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Q & A with WAN President Gavin O”Reilly | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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WAN President Gavin O”Reilly

WAN President Gavin O''Reilly

WAN President Gavin O”Reilly

The 58th conference of the World Association of Newspapers and the 12th World Editors Forum conference that were both held in Seoul, concluded with the inauguration of Irish Gavin O”Reilly as President of the Association, by recommendation of the board of trustees.

Gavin O”Reilly, who was the acting president, comes from the Irish O”Reilly family who has a long history in journalism. He was also the executive manager of ”Independent News and Media PLC”, located in Dublin, of which the chairman, Sir Anthony O”Reilly controls 29% of the corporation. Independent News and Media PLC own and distribute a number of newspapers in Ireland, UK, Australia, India and South Africa. The most famous among these include the ”Irish Independent” and the ” Evening Herald” in Ireland as well as prominent London based ”The Independent”. It also owns many media and advertising companies.

In his speech that followed the inaugural ceremony, O”Reilly criticized those who are skeptical of the future of newspapers.He also announced his decision to change the World Association of Newspapers”s previous policy, stating that companies owning newspapers will be accepted as members in the association.

”Asharq Al Awsat” was the first to speak to O”Reilly, after the ceremony.

Q) What are the advantages of coming from an advertising background for someone with such an important position in the press world?

A) Undoubtedly, this helps us understand how advertising agencies function, what they require from newspapers, what they want from us and what we want from them.

Q) During your time in advertising, did you work in the creative arena or in customer services?

A) I was in the business development field, where I combined the two aspects.

Q) To what extent do you regard newspapers as being distant from creative and artistic scopes?

A) This point of view was quite true for some time, but many newspapers around the world were able to overcome this obstacle and pay more attention to artistic direction.

Q) What about editors? They might be professional journalists but may not have any background knowledge of business or creative.

A) I believe that this too was the case in the past. Now the situation has changed. Even new editors-in-chief combine various journalistic and commercial talents.

Q) Is there any intention to provide training courses for editors in commercial and administrative arenas?

A) Not specifically, but we have an annual event known as &#34Editors and Marketers Forum&#34 which allows us to reconcile between the two fields.

Q) There have been occasional rumors that the printed form of newspapers will no longer exist by the year 2040. What is your opinion on this with reference to Robert Murdoch”s comments?

A) Rupert Murdoch did not mean it in that way. He was actually quoting someone else. Note that Murdoch, among others, has invested 600 million pounds (sterling) in new print houses in the United Kingdom and as an observant, I believe in the slogan &#34follow the money&#34. Why would Murdoch and others invest all this money in a wasted venture? They are definitely not stupid and this investment will not be a waste of money.

Q) You have just taken on the role of president of the World Association of Newspapers. You said in your speech that you are intolerant of those who are skeptical of the future of newspapers, where has all this dislike come from?

A) Certainly, as in any field, we encounter people who are constantly skeptical about the future of newspapers. However, I believe that those media analysts are ignorant. Reading newspapers is not part of their daily schedule and as soon as they wake up they may resort to their I-pods and Palm, but not everyone has these means or wants them. They believe that newspapers are old fashioned and designed for the aged which is obviously not the case.

Q) But it is undeniable that some newspapers are in need of a &#34face-lift&#34 in order to suit the new generation of readers. What do you think?

A) Definitely, some newspapers really need to change.

Q) I believe that you have been one of the promoters of transforming &#34The Independent&#34 into a tabloid. Many newspapers have made use of converting to this production volume, but during the conference we heard skepticism from &#34The New York Times&#34 that declared its lack of intention to convert to this system. What do you think?

A) For our part, converting into tabloid was quite profitable, where our sales went up 22%. As for the New York Times, if they do not wish to convert, then that is their decision. We have conducted sufficient research and presented to people the same newspaper in two sizes for a while, but the majority preferred the tabloid. In Ireland, we still print in bold sizes and we still present the two sizes but with certain percentages.

Q) Every newspaper has its own unique status. What is successful for one newspaper may not be as successful with another.

A) Certainly, I completely agree.

Q) What does the term &#34Fast Food Journalism&#34 mean?

A) This term was used extensively in this conference. It refers to the trend of presenting quick news reports and headlines, usually on the Internet, instead of detailed coverage and news. I do not believe in this form of journalism at all and I do not agree with those who claim that newspapers could present readers summarized news or certain focal areas. Could you imagine the degree of ignorance if we receive this limited coverage. This is why I believe that the role of journalists and editors is now at its most important stage, as news comes in from everywhere. This is mainly because of the responsibility held by editors who must paraphrase the news in the most attractive form.

Q) I consider what you say reassuring. I wanted to ask you about the growing phenomenon of &#34Citizen Journalists&#34 and what you think about the fact that one of the sites supporting this new trend is present here in Korea.

A) Personally, I had a bad experience with this site and I believe that this is just a passing trend.

Q) I have met with the supervisors of this site and I asked them how one can take reports from the children and people who work for their magazines seriously? Especially now at this critical stage that seriously examines news sources. What happened in &#34Newsweek&#34 was due to one of the major journalists, what would the case be considering the news is written by an amateur?

A) Exactly, how can you trust someone who is not in the profession?

Q) How do you explain the absence of the Arabs from the 58th conference of the World Association of Newspapers? Is it negligence from their side or have they not been invited?

A) Certainly not, the invitation was open to everyone and we actually corresponded with many Arab bodies. I really do not know why this absence occurred. There has been great participation in the Arab Publishers conference that was held in Dubai earlier this year.

Q) Perhaps you should run a campaign that elaborates the role of Arab journalists and publishers. They face the same global challenges and obstacles as their counterparts. They all suffer from low sales and a shortage of advertisements. Do you believe that the next conference will have Arabic translation?

A) I believe that the reason for absence of Arabic translation is that many considered Arabs” attendance as limited and that Arab participants spoke the English language. This is no excuse and we care a lot about their participation. We have even launched a website in Arabic. In addition, the decision that we have recently announced regarding membership of newspaper companies in the association will consolidate this idea.