Wednesday, 16 April 2008

D Day for The National

Well chaps, this is the day when the face of journalism in the UAE changes forever ... or so they would have us believe. The National closes its first edition today and hits the streets tomorrow.

Seriously, we hope you prove us wrong and manage where all else have failed before: to launch a UAE paper with consistently high standards and sensible reporting that is neither sensationalist nor smarmy.

Good luck to all of you!

85 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wish them luck. I've got not doubt that tomorrow's issue will be excellent - they've had months to work on it. The real tests will be whether they can continue to deliver that on a daily basis, and how they cover breaking news. There are some stories where there is simply no way to report them other than negatively, which is why the Toady had to ignore the fact Dubai taxi drivers were on strike a few years back. I hope The National passes with flying colours, because it will be good for all of us.

Anonymous said...

Let's be real:
There isn't one person, outside our newsroom, who has ever pushed noun against verb, who is truly wishing us luck.

Instead, what we have is a group of malcontents who wish to see The National fade into oblivion. Too right. We wouldn't be journalists if we weren't cynical. And, there would be no story if we succeeded.

If your CV didn't make the cut this time I encourage you to reapply in six months. Success breeds contentedness, and that breeds mediocrity. We will be ready to hire you then. Rest assured, we will succeed (ergo: we will eventually be mediocre enough to hire you).

Good luck; god bless.

Anonymous said...

I wish you luck because if it all goes tits up and you have to put Sheikhs above the fold every day, there will be dozens of you looking for new jobs in a few months. That means more competition and quite possibly lower wages for the rest of us. So although I'm saying it entirely for selfish reasons, good luck.

Anonymous said...

The second poster seems a touch paranoid. Must be the intense heat, claustrophobia and lack of watering holes outside the new office. Let's see what the day brings. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

hahahaha.

"pushed noun against verb"

heavens!

Anonymous said...

Having been through a newspaper launch here I know what they're up against and the immense hard work that goes into it. So I do wish them well, I hope the paper's great and continues to be for a long time. Better for the whole industry here if it succeeds. Good luck guys, have a well-earned drink tonight and I look forward to reading it tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Definitely a good thing if it succeeds as it means more jobs and hopefully will push up the average wages for journos and force some of the sweatshops here to pay people properly. Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that before the paper's even launched three people have already voted in the poll on whether or not it's any good.

anon_hack said...

Poll is fixed, it was the wrong kind before. Hence a couple of test clicks.

Anonymous said...

Can I be first to say that the paper is a massive disappointment? I haven't seen it yet, by the way...

UAE Students said...

Wow, a paper launches and I find lots of hostility here. When will it end...the hostility, not the paper.
Seriously, the UAE has needed a decent paper for a long time. Best wishes to all the hard working folks behind this massive effort. And we're not just saying that because we may be looking for jobs one day!

Anonymous said...

Page one lead about new laws for realtors?

More a whimper, than a bang...

Anonymous said...

Like it or not real estate is what everyone talks and cares about here, along with traffic, inflation, shopping etc. There just isn't that much headline style news happening.

Anonymous said...

Anyone actually found a copy yet?

From the website, anyway, it looks deathly dull indeed.

Anonymous said...

What the?
I've only seen the website. I think it's really not about capturing us with a big bang at the start but with the consistency throughout daily news breaking. It's the test of time that's really important. Who cares about us cynical bunch?

Anonymous said...

Nice clean lay-out, but have to say in all honesty that the content hasn't bowled me over.

Read the Editorial about Blair? *hurls*

Seems to be a lot of stuff about what it is to be an Emirati - maybe such guff is part of setting out your stall in the first issue for the powers that be, hope so because it's not a great read and most of the paper's readers won't be Emiratis...

I don;t know if this is a stupid criticism, but it seems very Abu Dhabi-centric. I know the idea was to offer an alternative pole to the Dubai-centric view of the media at the moment, but I thought that would be achieved by er...being a 'national' paper - instead it seems they are focussing as intently on AD to the exclusion of elsewhere as Gulf News and Khaleej Times do on Dubai.

To be honest I think today's Gulf News has better stories - but it's easy to jump to judgements on Day One - the next six months will be the test.

