A magazine to be proud of

Executive celebrates 200 months of top quality journalism

Tanya Salem | Executive

There’s plenty we’re proud of after 200 issues of publication. We’ve worked with hundreds of talented people and have honored a commitment made in our first editorial from September 1998 to provide high quality business reporting in Lebanon. In that editorial, we noted, “This issue is our first step in playing a part in Lebanon’s energetic and expanding business world.” Both the magazine and the country have come a long way in nearly 18 years. In this issue, you’ll find a look back at our evolution and a much-deserved thank you to all the people who have made it possible. But first, we’d like to re-commit ourselves to the promise of providing exceptional business journalism. We’re renewing our vows, if you will,  motivated not by a fear that the fire is dying, but by the happy realization that our passion for this work still burns strong.

Our content commitment

As a monthly magazine, we’re not burdened by the pressure of daily news coverage. While we often attend and ask probing questions, we don’t cover individual events or product launches as such. We may mention them to discuss trends within an industry or to exemplify a company’s strategy, but we abhor marketing speak like “iconic.” We don’t re-word press releases. We invest the time and energy to fully understand a topic so we can relay the most important information to our readers. The research and reporting that inform our journalism are conducted as impartially as possible. “Question everything” is office ethos, and we’re not afraid to challenge each other during the editing process. Have the facts been corroborated? Have assumptions or bias crept in? Have we engaged enough stakeholders to get the full picture?

While we strive for objectivity when collecting information, we don’t take everything we’re told at face value. If a company says it wants to grow 20 percent in 2016, we remember it said the same thing in 2010. We ask about the earlier projection and find out what went right or wrong to put the latest target in the proper context. Our pieces are analytical not because we want to be difficult or cynical, but because context and historical performance are key to fully understanding any issue or event. If a minister makes a promise his or her predecessors also made – and broke – several times in the past, we demand to know what has changed. Why should we believe the promise will be kept this time? If the answer is unconvincing, we don’t hesitate to point that out.

Producing quality analytical content month after month requires dedication. There’s an industry adage that goes, “A journalist is only as good as the last thing he or she published.” Whether we’re speaking of individual writers or the magazine as a whole, coasting on past success is not what Executive does. Every month is a new challenge and a new opportunity. Do we promise to continue providing in-depth, analytical business journalism? We do.

Our digital commitment

Optimizing use of the internet to reach an even wider audience has proven a challenge for Executive (see On the road to Oz). We have a web page and social media accounts, but we recognize that we lack an aggressive digital strategy. We know our website needs a better search engine and are more frustrated than anyone when we can’t find an article we know we published. That said, we’re going to approach our digital strategy prudently. We offer added value which is not available anywhere else. Marketing that value online will take planning, time and money (just as it took time to build our brand offline – see Intelligent designs). It will require identifying and working with the best talent for our purposes. We realize the future is online and we need to find our place there. Do we promise to invest more in developing our digital strategy? We do.

Our shareholders’ commitment

No Lebanese media outlet (be it a TV station, newspaper, website or magazine) is financially independent. They all have one or more wealthy sponsor. Executive is no different. While our marketing and sales teams have consistently done great work (see The business team: A question of balance) bringing in ad revenue (drawing from an ever shrinking stream – see Battle for the ad dollar), the truth is we’re not profitable and never have been. In some publications, you know the sponsor as soon as you turn the cover, because his or her face gleams from every second page. In even worse cases, the editorial content is a one-to-one reflection of the financial backers’ political views, business interests, or both. We can credit Executive’s backer for doing neither. Our sponsor does not attend editorial meetings nor demand homage paid on the pages of this magazine. The subsidy we receive each year does not come with strings attached. Our conclusions are not foregone. Our stories are not cleared before publication. We’re not told what to cover and what to ignore. We’re not told whom to speak to and whom to avoid. We’re lucky. And in debt.

What the process of reflecting on 200 issues has made clearer than ever is that we’re sitting on a gold mine. We have a strong reputation and both content assets and human capital that simply must be better monetized. The how is tricky and no doubt related to our digital strategy, but we owe it to ourselves and that special someone whose generosity through the years has made building this legacy possible to increase revenues however we can. Do we promise to look for innovative ways to reduce our financial backer’s burden? We bet’cha.

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