Overdue personal/professional update

Since as readers of this you’ve been involved in the saga of the temporary closure of Daily News Egypt, I assume you would be interested in this overdue update.

The paper, as seen from the last post, closed down after the owning company liquidated its assets. Later, an investor and a newspaper owner bought the name and hired a new team, who are doing a great job covering the confusing events. The archives are there but the stories are slowly making it back to the website.

The old team briefly worked on a new project, Egypt Monocle, but has since moved on to different projects. Former DNE Chief Editor Rania Al-Malky is operating the Monocle. Others have moved to Egypt Independent, which closed down last April, and have recently contributed to the launch of Mada Masr. (Read more about local English-language journalism).

I’ve taken this as an opportunity to go back to the field as a reporter. The few years I spent behind the news desk were challenging but turned frustrating as the events unfolded without enough chances to report them first hand.

Now I blog for Al-Akhbar English under the name Labyrinth and contribute to Al-Monitor, among other publications and websites. I’m also a freelance TV producer with CNN and occasionally contribute to cnn.com (You might be interested in reading & watching this package on Egypt’s missing).

I’ve come to love the freelance work and schedule and the associated lifestyle. It allows me the time to think and get more confused with the events, as you will see in upcoming posts.

Disgusting. Humiliating. Ugly.

Disgusting. Humiliating. Ugly.

That was my day yesterday. The editorial team behind Daily News Egypt was to get one more slap on the face Tuesday.

I hate to discuss this. We always resisted being the story, even when the paper was censored. But it’s difficult to remain mum for no good reason.

I thought we were dealing with respectful people. I thought the owners of the paper would sustain a shred of decency, but I was proven wrong.

We went to pick up our salaries for April, which we were told by the owners we should be grateful to take. While employees in other departments took theirs, an order was made to exclude the journalists and editors. The reason? “A problem with one of the investors with the editor over ‘passwords’”. But we left everything including access to our virtual profiles and emails at the office before we were effectively kicked out. No one asked me for any “passwords” until I went to get my salary. And even if a “problem” persists, why punish a team of 15 for a problem with one person?

Well, the “passwords” seem like a mere excuse to me. The editorial team is the one that led the move to file a complaint at the labor office, after being told by the owners and the liquidator (who also served as the supervising accountant and auditor for the company over the years) that court is our only option to get the outstanding financial rights.

Like the sudden closure of the DNE website for a couple of days last month, the owners seem to be making decisions affecting the paper and its staff based on any phone conversation they don’t like. Ironically, when we reminded the owners they owe us and the whole staff financial rights more than just salaries, they told us to talk to the liquidator they appointed because legally they had no control over the company assets anymore. This “control” is only effective when they want to change something.

It was heartbreaking to see the tears in my colleagues’ eyes, shocked by this spat of humiliation. Journalists have repeatedly put their lives at the line to get the story out and everyone has sacrificed a lot personally and professionally to get around the ever scarce resources. On Tuesday, we kept reminding each other to keep our chins up; this situation didn’t reflect on us as much as those who forced it on us.

I really expected it to go gracefully, or at least with less drama. Instead, we have to deal with erratic and spiteful decisions. Shame!

Read the statement by the staff over Tuesday’s events. (It’s mirrored on all of our individual blogs).

Make sure to read DNE business reporter Reem Abdellatif’s take on the investors of the paper here.

Related posts

Daily News Egypt website is back

Daily News: eulogies, thank yous and endings

Daily News Egypt offline

The Inside Story from DNE Staff

The original editorial staff of Daily News Egypt (which you can now follow on @OriginalDNE) would like to inform our loyal readers of the latest developments since the paper stopped printing. We had chosen to not go public with the story and our ordeal out of decency but were today pushed to speak out because we have been denied our most basic right, the salaries for the month of April.

Since we were informed of the owning company’s termination (Egyptian Media Services, which published Daily News Egypt), we were told that we have no financial rights pending, even though this is in violation of the Labor Law. We were informed, however, that we will be paid our full salaries for the month of April. This was noted in the termination letter we were handed on April 22, 2012, in which we were also informed that it would be our last working day. On that day we took our belongings from the office and handed in anything we had,such as a video camera, etc. The next day the locks on the office door were changed.

We left the office and decided to pursue legal action since the company’s liquidator told us we had no rights to severance packages for years of service ranging from two to seven, and this can only be resolved with a court order, thus encouraging us to file a complaint at the labor office for our financial rights. We did so, preceded by a complaint at the Dokki police station on April 24 and have been talking to a lawyer to pursue next steps.

