Rooted in proven ideals
"Isn't it amazing," stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld asked once, "that the amount of news that happens in the world everyday always just exactly fits the newspaper?"
Thirty-six years after doing the everyday magical job of packaging the entire globe in a few sheets of the newspaper, I can proudly say, "Yes, Jerry, amazing it is". When I wake up with the overnight ink smudge still fresh on my fingers, I ask myself every single day, "Oh my! How did we do this?" Putting together a newspaper is essentially a high-wire act of creating a one-size-fits-all product that every reader needs to feel proud of. That's what we have been doing for the last 40 years.
Though the manner in which news reaches people has transformed epochally, some things - the fundamentals - never change. Those very fundamentals of gathering, processing and delivering news are what makes KT relevant today, just as it was 40 years ago on this day when the first broadsheet English newspaper in the region rolled out of the hot press on its Sheikh Zayed Road premises.
Over the years, we have consistently stood by the newspaper's founding ethos of integrity, honesty, truth and empathy, even as the world around us has changed incredibly. In a not-so-idealistic world, it is hard to remain steadfast to ideals, but we believed that what makes us dear to our readers is not pretensions and pomposity, but clarity and conviction. Clarity of thought, and conviction of purpose.
And that's what happens at our roundtable meetings every morning. There are fierce debates, laughter, anger, and complaints, as well as moments of embarrassment, frustration, desperation and tension. In the end, we reaffirm the purpose of our existence, and make sure our time-tested philosophy of essential ethics is reflected in every news - bit or byte - that goes into the print or Web. We take a call case by case in the larger interest of the nation and society. We don't let emotions run the newsroom. Logic prevails impulse in reporting news, whether it's local or international.
The more a reporter tries to hard-sell an idea, the more vigilant an editor will be. In the Mumbai newsroom of a national daily, a crime reporter files a story predicting the gunning down of a gangster at a soccer stadium next evening. We trash the report on the ethical ground that a reporter cannot play God and predict death. The goon meets death at the same place, at the same time as is mentioned in the spiked story. Is an I-told-you-so relevant? Certainly not. Does the murder justify the report? No way. Could he have escaped death had we published the report? We don't know. Were the police in the know? Possible. Did we take a right call? Professionally speaking, YES. In Khaleej Times, we still follow such golden rules of journalism. Questions rain down in the newsroom.
Every story that takes birth after a hard bargaining justifies our purpose of informing the public without prejudice and embellishments. Over the years, the way you hold and read your favourite newspaper might have changed. That is only logical. We needed to stay up to such trends - without being too fashionable - and still underline the purpose: Inform and educate. The hot metal and wooden lithographs of yesteryear have given way to digital newsrooms. The physical attributes of the newspaper have morphed - from the clumsy broadsheet to leaner and sleeker formats. The content, likewise, has evolved from predominantly wire copies to dedicated writers and analysts transmitting news live, first to our popular social media channels, and then to the print with more insights and greater depths. Forty years ago, we were the first to slip the world under your door every morning. Today, we are the first to reach you with news alerts on all social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
It has been 40 long years. The history of Khaleej Times runs almost parallel to the history of the nation itself. We have been your eyes and ears as the nation grew from a land of bare, arid landscape to becoming glitzy cosmopolitan cities. We have been your voice when life needed to cope with the changes unfolding at breakneck speed. We are no more the sleeping giant of the 1970s. Smart offices have ended winding human queues. Government services are at your fingertips. Artificial Intelligence is set to revolutionise our lifestyle. Schools and universities of international repute are creating a new generation of brilliant brains. Oil has given way to knowledge-based economy. World-class museums, opera and galleries have changed the character of the nation from a traditional trading centre to a year-around cultural destination. We have chronicled, influenced and adopted these changes every single day. It has been 40 years of relentless pursuit of news, views and progress by some of the profession's most committed editors and reporters. We have displayed a never-dying spirit in the perusal of excellence.
That's what has made Khaleej Times your favourite newspaper. That's what we intend to do for the next 40 years and more - to be your first choice of news, and to ensure that you have the world in your hands - at home or office, or on-the-go. This has also been a journey of joyous learning and of continuous exploration to better ourselves. This has meant relooking at our design strategy, re-evaluating our editorial approach, and re-emphasising our fundamental purpose: to be close and relatable to our readers.
With world-class talent in-house and some of the most powerful writers contributing their thoughts, we have periodically revisited how we present ourselves physically. We have been bold and brazen sometimes, and we have been subtle and discretionary at others, but what has never changed is our commitment to stay one step ahead in everything we do. There are a number of firsts to our credit but let's skip the chest-thumping for now. Your appreciation is more valuable than anything else.
The defining change that has happened in the past four decades is not really about how news is consumed but how journalism as a pillar of society has been tested, tossed and shaken up. Trust in news has been taking mighty thrashings so much that fake news today is indistinguishable from outright propaganda and unscrupulous falsehood. The rise of social media and the evolution of a connected generation - where anyone can dictate, steer or influence communities through as little as 140 or 280-characters - has altered the world we live in.
Delivering news with honesty and integrity is being tested at its seams, and news tampering seems to be the new norm, especially as the control of data has shifted full-square to the hands of tech giants, who know every heartbeat of ours. How do we address the trust deficit and inspire people to believe in ourselves? There is only one answer: Stay rooted in proven ideals. Do not be carried away. Examine. Re-examine. Challenge. Question. And write it out without frills.
That's what our reporters do, and that is what our editors rigorously ensure. Today, as we look back at our 40 years, we can say with absolute conviction that Khaleej Times has always upheld the highest journalistic standards, and that is what we will continue to deliver because the very reason we exist is you. You, our readers, are our heroes. You push us to deliver the best because you deserve nothing less.
Suresh Pattali is a Senior Editor at Khaleej Times