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Kipp’s thoughts on The National

April 17, 2008 9:36 by

the national, gulf news, mediaThe launch of a new newspaper never fails to make headlines - journalists love to bitch about other media - even if the general public remains nonplussed. Kipp can’t help adding its two pen’rth. We’d love to know what you think.

Let’s start with what The National isn’t. It isn’t a flat-pack dining table from Ikea, it isn’t a 1963 E-type Jag, and it isn’t a 42” flat screen TV. Neither is it The New York Times, The Times of London or the Wall Street Journal. It is what it is: a high-quality, distinctive, broadsheet newspaper written out of Abu Dhabi, aimed at the Gulf. Kipp’s view is that it already bests the competition in terms of content, look and feel.

But it is not without some failings.

CONTENT: A 32-page main section, tabloid sports supplement, plus Business and Arts & Life sections. There is a welcome absence of syndicated copy, content is largely consistent in quality throughout (unlike the box of chocolates that is Gulf News), the opinion pages contain local opinion.

The news section leads with a real estate story (it was either that or traffic, wasn’t it?), and has a decent ‘civilian police force’ scoop. There is a marked absence of Sheikhs shaking hands.

It looks like Page Three is going to be used for exclusive/insight-type pieces. Day one has a profile of the UAE Swat force, Q7. It fails to ask whether they all drive Audi SUVs. A decent collection of human interest stuff, but lacking in the ‘Man Rapes Camel’ court cases Gulf News excels at.

Sports: competent, but the wrong day to judge it, best wait until Monday when there’s some news to report. Quality columnists, though.

Arts & Life: a joy. The best mix of short and long, serious and light anywhere in the paper. Standouts include the taxi décor photoshoot, the DVD reviews, and the ‘destinations on your doorstep’ travel piece.

Business: clean and competent. No super-size interviews, good mix of opinion and news, clear presentation of figures and stock listings. But no killer news.

TONE: As expected, The National ain’t pulling up trees. Aldar, Etihad and Etisalat all get positive write ups in the business section - why wouldn’t they? Kipp’s biggest concern is that The National appears to be being pitched as an English-language Emirati paper, not a paper for (and by) residents of the UAE. The UAE national identity conference gets plenty of coverage, but the views of non-Emiratis on the subject are hard to find. The p29 leader runs with ‘Our national identity must begin at home’. It will be interesting to see how this one plays.

DESIGN: Unsurprisingly, it hasn’t coped the unique newspaper styling of the Khaleej Times. The design is clear, modern and, for this market, distinctive. Perhaps a touch too much blue through the main section. Comparisons have been made with The Guardian, from the UK, which is no bad thing.

PHOTOGRAPHY. Excellent, a real plus. Loads of inhouse stuff, and this does a great job differentiating it from the local competition.

MISCELLANEOUS: To start it was a devil to find. The first three places Kipp tried (in Dubai Media City) didn’t have copies, the fourth had some tucked away behind the counter. Apparently someone forgot to pay for a display stand: no display stand, no papers on display.

The paper’s slimmed down bulk is welcome (at 10cm thick, is the Gulf News the cheapest paper in the world?), but is The National too slim? GN picks up readers for its classifieds and property section. Can The National afford to stay out of this game?

If you can find a copy, let us know what you think.

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