Six weeks ago, on 11 June, I wrote under the title “E-papers shoulder debt of print papers?”, reviewing both the economic and epoch challenge faced by print journalism. I explained that the economic challenge lies in the exacerbating cost of printing versus the shrinking revenues of print papers. Printing costs are swelling, owing to the escalating rise in the cost of paper and printing requirements; to say nothing of the steep devaluation of the Egyptian Pound, which hugely impacts the cost of these imported materials. At the same time, revenues keep falling as advertisements and sales decline. It does not help that regulations by the Supreme Council for Media Regulation restrict revenues of media institutions to sales and advertisements alone. This inevitably causes the gap between expenses and revenues to widen, and jeopardises the future of print journalism.
I also reviewed the challenge of the epochal change facing print journalism; the fact that people are moving from the printed word to digital material, from printed papers to electronic journalism. That reality is directly linked to the tools and technologies of the era we live in; a hand-over from one generation to the next, a takeover by modern tools from older ones.
We thus must not cry over the end of paper journalism, because it is not the end of journalism. True, print papers are increasingly disappearing, but online readers are offered varied, ample journalistic content, even PDF versions of the print papers.
The reason I again bring up this issue is not simply to warn and remind Watani readers of the inevitable future of the paper, but to share with them updates on this score.
Watani, which has throughout its lifetime printed the paper at al-Ahram Press, recently received notification from al-Ahram that in case Watani fails to settle its piled-up printing debt, the numbers of copies printed weekly by al-Ahram Press will be cut in half for four weeks, following which the printing of Watani will be discontinued. I feel compelled to note that, throughout its history which started in December 1958, Watani’s relationship with all departments of al-Ahram Corporation has been exceedingly close and courteous.
I am not writing this to imply any dispute between Watani and al-Ahram; we at Watani understand and realise the economic rationale which pushed al-Ahram Press to take such a decision. We hope to be able to settle our debt with al-Ahram and, until we can do so, we accept all the measures dictated by the economic situation. We value our deep 65-year-long relation with al-Ahram, and realise that the current situation reflects the dynamics of the times.
I hope my words speak to the minds of a dear portion of Watani readers, even if it fails to speak to their hearts. I promise them, however, that Watani’s mission will neither cease nor fade; Watani is still alive and well, carrying the torch relayed to us by the founder, Antoun Sidhom. The principles he laid will forever remain rooted in our souls and work, and will be manifested in the modern-era electronic version of Watani.
21 July 2023