Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Hearst and Izvestia Revive We/Mbl; Joint Russian-American Newspaper Survives Soviet Turmoil

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Hearst and Izvestia Revive We/Mbl; Joint Russian-American Newspaper Survives Soviet Turmoil

Article excerpt

After a two-year delay, the Hearst Corp. and Russia's five-million-circulation Izvestia are publishing "separate but similar" English and Russian editions of the jointly reported We/Mbl, a colorful 16-page broadsheet in two sections. Mbl, pronounced "mwee," is Russian for "we."

In spring of 1990, Hearst Corp. presdient Frank Bennack Jr. noted that "sweeping and dramatic changes" in the Soviet Union "created a climate that makes this . . . an idea worth pursuing."

That same climate forced the project's postponement but ultimately reinforced Bennack's point. Who then would have guessed so swift an end to the Soviet Union and the Cold War?

Since planning began and a prototype was printed in 1990, political and economic upheaval in the former Soviet Union sent We/Mbl into limbo. A botched coup that further changed the climate also changed management at Izvestia. Now the Cyrillic text edition is a product f an independent Russian newspaper, no longer the newspaper of the Supreme Soviet and Congress of People's Deputies.

Hearst and Izvestia expected the first edition to roll of presses in Moscow and near Washington, D.C., on Feb. 28.

A second issue of We/Mbl will be published in March; April and May will each see two issues; regular weekly editions are planned thereafter.

The edition printed in Cyrillic type is distributed in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia, and Kiev, Ukraine. Projected circulation in the Commonwealth of Independent States is 300,000 copies, each selling at the U.S. equivalent at 3 cents. Approximately 50,000 copies of the English-language edition are available in major world markets, including New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, London, Vienna, Tokyo, and Moscow. Copies in the U.S. sell for $1.25.

Apart from a controlled circulation, U.S. newsstand distribution will be handled by Hearst personnel working with established newspaper distribution firms, according to Bill Hallenbeck, We/Mbl's principla advertising representative, based at Hearst's New York offices. The edition for the former Soviet republics, he said, will be distributed by the former government-run distribution agency. Like Izvestia, which it distributes, the organization is now a privately managed firm.

Prototypes published in both languages on July 4, 1990, were prepared at Hearst's Washington, D.C., bureau. Its 135,000 Russian copies sold out the same day. The material ran heavily to popular trends, entertainment, and lifestyle stories.

While the newspaper continues to cover such topics, its mix includes news, commentary, analysis, sports, book and arts reviews, and American comics. The focus, however, is on political, economic, and social issues.

U.S. editor Maxwell McCrohon said coverage in both editions will be "fairly heavy on business," featuring "how-to" stories on topics such as doing business in Russia for U.S. readers and commodities trading and developing small businesses for Russian readers.

He estimated "core staffs" of 15 reporters and editors at the Washington and Moscow bureaus, which will also use stringers and material from Izvestia and Hearst papers. For specialized coverage, he said We/Mbl will "call on experienced people working at other papers around the country."

News photos also come from those papers, as well as from wire services and sources such as Knight-Ridder/Tribune, according to McCrohon, who said We/Mbl probably will have no full-time staff photographers.

"The interesting thing is the literacy rate there [in Russia] is so high and the people still read newspapers," said Frank Cooke, We/Mbl managing editor in Washington. …

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