Sakal Times shuts down its print edition

Newspapers during Covid-19

Sakal Times is the English language daily of Sakal Media Group

Sakal Times, the English language daily of the Sakal Media Group, has laid off its entire editorial section — around 50-60 employees — and shut down its print edition. Only its editor, Madhav Gokhale, did not lose his job, according to a report by Newslaundry. He had recently joined the paper from Sakal Marathi and has now moved back.

In addition to Gokhale, the paper’s web team was also retained — two employees who upload stories to the website, and three or four employees who were hired in April to write for the website.

The Sakal Media Group told employees the paper was shutting down due to financial constraints. In March, Newslaundry reported that Sakal Times had asked 15 of its employees to resign.

The Sakal Media Group is owned by the family of NCP chief Sharad Pawar; his brother Pratap Pawar is the chairman, and Pratap’s son Abhijit Pawar is the group managing editor. Sakal Marathi is one of the leading Marathi dailies in the country.

The Indian newspaper landscape has been hit hard due to Covid-19 induced lockdown which came into effect on 25 March this year. In the last three months, reports have emerged that numerous media houses have laid off employees or rolled out salary cuts. Some of the country’s leading media houses such as Times Group, HT Media, The Telegraph, The Hindu, NDTV, and the Quint, among others have sent employees on indefinite leave without pay.

Late last month, Times of India announced the closure of all editions in Kerala except Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi.

“So, it is with a heavy heart we announce the closure of TOI’s editions circulated in the districts of Kollam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Kannur, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Alappuzha, Kottayam and Pathanmthitta at the end of this month,” Times of India said in a statement issued last month. “The coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdown has led to an unprecedented economic crisis. The newspaper industry has been among the hardest hit. It has left us with no option but to rationalize some of our editions.”

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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