لن ننسى من نافق النظام قبل سقوطه
لن ننسى من نافق النظام قبل سقوطه
A memo that was followed by a resignation, handed in by Fatemah Farag, the chief editor of Al-Masry Al-Youm’s English Edition…
Dear Mr. Sherif Wadoud, Vice CEO,
CC: Mr Salah Diab, CEO
30 May, 2010
This is to inform you – on the record – that the English Edition of Al-Masry Al-Youm, which I have been privileged to establish and run during the past year and a half, has in recent weeks been increasingly besieged by incoherent, slapdash and institutionally irregular practices and interventions in editorial operations by the organization’s business management.
To make matters worse, the chain of responsibility and accountability within the organization has become increasingly random and blurred.
This has created an untenable situation.
Let me first set down a few reminders:
1. In October 2008 I was asked by Mr. Salah Diab to draw up a blue print for the development of an English Edition for Al-Masry Al-Youm.
2. Al-Masry Al-Youm hired me at the end of December 2008 in the capacity of Chief Editor for an English Edition, to be built from scratch and in accordance with my blue print.
3. Since that date, and in spite of the serious and continuing technical shortcomings that had beset the project, I succeeded in meeting not only my initial project objectives, but moved forward to develop an even more ambitious vision for the development of the English Edition of Al-Masry Al-Youm.
4. In the past few weeks alone we have been breaking our traffic records, moving clearly beyond the 6000/day mark; the site is increasingly visible on Google News as well as on the radar sites of major think tanks and specialized interest groups.
5. Towards the building of a sound English Edition for this organization I have put together – again from scratch – a unique, highly qualified and dedicated team of professional journalists and editors who have worked organically to develop it into the success that it is today.
Let me remind you as well that in so far as I report to you, ex officio, I have submitted to you regular status reports on the development and progress of the English Edition, the latest of which was on 9 May and to which you did not respond. The last you responded to was that of December and you gave very positive feedback at the time.
Two weeks ago, I wrote requesting a meeting with you to discuss a number of irregular interventions from the business side of the Al-Masry Al-Youm management, which request you have yet to respond to.
As such I feel obliged to set down what I believe are the bottom-line requisites for the proper running of a newsroom in the professional manner worthy of Al-Masry Al-Youm:
1. Management simply does not interfere in editorial content on a day by day, link by link, story by story basis – ever, anywhere.
2. Management relationship with Editorial is conducted via the Editor-in-Chief, and in accordance with a clear, formal and institutionally delineated chain of command.
3. Management relationship with Editorial is conducted in a professional, business-like manner and takes the form of regular meetings; feedback to reports submitted by Editorial, engagement with Editorial in strategic discussion and planning; coordination with Editorial in promoting the financial viability and sustainability of the venture, etc.
4. Management does not intervene in editorial operations by attempting to create an alternative chain of editorial command, bypassing the Editor-in-Chief; neither does it do so in a haphazard, informal and institutionally irregular manner.
5. Neither does proper and professional management include trying to avoid facing up to its own shortcomings and slapdash decisions of by “passing the buck” onto Editorial.
6. Decorum and a minimum degree of courtesy is, needless to say, a necessary requisite for proper and professionally conducted interaction between management and editorial. Garrulous, curt and even threatening communication is not – especially when it is also incoherent and thoughtless.
7. People get paid what they signed on to, and in accordance with what management committed itself to offering. I was never paid what was stipulated in the Letter of Agreement you signed with me. Further, in December you committed to raising my current salary by 15 per cent, effective January. To date, and in spite of several text messages and email reminders from me, this is yet to be put into effect.
Below is the resignation of my colleague Lina El Wardani…
Dear Sherif Wadoud
This is to inform you – as a leading member of the core editorial team of the English Edition – that the unprofessional and haphazard intervention of management has resulted in an untenable work environment at the English Edition of Al-Masry Al-Youm.
As you are well aware:
1) In February 2009 I was hired by Ms. Fatemah Farag, chief editor of the English Edition, as a news editor and the first employee of the English Edition;
2) In June 2009 I was promoted to be a managing editor which has meant working 6 and 7 day weeks, all hours of the day, using my personal phone, internet and computer at my own expense since Al-Masry never provided these basic facilities;
3) Together with the chief editor gathered the highest calibers in the field of bilingual reporters in the Middle East;
4) Worked with the core editorial team to make this the fastest growing and most successful local English-language news site in the Middle East as testified to by our linking profile and growing traffic;
In spite of my keen awareness of our success and my active role in building this project, keeping the pride and joy of the job is becoming a daily challenge.
