Ranjona Banerji: Why slam Mid-Day, Ms Baghel?

26 Jul,2012

By Ranjona Banerji

 

This week, I’m taking on a personal grouse, so I apologise in advance.

 

There can be no doubt that Mumbai Mirror started in 2005 like a breath of fresh air in the city of Mumbai. It was exciting, bold and entertaining and gave the idea of news a daring dynamic. Much of the credit for this goes to Meenal Baghel, the editor of the newspaper who was interviewed yesterday on mxmindia.com.

 

I know Meenal only very vaguely but am full of admiration for the newspaper that she created and nurtured. Mumbai Mirror has in a short space of time – six years – made itself indispensable to many and has displayed a sure hand, a deft touch in dealing with news and giving it that tabloid spin. All kudos. But I have felt a dip in Mirror in the past couple of years – perhaps because Baghel was involved in overseeing the various editions of Mirror which have started all over the country. The edge was missing and the newspaper had started doing what seemed to me to be “college boy” stories. In fact, I shifted to The Economic Times, using The Times of India’s various subscription schemes as a result. This I must emphasise is my personal opinion.

 

However, I was intrigued to read this in her interview to Anil Thakraney:

 

“You’ve pretty much killed Mid-Day. Feels good?

The paper killed itself. And I feel really bad. I feel bad that what was such a robust paper is no longer that. We all worked very hard out there. We worked our asses off at Mid-Day and we used to take great pride in the paper being so robust, that it was second only to the TOI.”

 

Before becoming editor of Mirror, Baghel was deputy editor of Mid-day.

 

But this is where I have a little story to tell. In 1993, Pradyuman Maheshwari, editor-in-chief of mxmindia.com joined Mid-day. We left at the same time in 2000. In those years, we had to work very hard, for most of that time under the editorship of Ayaz Memon to make Mid-Day a strong and credible Mumbai property. Baghel worked for Mid-Day in the dispensation that followed all of us leaving in 2000. When we left, Mid-Day and Sunday Mid-Day had been on a rising graph as far as circulation and readership were concerned. A survey of readers during that stint had this most interesting quote: The Times of India is seen as a “respected uncle” while Mid-Day is seen as the “Shah Rukh Khan of newspapers”. I can say without any false modesty that when we quit, Mid-Day was a force to reckon with in Mumbai. Tariq Ansari is the best publisher I have every worked with, so all credit to him. Incidentally, Anil Thakraney was also part of the group for a few of those years, as editor of The Brief.

 

Within six months of our leaving, Mid-Day lost almost 60,000 copies in circulation. It has taken it almost a decade to get back to the figures it was at when Ayaz, Pradyuman and I quit. Mid-Day has had many great editors and journalists working for it in the past – some great luminaries of Indian journalism – but not, I have to say, since 2000. They still have time to turn luminaries. I am sure that everyone worked very hard because that is what the newspaper and the medium demanded. We had four editions a day in my time but that was disbanded shortly after.

 

I do not want to take away from Baghel’s formidable achievements in journalism. Her book on the Neeraj Grover case is excellent from all accounts (I have not read it). But almost 30 years in the media have taught me that life and death are cyclical. You never know when something revives, and I for one would advise desisting from slamming other publications – especially those that you have worked with in the past.

 

From what I understand from IRS figures, Mid-Day is on the rise again under the able stewardship of Sachin Kalbag. Plus I write a column for them again, so who knows! (That last line was a joke, by the way.)

 

 

The views expressed here are Ranjona’s own. But we are carrying these not because I endorse them, but it’s a view and must get aired. Plus it’s part of her blog/column. Also, who doesn’t mind a li’l bit of controversy. Lol.

Just for the record: I had moved on from the main paper to the interactive division in ’99, though I would still write a media column in the Sunday paper. And, yes, I quit the group a couple of months after Ayaz and Ranjona had moved.

I resubscribed to Mid-Day (on weekdays) three weeks back, and must say it has improved much. However the paid news policy – albeit in the entertainment section – sucks. Sunday Mid-Day though could do with some more, to use the word Meenal used, energy.

– Pradyuman Maheshwari

 

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