The following is an archived copy of a message sent to the CASI Analysis List run by Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq (CASI).
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[ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ] Dear Moderator, I do not wish to engage in any debates about the relative merits of the various newspapers published in post-Saddam Iraq of which there now number significantly over 200. Nor do I wish to offer any views I may have on the three other privately funded newspapers published in English during the period in which the Baghdad Bulletin was published (Iraq Today, Baghdad Observer, Al-Muajaha -- none of which, to the best of my knowledge, is currently published). However, I wish to put forward some objective points, which I hope will clear up any lingering factual controversy surrounding the Baghdad Bulletin (hereafter BB. - The Baghdad Bulletin at the time of its closure had an approximate staff of 27. Of these seven were foreign nationals, none of whom were paid. Extremely basic accommodation was provided in the office building in Zayouna district of Baghdad and one meal per day and bottled water. If foreign staff wished to generate an income they were expected to freelance in their spare time. Travel expenses to Baghdad were at one's own expense. Needless to say, between us we were several thousand pounds worse off by the time the BB closed down. This had been fully anticipated, none of us came to work for the BB for financial reward or even a salary, nor did journalistic staff have any stake in the company. Indeed shortly before the closure each foreign reporter had to contribute $200 per week to ensure that Iraqi staff was paid - this either came directly from our pockets or from articles we managed to sell elsewhere. All Iraqi staff was paid (in one month full-time Iraqi staff earned around 2.7 times the current salary of an Iraqi civil servant). - The initial start up capital for the BB came from a close friend of the founder who was happy to support the aims of the project. One further injection of capital was found two months into publication from a second private investor; in addition, some money was raised from contributions made via an anonymous on-line donation system. In total from all sources this amounted to around $25k. No money was at any point received from any government source, nor (other than quid pro quo advertising revenues) business. Impartiality was the primary objective of the BB. The BB was committed to publishing on a regular basis (fortnightly, with the intention of becoming a weekly once revenues increased). This was achieved, but meant that a larger revenue inflow was necessary than needed by those who published only when they could afford to, as some other newspapers did. - The primary revenue of the BB came from advertising. Due to the dedication of our Iraqi marketing manager the BB had more adverts than any other newspaper in Iraq (certainly the highest of the English Language papers). Needless to say, the cost of advertising for local businesses was extremely low and despite the large number of ads placed this generated only between 5--15% of total per issue costs. Although the BB secured several international advertisers this was an unsustainable source of income once the security situation began to deteriorate. At the height of foreign advertising the BB generated 50% costs through advertising. This was an upward trend and had the security situation not worsened and made most large advertisers take a 'wait and see' approach, it was hoped that the BB would, within 6 months, break even. This did not happen and it is easy to see why further fund raising became necessary - it was hoped that the security situation was a negative blip, not the trend that we have now seen -and why the BB was finally forced to shut down. - The main cost - 50% of total - was printing. I have no knowledge of having shared a printer with the CPA, but if so it was only because in a free market the printer is entitled to take business from whomsoever he wishes. We based our printing decisions on cost and quality not on the client list of the printer. I do know, however, that UNESCO used the same press to print new schoolbooks. The presses available in Baghdad are not computer based, but rely on older colour separation techniques that are far more costly (and slower). We obtained figures for printing the BB in Jordan on modern presses and having copy shipped into Baghdad. This would have been substantially cheaper. However, given the aims of the BB to be an Iraqi paper, it was decided that this would be antithetical to the BB's aims and printing remained in Baghdad despite additional costs we could ill afford. - Richard Wilde was tragically shot on the day that he was due to come and live at the Baghdad Bulletin. He never turned up for the lunch engagement that had been arranged, because he was already dead. He had been in Iraq for around 3 weeks. I do not think it appropriate to wrangle over who was going to use his skills. He worked for al-Muajaha and he was also to work for the BB. He may well have continued working for both - I do not know. Certainly from the BB end, this would have presented no problems. Needless to say this was probably the worst day for all the staff of the BB. He was the only member of staff to have been injured, let alone killed, during the course of the BB - although our local shopkeeper was severely injured in a drive-by shooting, another bleak day. The BB staff lived and worked in accommodation similar to that occupied by al-Muajaha, which I visited on several occasions. Both papers shared a common lack of funds (no generator, no satellite up-links, no telephones) and the desire for all foreign staff to live in the same style as that forced on their Iraqi counterparts. - The BB was moving towards a 50:50 language split. By the final edition several pages were in Arabic (see PDF download www.baghdadbulletin.com). I believe that the above may go some way to clearing up any lingering factual issues. One point that has not been touched on is the future. Because I have no receipts/accounts/PDFs for the future, you will have to take this on trust. The aim of the founder, Ralph Hassall, and his two co-founders the editor David Enders and business advisor Mark Gordon-James was to establish a newspaper in Baghdad, of international quality (thereby extending it's market beyond Iraq - issues were distributed in Jordan as well as throughout the country. Distribution outlets in Dubai had been established and European and US markets, primarily aimed at the expatriate Iraqi community, were being investigated at the time of closure). International quality: both in terms of impartiality, journalistic ethics, rigorous sourcing of articles and in terms of internationally acceptable printing standards. Both were achieved. In what was projected to be a 2-year time frame the BB was to pass into full Iraqi control, from the editor down, with no foreign presence. I am deeply sorry if the aims and intentions of the Baghdad Bulletin and its founder have been variously misinterpreted and misunderstood. In any endeavour there will always be detractors. There are detractors of two sorts; those who have been potentially misinformed - and it is to those I have addressed this email, and those who, for whatever reason, will base their objection on a real or supposed ideological clash. To the latter I believe your objections to be misfounded, but you are, of course, entitled to your opinion. The only thing I do ask is that you formulate your criticism through well-argued opinion, not misinformation based on hearsay. You may also be interested to download the PDF copies of the BB and read the letters pages. We made a conscious effort to publish letters and editorial responses from our detractors rather than the many letters we received both from within and without Iraq praising our achievements. You may well find editorial responses to many of y our criticisms of the BB. You do not have to agree with the editorial line (healthy argument and discussion was on-going amongst the entire staff of the BB) but as someone who cares passionately about the Iraqi people, you may be interested to read his replies. Yours Sincerely, Catherine Arnold Journalist (and Iraqophile) _______________________________________ Sent via the CASI-analysis mailing list To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-analysis All postings are archived on CASI's website at http://www.casi.org.uk