Saturday, October 09, 2010
Can MJ Akbar revive India Today magazine?
Chawla, who is considered close to BJP and the Sangh Parivar, had a long innings with India Today. In this period the taste of Indian reader also changed. While circulation of newspapers grew despite the channel boom, the magazines failed to retain their readership.
India Today's circulation has also gone down significantly. Under Chawla, India Today somehow acquired reputation of a pro-RSS magazine unlike the pro-Congress or secularist Outlook edited by the veteran Vinod Mehta.
With The Week going up in popularity in recent times and Tehelka also furthering its base, competition was hotting up. The arrival of Open, which is priced higher, put further pressure. The quality of content wasn't improving and there was no innovation.
It was in this backdrop that Akbar was chosen by Aroon Purie to head the prestigious magazine. Akbar, who has successfully established institutions and launched publications like The Telegraph (newspaper), Covert (magazine) and The Sunday Guardian (weekly newspaper).
Though Akbar is more harsh on Congress for the last few years, his aggression is not considered ideological because of the quality of his writings. He has contested election on Congress ticket in the past but doesn't seem to have a good rapport with the current regime.
However, journalists like Akbar are needed as they take on establishment and write critical pieces on the ruling party and government. Now a days few editors write aggressively and even fewer are critical of the establishment.
One hopes that Akbar would be able to give a new direction to India Today. The management also appears keen on shedding the pro-RSS or BJP-friendly tag on the magazine. Akbar will also head the Headlines Today channel.
It was a known thing among journalistic circles that till now state bureaus and reporters of India Today gave a subtle pro-BJP line to their reports to pitch them, as they felt this brightened the chances of their stories for proper space in the magazine's issues.
Whether it goes from Right-wing to Centrist-Leftist-Antiestablishment mode is yet to be seen. But Akbar is certainly expected to revamp the magazine, which needs a change to survive and maintain its identity as the prime news weekly of the country.
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