Running, managing, and editing a newspaper is very much like operating on a battlefield, sticking it out in the muddied trenches with your troops, barking orders at the crack of dawn and ensuring that the men s morale is always high.
At The Daily Star Egypt, there developed a sense of Semper Fi as the individual soldiers realized they comprised the core of the army – the backbone of what held the newspaper together.
The enemy? Subjectivity, bias, inaccuracy, timeliness and deadlines, and typos, typos, typos.
Nevertheless, the editorial staff at The Daily Star Egypt never lost sight of the mission: to bring readers all the news that is fit to print, from the political and economic, to the social and light-hearted. Over the course of the past year we increased our coverage of local events three-fold and are beginning to cover other Egyptian cities.
We have doubled our Lifestyles and Arts & Culture pages on the weekend, giving readers more entertainment in that delicately crafted package known as infotainment. Into that, we also threw in a full sports page and sci-tech page on the weekends.
But best of all, and I take particular pride in this, we have focused extensively on society and development – those stories which are like to have long-reaching impact on Cairo and Egypt as a whole.
Issues such as the pressures brought to bear on the Egyptian blogging community, the trials and tribulations therein and how freedom of speech is impacted. Most of Egypt s bloggers are young men and women and how they mold their political commentary – and whether they are given the freedom to do so – will determine how the next generation thinks and acts.
We have focused on the government s often rocky relationship with the banned-but-tolerated Muslim Brotherhood, both on the streets and in People s Assembly chambers.
Labor and union disputes have also figured prominently on our pages as factory workers find their voices and demand better wages and benefits.
Issues such as bird flu, AIDS/HIV and Hepatitis C – all threats to Egypt s livelihood – have also figured prominently in our coverage.
But Egypt is also the bedrock of diplomacy in the Middle East and our reporting team has covered this country s role in mediating peaceful resolutions in Darfur, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and so on.
And The Daily Star Egypt has brought its readers all these issues as this country s only independent English-language daily newspaper.
As such our burden is great, our mission all the more crucial, our determination resolute and unwavering.
At The Daily Star Egypt, we have upheld the notion that journalists and the media act as de facto watchdogs of government. They report on how government is performing and, in a democracy, this reporting is pivotal to the electoral process.
How else would people know which representatives they should elect? Journalists also have the secondary role of acting as watchdogs over their own profession, safeguarding it from sensationalism, yellow journalism, hearsay, and slander. It is up to journalists to ensure that their profession remains unbiased, objective, and does not cater to special interest groups, censorship, or government control.
Indeed, the role an independent newspaper can play in social and political development cannot be stressed enough.
And this is why, with a heavy heart and melancholy temperament, I make ready to exit the battlefield, leaving my troops in the hands of another well-trained and strategy-minded general.
May 31 will effectively be my last day as Chief Editor of The Daily Star Egypt as Ms. Rania Al Malky takes the helm and charges forward.
Having worked with Ms. Al Malky for several years at Egypt Today and The Daily Star Egypt, I am confident she will carry on – nay, improve upon – the fundamentals that will take this newspaper to new heights.
My thoughts will be with the troops in the trenches who have become family. Parting is sorrow indeed.
Live long and prosper.
Firas Al-Atraqchiis the Chief Editor of The Daily Star Egypt.