Last week, I had the chance to participate in the two day German-Arab media dialogue, held in Amman (organized by the German Foreign Ministry and the German Embassy in Amman). I was given the chance to give a presentation on Youth and New Media, which coincided with this year’s conference theme.

Much of the debate centered around wether blogging is journalism. It was pretty obvious that those who work in the mainstream media see blogging as a ‘threat’ or as ‘irrelevant’. Endless debates about the credibility and professionalism usually erupt in such conferences. What a lot of such a debate misses is that looking at the issue from the side of producers is pretty useless.

Regardless of the ‘professionalism’ or ‘credibility’ of bloggers, fact is that CONSUMERS are spending more and more time consuming user generated content. Every minute spent on YouTube (or 360east.com for that matter) is a minute less spent on TV or reading the newspaper.

One point that I tired to make is that when talking about the media revolution in the Arab world, we should not forget that mobiles play an important role. Every mobile is a media consumption (and production) device. The digital media revolution in the Arab world may not be on the web, but will definitely be mobile.

Another point was that talking about blogging alone does not reveal the whole picture in the Arab world. The Arab mainstream is not blogging, but it is definitely active on countless discussion forums, especially in the gulf.

To illustrate the point: have you ever heard about a discussion forum where user names are TRADED FOR REAL CASH?

A website like Al Saha has stopped accepting new members some time ago. Yet the demand for accounts was so high that a ‘market’ emerged where user names are bought and sold.

Finally, i couldn’t control myself when some of the participants from the Arab side started making comments about the need for Arab youth to be ‘fortified’ against the ‘bad things’ on the internet before they are ‘set free’ to engage in dialogues online. I think it’s about time we stopped worrying too much about the ‘youth’ and let them make their own mistakes. I mean, how and when are they supposed to be ‘fortified’. Of course I will try to educate my kids about what’s good and what’s bad on the internet. But we just have to accept that we live in a world where digital data flows are unstoppable. It’s a new reality that cannot be more different from the world today’s adults grew up in.

And as Mohammad Sanajleh, the Jordanian ‘digital novelist’ said: “the problems of the internet can only be solved with more internet”.

The German participant sitting beside me, herself a blogger, said that today’s young generation is very capable of knowing what is credible/good and what is not on the net, just like the previous generation was capable of selecting a good publication when faced with a huge newsprint stand.

I asked everyone is the hall: “Who here is younger than 25?”

Only a couple of hands where raised.

“We’re all dinosaurs in this room,” I said!

And I couldn’t live blog because the Sheraton Hotel doesn’t have free WiFi! (Dinosaurs!)

For a more coherent report on the even, check out what Batir Wardam wrote: Jordan Watch: Are Bloggers competing with mainstream journalists? :

Here an excerpt:

Regarding professionalism I agree that media and journalism is an academic profession but we should not forget the issues of creativity and dedication. Personally I have not studied journalism but practised it. I started doing “Wall magazines” in school and university which is the same concept of modern blogs and then found myself as a professional writer and communicator. Gift and dedication of bloggers can be supported by training or capacity building. I am certain that if some traditional media outlets will recruit bloggers they will get themselves some of the best potential journalists in Jordan. Some quality of blogs is far better from even the distinguished “professional” journalists and writers in Jordan and am not exaggerating here.

As for “credibility” I have to say that I am against the illusion that “mainstream media is credible and blogs are not”. last week a female TV presentor in a Lebanese station made a mistake by forgetting that her microphone was open when she praised the kiiling the Lebanses Parliamentarion Eido in Beirut. The TV station owned by Nabeeh Barri had to fire the journalist but this is an indication of the volatile, politically and ideologically polarised atmosphere in “mainstream media”. I think we can find the same level of bias in Al jazeerah, Al Arabiya, Future, LBC and so on. The same applies for Jordanian newspapers whether they are daily or weekly where the red lines of the governemnt or the ideological and political orientation of publishers will destroy any level of credibility.

Some bloggers are more credible than many journalists since they are free from political and ideological position as well as the attempt to praise influential persons and comapnies like we see in mainstream journalism. My own opinion is that bloggers can win the battle for credibility above mainstream journalists. I know writers in Jordan who take financial allocations from the governemnt, banks, firms or maybe political parties but I do not know about any bloggers putting themsleves to sale.

And here some pictures..

My name is AhmAD and not AhmED :)

Batir making a point

My Blackberry addicted neighbor

Read these related posts on 360east:




3 responses to “Bloggers and mainstream media at the German-Arab media dialouge”

  1. Avi Avatar

    This is a very interesting post. I think it is great that you guys are atleast addressing the issue. Do you know that blogspot sites are blocked in China? Yet we can still access blogger to put up posts. Strange.

  2. Macthomson Avatar

    Good stuff, Ahmad!

    “The digital media revolution in the Arab world may not be on the web, but will definitely be mobile.”

    I haven’t seen this point made anywhere before, but yes… jawohl… aiwa!

    Greetings from Abu Dhabi

  3. hatem abunimeh Avatar
    hatem abunimeh

    I like what you said about every minute spent on reading 360 is one minute less on reading the traditional mainstream newspaper or watching TV.

    In my opinion bloggers are still going through that amateurish stage of professional writing and perhaps with time they will evolve from writing superficial language into writing good solid cogent arguments. Though it might take a decade or so before that happens, meanwhile, blogging etc will continue—on chipping away those precious minutes from the newspapers and other media apparatus.