The young journalists behind post-invasion Iraq’s first English-language newspaper have closed the Baghdad Bulletin.
The mainly British team said the decision to throw in the towel was due to the worsening economic and security situation in the country. The fortnightly paper had a staff of 20 – eight westerners working on a voluntary basis and the rest paid Iraqis. Seven editions were published with a claimed circulation of 10,000, mostly delivered free.
The Bulletin was set up in early June by American David Enders and Britons Sebastian Woods-Walker and Mark Gordon-James. All three are in their early 20s and had little previous experience of journalism.
They had just $15,000 (£9,000) of start-up capital and raised a further $10,000 of investment once they were in Baghdad. Gordon-James said: “We originally expected there to be an upward trajectory in Iraq but two months on things started to become less secure. “Security broke down and international companies just weren’t interested in pushing their products in the Iraq market.”
He said the paper was selling about $4,000 worth of adverts a month but making monthly losses of $3,500.
He said: “We started off with the ideal of producing a balanced publication in a country were America has total control to do whatever it wants. The idea was that we could bring some transparency and debate to the process when no one else was trying to do so. “We went out there with a joke budget and thought we’d give it a go. If Iraq was going to be on a positive trajectory we would have been fine – but nobody is going to be investing there in a big way for a year or two.”
Gordon-James said that editor Woods-Walker still planned to produce a final edition of the paper and was currently working as a freelance reporter in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Enders has reportedly been offered a book deal in the US.
Iraq Today now remains as the only English-language news publication available in the country. It is understood to be funded from London and, although currently weekly, plans to go daily.
By Dominic Ponsford