Media Profile: Taking a new look at media - Kamal Ahmed, media editor, the Guardian

Editing the Guardian’s media section, compulsory and compulsive reading for the media industry, is the kind of job many young journalists dream of. John Mulholland’s departure to edit the soon-to-re-launch Sporting Life has given Kamal Ahmed that opportunity.

Editing the Guardian’s media section, compulsory and compulsive

reading for the media industry, is the kind of job many young

journalists dream of. John Mulholland’s departure to edit the

soon-to-re-launch Sporting Life has given Kamal Ahmed that

opportunity.



Ahmed, who joined the Guardian in 1996 from his role as chief reporter

and deputy news editor at Scotland on Sunday, seems fully aware that the

scrutiny of the media world will make the dream job a challenge.



’John is a difficult act to follow,’ he says. ’To be a new editor you

want to take over a crap section that you can change. It’s hard to take

over a good section and give it a polish.’



While he is cautious - ’It’s my first editing role at the Guardian, so

don’t expect any immediate changes’ - don’t be fooled into thinking that

Ahmed doesn’t have clear ideas about how he wants to develop the

section.



’I want general readers of the Guardian to read the media section while

maintaining our leading industry edge,’ he says.



The reader has to remain the focus, insists Ahmed, because he wants to

’avoid thinking something’s important because all my mates will.’ The

section in its current stand-alone format was launched in January 1997,

although as Ahmed points out it ’feels as if it’s been with us for

ages.’ The move was closely followed by direct competition from the

Independent, which was launched its own media section in February 1997,

all part of the increasing attention media issues are given. Is this

growth in coverage of the media pure naval gazing by self-indulgent

hacks?



’The big danger is that we all think its too important,’ Ahmed

acknowledges.



But he admits: ’The types of newspapers we read and TV we watch are huge

reflections of ourselves. Plus there is the business side - the industry

is significant and important in Britain.’



Business coverage in the Guardian has been kept pretty separate from the

media supplement, although at the same time as Ahmed was made media

correspondent in September the newspaper set up its media business unit

with media business editor Simon Beavis and correspondent Chris

Barrie.



’I want to see more of them and their analysis in the media section,’

says Ahmed. ’We have got a chance to develop the way the Guardian does

media business stories.’



Ahmed believes that the real challenge for media journalists is to make

issues such as the advent of digital - which has most eyes glazing over

within 30 seconds - interesting to the general reader. Another area to

look at is ’how we cover marketing and PR in a way which is not

superficial’.



His own experience with the PR world has not been entirely positive.



’A PR firm will ring you and ask in the vaguest terms whether they can

do anything for you,’ he remonstrates. ’All journalists are interested

in is that nugget that is going to keep them ahead of everyone

else.’



And his final piece of advice for PR people? ’Spell my name right.’



HIGHLIGHTS

1993

Reporter, Scotland on Sunday

1996

Reporter, the Guardian

1997

Media correspondent, the Guardian

1998

Media editor, the Guardian



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