Anonymous said...

I hope this paper focuses on positive sides of the UAE rather than publishing rants on bad driving, high rents, TRA etc.

The paper should only contain positive reviews of Govt agencies like TRA, RTA, and should not publish anything that tarnishes the image of the country

Scoop Gerbil said...

I've been watching this blog for a while and trying to figure out just what to say about it.

Right, you're a bunch of knobs. You've been sitting around here waiting to tear a strip into the National. Have any of you realized that the media in this country is mediocre because you allow it to be so?

Maybe The National will collapse in a year, maybe its big name talent will jump ship. But in the meantime, anyone who's been paying attention should have heard the sound of a gauntlet hitting the floor.

You think the noob journalists are out of their depth? Fine, blow them away. Because all they probably see when they read this blog and the newspapers from this country is a group of press release re-writers who couldn't hack first year j-skool.

The National isn't responsible for single handedly turning the UAE into a media utopia. Get on side.

Anonymous said...

Business section (on the website at least) looks very good.

Perhaps not a good sign that they are being coy about the reason the CEO that resigned in their lead story was detained by the cops though.

A solid 'B' from me for their first effort.

19thfloordubai said...

http://www.kippreport.com/kippsblog.php?articleid=1144&day=5
from Kipp

Anonymous said...

I suspect they have a specific mandate to promote Abu Dhabi. After all, the government is paying for it. I'd be surprised if it was otherwise. No harm in that, but it will be interesting to see if they can continue to find genuine news out of Abu Dhabi without resorting to puff and profile pieces.

Anonymous said...

Sccop Gerbil - I don't thnk there's a single comment on here that backs up your statement about people sitting around waiting to tear a strip into The National. I think all the reviews so far have been perfectly balanced. The first issue is not fantastic, nor is it terrible, and many people have made the point that in any case you really have to watch it over several months before you can draw any conclusions.

Anonymous said...

Paper looks good, but I love the Guardian's style, so I will like this.

Content wise I like the depth being given to local cultural issues and I hope it continues (I'm a Westerner by the way) as not one English paper in the UAE even attempts to give us a sense of the local history and traditions.

Biz and the Arts section look great. The photographs stand out as being excellent.

The lead splash was a bit weak, as was the second lead (blair praises UAE...ooooo), but it was a slow news day yesterday.

It's early days and I think it will improve as time goes on. The standard of writing is certainly higher than in other UAE papers.

I also think they are going mostly for ABC1's and will do well on that front.

Anonymous said...

well, i can't find it stocked anywhere...

Anonymous said...

is it just me, or does Newland look fit as in the "making of the National" photos?

Anonymous said...

Not a bad effort but potentially awesome sports story about Bin Sulayem defending Max Mosley buried at the bottom of page 2 of the sports section. That would have been a cool lead for sport or even on the front page instead of "new village for Etihad crew".

Anonymous said...

Sod the news,that'll improve over time, but why is the crossword printed for blind readers - and with some clues below the fold?

Anonymous said...

Dull soft colors for the Masthead, the designer is feeling the painful sinshine of the dessert, apart from that and contentwise, it is great.

Anonymous said...

Oooh, the second comment seems to be one of the lovelies at The National.

FYI

Saudi filmmaker turns techniques
http://www.thenational.ae/article/20080416/FOREIGN/308195829

What a loada codswallop. Blimey, thought this bleemin' paper was supposed to be the dogs. Far from it matey.

This story was published in Saudi Arabia's Arab News over a week ago. You can read it here.

http://arabnews.com/?page=1§ion=0&article=108817&d=10&m=4&y=2008

What are we gonna be getting at The National? A rehash of the local Gulf-region press, eh?

Instead of being the "D Day for The National", it should be the "L Day", as in Lift Day at The National.

Anonymous said...

not terrible, but not good either. and if that lame blair interview is meant to set the tone, then we are in trouble...

Anonymous said...

Well I for one am disappointed, what happend to the Page 3 lovelies we were promised?

Anonymous said...

Every time I look back at this blog, I am thankful for deciding to leave it be.