We waited till the beginning of May to obtain our salaries. When we found out that the salaries were ready at the office, we went there to pick them up only to be informed that the editorial staff will not be paid. Other departments in the company got paid.

The owners allege that we have passwords that we have not handed in. This is untrue as everything we had access to was left at the office when we were told it was our last day, including passwords to the wire services which are even written on a whiteboard in the news room. They have full access to all usernames and passwords from our work PCs.

We are not holding any passwords hostage. We want to take this chance to inform our readers and followers that the original DNE staff is no longer affiliated with this brand. We are however, sticking together and forming a new venture.

Please follow us on @OriginalDNE and stay tuned. Your support is highly appreciated.

Related posts

Disgusting. Humiliating. Ugly.

Daily News Egypt website is back

Daily News: eulogies, thank yous and endings

Daily News Egypt offline

Daily News Egypt website is back

The Daily News Egypt website is back up with a new message from the shareholders of the owning company, Egyptian Media Services. The company also prints and distributes the International Herald Tribune. For years, DNE has been distributed with the IHT.

The IHT is looking for a local partner to resume printing in Egypt soon.

Farewell Note from the Shareholders of EMS

It is with great sadness that we were forced to close the doors of The Daily News Egypt, Cairo’s preeminent and only independent English language newspaper.

The DNE was conceived seven years ago when a group of Egypt loving business people, got together to achieve a single objective – raise the standard of English language journalismin Egypt and make it relevant to the times.  We did this with considerable anxiety. It was clear back then that media was a high-risk business, and the newspaper industry worldwide seemed to be struggling.  Moreover, wewere launching an English paper in a country where so few spoke the language; there was no doubt that we would struggle with low readership figures. However, we were committed from an intellectual, cultural and emotional point of view. An English daily would be so important for Egypt, especially when the only available alternative was a state-owned newspaper.  The DNE would take its place in a country where tourism was a key sector, and cater to its young population, expats, visitors and bilingual speakers in a way like never before.  Indeed, we had romantic notions for what this newspaper could be and proceeded despite the business hurdles and risks.

We believed in the Editor and the Writers, who were very passionate about their work.  We could not be more proud of the recognition they achieved, especially post-Revolution, and the outstanding body of work they leave as their legacy in a digital archive for future readers.  Given the dramatic political and social events that unfolded in Egypt consistently since January 2011, The DNE archives will be read by people around the world interested in learning more about the nation’s history and struggle.

We injected millions of pounds into The Daily News Egypt during the course of its life, and never took a single penny out.  We never claimed expenses, salaries, dividends, royalties or payment of any kind.  Our objective was for the newspaper to eventually cover its costs.  In 2009 the company nearly broke even, after years of the investors having to constantly re-inject capital into the business.  This turning point was important for the owners who had been funding the company from their personal capital with no clear sign of when the financial burden would end.

The short-lived stability was to end in 2011 with the Revolution.  The events in Egypt were so large in scale that the investors agreed, once again, to carry the business through the hard times.  Advertising revenues were down a whopping 75% in 2011.Despite that, investors managed all concerns on the business side so that DNE’s staff could focus on reporting the events to the world from the front-line.  We witnessed our team flourish, performing their journalistic roles with impressive professionalism and credibility.  The investors made sure the team was able to work freely without having to deal with the mounting pressures of the business; salaries and bills were always paid on time and without fail.  Needless to say, the investors faced monthly losses in the hundreds of thousands so that the newspaper could continue its work.  Around this time, and as a preemptive move against the possibility of the newspaper having to close down, negotiations were initiated with individuals, companies and media groups to save the paper. No stone was left unturned, but sadly no offers were made either.  The concern at this grave stage was purely the welfare of the employees and the preservation of the product. None of the investors expected a recovery of their investment, nor did they even suggest it. After months of grueling negotiations, last-ditch efforts and desperate measures the funds – and time – had run out.

The decision to close down was not taken lightly. On the contrary, it was painful and difficult.  The investors supported the newspaper until it was simply not possible to do so any longer.  Our pride in what we built remains, however, and both the commercial and editorial teamsof The Daily News Egyptare a credit to journalism and Egypt.  We wish everyone associated with The Daily News Egypt the best of luck in their future projects. Creating this newspaper with them has been a great experience.

Egyptian Media Services

And here’s a link to the final note posted by the DNE staff, from the DNE website. Let’s hope it continues existing.

Related posts

Daily News: eulogies, thank yous and endings

Daily News Egypt offline

Daily News: eulogies, thank yous and endings

Here’s what our readers and friends had to say about Daily News Egypt’s closure. Thank you for the kind words.

Maurice Chamma/Adrift on the Nile: Eulogy for the Daily News Egypt.

