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Where’s online journalism headed?
Online journalism is evolving, but as Samar Fatany, a Saudi radio journalist, asks is the Gulf ready to accept developments in information technologies.
June 15, 2009 10:37 by Dana El Baltaji
The future of online writers and journalism in the Gulf is very uncertain. Current methods of generating online revenue cannot offset the loss of the traditional advertising that mainstream media relies upon to sustain their businesses.
In order to survive, mainstream media must come up with innovative ideas to upgrade their information services and to compete with the emerging technologies for online media. Gulf online writers and journalists and media professionals from Malaysia, Eastern Europe and the United States took part in a workshop organized by the International Research and Exchanges Board to address these challenges and discuss the current situation in the Gulf. The participants included young, talented bloggers who represented the popular new trend of citizen journalism. They debated the role of new forms of media that are changing and reshaping public debate.
Case studies from Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia demonstrated the growing popularity of blogs and online forums and allowed writers to express their views over being constantly threatened with closure and in some cases prison terms for simply providing people with an online forum to discuss their demands for change and other issues of public interest.
In a session on cooperation, cooptation or competition, participants discussed the relationship between citizen journalists, bloggers and mainstream media. Media professionals highlighted the efforts of mainstream media to adopt the new information technologies in order to keep pace with the ever-changing information revolution.
Online editors shared experiences of employing electronic news sources and creating online relationships with readers. IT experts and media professionals gave an impressive presentation outlining the emerging technologies for online media. They demonstrated how Web 2.0 changed the media landscape and discussed methods to integrate multimedia into existing content.
It was evident that media companies must balance needed investments in technology and content with dwindling revenue resources. Participants discussed the new era of citizen journalism, which has created a more vibrant sociopolitical debate. Bloggers opposed alliances with traditional media, preferring independence to criticize social and political issues and expose corruption and human rights violations.
Young bloggers criticized Arab mainstream media and rejected the idea of conforming to official journalist association rules and guidelines. They insisted on maintaining both their independence and their freedom to express their opinions to help shape the public debate. In a heated discussion about ethics for online journalism, bloggers refused to conform to any code of ethics, and they did not want to be labeled professional journalists.
Instead, they asserted their right to express their opinions in any form without any ethical, political, social or literary restriction. They openly criticized the Arab mainstream media for its lack of professionalism and failure to expose corruption and provide more accurate reports on critical issues.
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