Guest editors invariably bring a huge amount to each Alliance special feature – specialist knowledge, experience, contacts. I find it hard to imagine producing an issue of Alliance without one. In the case of the special feature on ‘Responding to the hopes of the Arab Spring’, I can say that having an expert guest editor was, literally, indispensable.
The Arab region is a minefield of mistakes and misjudgements waiting to be made. Just to mention a couple: we found what I thought was a lovely photo of women in Tahrir Square. When Atallah Kuttab, the guest editor, saw the proofs, he commented: ‘The picture shows all women with their heads covered (a bit of a stereotype of women in the region); this does not give the true diversity on the streets in Egypt or Tunisia.’ When I showed him two potential cover photos, one of Tahrir Square by day and one at night with fireworks, he didn’t hesitate: ‘Use the daytime one. It’s too soon for fireworks.’