from Ritemoves.com offers “unique opportunities for recent college and university graduates, as well as for talented professionals who are looking for a more dynamic experience.” According to Babur Nizami, the newspaper has culled “mostly experienced reporters” from publications such as The News, The Nation and The Express Tribune. It has also targeted young graduates from institutions such as LUMS and Beaconhouse National University. Although the consistency and quality of its reporting remains to be seen, those at the helm of Pakistan Today are hoping that the combination of style and content grabs readers.
Several people declined to comment on the launch of the newspaper, saying that there is no way to tell how good it will be until they see it themselves. Part of the scepticism lies with the fact that the paper does not have a serious web-presence yet, beyond a rather-empty looking website. As other newspapers are investing in improving their online appearance, it is likely that Pakistan Today could garner more positive feedback if it was more easily accessible to people outside of Lahore.
Within Lahore, Babur Nizami was very pleased with the marketing of the new project. “We have billboards and streamers and we distributed free copies of the paper before its official launch,” he said, adding that the response to the campaign had been overwhelmingly positive.
As Pakistan’s media continues to expand, competition will arguably force all stakeholders to scrutinise quality and offer better products. The launch of Pakistan Today is good news for journalism at large, if it gives readers more news to choose from. Whether or not it rises to its claim of eventually becoming one of the country’s leading publications can only be seen in due time.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2010.