The Jordan Times needs a revamp

The Jordan TimesI just have to dash off a quick post to criticize the internet edition of the Jordan Times (JT). When will it ever join the modern world? I find it very disturbing that the JT website lacks the most very basic internet features: An opinion poll, an "e-mail to a friend" button,
or even a printer-friendly format option.

It is even more disturbing that the paper doesn’t have an on-line archive or a proper search engine. The Jordan Times is Jordan’s only English daily and they still can’t get it right! It is really frustrating.

As for the content of the daily, well that’s another story entirely. The quality of the daily, which once was one of the leading publications in the region, has really gone down the drain. In addition to the absence of comprehensive, investigative reports, the daily’s coverage of local issues is mediocre at best; practically non-existent. I’m getting more news about what’s happening in my hometown from blogs and personal e-mails than from the JT Home News page. This is really bad news!

The paper has some good writers, but perhaps not enough since the production output is so low. To be fair to the journalists there, I must say I enjoy Rana Husseini’s pieces, Ahmad Humeid’s weekly ‘Weekender’ columns and Sahar Aloul’s coverage of Jordan’s parliament.

As a former Jordan Times reporter it ails me to see the JT at such a standstill! Something must be done to improve its caliber and it must be done right away!

Okay, I feel much better now.

16 thoughts on “The Jordan Times needs a revamp”

  1. Blah, I feel the same way. God, the terribly low standard of JT’s website is one of the reasons I would resort to American news websites that either shocked me when it came to the ignorance or brainwashed me for afew, and thus I stopped reading news at all unless it comes from JordanPlanet.

  2. Okay, someone please explain something to me. Is there freedom of speech in Jordan, when it comes to news. How does it work? Do reporters self-censor themselves or is there actual censorship from the government? I can’t imagine quality investigative journalism if there is no freedom of the press. For example, in America there is a great deal of self-censorship among reporters, because American media are corporately owned. So Natasha, if you can explain how the process of covering news in Jordan works, that would be great.

  3. “The 1999 law that remain contrary to international human rights standards, such as: government licensing of publications, government ownership of newspapers, mandatory membership of the Jordanian Press Association, prior censorship of books and publications, and restrictions on research centres as well as pre-trial detention that exists in the Fundamentals of Criminal Trials Code.” [+]
    Sounds like Iran to me.

  4. Actually that statue, called the Press and Publications Law, has had some revision. There is a privately owned press in Jordan and a new paper recently opened that does give stiff competition to the gov’t owned Al Rai. It’s called Al Ghad. Natasha talks about it briefly here.
    I’ll say more a bit later when it’s not so late regarding Linda’s comments since I’ve been in the hot seat before.

  5. Oh, I didn’t know by ‘government ownership of newspapers’ they meant ownership of ALL newspapers. In Iran, private press goes way back. Sadly, there are just a few dailies left these days, other periodicals thrive though.

  6. The gov’t doesn’t dabble in weeklies as far as I know (meaning no invested interest). With regard to the dailies its control is interesting: It holds a majority share through the state social security corporation. Thereby it doesn’t have “direct” control but owns a controlling share. There are opposition voices, most notably before Al Ghad was Ad Dustour. The mix of press and politics in Jordan was a real learning experience while I was working there. I spent a year and a half working for an English language weekly that was owned by Dustour and then more than a year at The Jordan Times. Oh those heady days 🙂
    Of course had I not done what I done I wouldn’t have met my wonderful wife, making any privation or politic pale by comparison.

