Arab News’ 1970s ads a quirky trip down memory lane

Arab News’ 1970s ads a quirky trip down memory lane
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Updated 20 April 2020

Arab News’ 1970s ads a quirky trip down memory lane

Arab News’ 1970s ads a quirky trip down memory lane

LONDON: If anyone were in any doubt about the truth of the opening line of L.P. Hartley’s 1953 novel “The Go-Between” — “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there” — they need only take a trip down the memory lane that is the Arab News archive.

Launched on Sunday April 20, 1975, as Saudi Arabia’s first English-language newspaper, for the past 45 years Arab News has been the nation’s go-to paper of record, covering regional and global events for the benefit of nationals and expats alike.

At the same time, however, it has built an invaluable archive of contemporary coverage of events that serves as a first draft of history for future generations — and a reminder that the past is indeed a foreign country. Perhaps nothing illustrates the gulf between then and now so much as the adverts to be found in the earliest issues of the newspaper, many of which reflect social history in the making.

Issue No. 115, from Aug. 31, 1975, for example, features a flurry of adverts for heavy-duty road-making machinery, reflecting the 1970s boom in highway construction (“We do not operate on the moon (not yet!),” brags E.A. Juffali & Bros, importer of the Barber-Greene range of asphalt-laying machines, “but our machines are worthy of the space age.”).

Another ad in the same issue, placed four years before the Iranian revolution and the seizure of Makkah’s Grand Mosque by religious extremists, speaks of a relaxed national liberality to which Saudi Arabia is only now returning. “Sexy Musk Oil, another product from Europe,” readers are told in an advert next to a story about planned Arab-Israeli peace talks in Geneva, is “the real feminine perfume.”

Adverts for perfumes — all, naturally, from Europe — are a recurring theme during the paper’s early years, along with an ever-present subtext that will remind social historians that throughout the world in the 1970s, sexism was still the norm. The scent Caron Paris, reads one advert from September 1975, “is the kind of French every woman understands.”

Alongside the ads, in the era of pre-political correctness, cartoons imported from the US tell a similar story (Wife, holding steering wheel, to horrified husband: “Promise you won’t laugh when I tell you what I did with the car?”).

But the adverts tell other stories, exclusive to the rapidly transforming and vibrant Saudi economy, fueled by the flow of oil, which by 1976 had hit a record 3 billion barrels per year. Throughout the 1970s, the paper’s classified ads recorded a period of almost frantic entrepreneurship as businesses large and small sought to profit from the Kingdom’s rapid development.

A Bombay-based employment agency, “supplying all kinds of personnel to various employers in the Arab Countries,” offers a multitude of professional, skilled and unskilled staff, including “doctors, nurses, engineers, mechanics, drivers, carpenters, masons, typists, clerks, etc.” Alongside an advert for suspended ceilings, placed by a company in France, is another offering cranes for hire, complete with “expert American operators.”

For those making vast amounts of money from Saudi Arabia’s development boom, discreet international banking services are offered by the Foreign Commerce Bank, “your private banking connection in Switzerland.” Meanwhile, an American manufacturer of modular, pre-cast concrete and steel structures, “suitable for homes, apartments, offices, warehouses, schools, hospitals, etc.,” urgently seeks a distributor in the Kingdom.

On July 16, 1977, many businesses anxiously awaiting the arrival of goods from overseas — increasingly in demand among expats and locals as oil wealth flowed through the economy — would have been relieved to read that three container ships operated by Sea-Land had arrived at the port of Dammam, where “delivery orders are ready for pickup” from the office of agents Rezayat Trading.

Throughout its first decade, Arab News carried regular port-movement notices, which speak eloquently of a nation developing rapidly and heavily reliant on imported goods. On one day in 1977 alone, more than 80 vessels docked in Jeddah and Dammam, carrying everything from chickens, watermelon and wheat to timber, steel and cement.

Other adverts throughout the 1970s serve as reminders of how much the world has changed. In December 1979, 10 years before Nikon produced the world’s first commercial digital single-lens reflex camera (if you do not know what that is, ask your grandparents), a half-page advert for a Kodak Colorburst reminds posterity that back then the nearest thing to the still-distant age of instant digital photography were Polaroid-style cameras (again, ask your grandparents).

In a reminder that the first desktop computer, or word processor, had still not arrived to revolutionize the worlds of business and leisure, an advert for a male secretary placed in December 1979 demands 60-70-words-per-minute shorthand — and skill in “IBM typing.”




