Watani’s poll on its editor-in-chief
Tomorrow, members of Watani’s editorial family will cast their votes as to whether the current editor-in-chief should remain in his post or leave. This has been an annual tradition since 2011, in the wake of the 25 January uprising which saw many Egyptians erupt in wrathful protest against the longtime ruling regime, and demand change. The spirit of rebellion against conditions that had for long seen no change spread to numerous institutions.
Some may wonder what rebellion at the grassroots has to do with the editor-in-chief, who is assigned his post through an official sovereign decision in case of State-owned papers and, in privately-owned papers through a decision by the board of directors. Yet, what I thought back in 2011 and still believe in now, is that the board decision alone is not sufficient for editorial teams to wholeheartedly endorse their chief editor. In order for the journalistic work to flow creatively and harmoniously, the editors should have faith in their chief editor. The paper is much like an orchestra that cannot play in harmony unless its members and leader enjoy mutual understanding and acceptance.
Each editor-in-chief is committed to editorial policies in line with the journalistic code of honour, and the rules and regulations that organise the profession. He or she is also committed to the set of policies and objectives of the paper he or she leads, in addition to his or her own perspectives, convictions, and work process. Accordingly, the chief editor needs to collaborate with a team of journalists who share the same objectives and outlooks, in order for the entire team to work towards fulfilling them.
Prior to 2011, the editor-in-chief depended on ‘subordinates’ to fulfil policies and objectives, regardless of their convictions. Following January 2011, however, I could clearly see that the chief editor needs a mechanism to gauge the level of acceptance or rejection, and submission or conviction of the editorial team. From here came the idea of holding an annual poll on whether the editor-in-chief should remain in his post or leave, regardless of the legitimacy bestowed upon him or her by the board of directors.
Watani’s editorial family has, throughout the last seven years, given me the honour of choosing to continue as editor-in-chief. This came about through a secret ballot overseen by an independent committee in charge of conducting the poll. I hold on to this tradition that stresses the right of the editorial team to offer or withhold professional endorsement of its leader. If the editor-in-chief loses the confidence of the journalists he works with, he must go back to the authority that appointed them in the first place, to look into appointing a new editor-in-chief.
I hope that this annual poll gets firmly established in Watani as an honourable tradition neither imposed by laws or regulations, nor carried out as a mock practice to boost the ego of the chief editor. This tradition should underline the right of the editorial players to remove their chief editor in case he or she fails to lead them as a conductor leads his orchestra.