The writing quality is years ahead of all other dailies in the UAE. Stories are as dull as you would expect coming from the region. What did you expect? An editorial trashing Blair? Get real.

Newland set the expectations from the beginning. No one should be surprised, nor disappointed. It is proving to be a good paper.

Finally, something for the serious educated English reader.

--
The REAL Dubai Media Observer

Anonymous said...

The National could write about ball bearings and I would read it.

The writing is good and the design is beautiful - if not a total rip off of The Guardian.

The Gulf News ought to be ashamed of itself for continuing to churn out stories that are poorly crafted.

Anonymous said...

More than anthing, the launch of The National throws into sharp relief what a pile of badly written, badly presented old tosh Gulf News actually is.

Anonymous said...

Er, to the above two commenters. Please compare and contrast today's splashes in the Gulf News and the National. If you prefer the National's, congrats. you are no longer a member of the journalism club. Then again, you probably never were.

Anonymous said...

National? on the website now, Abu dhabi is mentioned 13 times on front page, Dubai, once.

Anonymous said...

Gulf News only wrote one of the five stories on its front page today - I don't know which journalism club you're a member of, but its certainly a wire-friendly one...

Anonymous said...

It's the one that matters, though.

Anonymous said...

I notice that most comment here focuses on design, story choice and headlines.

These tend to be how journalists get almost their entire view of a newspaper they don't know well.

Admittedly it's also what tempts readers to sample.

But what makes them stick is the quality of the writing.

I've not spent any time with it yet, but I'd be willing to bet that's where The National will be better than Gulf News,

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a huge misconception on this website that ordinary readers either notice or care whether a story is from a newswire or self generated. If you've got a very strong, exclusive story then of course it's a selling point. If it's not that exciting then lead with a wire story. Readers only care about the content, not the source. If you've believe readers would prefer a dull original story over an interesting wire one you're kidding yourself.

Anonymous said...

The same story on Carrefour freezing prices runs three different times in the business section online. Almost as many times as Abu Dhabi is mentioned on the front page.

Anonymous said...

The lifeguard story in the UAE news section is a bad reprint of a local business mag story 6 months ago....http://www.arabianbusiness.com/495488-better-safe-than-sorry-?ln=en

Anonymous said...

Gulf News is embarrassingly bad. Bad writing, car-crash design and terrible images. But what would you expect given the quality of the staff they have?

Anonymous said...

Even though it may be a government newspaper and although it's put together in the Middle East, it markedly feels like a newspaper about the region written by westerners who -- although living in the gulf -- seem to peer at it from the outside. (Glass Bowl Journalism.)

I'm a western expat' in the Middle East who doesn't want to read about where I live from an occidental perspective that I all too often was exposed to when living in Europe and America.

Editorials lauding Blair oft-appear in the European and American press -- they definitely do not reflect the views of Middle Easterners.

Opinions pieces about Frog Princes are the stuff you use to fill women's magazines, not a serious broadsheet.

Anyway, I suppose the glass-bowl journalism is something that will be ironed out as journalists at The National accustom themselves to living in the region -- that's if they dare to venture out from their tight-knit expatriate groupings.

Anonymous said...

'Goldfish bowl journalism'

'Tight-knit expatriate groupings'

Say it ain't so. However, judging by the newsroom diary photos there sems to be a lot of white, middle class, Anglo Saxon action down there in the Capital. Good luck to them, as with everything, it's about sustainability.

Anonymous said...

It's starting to slip already. Right now there are three typos on the home page and a couple of dead links

Anonymous said...

Most of the non-wire stories that run in the media here (both print and broadcast) remind me of (the old BBC Radio 1 show) Mark and Lard's 'Vague News' segment. Gulf News is particularly good at it. Listen here for a vague update...

http://www.tvradiobits.co.uk/radio/marklard.htm

Anonymous said...

I can't find a copy - it must be flying off the newsstands. Either that, or as I was told by me newsagent last night - "it's an Abu Dhabi paper".

Given the muted criticism so far, and given the abuse normally thrown about by this esteemed organ, it must be great.

Anonymous said...

People who are complaining that the national has lifted, or reworked some stories obviously has never worked in the UK national press.

