A different editor of a different newspaper

M S Siddiqui | Published: August 24, 2018 20:37:50


AHM Moazzem Hossain, the deceased editor of the daily Financial Express (FE), was known for his professional commitment. He was born on January 1 1948 to the couple late Ayub Ali and late Rezia Khatun of Feni District. He was known by the nick name Khasru among the close friends and relatives. He did his BA (Honours) and MA in Economics from Dhaka University. He is regarded as the guru of Financial Journalism, Economic Analysis and Idea Generation in this field. He specialised in economic reporting that he never gave up until he became the editor of the FE. Earlier, he worked for The Pakistan Observer, The New Nation, the United News of Bangladesh, The Dhaka Courier and The Daily Star.

Apart from the editor, he was a member of the management board of the Press Institute of Bangladesh and a member of the Board of Directors of the Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha. He was the founding president of the Economic Reporters Forum in 1992. He was a member of the Board of Directors of Janata Bank, for two consecutive terms. He was also a director of Securities Trading Company Limited, a subsidiary of the Investment Corporation of Bangladesh (ICB). He was also an independent director of Bay Leasing and Investment Ltd. He was also an independent director of the Southeast Bank Limited. On completion of his education in the late 1960s, Moazzem Bhai served the Habib Bank Limited as an officer in the Training and Research Department. He also worked as a research officer at the Ministry of Finance of the Government of Pakistan in Islamabad.

He had been involved with the daily FE since its inception in November 1992 and in the due course became Editor and publisher. This newspaper established a different model of newspaper management and made a difference in terms of presentation and policy. A sheer icon of objective journalism, the publication witnessed a track record of steady growth.

He was careful about quality and two important aspects of financial journalism: one is conceptual and another is contextual. For financial and business journalists, conceptual priority in respective areas or fields is very important. On the other hand, reporting on stock markets requires fundamental ideas about the listed companies, market capitalisation, and price-earnings ratio. Again, for a reporter on banking issues, knowledge about statutory requirement, bank rate, lending rate and its administration and implication including performing and non-performing loans is instrumental. One has to have more practical, field-based knowledge. This is the conceptual aspect.

On the contextual side comes the issue of writing for the readership in a country like Bangladesh where in general fiscal and economic literacy is not yet very good. From that perspective, conditions of various industries inside and outside the country, trading between different nations and so on are pivotal as we are living in an interdependent world. Moreover, developed countries also affect the economic performance of countries like us. Initially, we thought and designed a financial daily keeping in mind the economic condition of the country.

He had believed that nowadays the contextual side of things was receiving more prominence. Nevertheless, for both the aspects, one has to continuously update oneself with the latest knowledge and changes in technology and the popular trends of global media.

The FE came into being in the year of 1992 at a very interesting time. The concept of globalisation was gaining momentum around the world. He understood that Bangladesh too would join the bandwagon soon. The country's economy was going to open up to embrace the changes that would take it to new heights. The GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) was replaced by the World Trade Organisation (WTO)-Marrakech Agreement, which laid the framework of multilateral trading facilities for Bangladesh. The capital market was at a teething stage. Infrastructure was being built, new cash flows from abroad were wooing local investors to set up heavy industries and banks were getting more and more dynamic. Citizens of this country needed a better understanding of those changes and reforms. There came the FE to render a deeper understanding of the market and the economy.

This form of journalism was much needed to chronicle the emergence of Bangladesh as an Asian Tiger, with priorities set around issues like development sector, finance and economy. It's a matter of joy and pride that the newspaper has been a solemn witness to the rise of true financial journalism in this country.

His focus was to maintain the basic principle of objective journalism and as far as the policy is concerned, no character assassination or any malicious reporting would be encouraged. The basic grammar of journalism associated with the five Ws (Who, What, When, Where, Why) have been followed. He was very meticulous in maintaining a neutral stance which means we do not use political priorities, rather proceed with development news and always been very objectively focused.

He was aware that Bangladesh entered into an era of everything digitalised and understood the need for a virtual platform to connect with the readers. The digital version is now very user-friendly.

Even if there's not a competing paper to differentiate itself from, a newspaper has to create a distinctive brand to survive today's ultra-competitive news market. To learn what brand has organically grown up around a newspaper requires quantitative and qualitative marketing research to determine what the audience's strongest perceptions about a publication are. In Bangladesh newspapers have more reputation than the brand, but the FE is the exception as it has more brand value than reputation. It is up to readers to judge the level of perfection he achieved, because that is a perpetual exercise as the market determines the course of everything.

Although the readers are one of the most important stakeholders of a newspaper, it has to face a challenge of two categories, namely the owners and the editor. Bangladesh is a place where print and electronic media are a tool of protecting interest and building images of the owner and the editor. There is a conflict of interest between the owner and the editor and that ends in many interesting stories. Both the stakeholders try to reap optimum benefits from the media. But the FE is a rare exception that both owners and the editor had no such endeavour to use the newspaper for their personal gain.

But creating an enduring image for a newspaper is no easy task since this is a product that has a shelf life lasting a little past nine o'clock the day after it is printed, since the brand is ultimately formed in the minds of your readers. There are some reputed newspapers subscribed by readers but may not open the pages but the readers of the FE use to be serious readers. Brand and reputation aren't the same, but they're related. The assessment of brand value can be judged by talking to readers to learn what they think of when they think of your newspaper. The sum total of their experiences with a publication, what they think about it, and what they associate it with in their minds make the brand. When readers are more passionate about a newspaper either for good or bad, it means the brand is stronger.

There are a few newspapers which are not used by editors for personal branding and get a better place in the society. The FE is one of the newspapers wherein the owners and the editor are not trying to reap benefits from the media. Whenever the author of this article spoke to the late editor, he found a different approach. Moazzem Bhai always suggested improving the quality of writings with a difference in line with the philosophy of the FE.

Moazzem Bhai was always proud that the FE could give dividend of around 40 per cent to the shareholders. It has its own office premises and also plans for further expansion. He had a plan to go very slow and steady and was also very careful to talk about the target of volume. He had in mind the plan to improve the quality of the paper with neutral political views and specialisation in reporting. He was against any lucrative heading of a news item or an article. His branding strategy was unique as branding of a newspaper is not an easy task.

This soft-spoken editor was not keen to publish news and photos of his presence. He was proud that despite its specialisation in the financial sector, the FE became the second largest English newspaper in the country. He successfully branded the FE keeping himself behind the screen. But readers and the media world will remember him as the Guru of Financial Journalism in Bangladesh.

M S Siddiqui is a Legal Economist.

Email: mssiddiqui2035@gmail.com

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