Noting the phenomenal role new media has played in shaping the course of events during the Arab Spring, the future equation between social and traditional media platforms is more complementary than conflicting, according to panellists on the opening day of the 11th Arab Media Forum (AMF 2012).
While traditional media remains the mainstay of news dissemination, new media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, are gaining a larger role in the Arab region. While a significant drawback of new media is the credibility quotient of its content, panelists noted that an increasing number of regional journalists are also using the new media platform to connect with their readership base.
The workshop examined the quality of media courses at universities and the media's capacity to empower a generation of young journalists. Panelists concurred that the complementary equation between traditional and new media could be reinforced through training aspiring journalists on the value and benefits represented by new media.
Titled 'Arab Youth Create Own Media Platform', the workshop was conceptualised by media students from UAE-based colleges and universities.
Moderated by Ebrahim Ustadi, Anchor, Dubai Media Incorporated (DMI), the panel featured Dana Abu Laban, Mohammed Bin Rashid School for Communication, American University in Dubai, Farah Al Ibrahim, American University of Sharjah, Hessa Al Shuwaihi, Dubai Women's college, Mahra Al Jneibi, United Arab Emirate University, and Obeida Takriti, Mohamed Bin Rashid School for Communication, American University in Dubai.
Highlighting the need to respond to the changing dynamics, Dana Abu Laban said, "Traditional media are now using information provided through new media, which I believe is a good step. New media will not replace traditional media, but are favoured by younger people for the comparatively rich content base. My own relationship with traditional media has changed after the Arab Spring. The manner in which traditional media portrayed the stories on the ground was disappointing. Major Arab channels fell short of expectations in offering a dynamic coverage of the revolutions. On the other hand, new media did a far more concise job. Undoubtedly, new media bring more diversity, more richness, and offers divergent views."
Pointing out that new media offers a channel for the Arab youth to express their views, Farah Al Ibrahim said, "Thanks to new social media, I can express my views with more freedom and read about the many sides to the same story, as against traditional media that has a single source of information. In new media, no single party can dominate the news cycle."
Hessa Al Shuwaihi noted that while new media is often seen to have credibility issues, the Arab society is mature enough to distinguish news from views. "The average Arab citizen is more aware and conscious and has the ability to verify sources."
Mahra Al Jneibi maintained the view that traditional media is far more credible. "New media is a platform for the youth to assume the role of information makers, although not everything one reads on Twitter can be trustworthy."
Obeida Takriti said imposing censorship on new media could be more counterproductive, "Rather than restrict opinions online, more sections of the society and decision makers should pay attention to online conversations, and even become participants."
Themed 'Arab Media: Exposure and Transition', the 11th Arab Media Forum opened today and will run until 9 May. The two-day event has drawn the participation of over 3,000 regional and international journalists, as well as influential decision makers, opinion leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators.
In the run up to AMF 2012, Dubai Press Club released the findings of the fourth Arab Media Outlook, providing projections for the regional media sector up to 2015. Every attendee to AMF 2012 has been handed a copy of the report.
Dubai Press Club pioneers the use of latest technology for ensuring a wider dissemination of the forum's outcomes. This year, it has instituted a digital reporter to broadcast the proceedings of the sessions on social media, live from the venue.
In its commitment to building an informed next-generation of media professionals in the UAE, DPC engages the participation of young UAE nationals for volunteering roles. Dubai Press Club has also drawn upon their perspectives to shape the agenda for a panel discussion that brings together young Emirati achievers who will share their views on latest trends in the media sector.
The Arab Media Forum has garnered year-on-year success through the past 10 editions, validating Dubai and the UAE's ability to host such high-profile forums that draw a significant international media presence.