An advert from Dec. 13, 1979 placed by Algosaibi Foods congratulated the royal family after the end of the 10-day siege of the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (AN)

The Apple II, the world’s first successful (although by today’s standards prehistorically clunky) home computer, had been launched by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1977 (at the phenomenal price of approximately $5,500 in today’s money). The first IBM personal computer, however, would not start transforming office life until its launch in August 1981.

For a reminder of just how boxy most cars used to be, look no further than page 5 of the issue of Dec. 5, 1979, where none other than former world champion boxer Muhammad Ali, still two years away from an overdue retirement, promotes the virtues of “seven world champions” from Toyota on behalf of Saudi car company Abdul Latif Jameel. “When it comes to boxing, I am the champ!” Ali declares, with his left fist raised. “But when it comes to cars and trucks, nobody can beat Toyota!”

With hindsight, some adverts are historically poignant. On Dec. 8, 1979, the Lebanon Tourist Office, seemingly optimistic that the devastation of the civil war that had derailed the country’s economy was behind it, placed an advert declaring that the formerly popular tourist destination was “back in business, back ‘en route’.”

Readers of Arab News were urged to come and enjoy Lebanon’s 3,797 luxury hotel bedrooms, wide range of sports activities and entertainment, 30 conference halls, 81 banks, absence of currency exchange regulations and “4,000 telex lines to help you take full advantage of the restriction-free trading.” But the hope that Lebanon was on the road to recovery was premature. Two years later, Israel invaded the country.

Sometimes, the adverts of the past transcend the everyday. Throughout December 1979, nestling between invitations to visit the second Saudi Arabia Motor Show at the Jeddah International Expo Center to view “America’s finest” new cars, and for expats to spend two nights over Christmas at Al-Hada Sheraton hotel, can be found sombre reminders that the Kingdom’s path to development and modernization was far from smooth.

In the issue of Dec. 13, 1979, published nine days after the end of the 10-day siege of the Grand Mosque in Makkah, several companies took out large adverts congratulating the leadership.

“We rejoice in the resounding victory of the Saudi forces over the band of renegades responsible for desecrating Islam’s holiest shrine, the Holy Kaaba,” read one half-page advert from Algosaibi Foods, which congratulated King Khalid, Crown Prince Fahd, Prince Abdullah “and the valiant Saudi people.”

Within weeks, 63 of the captured terrorists had been executed in eight cities across Saudi Arabia, but the country was to pay a high price for the victory. The seizure of the mosque shocked the entire Islamic world and, coming as it did in the wake of the Iranian revolution, provoked concerns that the Kingdom was embracing Western ways too fast, too soon, leading to a reversal of modernization from which Saudi society is only now recovering.




Many adverts show how the world has changed. (AN)

 


Lego gets it wrong! Mistakes Ramadan for Eid in greeting

Lego gets it wrong! Mistakes Ramadan for Eid in greeting
Updated 13 April 2021

Lego gets it wrong! Mistakes Ramadan for Eid in greeting

Lego gets it wrong! Mistakes Ramadan for Eid in greeting
  • Despite the fact that Ramadan has been observed each year for more than 14 centuries, a few companies are still mistaking the holy month of Ramadan for Eid Al-Fitr
  • The picture attached with the LEGO congratulatory Ramadan tweet displayed a text showing “Eid Mubarak” instead of Ramadan Kareem

LONDON: Every year just before Ramadan begins, congratulations and greetings are widely circulated to family, friends, employees and the general public to celebrate the commencement of the holy month. 

Some businesses make use of this celebratory period by sending out Ramadan greetings while simultaneously marketing their products. Yet, despite the fact that Ramadan has been observed each year for more than 14 centuries, a few companies are still mistaking the holy month of Ramadan for Eid Al-Fitr, the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan.

Indeed, on the first day of Ramadan this year, the toy company, LEGO, tweeted what is likely intended to be a Ramadan greeting that reads: “Make it a celebration to remember with a LEGO set and open the door to quality family time spent together.” 

So far so good, right? Well not necessarily, because the picture attached with the tweet displayed a text showing “Eid Mubarak” instead of Ramadan Kareem, or any other traditional Ramadan greeting. 

Although people were not hugely disturbed by the mistake, most comments on the greeting acknowledged the effort from the part of LEGO, but highlighted that Eid is not due for another 30 days. 


