Over the past few days, I have been reading through the first issue of the news-magazine Covert, after I received a three-year subscription from my friend Siraj Wahab, as a gift. Siraj bhai, himself, has contributed a couple of pieces, which appear on page 51 of the maiden issue. One of these, as a matter of fact, has been published on his blog as well, in the form of the blog-post dated May 19, 2008.
The magazine, apparently, has been started by veteran journalist M. J. Akbar, who is listed as the Chairman and Director of Publications. The first thing that struck my mind, when I looked at it, was that it is a fortnightly, unlike most of its major competitors, which are weeklies. I wonder if that is likely to change at any point of time in the future, especially when advertising revenues increase. The advertisements in the first issue are limited to the inside of the front cover and on both sides of the back cover.
The USP or unique selling proposition of the magazine seems to be that it not only contains rather interesting columns written by veteran journalists and writers, but those by prominent persons from other walks of life as well. The columnists include M. J. Akbar, Kuldip Nayar, Yashwant Sinha, Seema Mustafa, Akhilesh Mithal, Saeed Naqvi, Teesta Setalvad, Brahma Chellaney, Suhel Seth, Arif Mohammed Khan, Pawan Khera, Farzana Versey, Khushwant Singh, Joginder Singh, Jaswant Singh and Prakash Karat. The magazine could very well have been named as The Columnist's Fortnightly, perhaps. It remains to be seen, however, whether all such columns are going to be a regular feature or that many are meant to be a part of the first few issues only. I, for one, would certainly hope for the former to be the case.
Apart from the columns, I found the contents to be rather lack-lustre. The cover story, which is about the illegally-acquired wealth of a politician, for instance, seems to have been based entirely on hear-say or interviews with opposing politicians, besides circumstantial evidence. The magazine appears to have no documentary evidence to back its claims, other than a copy of a public interest litigation that has been filed against the man, which can hardly be considered as such, since the matter is sub-judice. The allegations that have been made are probably genuine, as the public generally knows more about the ill-gotten wealth of politicians and bureaucrats than those who have the power to prosecute them for such misdemeanours, but are unlikely to stand in a court of law, unless some material evidence is available.
The rest of the contents are based largely on politics and on sports, to a lesser degree, in addition to entertainment, lifestyles and astrology. The politics-based content, though, is mainly in the form of commentary or a compilation of gossip, rather than objective reporting.
Above all else, I am not sure whether making the contents of all columns available for free on the magazine's website is a good idea, if the magazine is meant to remain in circulation over an extended period of time, unless, of course, the website is to have a revenue model of its own. If one can read all one's favourite columns online, there hardly remains any reason to subscribe to the magazine or to purchase a copy from the news-stand. I believe that some of the competing magazines allow access to online content only to those who have a valid subscription number.