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The secret of Saudi newspaper Okaz: digital innovation and supporting women in journalism

Okaz's editor-in-chief Jamal Al Theyabi talks to AIPS president Gianni Merlo, outlining the newspapers' different sections, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Saturday, May 12, 2018. (Photo by Okaz)

Jeddah, May 14, 2018 - In downtown Jeddah, big green gates form the gateway to a big sand-coloured compound, the headquarters of Okaz, one of Saudi Arabia's leading daily newspaper. A huge fountain in the lobby welcomes visitors. Ekleel Sallam captures everything on her mobile phone, as part of the newspaper's digital drive. She is one of five women in the newspaper's digital department.

Okaz newspaper - In 1961 Ahmed Abdul Ghafoor Attar founded the newspaper. The publication is named after the popular Okaz market, which was one of the largest open markets during the pre-Islamic era in the Hijaz region. Okaz is regarded as one of Saudi Arabia’s more popular newspapers.

Editor-in-chief’s welcome - Jamal Al Theyabi, editor in chief of the newspaper, welcomed the AIPS president Gianni Merlo and led him into the newsroom, where he was discussing the front page of Okaz's next edition with his editorial team. The editor-in-chief explained the strategies they are implementing to stem the negative effect of the digital revolution on the print circulation. He expressed his satisfaction with the openness to women in society. He also spoke about the importance of sport and the fact that his newspaper devotes a lot of space to sport.

Okaz's deputy editor-in-chief Khalid Tashkandi shows the first ever edition of the newspaper to AIPS president Gianni Merlo and Samindra Kunti in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Saturday, May 12, 2018. (Photo by Okaz)

Female-led Innovation - The newsroom has however responded by focusing on digital media to reach a big online audience. Forbes Middle East reported Okaz to be one of the top ten online newspapers in the MENA region in 2011. Today, five female journalists work in the digital department of the newsroom, at the heart of a new-media strategy which targets a younger audience via Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp.

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