Campaign Middle East newsletter 4 September 2005

Back when I worked in a country with public transport, I used to play my own form of late night media roulette. It was fed by my addiction to newspapers.

  • E-Mail
By  Tim Burrowes Published  September 4, 2005

New launch will invigorate the newspaper scene|~||~||~|Back when I worked in a country with public transport, I used to play my own form of late night media roulette. It was fed by my addiction to newspapers. You see, the fact that first editions of the next day’s papers were delivered to some of the mainline railway stations late the evening before had an irresistible lure. It seemed like a wondrous thing — a form of time travel whereby you’re reading tomorrow’s news before going to bed and, of course, before everyone else. And, short of giving the paperboy a key to your front door, the pleasure of waking up with your morning paper lying under your pillow is hard to attain any other way. I know that sounds frighteningly geeky, if essentially harmless, but there was an issue that added a little frisson to the enterprise. The papers would only be available quite late; the tubes would finish quite early. So, as my tube entered its last few minutes of service and went through the railway station, my media roulette would be this gamble: could I jump off, dash upstairs to the street, buy the papers and get back down again before the last tube had gone? After I’d missed it about three times in a fortnight, leading to some remarkably expensive taxi journeys home, it began to dawn on me that perhaps my addiction to newspapers was becoming an expensive habit. It’s a commitment that continues over here. The day doesn’t feel quite right if I haven’t read 7Days. Despite the fact that it’s being done on a shoestring, the paper is making a good fist of reinventing the worldwide commuter phemonenon of the Metro freesheet Metro International for the Middle East. Similarly, the Gulf News is a must for the establishment view of events, and the Khaleej Times’ quirky City Times does the same for the day’s bizarre conspiracy theories lifted straight from the internet. So, perhaps you’ll forgive me for being a little over excited about the prospect of this month’s launch of a new newspaper for the Middle East. As we reveal, Emirates Mail, or whatever it ends up calling itself, launches in about a fortnight’s time. Tabloid, dual language and, most importantly, well resourced, it’s going to shake up the market. With something like 140 staff, this title is going to have the firepower to become a serious player. A key challenge will be to find an independent voice — and in order to win readers’ trust, a voice that is brave enough to be challenging of authority from time to time. This will instantly give it kudos. At times the Gulf News in particular is laughable for its slavish toeing of the party line — its presentation of this year’s power cut in Dubai as primarily a triumph of unity for the city was much derided. Another reason that the paper will potentially kick start the media scene is the sudden injection of journalists new to the area who will see freedom to tell it like they see it as a right, rather than a somewhat quaint concept. Up to now, when journos arrive in ones and twos they tend to get sucked into the local self-censorship culture without even realising they are doing it. There should be enough new blood this time to potentially change things. That, of course, depends partly on how much freedom their proprietor gives them. So, unequivocal statements about journalistic independence from owner Abdullatif Al Sayegh would send out some welcome signals. It will also be interesting to see how the newspaper’s success is judged. In a relatively crowded market, the path to short or even medium-term profitability is hard to see. But, as a reader, that doesn’t matter — I’m just looking forward to having another newspaper to keep under my pillow. ||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code