Firstpost and Governance Now shut down their print editions
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Firstpost and Governance Now shut down their print editions

'No one saw this coming. I don't think anyone was prepared for this because it was just launched in January,' a Firstpost Print employee said.

By Cherry Agarwal

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Days after Scroll.in laid-off over 20 employees, Network18 Media & Investments Ltd announced its decision to suspend the publication of Firstpost Print, its weekly English language newspaper. Launched earlier this year, the paper’s Saturday edition will be its last.

In its statement, the company said, “Firstpost is a platform agnostic brand that has stood for strong and credible opinions and will continue to do so. The brand has believed in constantly experimenting and re-inventing itself, and Firstpost in print was one such experiment…while we were pleased with the ongoing evolution of the brand and the compelling journalism the team produced on a weekly basis, logistical problems made the project unsustainable in print.” Firstpost will continue in digital and other platforms, the statement added.

The paper’s closure comes close at the heels of the 2019 general elections. At the paper’s launch, Rahul Kansal, business head of the paper and Network 18’s brand advisor, had insisted that it was a good time to launch the paper in the run-up to the general elections.

The 20-page paper was priced at 8 and was available in Mumbai, Delhi and NCR regions. Speaking to Newslaundry, on conditions of anonymity, one employee said that some of the employees may be absorbed by the larger group. However, the employee also pointed out that there would only be so many openings. The editorial strength of Firstpost Print—reporters, desk and editors—is just over 10 people.

The employee also stated that he/she wasn’t expecting the paper’s closure, given its recent launch. “No one saw this coming. I don’t think anyone was prepared for this because it was just launched in January.”

Echoing sentiments, another employee told Newslaundry he/she wasn’t expecting the paper’s closure either. “Few people started panicking yesterday (June 5) because they got calls from outside saying that the paper was shutting down. I didn’t pay much attention because who really shuts down a paper after three-four months of operation,” the employee stated. Explaining further, the employee said, “When we were brought onboard, we were told that there was money for three years. Honestly, I am just a bit shaken up.”

At least two of the employees that Newslaundry spoke to said financial losses experienced by the network could be the reason behind the paper’s closure.

Employees also told Newslaundry that at a June 6 editorial meeting they were told that HR is trying to figure out ways in which the Firstpost Print staff could be accommodated across the network. “If it doesn’t happen then there will be an option of severance but they didn’t dwell too much on it,” one employee said, adding, “We will hear more from the HR in a day or two, we were told.”  

Another employee, on conditions of anonymity, reiterated that there was limited clarity about severance pay the employees would be offered.

Firstpost Print was also available to news consumers on subscription. A subscriber who had placed his order in late April told Newslaundry that he was yet to receive his first copy. An email confirming his subscription, which Newslaundry has seen, had stated: “Please allow 4-6 weeks from receipt of your payment for delivery of your first copy of the magazine.” The subscriber is yet to receive any information about the paper’s closure.

Firspost editor BV Rao declined to comment on the matter.

Meanwhile, SAB Group Publishing Division’s Governance Now magazine will also cease its print operations. Managing Director Kailashnath Adhikari said, “We are turning digital. Earlier we had a print and events division, now we are continuing with the events and print will turn into digital. With the changing times and looking at the future, it is just the realignment of print to digital.”

Speaking about current employees Adhikari said, “New people can be hired. Certain people are just very tuned to print. If in the digital era, we need some different kind of people for different kind of reporting, then new people would be there.” He added,  “It is not a closure of the brand, it is a reinvention of the brand from print to digital. When the brand was launched 10 years ago, yes, print was predominant at that time. But now it is about digital, and once we have a strong website, we can plan to come up with an app also.”

On a follow-up question about whether the editorial team will continue to be on the company’s payroll, Adhikari said, “Naturally, but if they are not comfortable with digital, it’s on them.”

About members of the circulation, he said, “The circulation team is completely different, we never handled it on our own. We had our own outsourced distributors.”

Newslaundry also reached out to several employees at Governance Now. While most refused to comment, one senior employee said, they received information from a management representative three days ago but actual paperwork and formalities are yet to happen. The senior employee added: “Despite all the company’s best intentions, I don’t see them being able to help individual employees in handling transition. At an informal level, employees are helping each other in finding placements etc.”

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