Article in Brief: a story of newspaper salesman on the streets of Ras Al Khaimah whose job has been affected by legislations and competitions with online media.
While driving around Ras Al Khaimah, I noticed a newspaper salesman on the side of the road. Seeing him was a surprise to me as he is among the few remaining newspaper salesmen on the streets. Few years ago, it was normal to see newspaper salesmen standing at major intersections and roundabouts. However, after a government ban in 2001 due to health and safety reasons, most of those salesmen left street jobs to a different profession or began delivering newspapers to houses instead of standing on the streets.
I parked my car on the side of the road and looked at the side window. He started running towards me carrying a number of newspapers and magazines. I didn’t intend to buy a newspaper; what I really wanted was to speak to him. On the other hand, he wanted a quick transaction in order to reach out to the next customer. He immediately handed over a newspaper to me without asking me which one I wanted. I guess after being on the roads for a few years, he knew the top-selling newspapers.
The opportunity to ask him a few questions about his job was right in front of me and I had to take the chance to understand the difficulties he faces on a daily basis. Alawi told me he started street selling newspapers back in 1988 near the clock roundabout in Ras Al Khaimah. He sells Arabic and English newspapers along with other local and international magazines. Alawi’s day starts with the delivery of newspapers at 4 am and it lasts until 3 pm. During the summer months, selling a newspaper becomes challenging due to the heat, but that hasn’t stopped him from carrying out his duties. In the past, he used to walk between cars to sell his newspapers; however, nowadays he stands by the side of the road under the shades of his old umbrella.
Alawi, as I slowly discovered, doesn’t know much about online media, so he seemed clueless about the severe competition between online and print media. For him, the only source of news is the newspaper and the only competitors are TV and Radio. When I asked him what causes an increase of sales, he immediately answered “News!” so my follow up question was “What type of news?”. He responded, “I wish newspaper reporters bring good news to people to encourage them to buy. If there is no good news, no one will buy the newspapers.”
Alawi may not be an expert in communications or media, but his simple words “good news” does have a message to all writers. It emphasizes on the importance of the message being communicated to readers. Readers expect to learn a new thing when picking a book or reading a newspaper. Such expectation requires writers to develop themselves and research for new ideas.
Newspapers have always been an important source of information. However, with the shift to online media, it is normal to expect a change in the consumer behavior towards online media. Personally speaking, there is nothing that can beat reading a newspaper with a cup of coffee first thing in the morning in the office.
Abdulla holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and a Master’s in Business Administration. His abstract passion for history and literature with a hint of photography adds to his noble enduring quality. Abdulla enjoys visiting museums, art exhibitions and likes to spend his spare time in the outdoors. His column “Emirati Reflections” is a mixture of stories from the past and insights of the present, which blend together and formulate his understanding of the UAE’s culture.