Newsroom management is key for assuring editorial quality. APN spoke to Abdul Hamid Ahmad, editor-in-chief of the Dubai-based Gulf News , about the role that training has played in improving the quality of the newspaper.
APN: What kind of training do you offer to your editorial staff?
Abdul Hamid Ahmad: We provide training covering all aspects of journalism. For example, we have an arrangement with the Reuters Foundation to provide writing, editing, newsgathering and news management training to all levels of our staff from the section editors down to reporters and sub-editors. We also invite leading journalists, media consultants and specialists to conduct training courses for different staff categories. In addition to this we also have an in-house mentoring program whereby a senior journalist continually monitors and trains the staff in writing and editing skills. We also provide training in our editorial production system to maximize productivity and output.
APN: How does the staff react to training?
Abdul Hamid Ahmad: By and large the response of the staff is positive and they are willing and eager to learn. At times there is some resistance and we try to overcome this by giving the concerned staff time and making them understand the benefits of the training and the changes brought about through it. With very few exceptions we are able to carry most of the staff with us.
APN: How has training improved your newspaper?
Abdul Hamid Ahmad: A concrete example is the success achieved following our layout and content redesign in 2003, when not only did the staff respond positively to the training and adopt the new and very different layout with ease, but also adapted to the new way of presenting news. From a very text-intensive presentation of news, we adopted a visual storytelling approach. The staff accepted and contributed to this wholeheartedly following the training that was given to them. As a result, our circulation certainly improved after the redesign and is now well above 91,000 copies per day distributed throughout the UAE, the GCC and neighboring regions.
APN:Do you have any advice you would like to give to other newspapers?
Abdul Hamid Ahmad: First, structures and procedures that are properly documented and communicated to the staff must be clearly laid down. Second, there must be a clear-cut editorial policy for the newspaper supported by regular tools such as a stylebook, design guide and mission statement. Third, delegating and fixing hierarchy and authority levels and providing a clear brief to all the staff is a must. And, finally, continuous training and employee development programs must be undertaken. By ensuring that these measures are in place, one overcomes most obstacles.
Gulf News was established in 1978 and is published by the Al Nisr Publishing Company. It is the leading English-speaking newspaper in UAE. It has over 250 editorial staff of more than 20 different nationalities.