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

Online Journalism and Development of the Arab Media

— by Magda Abu-Fadil

Outlook & Recommendations:

Where does all that leave us in the Arab World? Can our journalism evolve, advance, serve us, and be credible?

We have to start with ourselves as individuals. With the will to change, improve and learn. We cannot treat journalism and professionalism in the 21st Century the same way we did media in the 20th. Technologies have changed and we're overwhelmed with volume, so our strategies must be modified as well to manage the flood.

We cannot afford being dinosaurs long after that species has become extinct. It's the rule of "adapt, or die." And I'm certainly not ready to die yet. Are you?

So, to newspaper and magazine editors and publishers, I would urge you to use your internet version to supplement the print edition. Don't just regurgitate what you print. It's often boring, cumbersome and lacks vitality. Expand your market by making both venues interesting to draw in the younger crowd, for example.

Our greatest asset is our young people, and yet we often dish out news to them that's fashioned for dinosaurs. A recent study revealed that young people don't believe newspapers satisfy their needs. What are we doing about that?

These new generations of children will one day become consumers of goods and services, so why not start providing them with good news service from now and keep them as loyal consumers for later?

We've seen how the Internet can be a double-edged sword. I would argue that we need to keep the sharp edges to cut through nonsense and vacuous content to benefit our news consumers.

It's up to us, the news providers, to maintain high standards of professionalism and ethics so that recipients will find us believable in this vast universe of information and break-neck technology.

Which also means we may need to redefine our roles. Who is a journalist? Is your teenage neighbor with a digital camera and laptop computer connected to a web server a journalist? Is your editor who still doesn't know how to use a computer but keeps one for decoration in his office and asks his secretary to retrieve his emails really a journalist in today's fast-changing world?

I believe there's a happy medium we should adopt in the Arab world. We need to catch up fast with technological advances and learn to capitalize on what they can offer us. But we should not lose sight of journalistic principles of accuracy, timeliness, ethics, solid research, good sources and fairness.

All these factors can contribute to the making of great Arab women journalists. We already have some. We need armies more to counter the vicious campaigns launched against our culture and beliefs. If the men can't do it, let the women lead the charge.

Thank you.

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