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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New-Look 'Times' Debuts in Petersburg

In the city Peter the Great built as his "window to the West," a new window on Russia opened Tuesday, as The St. Petersburg Times made its debut on the streets of the former imperial capital.

The twice-a-week newspaper is a transformation of the original weekly St. Petersburg Press.

"I have mixed feelings in saying goodbye to the Press, which, for all its faults, was a special little paper," said editor Garfield Reynolds of the launch of the paper. "But now, actually seeing the new St. Petersburg Times in hand, there's a feeling of mounting excitement."

Independent Press, the parent company of The Moscow Times, bought controlling interest in the St. Petersburg Press earlier this year and instituted a far-ranging revamp of the weekly, including a change of name, an expansion of staff, equipment and distribution, and the move to twice-weekly publication.

"The idea is to keep the focus on St. Petersburg, keep it as a local newspaper, but to augment its coverage with material from The Moscow Times," said Marc Champion, editor of the Moscow paper, who has been working with the St. Petersburg staff on the re-launch. Champion said in a telephone interview from St. Petersburg that the connection between the two papers would bolster overall coverage of Russia in both cities.

"It's very beneficial to us in Moscow to have a presence in St. Petersburg. It will enable The Moscow Times to cover Russia's second city much more efficiently and in depth. And The St. Petersburg Press can do the same thing here, taking relevant Moscow Times stories while adding a very large dose of local news," Champion said.

The St. Petersburg Times will be published on Tuesdays and Fridays. The Tuesday edition will feature expanded news coverage, including material from The Moscow Times' Business Review. Friday's paper will be highlighted by "ESP: Essential St. Petersburg," a compendium of listings and stories on leisure, entertainment and culture. Initially, each edition will be 24 pages, with a distribution of 15,000.

The paper's readership is 63 percent Russian, which is "quite an achievement," said Reynolds. "And I'm sure those numbers will improve now."

The Times' staff of 30 is 70 percent Russian, he added.

David Randall, managing director of Independent Press, said the launch was the company's "first step outside Moscow, on a road that will take us to other cities in the CIS and beyond the borders to Eastern Europe. But for today, we're just happy to see St. Petersburg get the English-language paper it deserves."

Champion said the combination of journalistic forces between Moscow and St. Petersburg has required developing electronic communication systems to connect the two cities through the Internet. Independent Press has provided $50,000 worth of new equipment to upgrade the St. Petersburg paper's facilities in all areas, Champion added.