Tunisian journalists protest over new head of state news agency

Tunisian journalists protest over new head of state news agency
Updated 13 April 2021

Tunisian journalists protest over new head of state news agency

Tunisian journalists protest over new head of state news agency
  • Protesting journalists say Kamel Ben Younes is too close to the moderate Islamist Ennahda

TUNIS: Tunisian police on Tuesday clashed with journalists at the state news agency demonstrating against a new chief executive whose appointment they see as an attempt to undermine editorial independence.
Dozens of protesting journalists had gathered in front of Tunis Afrique Presse’s (TAP) headquarters to try to stop Kamel Ben Younes from entering, but police later forced a way in.
“TAP is free and police must go,” the journalists chanted.
Protesting journalists say Ben Younes is too close to the moderate Islamist Ennahda, the biggest party in parliament. They accuse him of backing moves to control the press before the 2011 revolution brought democracy.
He has denied both charges, saying he is a political independent and pointing to his past work as a journalist with several outlets, including the BBC.
Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, whose government needs Ennahda’s parliamentary backing to survive, has described the appointment of Ben Younes as a purely administrative move and in no way an effort to interfere with TAP’s editorial stance.
Before the revolution, TAP was an arm of state propaganda based entirely on official sources. But it has become a rare Arab news agency with editorial independence, often covering stories that criticize the government.
During protests in January, it reported on demonstrations as they took place and on accusations of police brutality. It has also reported on the friction between Mechichi, Ennahda and President Kais Saied.
“This appointment indicates an unbridled desire to lay hands on the agency and make it a governmental and partisan propaganda trumpet, and we will not accept it,” said Mounir Souissi, a TAP journalist at the protest.
The Journalists’ Syndicate, part of Tunisia’s labor unions movement, has called for TAP reporters to hold their first-ever strike on April 22 if the government does not withdraw Ben Younes.
Mechichi and Ben Younes have said they will not back down.
“Everyone knows I have been independent in my professional career for 35 years, and the goal of my appointment is to reform the agency that suffers from many administrative and financial problems,” Ben Younes told Reuters.


French M6 Group channels to launch on Arabic streaming service Shahid VIP

The French-language M6 International channel will offer the best programs from the group’s TV channels, with content from M6, W9, 6ter, Paris Premiere, and Teva. (Supplied)
The French-language M6 International channel will offer the best programs from the group’s TV channels, with content from M6, W9, 6ter, Paris Premiere, and Teva. (Supplied)
Updated 13 April 2021

French M6 Group channels to launch on Arabic streaming service Shahid VIP

The French-language M6 International channel will offer the best programs from the group’s TV channels, with content from M6, W9, 6ter, Paris Premiere, and Teva. (Supplied)
  • TV broadcaster bringing M6 International, TiJi, Gulli Bil Arabi to Shahid VIP
  • The French-language M6 International channel will offer the best programs from the group’s TV channels, with content from M6, W9, 6ter, Paris Premiere, and Teva

DUBAI: Shahid VIP, the premium, subscription-based Arabic streaming service of MBC’s Shahid, will see the launch of three channels from French broadcaster M6 Group.

M6 International, TiJi, and Arabic channel Gulli Bil Arabi cover lifestyle, kids, culture, cooking, fashion, reality, and news, in addition to children’s content in French and Arabic.

The French-language M6 International channel will offer the best programs from the group’s TV channels, with content from M6, W9, 6ter, Paris Premiere, and Teva.

The channel’s diversified program selection includes finance and economy show “Capital,” fashion docu-reality series “Les Reines du Shopping,” real estate reality show “Chasseurs d’Appart,” adventure reality with “Pekin Express,” current affairs program “66 Minutes,” and science show “E=M6.”

Tiji, also a French-language channel, is entirely dedicated to kids and early learning content, and includes animated shows such as “Oum le Dauphin Blanc,” “Loup,” and “Maya l’Abeille.”

The Arabic-language channel Gulli Bil Arabi is also targeted at children featuring discovery and adventure content such as “The Adventures of Nasreddin,” “Suhail,” and “Jamillah and Aladdin.”


Reuters names Alessandra Galloni as its next editor-in-chief

The hunt for the new Reuters editor came as other major media are dealing with succession in the newsroom. (File/AFP)
The hunt for the new Reuters editor came as other major media are dealing with succession in the newsroom. (File/AFP)
Updated 13 April 2021

Reuters names Alessandra Galloni as its next editor-in-chief

The hunt for the new Reuters editor came as other major media are dealing with succession in the newsroom. (File/AFP)
  • A native of Rome, Galloni, 47, will replace Stephen J. Adler, who is retiring this month after leading the newsroom for the past decade

