Newsletter No 10 13 December 2005
Editorial & Content:
What Determines Front-Page News

Are Arab media getting more freedom? How do editors choose front-page headlines? What are the reasons for the advertising underinvestment in the Middle East? More than 1000 participants from 56 countries gathered in Dubai to discuss these questions at the "Arab and World Media" conference organized by the Arab Thought Foundation on 5-6 December.

"The first mission of the media is to spread the truth," said Prince Khalid Al Faisal, president of the Arab Thought Foundation, during the opening ceremony. "Many media outlets conceal the truth to serve political purposes. When they do that they turn from being truth revealers into truth killers."

What Determines Front-Page News
Othman Al Sini, Editor-in-Chief, Al Watan, Saudi Arabia, moderated a panel discussion where editors of Arab and Western media exchanged their views on what decides front-page news and coverage. Al Sini started the debate by saying that the main goal of headlines on the front-page is capturing readers.

Panelists then discussed about whether front-pages are looking for exciting news rather than objectivity. They agreed that focusing just on excitement is not real journalism.  "You have to try to have a maximum of objectivity to make an article really attractive," said Joseph Samaha, Editor-in-Chief, Al Safeer, Lebanon.

"Readers want something more than excitement. Our readers would walk away if we just give them exciting news. They might buy the paper one day, but they would not return. Readers tell us how far we can go," said Mike Oreskes, Executive Editor at the International Herald Tribune.

"The biggest challenge for journalists is having a real knowledge of local environments and using the means to raise public consciousness," he added, pointing that front-pages are more and more devoted to local issues.

Abdul Wahab Badr Khan, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Al Hayat, London, said local newspapers give more space to local news since recent studies show that Arab readers are more interested in local news but his newspaper is a pan-Arab publication and therefore its daily topics are international, focusing on the Arab world. To appeal the readers, "Al Hayat deals with big events like Iraq and Palestine, as well as with smaller stories focused on social issues and the human side of news."