Sunday, 20 November 2011

The National: a law unto itself

Reader submission about a recent story that The National declined to cover, a story that happened "in its backyard":

"This type of self-censorship is common at the paper, which is not serving its readership well.

"In addition, the paper is said losing money at an alarming rate - its circulation has been frozen in place for several years now, and its employee-turnover rate is said to be ridiculously high. What is going on at The National?


The International Bar Association held its annual conference in Dubai this month, but the event, which is planned five years in advance, almost never happened. Seems that several weeks before the event was to begin UAE security officials grew worried that some of the seminars/programs might be too dangerous. [see links below]

Unfortunately, readers of Abu Dhabi’s The National (whose editors have said "strives to be The New York Times of the Middle East") interested in such topics (freedom of speech, etc) would be left in the dark, because the paper declined to cover this important angle of the story.

The National did give readers this paean to women’s rights in the UAE, which includes the following paragraph.

"For me, the most exciting part has been watching young female lawyers in the UAE become so excited to attend the IBA congress and other events being held in Dubai this week. To see how thrilled these young women are to meet lawyers of leading firms from the world's capital cities is brilliant - and the fact that so many local law firms have decided to register their female staff is a sign that the practice in the UAE is progressing, despite the glass ceiling for female lawyers worldwide."

The irony in this is more than rich when one reads the following:

"However, Mr. Ellis [IBA official] did change the title of one session that security officials objected to, entitled "Women in Islam, Challenges and Opportunities," to "Women in Law, Challenges and Opportunities." Members of the women’s committee then declared the new title too "dull," he said, and opted to scrap the session.

In addition, the paper published a piece on a speech Mohamed ElBaradei made to IBA conference attendees in which included the following sentence: He said new governments would need to ensure citizens were involved in every strata of governance and law, and must be accountable and transparent.

This type of "coverage" is rampant at The National, and has increased.

Links to coverage of the IBA conference:

UAE threatened to cancel law conference in Dubai
Lawyer defends decision to hold conference in Dubai
IBA Dubai 2011: the conference that almost never was
IBA Dubai slammed for erasing women's issues from agenda


JB said...

I'm a journalist in Dubai, working for one of the major media companies here. I keep noticing jobs advertised for the business section of The National. I'm kind of tempted to apply, but I have some concerns. Why are so many reporters leaving the business desk there. I've heard about at least ten leaving in the past year or so? I have heard some horror stories about one of the editors. have all the reporters really left because of him? Has anyone out there worked with this twat?

Anonymous said...

Is this really a surprise anymore?

Anonymous said...

A few editors @TN are rude, arrogant, and love playing god with others time, engery and money. The other thing is that when it comes to managing writers and reporters, some are poorly skilled, which may have caused many to say take this job and stuff it.

Anonymous said...


You open with "I'm a journalist.." and then proceed to talk about TN. If you really are a journalist then I guess you want to write content that will be read. If that is the case you have 2 options: Gulf News or 7Days.

Anonymous said...

There's a fat twat - I don't know his name...

Anonymous said...

And I’d advise anyone who considers themselves to be a journalist to avoid The Gulf News.

Let’s not forget this is the paper that called the Holocaust “a mere lie”.

Not only did they fail to apologise, they still that that same columnist now.

Anonymous said...

Alex? (Although he isn't particularly fat)

Anonymous said...

When The National first launched, they had a "wish-list" of editors and section heads that they would like for the paper. A Manchester City approach, if you will.

Many were very respected reporters, editors etc who were in the prime of their career. Hence, they said "no" to what would - in essence - equate to professional news-writing suicide.

Consequently, positions of authority were offered to people lower down the food chain and since they had little to lose, many accepted...and were promoted to positions beyond their experience.

This accounts for some of overwhelming unprofessional behaviour found at The National. Of course it doesn't account for all of it. Some people are just arrogant, rude, obnoxious and up their own arses by nature.

