During a panel session at the 17th World Editors Forum dedicated to the topic of "How to break away from the 'he said yesterday' journalism," Abdel-Moneim Said, Chairman of the Board, Al-Ahram group, Egypt, described how Al-Ahram is transforming from a "publishing house" to a true "media company."
And they are doing that by going "back to basics. Basic journalism."
Said says with that change comes huge responsibility for Al-Ahram, as more is at stake than just the company's bottom line. He says Al-Ahram is to Egypt what the New York Times is to the United States and The Times of London is to England.
"Egypt is transforming just like we are, but the country looks to us as playing a vital role in helping to impact our culture and our economy."
Fulfil the basic journalistic mission and the readers will follow, he says. Even though Said admits he is not a journalist himself, he believes straightforward journalism will win the day.
"I have never understood when people say 'quality journalism.' To me there is either journalism or there is no journalism. I think journalism, quite simply, is the search for truth and that's what we do."
A major part of the reorganisation meant "reconstructing" its newsroom physically but logically. Critically, the company wanted to create a "new heart," a central newsdesk to more efficiently distribute its content in print, broadcast/radio, and virtual (Internet, mobile, etc.).
To be successful in such a large change management project like this, he says concise, consistent communication is key. "You don't want to mind-boggle your staff with all of the new tasks they will have, but empower them by clearly explaining exactly where the company wants to go and what role we want them to play in getting there."
Much of the training came from its own Al-Ahram Institute. Said said enhancing IT capabilities was crucial to empowering its journalists to improve their technical skills and give them the confidence to work across media. The company is working with the USAid-funded Media Development Project to train its journalists and equip the paper with multimedia equipment.
Al-Ahram is now present on all major platforms, drawing nearly 20 million readers.