Editors want new papers to ‘push the boundaries’

The editors of the UAE’s two newest newspapers are promising readers a fresh approach to how news is delivered in the country and claim they will “push the boundaries” in what is reported.

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By  Tim Addington Published  September 11, 2005

The editors of the UAE’s two newest newspapers are promising readers a fresh approach to how news is delivered in the country and claim they will “push the boundaries” in what is reported. As revealed in Campaign Middle East last week, the two newspapers from Awarq Publishing are due to hit newsstands from next week priced at AED2 (US$0.5). Both titles will be compact-sized and the English paper will have a print run of 85,000 while the Arabic edition will produce 100,000 copies a day. Jason Leavy, editor of the English title, which has the working name of Emirates Mail, said other UAE dailies lacked focus in understanding who their core readership are and claimed they were also too reliant on international wire stories to “fill pages”. The 33-year-old politics graduate, who has worked in British regional newspapers, and was most recently the group editor for ITP’s Ahlan stable of magazines, said: “The problem with existing newspapers is the lack of focus. They attempt to be all things to all people. The consequence is they are very little to anyone.” Leavy said his paper would be targeting western expatriates, educated Arab speakers and, “first in terms of importance”, people from the Indian subcontinent. On the thorny issue of press freedom, Leavy said the paper, which is ultimately owned by the Dubai Holding group, would be vociferous in its reporting, but would do so in a “responsible” manner. “The last two years have shown that there is greater press freedom, which is clear from speeches that have been made from officials,” he said. “We are committed to pushing the boundaries but, at this point, I can’t tell you where those boundaries lie.” A women’s editor has been hired, with at least four pages of women’s related news and features every day, together with an A4 supplement on Friday. The newspaper will also have a strong human interest agenda, a characteristic that Leavy claims is lacking in the region’s existing newspapers. “Human interest stories are not adequately developed here,” he said. “When the tsunami happened it was covered mainly through news wire copy. There was little attempt, if any, to find a Sri Lankan expat living in the UAE who had lost friends or relatives in the disaster. “Human interest stories can break through national and cultural boundaries. “The key is intelligent story selection, which I don’t see. I see a lot of people filling pages because they have a lot of space to fill. The content has to be directly relevant to the target readership. If you don’t have that focus, you are not doing your job.” Leavy is also proud of the editorial team he and deputy editor Brian Ashby have pulled together. Ten different nationalities have been recruited from across the world, as well as several local hires from newspapers and magazines in the UAE. His Arabic counterpart, Sami Al Reyami, admitted that the greatest challenge for his newspaper was persuading broadsheet newspaper readers to try a compact-sized title. Reyami, 33, is a graduate in political science and previously worked for Al Bayan newspaper as well as various magazines. He is also the deputy chairman of the UAE’s Journalist’s Association. “Our target audience is the 60% of people under 45 that live in the UAE,” Reyami said. “I think there will be some problems with the other 40% who, for a long time, have been reading broadsheet newspapers. Many of our target audience have studied abroad and are aware of what compact-sized newspapers are. “But it is not important about the size or format of the paper, it is the material and content within it that counts.”

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