Anonymous said...

Good luck JB. Hope you find something. Is there such a thing as a decent media employer in Dubai? I work in the UK and have heard that people are treated like crap in the media industry in Dubai. Is this true?

Anonymous said...

As a former journo for TN, I can tell you that you do not want to work there. Most of the staff are great, but the editors are almost all revolting. At least when I was there. Hassan is pleasant to be around, but to call him a journo is an insult to the profession. Nice guy, no real balls or skill as a manager. Koot may be the worst of he lot. She is a snake who is even despised by the other editors. There's a reason almost the entire start-up staff left within 24 months. Bill was the biz editor there while I was on board an he knew his stuff(the reason he was the 3rd highest paid staff member). I think he got fed up too and went back to the WSJ. It was an adventure more than a job, so if you're already in Dubai, and have a job, don't apply. Trust me. Everyone I was on board with is back in London, New York, Toronto, Ontario or Sydney.

Anonymous said...

But the money is good.

Anonymous said...

Reporters from the Business section left for lots of reasons. But respect for the editors is certainly a big one. Both of the two big editors goofs. One is lazy, arrogant and has the moral compass of an arms dealer. The other is quick to temper, self-conscious and rude. The latter seems to mean well but ultimately it's cold comfort. It's a tough situation because the money is decent and you'll have some interesting opportunities. It's just a matter if you can find your comfort zone, somehow. That said, as the history shows, everyone tends to have their tipping point. In this case, their selling point.

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments in this thread, so we'll add ours to the mix. We are a group of journalists who left the National for various reasons, but we all left with disgust for the editor in chief, the managing editor, the editor of the business section and his obese assistant, and the people who know better but continue to kiss the proper rears to keep their dirhams coming each month on time.

The EIC a nice guy? Hardly. He lied to many people, including several of us, about jobs and positions, and is one of the most untrustworthy people we have encountered. His news judgment is nonexistent, and he is a horrific manager of professionals. The ME? Well, we will not even go there, except to say that she is completely unqualified and is a disgrace to the profession.

It has been fun to watch as the paper sinks lower and lower into complete uselessness, steered by the EIC and his compliant staff into oblivion.

Take a look at the two stories below, both published in the print edition and on the paper's shoddy website on the 26th of this month; both stories are utter shite, and no editor with even a small amount of dignity would allow them into their section. The first one, among many other things, has not one quote in it from someone from the rights group or one of the attendees mentioned who had been arrested. The second one, on Abu Dhabi's grandiose attempt to establish itself as a cultural world capital, reads like a press release. Where are the questions posed to contractors on some of the projects? Where are the questions and comments from officials at the Louvre and Guggenheim? Neither story tells readers anything worth knowing. This is journalism courtesy of the EIC, and it is a shame and disgrace.

Human Rights Watch issues report on the UAE
National Staff
Jan 26, 2012
DUBAI // Free speech in the UAE is under attack, Human Rights Watch claimed yesterday.
It did so at a public press conference in a Dubai hotel.

Saadiyat Louvre to open in 2015
Jen Thomas
Jan 26, 2012
A newly unveiled timetable for the opening of Saadiyat Island's landmark museums promises the long-delayed cultural projects will be completed by 2017.
The capital's arm of the Louvre Museum is expected to be the first for completion, with an opening date of 2015. The Zayed National Museum will follow with an opening in 2016, and the Guggenheim is expected to open in 2017.

These two stories are but two of this type, steered by incompetent (or compliant) editors, editors who are openly dismissive of the EIC and his ME (behind their backs only, of course) but allow them to treat people unfairly and have allowed them to turn the paper into a hugely expensive jobs programme. Take it from us: back where we are, in Canada and the UK and the States and various other locales, any time we mention we worked at the National to people who know anything about journalism, the response is always a variation on "What a joke now, huh? I hear that the EIC is a complete buffoon."