That's pretty much what the nationals do, take stories from each other, find stories from sources not normally read by their audience and publish them to a wider audience.

The quality of writing at the National is far better than any other publication in the UAE. The design is nice. The stories are a little weak right now but I think it will improve. They've got the fundementals right.

allie said...

I wish the team at the National the best of luck and hope that nothing of this sort (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/17/fashion/17CROOK.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin) ever makes it to the pages as it did with the Dubai media...

Anonymous said...

Erm, well as the National is only being compared to the Gulf News, it's done a pretty damn good job no? It's already exceeded KT, GT and EB24/7 to be seen by this site at least as the second newspaper in the UAE - which is pretty much what Newland said in his interview i think.

I think the most interesting thing is the insight on Abu dhabi and the careful words chosen and the negative positives in the editorials. 'It's not because of neglect, but because of normal growth'; 'there were no hospitals or schools in city until 195x'... erm... but there is a fancy private medical jet service and a hotel which is too expensive to ever make a profit... and has anyone ever visited the Ministry of Education building... eek...

Bit too much fluff in the two-pager on the Abu Dhabi govt reforms... too much about how good it is for the city, and not enough on what is actually happening... or maybe there is, but my eyes couldn't take so much text...

Its a pretty paper, can't wait for the 'Media' section on Wednesday and eventual Jobs & Money supplement at the weekends. - Well they ripped of the rest of the guardian, they might as well bring in the best bits :)

Anonymous said...

Lovely, Lovely - just received a fresh new National. The smell of the paper and ink takes me back to Blighty! Finally a decent rag to wrap me fish & chips in yum!

Anonymous said...

Still can't find a copy, is it subscription only or what?

Anonymous said...

I've read two issues so far and I'm jumping for joy just to read sentences written in real English with real verbs and nouns placed in the right order. The writing quality is great.

I think it looks lovely, feels great (nice paper) and smells beautiful, and I wish the team all the best.

Mason Levy said...

I'm surprised no one's thought to rechristen the new paper yet. I suggest The National Tampon.

We've all read all the stories before, not one of them is new. Shocking, too, for an Abu Dhabi paper that Khaleej Times should have the capital scoop of the week on what this blog calls "D Day for The National".

Who needs good English in a foreign country (pity there are so many natives here) when you can have stories that are actually news, not new expats' tales of woe masquerading as journalism.

GN wins my vote hands down, it certainly has not been caught snoozing. Nor, as we have seen, has KT.

EB24/7 has been out of the running since it went business.

As it stands now, The National Bloat has two possible futures ahead of it: Gulf Today, or 7 Days.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who can find the erroneous punctuation mark in Mason Levy's post should apply for a spot on the subs desk at The National. From the looks of their front page, they're desperate...

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Mason Levy. Good English is certainly an extra string to your bow, but that in itself is nowhere near enough to make a success of it.

Yesterday's paper was full of well written but dull stories.

If they were serious about providing proper analysis then in today's issue they would have used the one good story from yesterday - the model in the quad bike accident - as a hook for an in depth look at just how dangerous and unregulated these tourist activities are at a time when the UAE is trying to drastically increase the number of visitors.

Instead they seem to be sticking to features that they got in the bag in the months before they launched. We've had rents, lack of school places, speeding - all worthy topics, but what are they going to write about next week, when they've used them all up, if they let such obvious opportunities pass them by?

I know it's early days, but I'm seriously underwhelmed.

Anonymous said...

Pretty, but boring - so far.

Anonymous said...

The Khaleej Times "scoop" was contained in the Abu Dhabi 2030 plan last May. It's just been rehashed in a desperate attempt to compete with The National. Perhaps it is Mason Levy who is snoozing.....

Anonymous said...

I don't understand, I don't find The National boring at all. I like long articles and the perspective is much fresher than the predictable things I'm used to reading in the other papers. I'm seriously wondering what others here would find interesting.

I think that the longer the paper stays out, the more readily the public will talk to the reporters. I can't imagine how they got the stories they're publishing now done when most people didn't even know anything about the paper until this week. Once these guys make more contacts, all bets are off. I've been one of the skeptics, but seeing what is already coming out bodes well. I think the day-to-day stuff this paper is focussing on is much more interesting and has more to do with my life than the sensationalistic nonsense in the other papers.

