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Celebrating The Jordan Times’ human capital, present and past

Oct 26,2016 - Last updated at Oct 26,2016

The Jordan Times today celebrates its 41st anniversary with little fanfare and more focus on the future.

This paper, which came into being on October 27, 1975, made big qualitative strides — obvious in its print and online issues — over the past four decades, propelling hundreds of people who worked for it in the course of time and, we want to believe, benefiting the Jordanian media scene as a whole.

We can humbly say that The Jordan Times established a school of journalism that turned out many successful professionals, some of whom became leaders in their fields of work, not always in the media.

Some of the Jordan Timers became ministers, even deputy prime ministers, senators, serve the Royal Court’s media or other departments, and some led other Jordanian newspaper and media organisations, including Al Rai and Al Ghad dailies, and the Jordan Radio and Television Corporation. 

Some lead media training establishments that are producing top-notch journalists, and many became well-known journalists working for media organisations in Jordan and around-the-world.

Now the newspaper’s great — though small — professional team is working hard to surmount difficulties that are not of its making — including understaffing and the drop in revenues — to keep readers updated on Jordanian, regional and global news and views.

This team’s biggest challenges used to be professional concerns: how to cover stories, come up with sources, make these sources talk, find the right sources of information, their telephone numbers and addresses, come up with scoops, get in-depth stories, upgrade professional performance and meet midnight deadlines.

Now, in addition, the team turned the digital challenge into an opportunity that consecutive managements of the Jordan Press Foundation (JPF) were unable to translate into revenues due to their inability to step into the digital age.

Being part of a bigger shareholding company which also publishes Jordan’s top daily newspaper, Al Rai, made it difficult for our team to make an impact on consecutive boards and managements, many of whom do not understand the language of the newspaper, and know little about the media business, the advertising market and the digital age.

This is a problem that we share with our sister Arabic daily, as well as with other media organisations where past governments had a very negative influence, not only on editorial decisions, but also on managerial and financial matters, taking newspapers into the quagmire they are in right now.

Those past governments’ officials worked to increase their influence on newspaper managements for political and other means, and in the process used their leverage to appoint relatives and cronies at newspapers.

Newspaper managements did little to resist such abuse of influence. Those appointments, many not needed, reached a peak almost one decade ago, but were coupled with an unprecedented rise in newspaper revenues. However, within two or three years, as the economic crisis started to hit Jordan, newspapers started to feel the pinch as well. 

Revenues started dropping drastically, but not so expenditures, the biggest part on the salaries that had to be paid.

At the JPF, for example, it is estimated that the establishment can make do with 20-25 per cent fewer employees. This was the conclusion reached by the board of directors, which focused on trimming as many employees as possible and on blocking any effort to have new recruits.

It was a right decision, except that it was taken blindly and across the board, ignoring the fact that The Jordan Times never hired on the basis of wasta or under pressure, thus aggravating the chronic problem of understaffing and increasing the workload on the current team, which continues to rise up to challenges due to its great sense of dedication and belonging.

Despite being a shareholding company, the nature of JPF’s ownership has been hindering its development. Sixty per cent of the shares are owned by the Social Security Corporation Investment Fund, which is the investment arm of the Jordanian people. This ownership gave past governments a hand to appoint a majority on the board and consequently top management.

This same investment fund, which is currently led by a very capable person with a great record of achievement, cannot be held accountable for past mistakes that took the JPF and other newspapers to where they are now. But it can work to rectify the situation as soon as possible, first and foremost by changing the way the boards and the managements get appointed, away from favouritism and nepotism, something that should run in line with His Majesty King Abdullah’s Sixth Discussion Paper on the rule of law, released last week, and which advocates equality, fairness and justice.

It is a pity that not a single member of the newspaper’s board of nine people has experience in the advertising field or in digital media business.

It is a pity that some get the appointment just as a post-retirement reward for past achievements, and it is a pity to have some believe that these retired officials would be able to lead the media in the digital age to a prosperous future.

It is a pity that the boards of directors of some newspapers are up until now failing to grasp that the future of newspapers lies in the digital world, and are, until now, thinking of merely reducing the personnel, rather than of ways to improve digital operations by recruiting the best that can be found in the market, by training current staff members and by exploring new grounds for generating revenues.

For the established Jordanian media organisations to survive, things cannot continue to be run the way they are from a managerial perspective.

On the editorial side of matters, the Jordanian media will continue to produce some of the best professional journalists to meet the needs of the domestic and other markets as they have always done.

And being part of the scene, The Jordan Times will continue to do what it has been doing all the time: keep its audiences updated in terms of news and views in the best professional manner, be the people’s eyes and ears and inform — and hope to influence — decision makers on issues we consider of high priority for our beloved homeland, focusing on issues pertaining to freedoms, human rights and equality towards building a better Jordan for all.

This is what the newspaper has been doing at the time of the founding generation, and what we will continue to do thanks to the efforts of our dedicated staff members who believe in what they are doing and who love and have great faith in the message of their newspaper, which they call home.

Today is their day, and it is the day that we remember and pay tribute to the efforts of all those who helped build the newspaper and its distinguished reputation over the past decades.

I thank them all and wish them a happy anniversary.

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Comments

AS A WAY TO CELEBRATE THIS OCCASSION, I THINK THAT MANY JORDANIANS AND ALL COMPANIES OPPERATION IN JORDAN SHOULD SUBSCRIBE TO HOME AND / OFFICE DELIVERIES TO SUPPORT JORDAN TIMES AFTER ALL ALL TOURISTS, INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MEN AND WOMEN NEED TO KNOW HOW GOOD AND OPEN JORDAN IS. THIS IS A NEWS MEDIA THAT CHARGES LESS THAN ONE JORDANIAN DINNER AND YET VERY RICH IN CONTENT THAT BENEFITS ALL. HAPPY BIRTHDAY JORDAN TIMES.!!

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