Unforgettable love and wishes for continued success [Archives:2006/1003/Opinion]

November 30 2006

By: Mohammed Khidr
My wholehearted congratulations to the Yemen Times, the widespread English-language newspaper, its Editor-in-Chief Nadia Al-Saqqaf and all of my fellow staff members on hitting its 1,000th issue last week.

Because my memories and experience with the Yemen Times are deep-rooted and date back more than seven years, I find it difficult to talk about all of them in one article, so I'll only concentrate only on those major memories.

When I first came to Yemen from Iraq in the final quarter of 1999, the Yemen Times was my first destination in looking for a job. I visited the previous editor-in-chief and my current close friend, Walid Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf, who was very hospitable and understanding. I introduced myself and presented my resume and papers in the process of applying for a job.

A few days after our first meeting, I was happy to hear that I'd been appointed the newspaper's deputy editor-in-chief. That's my first beautiful and successful memory with the Yemen Times, after which I embarked on my serious hardworking journey with this esteemed newspaper.

From my first day at the newspaper on Nov. 1, 1999, I found it to be a well-organized media institution regarding its editorial, administrative and distribution departments, in addition to being fully computerized. I spent several days reading previous issues of the Yemen Times, especially those published in the days of its founder, the late Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf, in order to gain a fuller understanding of its beginnings and the standards with which it had begun.

In doing so, I discovered that the Yemen Times is a well-established newspaper with professional journalistic style in covering news stories, reports and opinion articles dealing with societal problems and daring to criticize mistakes and shortcomings in citizens' everyday lives without neglecting to present solutions.

This means it isn't a newspaper concerned with criticizing simply for the sake of criticism – this is what's termed constructive criticism. This explains why the newspaper has a large and widespread readership. I also discovered that its founder exerted great efforts to establish this leading Yemeni press institution, at which he really excelled.

The experiment of working for an independent private-sector newspaper was new to me because in Iraq, where I previously was editor-in-chief of the Baghdad Observer, a state-run English-language daily, I wasn't used to this type of journalism, which differs in style and policy. Therefore, it took me some time to adapt to this new experiment.

I tried hard to start and be successful in this new experience. Gradually, my writing has taken on a different style and shape in the way of tackling social woes and analyzing political events.

I really loved my new job and the working atmosphere, beginning from the editor-in-chief, Walid, to every one of the editorial staff and the rest of the newspaper staff, all of whom are cooperative, friendly and work as a harmonious team.

In particular, the former editor-in-chief and I gathered very cooperative and harmonious staffers who worked hard to continuously introduce new ideas for the newspaper's development in every aspect, especially from an editorial standpoint. We used to discuss in detail any step we wanted to take in this regard, calculating all possibilities for success or failure. We never rushed anything.

The Yemen Times previously published once a week, every Monday. After working at the newspaper for approximately two years, it came to my mind to suggest publishing twice a week. The editor received the idea cautiously, so we decided to study all of the aspects thoroughly.

After much thought and a full study, the idea was submitted at a meeting including the editorial staff and the technical, advertising and finance departments. Every department offered their opinion, which enriched the proposal, and all endorsed a decision to embark on the new project, which later saw light and succeeded.

As illustrated in the abovementioned example, the Yemen Times depends on a very good management style that seeks input from all staff to assure cooperation and success in any project proposed in the newspaper's favor.

However, printing the Yemen Times previously was a real problem, as it was printed at various printing presses, which meant taking the newspaper's final films to the printer and being at its mercy regarding timing and print quality, especially for colored photos. Many times, the paper was late to newsstands, bookshops and subscribers, which is very dangerous to the newspaper's credibility. For this reason, issues must be distributed very early within the capital city and the governorates.

Therefore, the Yemen Times was forced to change its printer and accept its own terms of contract agreement. Here again, we discussed the idea of the newspaper having its own printing press, the only obstacle to which mainly was financial. Considerable thought was required about how to prepare the necessary funds to buy and install a printing press the newspaper would own.

This was really an agonizing journey because the newspaper depends solely on its own resources and receives no outside support. However, the goal was worth the sacrifice, as the printing press finally came and was installed inside the newspaper complex, an event causing great joy and relief to all.

The Yemen Times currently is printed on its own press and produces very accurate prints, as well as beautiful pictures and advertisements. The press really does require more investment in commercial printing other than the newspaper, although competence in this market isn't easy.

I remember working hard into the late night hours with Editor-in-Chief Walid, the editorial staff and the clever technical staff and the joy and relief we felt after completing every minute detail of the edition and then going home in the hopes of seeing it well done first thing the next morning. It was like parents eagerly waiting to see their newborn child. I also won't forget working with the present Editor-in-Chief, Nadia Al-Saqqaf.

My love for the Yemen Times is unforgettable – I'll remember it my entire life. I'll always wish the Yemen Times unending success in continuing its honorable message in service of free and independent press and defending all segments of Yemeni society, in particular, and Arabs in general. I wish the newspaper's staff continued progress and I feel very grateful for their cooperation and friendliness.

Mohammed Khidr is a journalist and a senior translator from Iraq.

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