Saudi Gazette

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Saudi Gazette
Type Daily newspaper
Publisher Okaz Organization for Press and Publication
Editor-in-chief Khaled Almaeena
Managing editors Shams Ahsan and Mahmoud Ahmad (for local and Gulf affairs)
Founded 1976
Language English
Headquarters Jeddah
Circulation 50,000
Sister newspapers Okaz
ISSN 1319-0326
Official website Saudi Gazette

Saudi Gazette is a leading English-language daily newspaper published in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.[1] It is available both in print and online.[2]

As of 2 April 2012, Khaled Almaeena is the Saudi Gazette editor-in-chief, replacing Omar S. Elmershedi who took over on 1 July 2011. Almaeena is joined by some of his most trusted staff from Arab News, led by deputy editor-in-chief Somayya Jabarti; this job, which she began in 2014, makes her the first woman to edit a daily newspaper in Saudi Arabia.[3]

Policy changes[edit]

Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, the Saudi government loosened its visa requirements to attract more Western journalists to report from Saudi Arabia in an effort to open the country to media scrutiny. These new policies also allowed Western journalists to work in the Saudi newspaper industry. Up until 2003, the Gazette's editorial staff consisted largely of Indian and Pakistani expatriate journalists. Since the early 1980s the day-to-day operations were led by editor Ramesh Balan, an expatriate Indian who retired in 2009.[citation needed]

There were early missteps in efforts to open Saudi journalism to Westerners. Journalist Lawrence Wright, on assignment for New Yorker magazine, spent several months observing Gazette journalists before penning “Kingdom of Silence” in 2004. It was a scathing portrait of Saudi journalists’ ethics and journalism skills, and Saudi Arabia’s gender segregation rules and customs. Wright’s visit and subsequent article were an embarrassment to the Gazette and almost derailed the newspaper’s plans to hire Western journalists.[citation needed]

History[edit]

The newspaper started in 1978, with a western editorial staff under the leadership of Saud Islam, a Saudi native and business studies graduate (London). Key western staff worked at the newspaper.

While the newspaper was based in Jeddah, on the Red Sea coast, it had two bureaus: Riyadh, the kingdom's capital, and Al-Khobar on the Persian Gulf in the Eastern Province. Prior to computerization, bureau reporters telexed their stories to Jeddah where Jaffar Khan (India) and his staff typeset the transmission for press runs. Photos and related visuals for publication with stories from bureaus were pouched to Jeddah via air.

From 1981 to 1983, Western journalists serving on the Gazette's staff included David Therough (U.K.), Rick Thompson (U.S.) and Kevin Muehring (U.S.). Jeddah-based Randall Palmer (U.S.) would later serve as a reporter in the newspaper's Riyadh bureau alongside Peter Theroux (U.S.). Theroux, while serving as a Gazette reporter, also was a correspondent for United Press International. Brad Heller (U.S) would later join the reporting staff in Riyadh. Gazette reporter Rick Snedeker (U.S.) was based in Jeddah until he was assigned to the newspaper's Al-Khobar bureau, where he joined James Wright Domnick (U.S.). Domnick was a Gazette reporter and columnist who also served as a correspondent for The Associated Press. Domnick's AP dispatches were telexed to Nick Tatro and staff in Beirut until Israel invaded southern Lebanon in June 1982. He thereafter telexed wire material to Aly Mahmoud at AP Bahrain. Jenny Cook (U.S.) was based in Jeddah and served as features editor.

A chief photographer was appointed in 1981, Chris Wheatley, who rebuilt and taught the local photographers to use modern film tanks and timed film development. Until that point, Okaz photographers used a tray, dipped the film into it in darkness, hearing the film scrape on the tray bottom and timing it with a popular song, sung by the photographer. The published photos were often too dark and off-kilter, with Towers leaning at 35 degrees, etc. Doug was appointed junior staff photographer in 1982 and Jamal was the Sudanese photographer on the street. Armed with Western-style practices, Jamal soon became the star among the native-speaking photographers. With the addition of an English sports editor, the publication figures overtook the Arab News for the first time in its history.

The paper had two female staff journalists during 1981-1983, and three or four female stringers, including Saudi nationals. The quality of the paper surged dramatically and a Wednesday (weekend) family pictorial publication called 'Variety' was launched. Many of the contributions were from expatriate female writers, including British freelance photographer and writer Bizzie Frost who started working for the Gazette in 1986 when Andrew Craig (son of former Ambassador to KSA, Sir James Craig) was the features editor. She continued to write for the newspaper until 2012, and is the longest serving freelance writer for this newspaper. By 1987, the Saudi Gazette was also began to use colour photographs.

The photography department got the first photos of King Fahd's inauguration and David Therough the first interview with the new king. Some investigative journalism was attempted, a first for Saudi Arabia; the under-staffing, lack of pharmaceuticals and funding of Baha Hospital resulted in the termination of American Hospitals Management (AMI) and the building collapse of the National Commercial Bank building (substandard construction) in Jeddah were major coups for the paper. These stories were held back and inspected by the Ministry of Information, but eventually allowed a new freedom to start to emerge in the Kingdom. Unfortunately, the rise of local militants and internal bombings put an end to this new freedom.

In 1982, Saud Islam left his post and most Western journalists went with him. Pakistani and Indian staff were brought in to save money. Thereafter, the quality of the paper plummeted dramatically, sales went down and the paper virtually disappeared for the next decade and a half.

European features editors also worked for the Saudi Gazette and several local Western female writers continued to contribute. Because of its Wednesday 'Variety' section with all its features, it was the newspaper of choice at weekends.

During this period, it was perhaps the most anti-US paper in the Kingdom. A Saudi citizen of Persian origin, Ridah Lary became its editor. The Saudi Gazette's chief cartoonist Abdel Rahim Alireza had a particularly strong anti-US streak to his cartoons. At the beginning of the 1990s, it was second largest English paper and then, lost this characteristic.[4]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

"The Kingdom of Silence" Lawrence Wright, 5 January 2004, The New Yorker[1]

Saudi Gazette terrorism coverage and editorials (2004–2007) Rob L. Wagner [2]