I do wish that the National was proofed better but in my humble opinion, I think that the sharp eyes of journalists pick up such mistakes more readily than the general public. Hopefully this will improve.

Anonymous said...

^ Let me add that it's the sensationalism that I find predictable.

Anonymous said...

I find it boring, but then I would be first to admit it is better than Gulf News. Going back to the GN after reading The National felt like jumping back ten years.

I am sincerely hoping GN will now pick up its game. It has the resources - it just needs to spend its ample ad revenue in the right way.

Top tips

1. Invest in journalists. Pay for the best, but get rid of the rest - be utterly ruthless in this.

GN is still the leading newspaper here just by force of momentum. It is still the most read and will be for a considerable time, and because of that the most influential. Journalists who want to be read will be attracted by that.

GN needs to shake up its news room. Bring in new people at all levels, and go back to basics.

It also needs to make its newsroom the heart of its operation - not a side show to HR or classified advertising.

2. Learn from the layout of The National. It's clean, they have an obvious lead story on each page, those stories are researched, not top and tailed press releases.

GN could do it better than its new rival. Go get a copy of The Guardian, or The Times - and rip it off better than The National has done.

3. Get rid of the 250 word filler stories that clutter each page - either do the story properly, or not at all.

4. Leverage the fact that they are a Dubai-based newspaper to make sure they get the best stories from the emirate. Use The National's Abu Dhabi bias against it. Dubai, not the capital, is still where it's at after all.

The National has done what it promised to do - take journalism in the region forward. Hats off to them.

That said, the danger for the National, in my small humble opinion, is that in an attempt to establish its credibility, and the intelligence of its writers, it has the potential to bore us all to death.

There are ways, and ways, to write the same story.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above except the part about the National "ripping off" styles. Haven't you seen the National's arts and life section? Obviously they have a killer design team. Everytime I see it I can't help wondering why does it take Gulf News a whole week to put together a magazine that doesn't look half as good. GN will need better designers if it wants to keep up.

Anonymous said...

agreed, anon @ 23:09. but a great looking section does not great content make. all these stories have been done before. done, done, done. bored, bored, bored. yawnnnn.

Anonymous said...

I keep reading it and hoping to find an original story. But there's nothing so far that hasn't been done before. It is exactly what I expected it to be, which is a shame as I was wanting to be pleasantly surprised.

Given the size of their editorial team, is anyone else amazed at the huge number of agency and syndicated pieces, especially in the sport section? I've also seen staff bylines on press releases and agency copy, which is just disingenuous.

Anonymous said...

Neil Vorano, the motoring editor is also a sports designer. Sounds like they're getting two jobs for the price of one out of him and judging by the motoring coverage thus far, he really should quit the design gig and focus on the motoring or vice versa.

Anonymous said...

As a British correspondent in Dubai (no not for one of the newspapers or local publishing houses), I was massively disappointed in the new paper.

Sure, it looks good and the English is obviously better than the competition, but it's all so incredibly dull.

There's way too much agency copy, the stories are far too soft and there are too many factual errors.

Clearly, a lot of journalists are still new to the region and the ones they have taken on from locally seem out of their depth.

As far as I'm concerned. it's the wires especially Bloomberg, Reuters and Dow Jones (oh and MEED, although it's a mag) which are at the cutting edge here.

It's a sad reflection when the biggest story this week on Deyaar corruption has been led by a wire and not a local paper.

I would give it an 'underachieving, must do better'.

Anonymous said...

Put it this way...when my doorbell rang at 6.45 am on a Friday and I got all panicked and open the door to find a copy of The National on the doorstep...their lovely delivery men were bing bonging on every doorbell....I won't be spending any advertising dollars with them if there main campaign is...let's wake up those lazy Dubai people on a Friday morning...really early hahahhahahha! Evil monsters!!

Anonymous said...

