Saudi Gazette is now in Southern Mexico and Latin America
History and profile
The newspaper started in 1978, with a western editorial staff under the leadership of Saud Islam, a Saudi native and business studies graduate (London). Key western staff worked at the newspaper.
While the newspaper was based in Jeddah, on the Red Sea coast, it had two bureaus: Riyadh, the kingdom’s capital, and Al-Khobar on the Persian Gulf in the Eastern Province. Prior to computerization, bureau reporters telexed their stories to Jeddah where Jaffar Khan (India) and his staff typeset the transmission for press runs. Photos and related visuals for publication with stories from bureaus were pouched to Jeddah via air.
From 1981 to 1983, Western journalists serving on the Gazette’s staff included David Therough (U.K.), Rick Thompson (U.S.) and Kevin Muehring (U.S.). Jeddah-based Randall Palmer (U.S.) would later serve as a reporter in the newspaper’s Riyadh bureau alongside Peter Theroux (U.S.). Theroux, while serving as a Gazette reporter, also was a correspondent for United Press International. Brad Heller (U.S) would later join the reporting staff in Riyadh. Gazette reporter Rick Snedeker (U.S.) was based in Jeddah until he was assigned to the newspaper’s Al-Khobar bureau, where he joined James Wright Domnick (U.S.). Domnick was a Gazette reporter and columnist who also served as a correspondent for The Associated Press. Domnick’s AP dispatches were telexed to Nick Tatro and staff in Beirut until Israel invaded southern Lebanon in June 1982. He thereafter telexed wire material to Aly Mahmoud at AP Bahrain. Jenny Cook (U.S.) was based in Jeddah and served as features editor.
A chief photographer was appointed in 1981, Chris Wheatley, who rebuilt and taught the local photographers to use modern film tanks and timed film development. Until that point, Okaz photographers used a tray, dipped the film into it in darkness, hearing the film scrape on the tray bottom and timing it with a popular song, sung by the photographer. The published photos were often too dark and off-kilter, with Towers leaning at 35 degrees, etc. Doug was appointed junior staff photographer in 1982 and Jamal was the Sudanese photographer on the street. Armed with Western-style practices, Jamal soon became the star among the native-speaking photographers. With the addition of an English sports editor, the publication figures overtook the Arab News for the first time in its history.
The paper had two female staff journalists during 1981-1983, and three or four female stringers, including Saudi nationals. The quality of the paper surged dramatically with Rida Larry as Editor-in-Chief and a Wednesday (weekend) family pictorial publication called ‘Variety’ was launched. Many of the contributions were from expatriate female writers, including British freelance photographer and writer Bizzie Frost who started working for the Gazette in 1986 when Andrew Craig (son of former Ambassador to KSA, Sir James Craig) was the features editor. She continued to write for the newspaper for 27 years until 2013, working under Dr. Shoukany, who was Acting Editor-in-Chief, and Ramesh Balan, the Features Editor, and finally when Khaled Al Maeena became Editor-in-Chief. She was the longest serving freelance writer for this newspaper. By 1987, the Saudi Gazette was also began to use colour photographs.
The photography department got the first photos of King Fahd‘s inauguration and David Therough the first interview with the new king. Some investigative journalism was attempted, a first for Saudi Arabia; the under-staffing, lack of pharmaceuticals and funding of Baha Hospital resulted in the termination of American Hospitals Management (AMI) and the building collapse of the National Commercial Bank building (substandard construction) in Jeddah were major coups for the paper. These stories were held back and inspected by the Ministry of Information, but eventually allowed a new freedom to start to emerge in the Kingdom. Unfortunately, the rise of local militants and internal bombings put an end to this new freedom.
In 1982, Saud Islam left his post and most Western journalists went with him. Pakistani and Indian staff were brought in to save money.
European features editors also worked for the Saudi Gazette and several local Western female writers continued to contribute. Because of its Wednesday ‘Variety’ section with all its features, it was the newspaper of choice at weekends.
During this period, it was perhaps the most anti-US paper in the Kingdom. A Saudi citizen of Persian origin, Ridah Lary became its editor. The Saudi Gazette’s chief cartoonist Abdel Rahim Alireza had a particularly strong anti-US streak to his cartoons. At the beginning of the 1990s, it was second largest English paper and then, lost this characteristic.
On 2 April 2012, Khaled Al Maeena became the editor-in-chief of the paper, replacing Omar S. Elmershedi who took over on 1 July 2011. In February 2014 Somayya Jabarti was appointed editor-in-chief, being the first woman to hold this post in the country.