Under the title “End of print journalism: The inevitable”, I wrote last week about the economic burden shouldered by Watani on account of swelling printing costs versus diminishing revenue from advertisements and sales of the paper. The outcome is a decline in Watani’s capacity to pay its ever-rising printing bills to al-Ahram Press, leading to a pile-up of debt that threatens to discontinue the printing of Watani. As soon as the editorial was posted on www.wataninet.com, and even before the paper hit the newsstands, I was inundated with messages and calls that expressed overwhelming love and moral support for Watani, and high valuation for its mission. Those who wrote or called expressed great willingness to back Watani till the paper was able to emerge out of the dark tunnel. I did my best to reassure my interlocutors that, as my written editorial clearly stated, the inevitability of discontinuing the printed paper did not spell the end of Watani which would carry on electronically through its website and social media page, account, and channel. But my words were met with keen expressions of love and appreciation for the printed paper in specific, and zealous encouragement to go on printing that paper.
I am indebted to all the dear friends, colleagues and public figures who reached out to Watani during its time of crisis. In appreciation and gratitude, I here cite what went on to this effect in calls, messages, or posts. I list them according to chronological order.
A dear friend who is a son of Watani, journalist Samuel al-Ashay wrote: “Watani paper .. is it time to say goodbye? Watani’s Editor-in-Chief, Youssef Sidhom wrote one of the most moving articles in the history of Egyptian journalism. It boils down to the fact that Watani’s printing debts for al-Ahram have exacerbated and, accordingly, either the debt should be settled or printing discontinued. The Editor-in-Chief cited the crisis engulfing print journalism in Egypt and the world; does this mean we would one day wake up to a market devoid of print newspapers? Watani has always been a school that nurtured and produced generations of journalists, myself included. The crisis of Watani is a wake-up call that should spur proponents of soft power to stand behind this enlightened, moderate journalist platform, and show support.”
Friend and colleague Abdel-Mohsen Salama, Chairman of al-Ahram Corporation, wrote to me: “For long years, I have been following Watani both on the personal and professional levels. I fully appreciate the paper and value its moderate, enlightening role on the map of Egyptian press. As I do with all papers which face existential crises, I will continue to support Watani’s continuity. In this regard, I would like to raise the point of the sales of its print paper among Egyptians in general, and Copts in specific. For years, Watani has been a fine journalistic platform that has spoken of and to Copts, and wrote of their predicaments—good or bad—within the context of citizenship rights, holding on to Egypt as a nation, and the brotherly love that binds Egyptians. The time has come to call on all Church leaders to take the initiative of providing Watani to church goers, in a show of support to the paper, and a move to help it get back on its feet in order to be able to pay the printing costs.”
Among the calls I received was one by Judge Monsef Soliman. Mr Soliman is a staunch, old friend and my colleague in the Coptic Orthodox Melli [Lay] Council, who has long helped me assess Watani’s mission, and has partnered with Watani in tackling significant issues including the legalisation of unlicensed churches and Church affiliated buildings, as well as the Family Law for Christians. Mr Soliman called me to express his concern regarding the challenges Watani is facing. He shared with me his vision as to how these challenges can be overcome to ensure the continuity of the paper’s mission. He advised to reach out to Church leaders, and to solicit the care and love of Pope Tawadros II.
As to my journalist friend, and former member of the board of the Journalists Syndicate Mohamed Abdel-Qodous, he wrote to me: “I got in touch with my friend the Chairman of al-Ahram Corporation; he informed me that Watani is still being printed at al-Ahram Press. I was happy to learn that, and I pray that God will help you steer the paper under these harsh circumstances.”
For their part, Watani’s reporters and correspondents launched a zealous, ambitious campaign aiming to rally the help of the metropolitans and bishops of the Church to boost the sales of Watani paper in the various dioceses and churches, in order for the paper to be able to come out of the current impasse. We pray to God for His support.
28 July 2023