LONDON: Reuters News has named one of its top editors, Alessandra Galloni, as its next editor-in-chief, the first woman to lead the globe-spanning news agency in its 170-year history.
A native of Rome, Galloni, 47, will replace Stephen J. Adler, who is retiring this month after leading the newsroom for the past decade. Under his leadership, Reuters has received hundreds of journalism awards, including seven Pulitzer Prizes, the industry’s highest honor.
A speaker of four languages, and with broad experience covering business and political news at Reuters and previously at the Wall Street Journal, Galloni takes the helm as the news agency faces an array of challenges. Some of these are common to all news media. Others are specific to the organization’s complexity: With a worldwide staff of some 2,450 journalists, Reuters serves a range of divergent customers and is also a unit in a much larger information-services business.
Since 2008, Reuters has been part of Thomson Reuters Corp. , a corporation with more-lucrative and faster-growing segments than news. Its chief executive, Steve Hasker, who joined Thomson Reuters last year, has focused on aggressively expanding the corporation’s three largest businesses: providing information, software and services to lawyers, corporations and the tax and accounting profession. Hasker’s strategy has helped boost Thomson Reuters stock to all-time highs.
Reuters News comprises about 10% of Thomson Reuters’ total $5.9 billion in revenues. Unlike many news organizations, Reuters is profitable. But it is also a drag on the parent company’s revenue growth and profit margin, analysts say, and the executive who runs the news business, Reuters President Michael Friedenberg, is pushing to increase sales and boost profitability. Looking forward, Thomson Reuters’ chief financial officer last month forecast that sales at its “Big Three” businesses are expected to grow 6% to 7% in 2023, while its news division and printing business “are expected to dilute organic revenue growth by about 1% to 2%.”
Gary Bisbee, an analyst at Bank of America, said he expects Reuters News “will continue to be a drag on the growth of the company,” but added that as other divisions of Thomson Reuters grow faster, that drag would diminish over time.
Thomson Reuters is hoping for a turn-around in the Reuters Events business, which it acquired in October 2019. Almost all in-person conferences last year were canceled or postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the business has pivoted to a hybrid events strategy for 2021 with both in-person and virtual conferences, and expects its revenues to improve.
While some in the industry have speculated that Thomson Reuters might want to sell the news division, three analysts said they don’t expect a sale. Douglas McCabe, a media analyst with Enders Analysis in London, said Reuters is “a tremendously powerful part of” the Thomson Reuters brand, and that “the mighty Reuters newsroom behind you and all the really specialized business assets is a great combination.”
In a statement, CEO Hasker said: “Thomson Reuters is committed to the future of Reuters News. It is an important part of the company and is valued across our customer base. The last year has proven beyond question the value of independent, global, unbiased journalism.”
This year saw the closing of a deal in which the former Financial and Risk business of Thomson Reuters — now called Refinitiv — was sold to the London Stock Exchange Group Plc in a $27 billion all-stock deal. Under the terms, Reuters News is guaranteed annual payments of at least $336 million to provide news and editorial content to Refinitiv until 2048. That stream of revenue is envied by many in the media industry.
Galloni has told colleagues that one of her critical tasks would be maintaining a good relationship with Refinitiv, as it is Reuters’ biggest customer, accounting for slightly more than half of the news agency’s $628 million in revenues last year.
The important relationship has been a source of some tension, senior editors say. As part of the contract with Refinitiv, Reuters is required to meet strict performance targets for the news coverage that Refinitiv clients receive, which Reuters has exceeded so far. Thomson Reuters, for its part, noted in its latest annual report that the exclusive deal, while lucrative, limits Reuters’ ability to sell to other customers in the growing financial-services industry. A Refinitiv spokesman declined to comment.
Gordon Crovitz, a former publisher of the Wall Street Journal, said the new editor will nevertheless have to find new sources of revenue. “Reuters is in an unusual position because the pledge from Refinitiv frees Reuters News up to be more aggressive in creating new news products to serve new markets,” he said. “I think there’s still a lot of low-hanging fruit for Reuters because of the strength of the brand and the size of the staff.”
New website
Reuters’ primary competitors include Bloomberg News, the Associated Press, French news agency AFP and visual content provider Getty Images. In addition to its events business, Reuters has been seeking other growth opportunities. Prominent among these is the upcoming launch of a revamped website that is expected to target professionals and eventually begin charging for content.
McCabe said convincing consumers to pay for content is challenging because “Reuters is a brand that a lot of people recognize but don’t intuitively go to.” But he is more optimistic that targeting professionals could succeed for Reuters. “All the evidence says to me that these are the subscription models that really work,” he said.
CEO Hasker has told colleagues that he wants to make Reuters more integral to the company’s other divisions. To that end, the newsroom recently added to its legal reporting staff.
Adler spearheaded a number of moves to modernize Reuters, which gained fame in its early days for using carrier pigeons to relay scoops. In the past decade, the newsroom created teams of investigative, data and graphics journalists, and is using artificial intelligence to speed the delivery of certain breaking financial news.
Hasker has said he is eager to continue modernizing the newsroom by getting it to embrace new technologies more aggressively. He and Friedenberg considered a wide range of journalists to succeed Adler, both inside and outside the news agency, according to people familiar with the matter.
Among them were two top Reuters editors, Gina Chua and Simon Robinson. The external candidates included David Walmsley, editor in chief of Canada’s The Globe and Mail, and Kevin Delaney, former co-chief executive and editor-in-chief of Quartz Media Inc.
Galloni, based in London, is known internally as a charismatic presence with a keen interest in business news. She has told colleagues that her priorities would include boosting the Reuters digital and events businesses.
She takes the helm after serving as a global managing editor of Reuters, overseeing journalists in 200 locations around the world. At the beginning of her career, she worked at the Reuters Italian-language news service. She received degrees from Harvard University and the London School of Economics. She returned to Reuters in 2013 following about 13 years at The Wall Street Journal, where she specialized in economics and business coverage as a reporter and editor in London, Paris and Rome.
“For 170 years, Reuters has set the standard for independent, trusted and global reporting,” Galloni said in the Reuters announcement on her appointment, which takes effect on April 19. “It is an honor to lead a world-class newsroom full of talented, dedicated and inspiring journalists.”
The hunt for the new Reuters editor came as other major media are dealing with succession in the newsroom. Both the Washington Post, where executive editor Marty Baron retired in February, and the Los Angeles Times, where Norman Pearlstine stepped down as executive editor in December, are currently seeking their replacements.