Arabist: Thank you, Daily News Egypt.

Mohamed El Dahshan: Curtain falls on the Daily News Egypt.

Poetechnique (authored by my best friend and DNE Business Editor Amira Salah-Ahmed): Lights out at DNE.

From the News:

Egypt Independent: Daily News Egypt leaves a legacy of independent journalism.

Foreign Policy – Passport blog: The death of a newspaper.

 

Related posts

Daily News Egypt website is back

Daily News Egypt offline

Daily News Egypt offline

It’s shocking. Daily News Egypt is now offline. As we are trying to deal with the closure of the paper, we are dealt another blow. We specifically asked the owners to keep it alive. The staff offered to pay for the hosting of the website, or buy it, so that the 7-year archive doesn’t go down the drain. It’s seven years of our work and also a comprehensive archive of Egypt’s news in English during a pivotal period of the country’s political and social history. But alas, the owners’ promises to consider our request — because it also made sense — were obviously not serious.

There is more to say, and I’ll eventually write a lengthy post about the DNE family. But it’s been a long and sad day. The closure has been overwhelming, even though messages of support have made it bearable.

Until then, here’s the last editorial we wrote. There are numerous cache files and archived pages, thanks to our loyal readers and friends. Here’s a link to one.

Daily News Egypt: Final words
By   Daily News Egypt Editorial Staff April 22, 2012, 2:46 pm
Last Thursday the editorial staff of Daily News Egypt was informed, quite abruptly, that our last issue was going to be the one which was published Saturday-Sunday, April 20-21, 2012.After seven years of providing hard breaking news and analysis on Egypt, and being the only independent English-language printed daily in the country, we regret to inform our loyal readers that, as far as the current editorial staff was informed, the paper will no longer be published.As for the website, a valuable archive of the past seven years of Egypt’s history — in politics, business, society, arts, culture and lifestyle; in text, images and videos which the dedicated editorial staff has developed and maintained, we are unfortunately not certain of its fate.

We have specifically and repeatedly requested from the management of the owning company, Egyptian Media Services, to keep the website alive, even if it means that we, the current editors and reporters, have to finance it ourselves. Both ethically and morally, we believe we should be given priority on its ownership.

The team at Daily News Egypt has put their hearts into the paper, working effortlessly and tirelessly together to produce objective, reliable, timely content, always in an amazing work atmosphere of professionalism combined with a friendly and supportive spirit.

Knowing that this is rare to find, the editorial staff of the paper has stuck it out through numerous trials and tribulations. From scarce resources to budget cuts to obstacles that we’ve overcome together, to uncertain days and nights at the office covering the revolution, never at the expense of the content we provide to readers.

We’ve grown, in a very organic manner, from merely producing a newspaper to also putting out a website with excellent multimedia content as well as developing a strong social media presence and following, all with the same limited staff.

And the staff members we sadly lost along the way have found greener pastures in the most prestigious news organizations like Al Jazeera, Reuters, CNN and Bloomberg, which ultimately makes us all very proud.

It would be an understatement to say that the editorial team is attached to DNE and to each other; we think of ourselves as a family more than merely colleagues, including those who have come and gone, and especially including our loyal freelancers, contributors and interns.

It’s our deep regret to have to disband for the time being and not be able to produce the paper anymore. But we’d like to thank you, our loyal readers, for your support and consistently positive feedback over the years.

Rania Al Malky, Chief Editor
Sarah El Sirgany, Deputy Editor
Amira Salah-Ahmed, Business Editor
Dalia Rabie, Features Editor
Joseph Fahim, Culture Editor
Heba Elkayal, Lifestyle Editor
Safaa Abdoun, Features Writer / Reporter
Heba Fahmy, News Reporter
Heba Hesham, News Reporter
Mai Shams El Din, News Reporter / Editorial Assistant
Reem Abdellatif, Business Reporter
Farah Saafan, Video Journalist
Abdel Azim Saafan, Graphic Designer
Osama Taher, Graphic Designer
Hassan Ibrahim, Photographer

The team behind Daily News Egypt – CNN report

CNN interviewed the staff of Daily News Egypt in March. Our women-dominated newsroom seemed fit for CNN’s report on International Women’s Day.

Report prepared by our friend and former colleague Ian Lee.

Egypt: Women after the revolution

http://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/xpb8nl<br /><a href=”http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xpb8nl_egypt-women-after-the-revolution_news&#8221; target=”_blank”>Egypt: Women after the revolution</a> <i>by <a href=”http://www.dailymotion.com/CNN_International&#8221; target=”_blank”>CNN_International</a></i>