Survival of Yemen Times was not by Chance [Archives:2000/09/Viewpoint]
The question sometimes comes in another form, such as: “How were you able to get your newspaper back on track and continue to progress despite the death of Dr. Al-Saqqaf? You even increased your sales 100%. How did that happen?” These questions are normal as many thought that Yemen Times wouldn’t live to celebrate its 9th anniversary.
It is a question that is asked now and then, and on the occasion of the 9th anniversary of Yemen Times, I feel myself obliged to answer it yet again, this time in depth.
Ever since the time Yemen Times was founded, Dr. Al-Saqqaf new that it would have a great future. He understood that it is going to be a milestone for journalism in Yemen. His keen vision enabled him to see that he should build it not as some other newspapers, of one or two computers, with a weak temporary infrastructure. He realized that if he wishes the newspaper to continue, he must have it on solid grounds that require investment and spending of money and getting loans. He also understood that he must strengthen his already strong relations and links -not as Dr. Al-Saqqaf, but as the Editor of Yemen Times- with other international institutions, with the foreign sector, and with intellectuals who care for the future of Yemen. From the point of public relations, the newspaper began to become popular. It sought its way in the dark, and managed to reach the end of the tunnel through continuous hard work and patience. Dr. Saqqaf lost a lot of money when he started the project. He had to spend money on equipment, on expertise, on marketing, and on distribution. He continued to lose until he managed to break even in 1992, 1 year after the newspaper was founded.
Dr. Saqqaf did not spare the modest amounts of money he got from advertisement revenues. He used that money for further investment. As soon as he got enough money, he decided to change the location of the newspaper. When he was able to, he bought new machines, and hired more employees. Every time Dr. Saqqaf saw the number of readers increase, he realized that his project is indeed a successful one.
I remember after 3 years since establishing the newspaper I asked him, “Dad, do you think that the project of Yemen Times is a successful one?” He answered “Of course it is, and I am happy I took the courageous step and started the project.” This confident statement of his had triggered an immediate sense of pride. I told him that whether he thinks that Yemen Times could one day, reach the level of Arab News, or Gulf Times with the limited resources we had. I just feel his words ringing in my ears until now. He said, “It would even surpass them!”Now that Yemen Times has moved to its next decade, I say to myself, “Why not? Why can’t Yemen Times grow to be a daily, and become a competitor against the largest newspapers in the region?”Why was Dr. Saqqaf so confident that the newspaper would continue and develop? The answer is simple: He institutionalized it. Today, you could enter to the Yemen Times premises and see how organized and well structured the process of producing the issues of Yemen Times is. You can feel the pace, the quality, and the professionalism. All this did not come from space, it came from 9 years of continuously hard working on the infrastructure of the paper. Today, we can confidently tell you that Yemen Times is the most organized newspaper in Yemen.
The death of the founder was the true test of the infrastructure and the ground that the newspaper was built upon. I would happily like to tell you that it passed the test successfully.
Even though the backbone of the newspaper had gone, the newspaper did not collapse or even weaken. There was something else that replaced the backbone, it now has the backbone of its own. It is like taking care of a child. A child cannot survive without the assistance of his parents. However, just as soon as he grows strong and reaches an age of 20, you can let him go and depend on himself. Dr Saqqaf’s role was the parents. He built a system that he knew would last after he is gone. He built an institution that is stronger than many ministries we know. Today, the structure is too strong, too solid, and is an example for other newspapers to follow in institutionalized press.
I have replaced the founder and became the editor in chief. Although some think I am the one behind the continuation of the newspaper, but actually I am not. I am the person who took charge of it, but I could assert to you that if I weren’t there, there would be others to take over. All of them are the students of Dr. Saqqaf. I only took the position of Editor-in-Chief in the newspaper I loved and worked in for so long. I believe that if I leave one day, another would take over and absolutely nothing would change. After all, the newspaper continued after Dr. Saqqaf himself left, how in earth wouldn’t it be able to continue if I did.
I myself have been traveling for almost two consecutive weeks, and yet the newspaper is out, as beautiful as can be. Why? Because Yemen Times is no more a child, it is a grown up institution with a strong structure that challenges any ups and downs, and what one of the advertisers was a good example, “You not only gave us confidence in the strength of your institution. But you also helped us in realizing that whatever a person like Dr. Saqqaf builds is not a simple thing. It is a huge gigantic establishment, which he knew would last forever.”Congratulations to us, Yemen Times staff, and to all our readers, and may your soul, Dr. Saqqaf rest in peace and trust in your foundation that you made eternal.
Walid Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf