THIS may hardly seem the best moment to start a newspaper, given economic stagnation in the United States and a slowdown in many parts of the world. But next Friday a full-sized global newspaper will be unveiled jointly in the US and in the Commonwealth of Independent States.
The new paper, to be called We/Mbl, will be jointly published by the Hearst Corporation and Izvestia, a Russian daily with a circulation of 5 million readers. The Hearst Corporation is one of the largest privately held media conglomerates in the US, involved in cable television, as well as the publishing of many magazines and newspapers.
We/Mbl will be aimed at readers eager to learn more about US-Russian relations. Circulation of the new paper is projected at 350,000 copies - 300,000 to be sold in the former Soviet republics, and 50,000 copies in the US. The full-color paper will be available in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev, New York, San Francisco, London, Tokyo, and other cities. It will carry advertising and will cost three rubles in Russia and $1.25 in the US.
The initial issues of We/Mbl are to be published on Feb. 28 and March 25. From April to June the press run will be expanded to twice a month. Starting in July the paper will be a weekly.
The paper has won a preliminary vote of confidence from President Bush, who sees it as helping to cement good ties.
The Hearst Corporation and Izvestia "felt there was a strong demand for an 'American market' paper in Russia," says Maxwell McCrohon, US editor for We/Mbl. "There's a tremendous fascination in Russia for the United States." The paper's natural audience, Mr. McCrohon says, will be the intelligentsia in Russia, and corporate and professional people in the US. In the former Soviet republics, he notes, there are 39 million educated professionals.
McCrohon says that the prototype issue of We/Mbl, published in July 1990, sold its 135,000-copy Russian press run in less than a day.
McCrohon says the paper will take the "style of Sunday papers in the US," with a mix of news features, general interest stories, as well as commentary, arts, and even comics. He is a former editor with the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and the Chicago Tribune. He will supervise US editorial operations for We/Mbl.
Vladimir Schmyganivsky, his Russian coeditor, is a former national editor of Izvestia. There will be both US and Russian news staffs, but several of the reporters will be assigned to the opposite offices.
One major focus of the paper will be to explain the intricacies of capitalism to Russian readers, says McCrohon. There will be stories on how free markets operate, as well as discussions of stock exchanges. Other stories being researched include an insider's account of the former Soviet KGB and a lengthy interview with former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
The New York Times, meantime, has announced that it is working with Moscow News on a project to publish a weekly. The two organizations plan to produce a 24-page bimonthly paper that would carry articles from the Times. The Times says that the project will begin this spring.