Times to battle Guardian for public sector market

Times ad for new supplement

The Times is trying to muscle in on a market that The Guardian had almost made its own. Next Tuesday it launches Public Agenda, a supplement for the public sector.

The Guardian’s Society supplement has spearheaded coverage for people working in the public services and only last month the newspaper published its third annual survey, Public Voice.

Times editor Robert Thomson has recruited a former Guardian man, David Rowan, to co-edit Public Agenda with Parminder Bahra from the Financial Times.

They will offer news, comment and analysis for people working in education, health, local government, housing and not-for-profit organisations in a very different way from Society, said Thomson, who didn’t pull his punches about his rival.

“I don’t know if you have ever tried to read Society,” he said, “but I guess the polite way of describing it is ‘worthy’. We want to provide much more useful editorial for people in the public sector, as well as being the ‘village square’ for editorial and advertising. The one thing you can say about Society is that, in more ways than one, it is thick.

“Ours will contain a lot more cleverly put-together information. It will look exciting to work in the public sector – it is the place to be.

“But to be very honest, you don’t get that impression from reading The Guardian. It seems somehow dreary, that stone-age, socialist approach they take to it.”

Thomson promised Public Agenda would do for the public sector what Times supplements The Game and Bricks and Mortar “have done for football and property”.

Of Rowan and Bahra, Thomson said: “Never has a savvier pair of people put anything together. You will see that savviness reflected in the wit we have put into Public Agenda, in the selections they have made for readers. If you spend 30 minutes with Public Agenda, you will know more about the public sector than spending three hours trudging through Society.”

Among the regular columns in the new supplement will be ‘Lessons I Have Learned’, a weekly look at the job trajectory of someone in the public sector; ‘What Worked For Me’, a showcase of readers’ examples of good practice; a letters page and a career clinic offering expert job advice.

Asked if more supplements were planned, Thomson said: “People will only have to wait a few days to see how The Times has taken on the public sector and our competitors just have to quake in fear at our next move.”

By Jean Morgan

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