Ladan Rafii Headshot

Demise of the International Herald Tribune

Posted: Updated:

If there was ever a newspaper one could consider a friend all over the world, it was the International Herald Tribune.

As an Anglophone traveling around the globe, every time I saw it on a newsstand in some strange and unfamiliar place, I always felt closer to home. It conveyed a sense of warmth and familiarity that is often missing when one is living and working abroad.

In July 2001, my first newspaper article was published in the International Herald Tribune, and what an indescribable joy it was to open the paper and see my words in print for the very first time in my life. Such an incredible feeling -- and one that can only be understood by others if they have experienced exactly the same thing.

Later, a friend of mine told me her father, an American diplomat, had said now I could consider myself belonging to a group of people who had been published in this highly regarded paper. It certainly felt like that for me too.

At the time, I was working for the United Nations in Kosovo as a political affairs officer. I would stop by the only international newsstand in town and pick up my copy to read when I got home. It was something I looked forward to on a daily basis, and the owner, a local Kosovar, would always greet me with a smile and hand it to me.

He was the one who witnessed my reaction when I opened the paper and saw my article on the op-ed page -- and the first person with whom I shared my sense of elation, pride and accomplishment.

If you read that article today, you will realize it is a timeless piece and just as relevant over a decade later as it was back then. It questions whether the "best and brightest" in this world always know best, and whether good judgment goes hand-in-hand with impressive educational credentials and professional qualifications.

I will always be grateful to the International Herald Tribune editors for giving a highly visible, prestigious and worldwide platform to a young and unknown writer whose article was only 389 words long, but who thought she had something important worth conveying to and sharing with others.

Many of these editors are now long gone, as if they belonged to a different time and era. Those who are still around are now trying to downplay the recent changes as a minor and relatively trivial development -- which it isn't.

According to Serge Schmemann, who was the International Herald Tribune's editorial page editor, when the paper became the International New York Times on 14 October 2013, it was merely another name change in its long genealogy. He states it was popularly known as the "Paris Herald" in its early days. Its original parent, the New York Herald founded a European edition in 1887, which became the European Edition of the New York Herald Tribune in 1924.

He adds that the International Herald Tribune was born under the joint ownership of the Herald Tribune, the New York Times and the Washington Post in 1967. This troika was then reduced to the Washington Post and the New York Times in 1991, and finally to only the Times in 2003.

Now we are left with what is ostensibly the same paper, but it certainly doesn't look the same or feel the same either -- at least not to me. Not only has the print version disappeared, but the www.iht.com website has been erased from the Internet as if it never existed and replaced with international.nytimes.com.

As a friend of mine recently remarked when she was in Paris searching for the old version and realizing it no longer existed: "I was a bit distressed. It is the same paper, but I like the name International Herald Tribune better."

So do I -- and I'm sure there are many more of you out there who feel the same way as we do.

Not only did we lose a great paper, but we lost a good friend too.