Othman Al Omeir Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Print media must develop its content and adapt to the changing technological times in order to survive.

Debating the relevance of newspapers in the digital age at an Arab Media Forum’s session titled ‘The future of print journalism’, Othman Al Omeir, publisher and editor-in-chief of Elaph E-Newspaper, said when he predicted the decrease in the number of print newspapers over 20 years at a conference in Dubai the audience had reacted with shock.

“I am not an enemy of print, I think that the tools to improve and evolve journalism are available,” he said.

He said many newspapers in the Middle East are still following traditional methods which they did over 50 years ago, a style of journalism that is dying.

“It’s not about keeping print journalism, it’s about adding to it. Journalism is not confined by geography, time or space, and development, whether it’s the journalist’s skills or content, is necessary,” said Al Omeir.

A believer in traditional journalism, Nayla Tueni, Editor-in-chief of Annhar, one of Lebanon’s leading newspapers, discussed why the paper has remained print-only and has not followed the digital trend.

“Eight years ago, we started working on change — we do not only cover political news and foreign affairs anymore, we have expanded into sectors such as lifestyle, health, youth, women and sports,” said Tueni.

The newspaper, which has added an English version, also opened its doors to civilians and students who now write on a variety of topics and issues for the paper.

“Print is not dead and journalistic content is still found in the paper,” said Tunei.

She pointed out that readers want in-depth pieces based on various topics of interests and analysis, so it is important for newspapers to be updated with trends found on social media and digital news sites.

“We notice that readers are keen on reading the news and want to be in the know. We also have to be interactive with our readers and look into their needs to cater to their interests,” said Tueni.

Another speaker, Mona Bu Samra, Managing Editor-in-chief of Emirati newspaper Al Bayan, said print newspapers are important in preserving the depth of content, however, opening up digital means of publishing news is just as important.

“Newspaper haven’t disappeared but if you don’t reinvent yourself, you will disappear.”

Samra explained that the newspapers’ strategy over the last three years has been to develop content both in print and online. T

Referring to AI, virtual reality and blockchain, Samra emphasised the need for media to be proactive.

“I love traditional newspapers and I cannot conceive the idea of not having newspapers by 2040, however, whether we like it or not, technology is progressing at an expedited manner and we have to keep our readers up to speed.”