Next month, the Abu Dhabi-based English-language daily The National will celebrate its first anniversary. The newspaper claims to give Abu Dhabi its own clear voice in the UAE. "We have a large, busy newsroom and a bureau in Dubai gathering domestic news in a more challenging, analytical manner than the country has hitherto seen," said executive editor Colin Randall in an interview with APN.
The National went into circulation in 2008, with its first issue printed on 17 April of that year. It is published by the Abu Dhabi Media Company, a public joint stock company fully owned by the Government of Abu Dhabi. Initially The National launched as a daily paper, published six days a week, except Saturdays. Due to high reader demand, however, the newspaper later decided to go into print every day of the week, with its first Saturday issue printed on 17 November 2008. Today, almost one year after its launch, the paper has a daily circulation of 60,000 copies and is available online at www.thenational.ae.
Since the beginning of its appearance, the newspaper has aimed at providing detailed, analytical coverage that is also balanced and accurate. "We were expected to produce a quality newspaper that looked world class," said editor-in-chief Martin Newland. "We were to be part of the developing story of a modern Gulf state with a mandate to report and comment on education, health, transport and all other issues that affect people's lives and the nation's success and standing." According to Newland, these objectives have been achieved with what he describes as "a mixture of strong leadership and quality, and flair at all levels."
When asked about the agenda of the publication and the issues that it mainly tries to cover, executive editor Colin Randall mentions comprehensive coverage of international affairs using a network of staff and dedicated freelance correspondence, as well as daily sections on business, arts and life, and sports. "A Review section replaces Arts and Life each Friday, and the Saturday issue has a distinctive weekend feel with a magazine, and sections devoted to personal finance, sports, house and home, motoring and travel."
In regards to the nature of its readers, The National claims to reach almost all English-speaking residents in the country, including the large expatriate community from the West, the Indian subcontinent, and Southeast Asia. Although the current global economic crises have had its effects also on The National, the paper constantly reviews operations to ensure that it lives within its means and remains in circulation throughout the UAE and most Arab capital cities, including Amman, Beirut, and Muscat. Copies of the newspaper are also sent to decision-makers in Washington and elsewhere in the world.
The National has assembled a team of journalists from different parts of the world, including the Middle East, but still attempts to increase the number of Emiratis in its workforce. In addition, it has now launched an internship scheme that works partly in partnership with a leading university and invites applicants from other institutions as well.
Opportunities are also made available to the local population to have their say in the content of the newspaper, such as in its regular columns which cover "incisive comment pieces to the reflections of an Emirati student on her life in New York."
According to Colin Randall, the paper is already "a very good daily newspaper with highly educated people from the UAE itself and many other countries as its readers." He adds that The National is committed to the highest standards of broadsheet journalism and intends to continue improving.