Second Arab Women‘s Media Conference, October 24-27, 2002, Jordan

Online Journalism and Development of the Arab Media

— by Magda Abu-Fadil

News for the Web & Convergence:

In February 2001, web expert Mike Wendland wrote about the first living example of journalism convergence, a trend that has spread to many news organizations in the United States, Europe and Asia, and is being looked at seriously in the Middle East.

He was referring to the Tampa Tribune newspaper in Florida which spent $34 million dollars on a building serving as headquarters for a newspaper, a local affiliate of a network television company and a website. The three media outlets are owned by the same company. The TV reporters do their stand-ups in front of the cameras and then write newspaper stories. The newspaper reporters write their stories and then appear on TV to do talk-back debriefings or their own stand-ups. And everybody – reporters, editors, photographers – “repurpose” their work for the Web site, said Wendland.

This cross-platform experiment is being seen in many other media companies and means you can get news when, where and whichever way you want it. But it also means reporters and editors have less time to evaluate the news, and in some cases it puts too much pressure on smaller operations with fewer resources.

Another newspaper, for example, sends out its video journalists who are reporterphotographer one-man or one woman operations, who report, videotape and back in the station edit the stories for TV as well as the newspaper, using digital video cameras and computerized TV editing software and a computer.

Naturally, the people who are upset are members of specific journalists’ or photographers’ unions, who see their jobs being eroded by the jacks-of-all-trades.

The University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication has decided to capitalize on the trend by offering courses in convergence journalism – creating graduates who work cross-platform.

Asked whether students could excel working for three types of media at once, the director of the school’s online journalism program said it aimed to provide enough knowledge so that journalists would be comfortable in multi-tasking, like a print or online reporter being asked to supply a video clip for a web presentation.

The trick is to learn to write differently for the web than for print or broadcast, but not to lose sight of the importance of accuracy, credibility, timeliness, interactivity, and that one should write horizontally, not vertically, with the idea that stories, segments, sources, etc., must have links to other bits of information.

“The challenge is to think of the web as a different medium, not merely an extension of the newspaper,” said Carole Rich, a professor of journalism at the University of Alaska to a conference of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

Download the full text of the speech (PDF): English, Arabic

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