  7. The government doesn’t own all of the papers. It owns almost 50% of Al Rai daily and 30% of Al Dustour daily. In addition to Al Ghad being independent, there is also al Arab Al youm. Besides the dailies, the majorities of the weeklies are privately funded.
    As for the over-all status of the freedom of press in Jordan, it is not that impressive but it’s much better than many other countries in the region.
    One recent positive development was abolishing the Ministry of Information which governed the work of the press. But still this leaves the Press and Publication law in place whose articles don’t grant full freedom to the press.
    I personally think Jordan has come a long way from a country that was under martial laws, to a nation that enjoys a moderate freedom of the press. This is very encouraging. Still, due to the nature of Jordan being in a volatile region, complete freedom of the press can be very challenging.
    From my own experience, I think one of the major hurdles facing journalists is self-censorship as many tend to censor their words before handing them to their editors who might censor them yet again! Many journalists come from the old school that dictates following the official line without questioning. Of course, the current atmosphere in Jordan allows for questioning to a certain degree, but very few journalists choose to go ahead and embrace the new atmosphere.
    Another issue is advertising and their effect on the published material. Sometimes articles critical of certain major advertisers are scrapped in order not to upset those clients that usually keep the paper alive! This happens in Jordan a lot! Overall, freedom of the press in Jordan has come a long way, but more needs to be done.

  8. I can understand the affects advertising has on editorial. This is something very obvious in American media. As for being critical of the king and the royal family, for example, is something like this allowed? My understanding of Jordan at times comes from my parents, who left there about 30 years ago. That was a time where being critical of the king was unheard of, according to them. So, I guess what I am trying to understand is can a newspaper be critical of the king and royal family and is it easy to investigate the government itself and the things it does?

  9. Criticizing the government is tolerated and is done occasionally but the king and the royal family are off-limits. I understand this is usually how it is with monarchies all over. I believe the Queen in the United Kingdom is off-limits as well.

  10. I’d say there is an additional factor in play regarding the royals. There are two basic political factions in the country. One faction may wish to put forward some critique and at times may succeed in some fashion. But the other largely keeps the opposition in check. It falls along the lines of loyalty to king and country, to quote an oath of old. When there have been troubles, the pages of Al Rai fill with adverts declaring families allegiance to the king. These days it reminds me a bit of how things are working in Washington, where criticism of the war still bring cries of being unpatriotic or un-American.

  11. “Hubby”
    The last part of your comment is so true. One really has to be careful when critiquing the U.S. government, president, and foreign policy.

  12. Thanks for writing about this! JT on-line frustrates me no end. The headlines don’t match the articles, can’t tell from the headlines who the writers are.
    Maybe you can “encourage” them when you are in Amman.

  13. Wow!! interesting discussion! I am amazed at the interest in journalism especially that espoused and reported by the Jordan Times writers and editors. Most journalists, whether in the U S or abroad, are influenced by 3 criterias 1) The Ist amendement of the U S constitution (everyone knows about it who studies journalism), 2)personal bias and political adgenda, 3) economics and the pursuit of profit of the medium they work for. Governments are very inefectual when it comes to controling the press. example; watergate. A determined journalist can get a factual story told when he/she makes up his/her mind to do it irrespective of the obstacle they may face. In a world devoid of prejudice a journalist reports the facts as they happen not as he/she sees the facts, and not as he/she wishes them to be.
    We can go on and on ….The Jordan Times reporters and editors do generally a good job given the circumstances they operate under. We can’t fault them for what they do best. respectfully,
    Akram

  14. Akram, the three criterias you mention are very true, but as for governments being inefectual when controlling the press, I would have to say other wise. Please read McChesney’s “Rich Media, Poor democracy” and Chomsky’s “Manufacturing Consent”
    Governments, not only in other countries, but as well in America, play a great role in media, specifically news. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 passed by the U.S. FCC is the most perferct example of this.
    If you get a chance to read these suggested readings, let me know what you think?

  15. Linda….Thank you for your speedy feedback with regards to my comments. I am impressed by the vast knowledge you have on this subject. No doubt you’ll agree with the statement that there are no absolute freedoms of speech,i.e. can’t yell fire in a crowded theatre. Additionally, licensing by government is another obstacle. However, I ‘ve seen journalists make a first amendment stand and win on many occasions. I will look into the reading recommendations and will comment further.
    Respectfully,
    Akram

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