The Editors Weblog is running a series of exclusive interviews about the future of journalism with top editors at leading newspapers around the world. Here is the latest installment with Abdul Hamid Ahmad, Editor-in-Chief of Gulf News, based in Dubai.
The list of upcoming interviews will be updated as they are published (click here to view all interviews in this series). Among the other titles that have been asked to participate in these interviews are:
- The New York Times - Jonathan Landman (US)
- Financial Times (UK)
- Guardian (UK)
- Washington Post - Jim Brady (US)
- Globe & Mail - Ed Greenspon (Canada)
- The Times (UK)
- The Economist (UK)
- Gazeta Wyborcza - Jaroslaw Kurski (Poland)
- Le Monde (France)
- Die Welt (Germany)
- The Hindustan Times - Pankaj Paul (India)
- Asahi Shimbun (Japan)
- JoongAng Ilbo (South Korea)
- The Age / Fairfax - Mike van Niekerk (Australia)
- The Nation - Pana Janviroj (Thailand)
- Punch (Nigeria)
- El Tiempo (Colombia)
- Clarin (Argentina)
- Gulf News - Abdul Hamid Ahmad (UAE)
Questions: "News, journalism, newspapers: same past, different futures?"
How long do you think you will define your company as a newspaper company or a print company?
Gulf News cannot be pigeonholed as either a newspaper company or a print company. It is a content provider. This means that it supplies news to print, online, radio or any other required medium. The organization will survive and sustain in this role that is its core functionality. We do have commercial printing facilities but our focus will always be news, irrespective of where it is published.
At this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, a panel of futurists claimed that print newspapers wouldn't exist by 2014. To what extent do you agree with this?
I strongly disagree with this point of view. Firstly, more than two thirds of the world doesn't have internet access; it perhaps has some limited access to television, which leaves print or newspaper as the main medium for receiving news. While circulation may be plateauing and in some cases declining in the West, it continues to increase in Asia and Africa for the aforesaid reasons. If internet has to make an impact, there would need to be development in infrastructure, increased investment, better education and other facilities in place. So the decline in Europe and America is compensated by growth in Asia and Africa for newspapers. The year 2014 is very close; I definitely do not see newspapers losing its significance by then.
In journalism's multi-centennial history, do you view the emergence of digital journalism as part of the continuity, or as a complete breakaway with previous forms of journalism?
Digital journalism is part of the continued journey of journalism. When television arrived, people heralded the doom of radio. Today, radio is doing very well and moving from strength to strength. One form of media helps another. Technology has helped journalism evolve and we need to adapt to the changes.
Do you believe in the increasingly active role of the user in the news process, and is it a threat or an opportunity for professional journalists?
Readers or users are the support system of the journalistic process. There wouldn't be any value to our work without them. Nobody can function in isolation. The increasingly active role of the reader/user in the news process is an opportunity not a threat for professional journalists. We should use the chance to educate readers so that the quality of interaction could be more professional. Ultimately there will always be amateurs and professionals in the world; people need to choose who they deal with.
Do you consider the Golden Age of investigative journalism is already past, or just beginning?
The Golden Age of investigative journalism is just beginning. As our world shrinks with increased connectivity and people's access to information increases, they are no longer satisfied with the superficial. They want more... they want to know in depth. They want to know what lies beneath the surface.
Can journalism survive newspapers?
Journalism is not dependent on newspapers for its survival. It existed from the time man learnt to communicate through images, words and sounds. Its root or seed lies in speech. When a tribesman climbed atop a rocky outcrop to call out to his people - that was journalism, he was giving them information. Among ancient Arab civilizations, poets functioned as journalists. They conveyed political messages, news, propaganda and other information through poetry. So journalism has existed for a while. Today it has found a home in print, online, television and radio. In the future it will find other means, but survive it will. Journalism will exist as long as man can talk.
Stay tuned for the next week's interviews, which will include The New York Times and the Financial Times.