The Academy for Cultural Diplomacy: Turning soft power into smart power

The Academy for Cultural Diplomacy: Turning soft power into smart power
Updated 12 April 2021

The Academy for Cultural Diplomacy: Turning soft power into smart power

The Academy for Cultural Diplomacy: Turning soft power into smart power
  • Over the past two decades the ICD has grown to become one of Europe’s leading cultural exchange organizations, with programs extending to every continent of the world
  • The academy, quickly expanded to a major campus in Berlin in 2014, and then in 2020 opened its second campus in a castle, Schloss Bornheim, outside of the former capital of Germany, Bonn

LONDON: During a childhood trip to Israel and Palestine, Mark Donfried witnessed, for the first-time, serious violence between peoples who share their roots within one culture.

From that moment on, he decided to commit his personal and professional life to building cultural bridges with the goal of preventing further conflicts – and in 1999 he founded the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (ICD) in New York, before moving it to Berlin.

“At the time when the ICD was founded, cultural diplomacy had fallen by the wayside and had been thrown away by most governments who did not see the benefit of using it,” Donfried told Arab News.

Over the past two decades the ICD has grown to become one of Europe’s leading cultural exchange organizations, with programs extending to every continent of the world.

Read the full report co-published with the Academy of Cultural Diplomacy on Arab News Research & Studies here

In that time, the organization has dedicated its time to running research projects and hosting forums around the world to promote the strategies of cultural diplomacy among the current and next generation of global leaders.

“With the emergence of digital revolutions and rapidly evolving social network platforms, the simple private citizens were able to now immediately publicly critique any politician, government, or corporation,” Donfried said.

“Suddenly governments and corporations started to look for new tools to build better relations with their citizens and their consumers.”

It was no wonder that, parallel to the evolution of the social media, “corporate social responsibility” departments have emerged in almost all major global companies, he said.

In 2011, Donfried decided that cultural diplomacy needed to break into mainstream academia – and so the Academy for Cultural Diplomacy was established offering first ever master programs in cultural diplomacy resulting in training thousands of students from around the world including ambassadors, members of parliament, CEOs and academics.

Read the full report co-published with the Academy of Cultural Diplomacy on Arab News Research & Studies here

The academy, quickly expanded to a major campus in Berlin in 2014, and then in 2020 opened its second campus in a castle, Schloss Bornheim, outside of the former capital of Germany, Bonn.

“Cultural diplomacy can ease and slow the deterioration of human and international relations and can serve as a kind of ‘vaccine’ to help protect individuals, nations and companies from attacks or conflicts,” he said.

“Cultural diplomacy cannot directly save lives; however, indirectly it has proven over the last decades that it does have the power to transcend international borders, tear down walls and change the way the hearts and minds of entire groups and nations think and act.”