All the ethical and professional codes are being breached. The following are just a few examples:
1- During all meetings with management the importance of integration with the Arabic Edition is asserted. However, I was kicked out of a liaison meeting by the chief editor of the Arabic newspaper who went on to insulted me in public To date, I have not been offered an apology neither by the chief editor, nor by the management;
2- Management interferes in daily editorial matters. Having worked at the BBC, MBC , DPA, Al Jazeera, UN press office, and other international and local news rooms, this is a practice I have never encountered. I find it unacceptable.
3- The Project Manager is always sending me orders, bypassing my editor, which puts me in an awkward, and simply wrong, situation;
4- In the weekly meetings with management, the benchmarks change so often that it becomes impossible to discern what the actual priorities are and what the relevance of project owner directives are; should they be relevant at all. The message of months of interaction is that management does not know what it wants or what this project is about.
5- Since the launch of the project I have worked weekends, shifting with my co managing editor Hossam el-Hamalawy, and I have yet to be compensated for these days.
6- I have never worked in an organization where my efforts were so unrecognized (I have not received a bonus or raise in my 15 months here), where I faced such breaches in professional conduct, where the institution instead of supporting my rights goes out of its way to deny me of these rights.
In sum, I am rather disheartened for having put so much effort and passion in a project which management appropriates it as a personal belonging, constantly disregarding and mistrusting the intellectual capabilities of its editorial team.
I hereby hand over my duties to the management and the senior editorial staff, wishing them all the best.
Lina El Wardani
31 May 2010
My resignation could be read here…
From: Hossam el-Hamalawy, Managing Editor of the Al-Masry Al-Youm English Edition
To: Sherif Wadoud, vice CEO, Al-Masry Al-Youm
Cc: Salah Diab, CEO, Al-Masry Al-Youm
Subject: Resignation Letter
Date: 31 May, 2010
After serving for a year as a member of the founding editorial team of the Al-Masry Al-Youm English Edition, kindly accept my resignation included in this letter.
- I’m disappointed by the continuous managerial interventions in the editorial process, which go into minute details so as to what video should go along with what article, which words to hyperlink, what photos to use–all issues that should be left for the judgment of the professional editorial team hired by the Al-Masry.
- There is even no clear mechanism for those interventions. The project owner, Ms Kismet ElSayed, has repeatedly contacted editors and journalists with instructions without notifying the editor in chief. On another occasion, the management went ahead and censored an article1 on torture of detainees, on 5 April, without notifying the managing editors on duty. Upon protest from the editors, the article was sent to the Al-Masry’s legal office for review. We never heard back from them as of time of writing.
- The managerial interventions do not always stem from a qualified position and disregard the expertise of the editorial team. For example, the team was asked by the project owner to “copy and paste from Al-Jazeera’s website,” as one way to increase the rate of updates on our Al-Masry portal. The request was refused by the editors for obvious professional reasons, only to hear the project owner insisting Al-Jazeera was a “news wire service, similar to AP and Reuters [sic]”
- Over all there is lack of clarity regarding the benchmarks according to which the team should be assessed. Those keep changing, sometimes even on a weekly basis by the management.
- We are still in a state of disbelief re the management’s failure to instate a clear position for the English Edition within the Al-Masry institution which regulates its relationship vis a vis the Arabic newspaper, whose editor, Magdi el-Gallad, repeatedly directed insults publicly against members of our team, expelled them from meetings, and literally sabotaged our work for months by stalling the publishing of articles written by EE journalists. An apology was requested by the team for those insults and unprofessional attitude–an apology that never came and left everyone wondering whether that was a sign the management was sanctioning el-Gallad’s behavior.
- The management has failed to secure the publicity and marketing needed for the English Edition. Not a single ad in the newspaper was published, despite the repeated requests by the EE editors. Our requests for information from the management about the number of subscribers to our services, like SMS and the ODP, were not answered, leaving us uninformed about the target audience and our benchmarks for success.
- The office working conditions are depressive in terms of light, ventilation, and equipment. Our repeated requests to the Human Resources department, for example, about the needed computers and chairs rarely meet response. How are we supposed to encourage our journalists to work from the office, rather from home, if the office is by no means suitable?
- I am deeply frustrated by the unclear system of attendance the Human Resources department is adopting, which has left me uncompensated for the weekends during which I worked, and the long working hours from home following office hours, which sometimes went on till 5 AM.
- The money owed to contributors is always problematic to process with the finance department, leaving some freelance contributors unpaid since last year. This is negatively affecting both our team’s work and reputation.
I do not think it’s become feasible to continue working under those conditions. I’m hereby handing over my responsibilities to management, wishing the remaining team members all the luck.