Dhahran News: Eastern Province’s first newspaper

Updated 15 April 2018
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Dhahran News: Eastern Province’s first newspaper

JEDDAH: Dhahran News was the first newspaper in the Eastern Province. Its first issue appeared on Dec. 26, 1954, and lasted for two and a half years, with the last issue published on April 29, 1957.
The publication aimed at spreading awareness among citizens and was sometimes critical of Saudi issues at the time, which led to it being monitored by a special supervisory authority. Two conflicting scenarios emerged about the reason behind the newspaper’s closure.
The first suggests that an article about colonization was the last straw that broke the camel’s back, while Abdul Karim Al-Juhaiman, then editor-in-chief, said an article calling for girls’ education, which was not well received, led to the weekly publication’s closure.
Al-Juhaiman published the first article calling for women to be educated like their male peers and was not fearful of the public opinion at a time where men monopolized the right to education.
Speaking of the controversial article about girls’ education, Al-Juhaiman said in a TV interview before he died in 2011: “One day I received an article by Mohammed bin Abdullah about girls’ education. I read the article and I found it moderate. He calls for the education of girls like their male peers. I was convinced and published it in the newspaper on my responsibility.
“When the officials read it, they were surprised it was published without their approval and they asked me about the writer. I said his name is Mohammed bin Abdullah and I do not know him personally, but this article came to me late and I published it without censorship,” Al-Juhaiman said.
The bold move later led to Al-Juhaiman’s detention in a 16 square meter room with one closed window.
“I stayed in this room for 20 days and then was released. I left everything behind … the company, the newspaper and left to Riyadh.”


Rewriting the future: Editor in Chief Faisal J. Abbas on Arab News’ new leaf

Updated 42 min 47 sec ago
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Rewriting the future: Editor in Chief Faisal J. Abbas on Arab News’ new leaf

  • As a journalist, I don’t think there is any place more interesting in the region than Saudi Arabia: Arab News Editor in Chief
  • Arab News will move away from being seen merely as a 'newspaper' to a whole array of new offerings

On April 1, a tweet went out from the Arab News account: “Arab News — as you know it — will no longer exist! #AprilFoolsDay #WhatChanged.” 

The message was a teaser building up to the  relaunch of the English-language daily following a comprehensive overhaul, described by Editor in Chief Faisal J. Abbas as “The biggest shake-up the paper has had throughout its 43-year history.”

On April 4, the relaunch issue hit the newsstands, with changes also reflected across the digital editions. While the new look and feel of the paper represent a bold departure, many of the shifts have materialized over the past year. In a wide-ranging interview with Communicate magazine, Abbas described the evolution of Arab News since he took the reins in September 2016. 

“We went back to our roots and took the paper back from being a local news outlet to its original positioning as the English voice of the region,” he told the magazine. 

To achieve this, Arab News, which is owned by the Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), has opened bureaus in London, Dubai and Pakistan and has hired some of the best industry talent, made significant changes to its workflow structure and rewritten its editorial policy.

The changes are all part of a future plan entitled Arab News 2020 to coincide with the paper’s 45th anniversary that year. Key to this is a “digital-first” philosophy which is incorporating more video and social media to serve the title’s expanding demographic in the online sphere, though with print revenues at 90 percent, it won’t be killing its print editions any time soon.  

Instead, the focus is on expansion. “We are moving away from being recognized as merely a “newspaper” to a whole array of digital offerings, events and tailored products,” Abbas said. Examples include the Arab News partnership with YouGov, producing material that “quickly became a reference for the region,” on major events, including polls on lifting the ban on female drivers in Saudi Arabia and a 2017 survey on British attitudes toward the Arab world — cited in the UK Parliament. 

The paper’s metamorphosis coincides neatly with the transformation taking place in Saudi Arabia as the country embraces an ambitious reform program as part of the Vision 2030 which, among other things, is redefining the local media industry. “As a journalist, I don’t think there is any place more interesting in the region than Saudi Arabia,” Abbas said. “We are very lucky to be at the heart of (the) change.”