Yes, anywhere else the paper would have been shuttered long ago, both for bleeding so much money with so little return, and because more than a few people would have brought legal cases against it and several of the editors. We can say in all confidence that we are glad we gout out when we did.

Anonymous said...

Lots of reporters have left the business desk. What is going on there? Losing so many staff in such a short space of time suggests that there is a serious case of bad management there. The 21st century needs editors who understand the new media landscape. The National editors are highly paid dinosaurs, who, quite frankly, would not be able to survive in the media world anywhere else today.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps one day original staff from TN should hold a reunion at some obscure locale and fess up all the comments they made on DMO.
Take a class photo.
Hugs and tears all around.
With respect to other publications in the UAE, nothing even comes close to the theatrics of TN.

Anonymous said...

If you read reports from the best sports writers covering the England test matches (that's cricket, for the benefit of US readers) in Dubai and Abu Dhabi you'll see how real journalists view these strange little places. Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail and Mike Atherton (a former England cricket captain and now a brilliant all round journalist) in the Times (unfortunately not available for free) pinpointed everything that is wrong: the manic construction, for no reason other than to satisfy the vanities of the ruling families, the greed, the materialism, the endemic racism, especially the contempt for the workers from India, Pakistan and elsewhere, and the corruption and nepotism that permeates everywhere. It is impossible for the National, the in house journal of the billionaires who run Abu Dhabi, to address any of these issues. If it did it would be shut down immediately. It is run by half wits, incompetents and bullies who are paid fortunes. The paper does not exist in the accepted sense of the word. How many copies are actually printed every day? 1000? How are they distributed? (by magic?) The web site is an irrelevance. The staff come and go - most are young and want adventure and sun. This is the way it is, and always will be until the National's paymasters get bored with their toy.

Anonymous said...

Could someone at the National list all the execs and section heads, from the EIC down. Be interesting for us who are back home to see who is still there.

Anonymous said...

is anyone subbing the paper? could this be any worse?

DUBAI // A sentence was delivered today, two and a half years after three brothers made headlines for beating a pregnant woman who sat down at their table in an Ikea cafeteria.

Emirati businessman A A, 52, and his brothers M A, 33, and E A, 43, were sentenced today to a month in jail each and fined a total of Dh12,000 for their involvement in the brawl that erupted after a Canadian couple sat down at the end of a table for 12 at an Ikea cafeteria on June 13, 2009.

“A A approached us and told us that the table was booked as his three children were sitting on the other end,” the husband told the court.

His wife, a marketing manager, protested that she was pregnant and did not want to move, but she was shushed by her husband who told the men to go and sit elsewhere while they finished their meal.

“I was punched in the back of the head and lost consciousness and woke to find three men kicking me and punching me on the floor and saw my wife bleeding from her legs profusely,” he told prosecutors.

A Syrian man who witnessed the fight, Z R, said he saw A A hitting the pregnant woman while M A and E A were assaulting the husband on the floor.

He tried to intervene to stop one of the defendants from swinging a chair at the unconscious man, but was punched.

Security guards had to call Dubai Police to stop the fight after they failed to stop it themselves.The couple were taken to Rashid Hospital, where the wife was also given treatment to prevent a miscarriage. The child survived the attack, records show.

The brothers were sentenced by Judge Hamad Abdel Latif in the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance. All three will serve a month in prison and must pay a fine of Dh10,000. A A was ordered to pay an extra Dh2,000 fine for threatening the couple and the Syrian man who attempted to stop the fight.

Anonymous said...

New Thread:

Bit late in the year but here are my predictions for 2012:

KT to finally admit defeat and close

ADMC to buy Sport 360 now that it has overtaken The National in subscriptions - and more cuts at TN

7DAYS to stay the same as 2011

Gulf News to resize and reduce ave pagination to help stem the losses.

Motivate to scale down its operation considerably.

ITP to continue being what ever it is they are

Media agencies to remain inept