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THE KYIV POST RIDES AGAIN
By Michael Willard, Willard Marketing Monthly
Kyiv, Ukraine, June 2010
KYIV - To be honest, and that is what we try to be at Willard Marketing Monthly, about a year ago I felt the Kyiv Post’s best years were in the rearview mirror. It had become the veritable empty suit.
From it’s heyday during much of the Kuchma Administration, it seemed to have run out of gas following the Orange Revolution. I rarely read the printed edition and only casually glanced at the on-line version.
What’s more, it was hardly readable. The grayish type faded into the page. The page layout made the paper seem like an aging movie star without makeup.
There seemed to be no enthusiasm. An outside observer felt it was a death watch.
Then, this year, the empty suit morphed once again into a class act. Almost overnight, the publication once again tackled controversial subjects, took political stands and became an advocate, a voice not a puny whisper.
It became readable, obviously the result of better paper and printing processes. The type now jumps from the pages, and the revamped and energetic layout shouts “read me, we have something important to say.”
What happened? The newspaper changed hands. Publisher Jed Sunden, who started as a neophyte in the newspaper business and became quite good at it, sold the Kyiv Post to another newspaper neophyte, Mohammad Zahoor.
Zahoor quickly turned what started as a frisky pony and eventually became an old, gray nag back into a fairly good thoroughbred of a publication. It still has its minuses, such as a recent stacked-deck Best of Kyiv display.
However, it’s a good publication, a damn good publication, and, in my view, is up there with the Moscow Times which is printed five times a week.
I admire Jed Sunden, who still maintains a publishing empire. Without any prior newspaper experience, he came to the city in the 1990s, saw a need, and did a commendable job filling that need – for expats and for English-savvy Ukrainians.
A few years ago I woke up one morning and decided my company could no longer subsidize The Ukrainian Observer, though I loved that eclectic publication and held on to it for seven years.
Perhaps Sunden felt the same about the Kyiv Post, given a recession. He reportedly pocketed more than a million dollars in the deal.
But my hat is off to Zahoor, an acquaintance and one-time client who survived and thrived with his steel company in the rough and tumble Donetsk business world, and a man who has a Midas touch.
He sold his steel company just prior to the bottom falling out of the market for a reported billion dollars. In this respect, Zahoor and Sunden are a lot alike, though on different scales.
The talk was the Pakistani-born Zahoor would turn the Kyiv Post into his personal playground, merely advocating his own interests. This hasn’t happened. Zahoor has shown remarkable restraint as the rich publisher.
Instead, he has brought in or kept capable people such as Brian Bonner, a low-key, old-school, no nonsense chief editor. On the reporting side, my view is that John Marone is the best news writer this city has to offer, and Roman Olearchyk, is both a solid editor and writer.
It might be a little odd for one publisher – albeit for a niche marketing magazine such as this – to sing the praises of another. But this city needs a good English-language newspaper, and now, the Kyiv Post rides high again.