Illustration by SuJi Kang

Vice Chancellor in Conversation with The National’s Editor-in-Chief

Vice Chancellor Mariët Westermann interviewed Editor-in-Chief of the National, Mina Al-Oraibi in last week’s roundtable series. Find out about her personal journey and important skills in journalism here.

Apr 18, 2021

Mina Al-Oraibi, expert journalist and Editor-in-Chief of The National, joined Vice Chancellor Mariët Westermann at the Roundtable, a discussion series hosted by Westermann. Co-hosted by the Office of the Vice Chancellor and the Career Development Center, VC Roundtables seek to help students develop ideas of possible futures after graduation through candid conversations with industry leaders.
The Iraqi-British journalist became editor-in-chief of the UAE’s leading English language newspaper when it was relaunched in 2017 after being acquired by a private investment company.
“I often wonder, How did I end up leading a newspaper?” Al-Oraibi shared. “The three loves of my life are history, writing and the Middle East and combining the three together made me a journalist that focuses primarily on the Middle East.”
“Journalism is the first rough draft of history. So much of what we know in the last two centuries started being put together by journalists,” she marvelled. After living around the world as a diplomat’s child, Al-Oraibi studied history at University College London and noted its importance in her journalistic endeavours.
“Studying history for journalists is so important. One is about sourcing. Especially in today’s world where there’s such confusion about sourcing that everything that’s published could have so many different original sources,” she added.. “[We have to be] careful and meticulous about understanding sources.”
“Daily news is exhausting, and when you’re from the region, it’s emotionally exhausting,” she admitted. After a ten year stint at Asharq Al-Awsat, an international pan-Arab newspaper based in London, she felt depleted from the newsroom’s constant bustle and decided to take a break from journalism by pursuing a fellowship program at Yale University in 2015.
Feeling adequately rejuvenated, Al-Oraibi reentered the journalistic world as head of The National. Not long after assuming the role, the pandemic hit and turned the newsroom upside down.
Face to face team briefings turned into Zoom calls and Slack messages. “It’s really hard to maintain the same creativity,” she revealed. “You have to make sure it’s still a robust news day.”
According to Al-Oraibi, The National publishes around 180 pieces a day that range from articles to videos. She acknowledged that not every article is framed or written well when they have to meet such high production targets, though it is frustrating when people try to nitpick and find a hidden agenda that doesn’t exist. “Some others are quite vindictive and it’s quite hard because we work day in and day out,” she sighed.
Al-Oraibi pointed out that it is important to remember that no journalist or publication is perfectly objective: “Understanding that any… article is limited, that we are subjective... You have certain journalists who are like, we are a hundred percent objective, that we are a hundred percent independent and I don’t think that’s true… The question is are you there, do you declare your bias in advance or not and are you aware of that.”
She stressed that media literacy should be the responsibility of both journalists and readers: “ They will say it’s not my job to make sure it’s verified, which is fair enough, but you have responsibility if you’re sharing something.”
Being the editor-in-chief, Al-Oraibi admitted that this field of work is no small responsibility and can sometimes be incredibly taxing. “You really can’t switch off even when you go on holiday. Because you’re in the news business, you can’t come back and try to catch up on a week’s worth of news,” she revealed. “To do the job well you need to be connected.”
Al-Oraibi highlighted the need for solid reporting and interviewing skills and also brought up an often forgotten quality in journalism – kindness. “In journalism, there is a competition for scoop, there is a competition of who gets an interview, there is competition for everything,” she said. “But you can also be kind, you can also be fair.”
Charlie Fong is News Editor. Email her at
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