Abu Dhabi's National 'recruiting like mad' for weekend launch

The United Arab Emirates broadsheet The National has appointed the three key staff for a weekend edition to be launched in the autumn.

The new Saturday paper, which will follow the Sunday Times model with seven sections including sport, news and glossy magazine, has promoted 35-year-old Burhan Wazir, former deputy features editor of the Times supplement T2, as editor under editor-in-chief Martin Newland.

James Langton, a former Evening Standard staffer and Sunday Telegraph Washington correspondent, will head the news section.

And Rachel Simhon, currently deputy editor at the Mail’s weekend magazine will launch the colour supplement

They are spearheading a recruitment drive for up to 50 writers, sub editors and picture editors, which is being handled by former Daily Telegraph managing editor Sue Ryan.

‘We are recruiting like mad,’says Ryan. ‘It’s a lot easier than it was with the daily because people have seen the daily, which has been a success.”

The Abu Dhabi-based National has carved out a circulation of 70,000 since its launch two months ago.

Its main competitor is the Dubai-based Gulf News but it is only one part of a gold rush throughout the seven states which has attracted an estimated 1,000 English speaking journalists as new operations are formed and existing news gatherers such as Bloomberg boost their local bureaux.

Wazir, who moved over from Britain in January, ahead of the main launch, said salaries were broadly compatible with Fleet Street pay, with expensive accommodation offset by tax benefits and very cheap petrol. He argues that while cash is obviously an incentive most arrivals are equally driven by the story.

‘The reason why a lot of people come to the national is that it provides a fantastic opportunity to work in the Middle East which is the story of the moment. You get access to the Middle East in a way that you don’t in London or New York.

‘For me the interesting thing has been trying to understand an emergent middle class culture which is very dynamic and very new.

The National is essentially government-owned. It was financed by the state-run Mubadala Development Company and expects to be profitable within two years.

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