Monday, 7 December 2009

Gulf News' Greenwash

Trees for LifeImage via Wikipedia

Today's Gulf News, weighing in at a record low 400g incidentally, carries remarkable exercise in hypocrisy.

The newspaper's front page is a clarion call and exhortation to us all to save our planet. This comes from a consortium of 56 newspapers in 45 countries, all of whom have made the same mistake of assuming that we are paying them to nag us rather than provide us with the news, analysis and context that we are told we can expect from our newspapers.

Rather than run this extraordinary editorial on a wrap-around (for instance, seeking sponsorship to offset the additional cost), Gulf News has instead decided to sacrifice the front page entirely, leaving us with today's lead story being the page 3 report on the UAE's prevalence of childhood tooth decay.

Perhaps I am being far too critical and grumpy, but the exhortation to save the planet sat oddly with me, coming as it does from a medium comprised of dead trees. In fact, even today's slimmed down Gulf News consumed something like 46,000 kilos of paper if we are to apply the paper's 2008 BPA audited circulation of 115,000 copies. That's knocking on 17 thousand tonnes of paper per year - and at GN's 2008 weight of 1.2 kilos, we'd have been looking at a whopping 50 tonnes of paper, not including all those fascinating supplements on air conditioning, Malta and Peridontal Marmoset Splicing that brighten up GN's readers' lives.

If all of the newspapers in the global 'we're running an editorial that calls on our leaders to be more green' group have the same pagination and run as GN (and many, incidentally, have a significantly higher pagination and run), their daily collective impact on the planet is the consumption of over two million kilos of paper - a commodity that is made out of dead trees.

If Gulf News had offset its carbon, I'd be more willing to bear with the self-righteous finger-wagging. If it had made any contribution whatsoever to research or 'green' charities , I'd be inclined to admiration (and no, I don't consider a one-off stunt of circulating printed jute bags to subscribers as being significant or even terribly helpful). If it had made a commitment to recycled paper, soy-based inks or other 'green' technologies, I'd be more willing to listen - although I have to note the editorial actually contains very little original or even interesting content that advances the debate it professes to contribute to.

But no, none of the above apply. Gulf News has instead contented itself with taking away a lump of the news that I have paid for and substituting it with a rambling piece of poorly hashed together pompousness that truly beggars belief.

Printed. On. Dead. Trees.
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Doug said...

For once, I'm going to come out in defence of Gulf News - it's not just them who's doing it. Plenty of other papers around the world are doing the exact same thing. The Grauniad, for one.

rakesh_roy said...

i guess its a matter of where you are from and your personal tastes. i would have you know that gulfnews is a very popular newspaper among the indians in the uae. we love its balance and self censorship. for example when recently some people attacked CNN's India offices Gulfnews did not publish the news since it did not want to embarass its major readership. such responsible editorial policy is commendable and appreciated. maybe if western expats formed a large chunk of GN readership it would cater to and publish news and supplements you want to read too. its about the bottom line, we buy gulfnews so it publishes what we like. you don't like gulfnews go start your own newspaper.

aimee said...

QUALITY comment - Alex did you make up Rakesh?? I had no idea the media was there to protect the delicate sensitivities of its readership.... I feel enlightened.

As to the original post - Mr McNabb m'dear, you are slightly obsessed with the weight of Dubai's favourite newspaper - loved by one community, read/mocked by others - but I get your point. Yet it is just another example of how the message is not sinking in - global crisis - gold leaf covered cars - article on saving the environment - let's dedicate a whole page to it. Reminds me of the classic Masdar press conference where all the guests were bussed in ... in individual Hummers, and the presentation was run on 15 LCDs, with 6 generators out the back providing the electricity. CNN coverage of that was quality.

Nigel said...


I had been trying to avoid embarrassing news and your irresponsible writing has now exposed me to facts that I'd prefer not to know.

Please, please, I would appreciate if you didn't repeat such seditious facts that might infect my self-righteous brain.

Thanks, etc.


Tom S said...

With respect, I think this smacks a bit of autopilot. Gulf News is not an intellectual operation - it's just jumping on a bandwagon that happened to pass invitingly by. Nevertheless, the message is important and it's a good thing that it's on the front page in a not-terribly-green country.

Christopher Saul said...

I don't really see a problem with the Gulf News being printed on paper whilst promoting greenness. Printed paper is printed on renewable sources - trees effectively farmed for the purpose of being turned into paper.

They're not being printed on the remnants of Amazonian rainforests.

Unless I am completely mistaken, the paper industry is a good example of using a well managed, renewable resource, at least in terms of the trees used to create the paper it needs. I can't comment on the chemicals used in the process of turning trees into paper though.

What you do with the paper after it's been read is important, obviously - recycle, bury, burn, etc.

You could argue that reading the paper edition is greener than reading it online - no datacentres stuffed with power guzzling, AC consuming computer equipment!

aimee said...

I don't have a problem with spreading a green message on paper, but I do have an issue with taking up a whole front page, adding masses of extra paper, to spread a message about saving paper? A masthead banner and headline piece would've worked fine. In my opinion.
Alex - I'm curious - have you got scales on your desk to weigh GN daily, whereupon it is recorded in a spreadsheet? Cos that'd be quality... :-)

alexander... said...

Aimee - I do have a scales but sadly am not quite so obsessive as to weigh GN daily... Just do it when there feels like there's a significant change, which is what started me on weighing the thing in the first place - it had dropped from 1.2 kilos to something like 800g if I remember correctly...

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