Maswood Alam Khan
The Financial Express, the only English financial daily in Bangladesh that primarily covers financial news at national, regional and international levels, had embarked upon its maiden journey on Wednesday, November 10, 1993.When the first issue of The Financial Express was published readers in Bangladesh were pleasantly surprised by the distinctive colour of the paper the newspaper was printed on. It was printed in its characteristic salmon-pink newsprint—like The Financial Times of London printed in the same tone of colour with which it has syndication arrangement—as a typical attribute to set itself apart from other newspapers. The yellowish pink colour, the colour of a cooked salmon, has become a signature flavour for business news media.
It was a trailblazing venture, albeit risky, on the part of the International Publications Limited (IPL) to launch a financial daily in English at a time when in Bangladesh newspaper readership, especially in English newspapers, was not at all encouraging from the business point of view.
Those few, I should term them daredevils, who had trained their gaze onto the future prospect of this daily had remarkable foresight. They could rightly visualise the bright prospect of an English financial daily in Bangladesh and they have already started reaping the harvest thanks to their hard work and their great perseverance in the face of a mountain of difficulties.
Today, The Financial Express, more known by its acronym FE, is not only the second largest English daily in terms of its circulation; it is a must-read for the business leaders. FE is also prescribed by the teachers of finance and other academic disciplines as an essential read for their students in different colleges and universities. Students and researchers who have to keep track of the financial trends in Bangladesh and the world over are seen as regular readers of this financial daily. In Motijheel, the financial district of Dhaka, you will hardly find a banker or a man of finance or for that matter a stockholder who does not subscribe to the print issue of this newspaper. Of course, FE is a newspaper, among a few of its counterparts, that has attracted innumerable online readers. Those who have to face an interview either for a job or for a promotion in any financial organisation The Financial Express has verily proven itself to be a reliable reference guide, as I had noticed during my long career as a banker before I retired.
The salmon-pinkish Financial Express of Dhaka, like The Financial Times of London, has emerged as an exceptional English newspaper in Bangladesh standing out as a publication of unique colour, content and design. The Financial Times of London, about 125 years old, had established itself as the “stockbroker’s Bible” since its very inception in 1888. Likewise, The Financial Express of Dhaka, though still a teenaged publication, also seems to have come of age and has already become the most favourite newspaper to those involved in the capital markets.
Not only to those who keep a watchful eye on stock markets but also to those who are, for instance, sports lovers or crime haters and who are eager to keep close tabs on what is happening around at home and abroad and on other topics of scientific, political, social and cultural importance that may mould the shape of their society a fresh copy of The Financial Express is a warm morning companion on their breakfast table as a herald of truth. No theme that may interest a general reader is ignored by The Financial Express in spite of its primary focus on business and finance. In order to relieve its readers of the monotony of statistical charts and numbers and the drudgery of reading the arcane articles related to economic policies and titbits the FE broadsheet is often sprinkled with absolutely non-financial anecdotes and sketches.
As a reader of this newspaper and also as a contributor to this daily I have observed that The Financial Express, unlike other newspapers, does not go overboard on politics. The experienced editorial staff of this daily take painstaking care to make sure that any news or views that they consider publishing does not put the writer or the reporter in an awkward position. They care more about their credibility in providing genuine information and less about hyping up their popularity through sensationalism in sharp contrast to many newspapers who often publish biased stories mostly based on shallow interests or views cooked with imaginary political spices.
The non-partisan reporting in The Financial Express is also the secret that has paved their way to climb up the ladder of popularity among the elite readers and opened their windows of revenue earning through a huge volume of regular advertisements from a broad spectrum of advertisers irrespective of their political affiliations.
FE readers must have noticed by this time that the intrepid reporters of The Financial Express never compromise with any financial irregularity they smell in any public or private organisation, however big or small. They report the mischief instantly without fearing or favouring any quarter even at the risk of losing revenue on account of advertisements they had hitherto been earning from the alleged organisation or from any of their sister concerns.
The best part of The Financial Express, to my personal opinion, is their scholarly analyses on capital market behaviours. No analyst from any other newspapers is anywhere near being as perfect as any of those contributing to The Financial Express almost on daily basis. It is always the analyses published in The Financial Express one enjoys reading where the analyst dissects the volatility of our stock market, forecasts its future trajectory in technically subtle jargons and comes up with a probable solution to an intricate problem or with a timely advice to a jittery investor. The FE analyses are the major sources of financial advice for the small and general investors in Bangladesh who cannot really afford paying high fees to the acclaimed financial analysts for private advice on personal investment.
FE has been catering to its mass readers with enough news and views backed and polished by their enormous editorial talent. But not everything about this newspaper is rose-pink. The Financial Express, especially its editorials, have become too timid about saying how the government is failing to curb corruption and indulging in politicising every single institution. The response to misrules of the government we find in FE editorials is rather tepid—not as vociferous as is expected from a fearless journalist. FE may lose its competitive edge if their editorials fail to whet their readers’ appetite for more critical views and analyses of the failures of the empowered not only in the financial arena but also in the political domains.
The most horrible feeling one reader may get from The Financial Express is from its pitiable layout and the poor features of their online and print editions. When you place a copy of The Financial Express beside copies of other local newspapers FE is distinguishable not only for its background salmon-pink colour of its newsprints but also for its very poor quality in respect of print and layout. FE, however popular it is for its excellent contents, is feeble compared to many newspapers, however poor they are in substance, which sparkle for their smart and bright getups.
There must be some problems somewhere with the quality of their printing press or the newsprints FE is printed on. The fonts and the images seem to have been buried inside the shabby newsprints, as if the newspaper is printed on a blotting paper, not on a crispy paper that could enliven the texts and images. The website of The Financial Express is often hacked and is never restored to its original status. If you visit the FE archive in their website the chances are you would not find the issue or the article you have been searching. The majority of the past issues of The Financial Express is mysteriously absent from the archives in their website.
FE should remember that the first thing that people get to see in a newspaper is its layout. Nobody would bother reading the whole newspaper, especially if it doesn’t look interesting. So, if FE wants to make their publication look more appealing and increase their readership, if FE wants to reach the level when they can claim that their newspaper commands the largest readership in terms of circulation they must try to improve their newspaper designs in both their print and online issues.
The Financial Express management has invited important personalities and its distinguished readers and contributors to a reception at a local hotel to be held on April 18, 2012 to mark, rather belatedly, the 19th year of its publication. For The Financial Express authority the occasion offers a prime time when they should look back at their past limitations and an opportune time to look ahead to their brighter future.