My Tenure as Editor: From the Battle for Change to Majalla’s Red Border

In the evolving world of journalism, newly appointed editors-in-chief like to take on the role of a revolutionary leader. After filtering the comrades one by one, they eliminate secret agents, fearing any spies that might affect the national security of his wisely led office.

Why not? After all, planting spies and enlisting secretaries are tools that have been used in espionage throughout history.

The new leader then uproots their predecessor’s legacy to begin their enlightenment program. Without getting into too much detail, you only need to look at the troubled state of the world to see that this is an accurate illustration of the state of the press.

In August 1985, I became editor-in-chief of Majalla, replacing my colleague Imad Al-Din Adib, who was preceded by Abed Al Karim Abu Al Nasr. It is important to note no one ever willingly resigns from this post, whether in this publication or any other in the world. This applies to every editor-in-chief, including myself, but the circumstances of each departure differs.

I took on this position in my 30s against two backdrops: as a Saudi Arabian and a journalist on Fleet street, which was the most important location for journalism in the world.

Indeed, I had inherited a system of working that I was pitted against. Friends and new acquaintances raised the banner of revolution and demanded changes, giving their input on how to transform the magazine. As a result, I made a considerable amount of changes which I admit I truly regret.

When the dust had settled, I looked at what else I could change. After pondering for a while, the victim became the magazine’s cover. The first few issues of Majalla had a striking red border on the cover, so I decided to remove it.

The founders of Majalla, brothers Hisham and Mohammad Hafez, then called me and said, “Othman, you removed Majalla’s red border. We stand by your decision, but we have a surprise for you; this border only frames two magazines Time and Majalla, and Time magazine has made a trademark registration error and therefore we have the right to use the red border, so why did you remove it?”

Thus, the red frame was reintroduced. It was later removed again, but eventually the iconic red border design made a bold return.