The National staffers launch Facebook campaign to oust their editor

Some journalists at The National in Abu Dhabi have launched a Facebook campaign to force the resignation of editor-in-chief Hassan Fattah, who they contend has “led the paper into oblivion” and “forced a near wholesale turnover of the staff.”

One of the journalists involved in the effort tells Romenesko readers: “We are demanding that he be fired and that his large salary (retroactively) be shared by all present and former National employees.”

Fattah declined to comment Thursday afternoon.

On the Facebook page, former and current National employees complain about … well, things journalists often complain about. “We are treated like stupid, misbehaving kindergartners, are allowed no input and are expected merely to say yes,” says one commenter. “Any possible journalistic disagreement – or even simple questioning – is treated as coming from a disloyal dissident.”

My brief Q-and-A with one of the disgruntled journalists:

Hassan Fattah

What’s been the reaction to the campaign inside the newsroom? Has anyone been fired for it?

No one has been fired yet. Much talk about the campaign, but the newsroom is accustomed to such controversy, including the leaking of salaries the year after the National launched. As is to be expected, current staffers are very nervous about speaking out. Fattah has told more than a few people personally that “I can fire you!”

Any word from him?
Hassan has been heard discussing it, but nothing concrete.

Prediction?
This will probably result in no changes.

UPDATE: I’m told that the note below circulated among National journalists with the National story published last week by American Journalism Review.

To colleagues and whom it may concern:

Hassan Fattah’s academic credentials from Columbia should be withdrawn and made null and void. He is unqualified to run a newspaper, and he is misguiding and harming the careers of journalists. He has surrounded himself with sycophants, people with no integrity who will do anything to keep their salaries coming in, no matter the professional price to others. The essay below, written by a former editor on the National’s foreign desk, should be printed and posted all over the newsroom and building. We have attempted to get the word out that Fattah is unfit to guide us, that he has been the main reason that so many of our colleagues left the paper in disgust, that his sycophants laugh behind his back and ridicule him incessantly when he is not in the office, but our complaints have fallen on deaf ears. Complaints to HR about Fattah and his gang result in, “Do you want to keep your job?”

Probably the most we can hope for is that he and his sycophantic underlings (they know who you are) (Cowan, we feel sorry for you, no matter how much you are being paid.) will be forever shamed. But, we think it would be just for Fattah to be fired and to be forced to give back his salary in the form of bonuses that were supposed to be paid to the people who put out the PR rag that is the National. The amount of money he has been paid to be a clown is utterly tragic.
And, no matter what, let’s continue to get the word out about this joke of a journalist. He disgusts us.

Yours truly,

(Real) National Journalists United

* Visit the Simon Kefauver Facebook page, where the campaign is hosted
* A veteran editor writes about his time on The National’s foreign desk (ajr.org)

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