‘To be a good Lebanese you have first to be a good Australian’.
That creed has been the constant editorial theme of the El- Telegraph newspaper since its inception in 1970.
Thirty years ago there were few communication services available to the Arabic speaking community. There were no regular Arabic radio programs, and Arabic newspapers, which took 4 days to arrive, were too removed geographically and emotionally from Australia to adequately express the local community’s desire for a spirit of belonging
It didn’t take long for two innovative young men, George Jabbour and Joseph Khoury, (both recent arrivals from the same village in north Lebanon) to realise this lack of media communication and decide to do something about it.
And so in autumn of 1970, the El-Telegraph newspaper was launched.
This weekly tabloid, with its original print-run of 3000, quickly grew in popularity. In a short time it expanded from Head Office in Sydney to a Melbourne branch, then country towns, and finally Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, and Tasmania.
By 1973 it had become a Propriety Limited company with Edward Obeid, Michael Obeid (now deceased), Peter Indary and Peter Maroun as shareholders. Publication was now tri-weekly with a broad sheet format. A year later the directors bought a printery in Marrickville and formed Media Press Pty Ltd.
Another change in 1978 saw the two Peters split from El- Telegraph and form the An-Nahar newspaper. And in 1986 Joseph Khoury, George Jabbour and Michael Obeid sold their interest to Edward Obeid’s family. Joseph launched a new Arabic newspaper, Al-Bariak, George went back to Lebanon, and Michael remained an employee of El-Telegraph until his death in 1991.
Ethnic journalism is very different to Australian media in that it demands a generalist rather than a specialist attitude to reporting. The current print- run of 20,000 proves that El-Telegraph readers, many of whom can’t read English, want to stay educated and informed. El-Telegraph services this need with regular columns on health, law and immigration, and feature articles on local and federal and state politics and issues, and international news including Middle Eastern issues with a specific focus on Lebanon.
The written word is powerful in its ability to engender a sense of belonging and a community spirit. In this respect, El-Telegraph newspaper has played a responsible and important role in the history of multi-culturalism in Australia.
© Denise Baraki Mack April, 2001