A quick media guide

The best source of information I find is ArabianBusiness.com. It's generally ahead with the news, interesting to read and has lots of interaction with its readers. MEED is good, but you can't access it online, the mag is expensive, and when I do find a copy it's a real struggle to get through (although probably worth the fight). I like Communicate as well - has some nice original writing - that is, unusually, not dull. If you want to make sure you've got it covered, a quick scan of GN is probably essential - but far from pleasurable.

It's too early to tell with the National. I think it needs a personality, and to drop the AD focus.

Anonymous said...

Yeah but half of arabianbusiness.com is wire copy, although I agree it's quite good.

MEED is now free to access online daily if you register I heard. The need to cut the price in half. 10 quid a copy must make it the most expensive weekly in the world!

Anonymous said...

Arabianbusiness.com rewrites half of gulf news anyway, so you don't need to buy it :-)

19thfloordubai said...

http://www.kippreport.com/kippsblog.php?articleid=1174&day=2

can we talk about this?

Anonymous said...

Just Fancy That! (apologies to Private Eye)

DUBAI Shoppers are being told to dress appropriately and refrain from public displays of affection by a poster campaign in malls.
Showing excessive amounts of flesh and kissing are cited in the courtesy policy at the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai...
--The National April 29, 2008


DUBAI Mall of the Emirates has posted signs at all its entrances instructing visitors on its "Courtesy Policy." The blue sign placed on the sliding glass doors advises visitors to "Please wear respectful clothing" and "No kissing or overt displays of affection", among other things...
--XPRESS, February 6, 2008

A new perspective? Don’t make me laugh.

Anonymous said...

Credit where it's due - quarries in Ras Al Khaimah that make lots of dust are going to get fined. Somebody call Reuters.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing wrong with asking people to be sensitive to certain cultural attitudes. They aren't telling women to cover their faces but a degree of modesty is appreciated here.

Anonymous said...

It's gone right over your head hasn't it?

Anonymous said...

http://www.arabnews.com/?page=4§ion=0&article=109452&d=30&m=4&y=2008

Surprised you haven't a post on this. Would've thought it's significant.

Anonymous said...

Poorly written, ill-informed and simplistic in its argument:
http://www.gulf-news.com/opinion/editorial_opinion/world/10215011.html

And then there's this:
http://www.thenational.ae/article/20080517/OPINION/61885100/1033/editorials&template=opinion

If Gulf News is going to parrot the National, at least they can put some effort into it.

Anonymous said...

Who's parroting who? The National today published on its website a story on Dubai's road deaths rising, lifted word for word from today's Gulf News - including the Gulf News reporter's byline, Alia Al Theeb!

Anonymous said...

Would have thought the above post might merit a thread in itself on plagiarism and all that. How rife is it? Has anyone else seen anything so blatant and stupid? Just my tuppennyworth

Anonymous said...

Not the first time The National has stolen web stories straight off Gulf News - happened two weeks ago - word for word with GN byline...naughty naughty National - we're all watching...

Anonymous said...

If copying and pasting press releases counted as plagiarism GN would have been hung drawn and quartered a long time ago.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't a press release but an exclusive story. Good job pasting the byline too. I hear the national is looking for a new web editor.

So much for bringing people from fleet street to copy/paste from the competition.

That's what happens when you import reporters who don't know anything about the region.

Anonymous said...

The National also has some kind of pro-Israel agenda. Anyone who has an eye for such editorial policies will notice it.

Starting with labeling "Jerusalem, Israel" on a map (which even Fox News wouldn't do) to calling the boundry between the Israeli occupied Golan and Syria proper the "Israeli-Syrian border".

Aside from that, referring to Jewish colonists in the Golan as "Jewish residents of the Golan" is a really good job at explaining the reality of the occupation to the reader.

The National's pro-Israel editorial policy is being watched closely. Not just by me and others but also by people high up in the government.

Nice to know that the government of Abu Dhabi has come out with an official paper that has Zionist leanings. That' what happens when you bring in an EIC (Newland) that is openly sympathetic to Israel. Read his op-ed in Canada's Macleans magazine. Looks like Abu Dhabi is a asleep.

Anonymous said...

If you bothered to read the editorials, you'd see we spend most of our time kicking around Israel. But solely praising or condemning them bespeaks an intellectual immaturity.