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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Highbrow Newspaper Moves to a Daily Format

The spectrum of St. Petersburg's media is soon to be augmented with another color. The tint is not entirely new, it's just going to be a bit more thickly applied. The popular weekly newspaper Chas Pik (Rush Hour) has embarked on the path toward becoming a daily.

The step was announced with ceremony at an unlikely site: one of the city's most prestigious government buildings, a somewhat tasteless glass-and-concrete palace with the cryptic, Soviet-style name of K-2. Hidden behind a high fence and the parks and lush greenery of one of St. Petersburg's islands, the place for decades was off-limits to nearly everyone, including the press. But it was precisely this building that the newspaper, with dubious appropriateness, chose for the reception celebrating its new format.

Founded only four years ago, Chas Pik has since become a pivotal player in the city's media. Then, in the optimistic heyday of glasnost, it was a symbol of new freedoms. Truly independent, the paper was and remains safely out of the loop of big power and big money. Working miracles against the ever-growing tides of inflation, often at the expense of the staff's salaries, Chas Pik has been able to keep the price of its 16 pages on a level with -- if not lower than -- some of the much smaller dailies.

Free from the sleek trendiness that characterizes some of its Moscow counterparts, the paper represents the genuine spirit of a democratic St. Petersburg: selfless, honest, idealistic and unprosperous. Even with occasional tabloid spice thrown in here and there, it has always kept its dignity and respect. Trying to keep abreast with the times, it nonetheless never hides its slightly old-fashioned allegiance to the endangered species that is the Russian intelligentsia. The weekly will remain targeted mainly at intellectuals, Chas Pik's original and primary audience. Some have already been heard to complain about the paper diverging from its original route.

The paper's transition to a daily status is expected to take a month, and new staff have already been hired to handle growing needs. The first daily issue, handed out at the presentation and dated Sept. 24, carried a condensed form of many of Chas Pik's regular subjects, with a noticeable accent on culture. The 16-page weekly edition will continue to come out every Wednesday, as it has for years, but with less space given to hard news and more to in-depth articles on politics, history, literature and the arts. On other days, in addition to offering general news, it will focus on regular themes like employment, education, health care and urban development.

Such a transition, obviously, requires investment. The manager of Astrobank was a prominent face at the reception. I hope the paper will maintain its independence.