Marianas Variety founder dies at 83; ‘he let the chips fall where they may’

Marianas Variety founder Abed Younis

Abed Younis, the media pioneer who started one of the longest-running newspapers in the Marianas, has died. He was 83.

According to Marianas Variety, the newspaper which he founded in 1972, Younis died of natural causes and he was surrounded by his family at the time of his passing.

CNMI Governor Ralph Torres and Lt. Governor Arnold Palacios issued the following statement on the passing of Younis:

“We join the Marianas in mourning the passing of an icon and innovator in the Pacific, Abed E. Younis. We extend our deepest heartfelt condolences to the Younis family and all the past and present staff of the oldest newspaper in Micronesia, the Marianas Variety. Under Mr. Younis’ leadership, Marianas Variety has been at the forefront of journalism and public information for the CNMI and Micronesia. He created the first platform in the Western Pacific for important news and information from around the Marianas and around the world for almost 50 years.”

Keen interest in journalism

Originally from Israel, Younis was a graphic artist who had a keen interest in journalism, particularly print journalism, and he loved to read all kinds of newspapers and magazines.

He started his own small graphic shop and held several jobs before he settled in the Marianas in the ’70s after a scholarship grant in Japan.

In 1972, Younis took over the failing Marianas Star, founded by two Peace Corps volunteers, then changed its name to Marianas Variety.

Interestingly, Younis said in an interview that he changed the name to Variety after he saw a cultural and lifestyle publication on Guam called Guam Variety.

But the Marianas Variety that Younis founded would not be just a lifestyle publication. Although it gave excellent coverage to CNMI culture and lifestyle, the Variety became more known for breaking hard news stories and publishing fearless editorials.

The Variety quickly swept away its early competitors and continues to hold a dominant position in the CNMI’s media landscape today.

Younis had his failings, just like everyone else, including a certain intransigence. For a long time, he opposed changing the logo style of the Marinas Variety because, he, a graphic artist, designed it himself and the newspaper grew into prominence and profitability under that logo.

For the longest time, too, he resisted the Variety’s entry into the online world, having an innate sense of the value of his printed product and refusing to give it away for free on the internet.

But if Younis had his failings, the lack of journalistic integrity wasn’t one of them.

Younis was immune to business or political pressure and he let the chips fall where they may, refusing to step in and influence a story, and preferring to see a story through the end, wherever it may lead.

“The Variety is my only business,” he once said. “I have no other business interests and I’m beholden to no one. It is the Variety’s readers to whom I’m beholden to.”

The Variety also emphasized regional news, giving regular coverage to regional events, and hiring correspondents in the various regional capitals, including the inimitable Giff Johnson who is already an institution in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. He even started a short-lived newspaper in Palau called the Palau Horizon.

Younis would also start a sister publication on Guam called Guam Variety during the 1990s and the Marianas Variety (Guam Edition) during the 2000s but those publications didn’t quite make it in the Guam market because they were always undercapitalized.

The Marianas Variety (Guam edition) was bought by large pocketed construction giant Core Tech International in 2014 and has since been renamed The Guam Daily Post.

Younis, during his later years, also opened a new restaurant called Caravan which served Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, a nod to his native heritage.

But his true love was his newspaper, which has withstood all sorts of challenges from advertising boycotts and destructive typhoons to antagonistic governors.

He is survived by his former wife Maria Paz Tudela Castro, their children Banny, Laila, Amier, Farah, Suaad, Salam, and 12 grandchildren.