This weekend marks the 12th anniversary of The National newspaper’s 2008 launch. We won’t be marking the day in person with our team as we usually do, but there will be some quiet contemplation of our past.
The National’s first edition hit the streets on April 17, 2008 and featured a front page picture of the winning smile of Sharjah resident Nabeel Kamran, then 12 years old, who had become the first child in the UAE to undergo a life-saving kidney transplant. Much of our focus in 2020 remains on healthcare reporting as the country commits to an expansive programme of testing and patient wellbeing in the face of Covid-19. The advances in health care in the UAE are among the many developments The National has been recording in our 12 years.
At the time of launch, the country’s skyline was changing daily as buildings rose and cranes operated almost everywhere you looked. Abu Dhabi was busy preparing to stage its first F1 race the following year and Dubai was racing towards the completion of the world’s tallest building. We began life committed to bringing you high-quality reporting on the region’s biggest stories. We are equally dedicated to that promise today.
But in many ways, the story behind how the headlines get to you today is an equally compelling narrative.
Three years ago, after being acquired by International Media Investments, The National underwent a comprehensive relaunch of the print edition and a complete digital transformation led by a new management team. That programme of renewal now shows up in almost every corner of your digital lives – through alerts, social media, video, podcasts, newsletters and via our website and app – as well as in our currently subscriber-only award-winning print edition.
Last month, we underwent another phase of digital transformation, moving the paper from one bustling newsroom in Abu Dhabi to a collection of newsrooms assembled in the homes of our staff in the UAE, following the Government directive to work from home and to stay safe. It is a process that has also been undertaken in London by our bureau team and by our correspondents and contributors around the world as restriction of movement orders become a part of daily life almost everywhere.
Working from home brings challenges to every person used to working in a busy office environment, they are not unique to this newspaper, but it is fair to say that this era is one of intense learning and great development for The National.
The daily demands of our digital and print products have grown in this period as you, our readers, seek fast and accurate reporting about the pandemic. Our working lives are now punctuated by videoconferences and instant messages rather than office dialogue and phone calls, as stories break and facts are checked. Our days are driven forward by a mix of smart technology and good old-fashioned enterprise undertaken by a committed team of reporters, editors, photographers, videographers and design and production staff.
As a paper and as a country at large, we are stronger now than we have ever been. Our communities are more connected – albeit in a physically distanced way – and our respect for each other grows daily.
We don’t know when we will all be back together in one newsroom, but two things we do know for sure: that our 12th birthday coincides with an unforgettable moment in the paper’s and the country’s history; and that The National will be at the forefront of reporting on the UAE and the world overcoming the great challenges of today.