Some more live blogging from the Al Jazeera Unplugged conference. Previous caveats apply. I am sure that there are grammatical errors. I have tried to be true to the essence of the comments.
Mohamed Nanabhay talked about what is news. He first quoted the legendary editor CP Scott of The Guardian that “Comment is free, but facts are sacred.” EH Carr, the historian, said that facts do not stand on their own. They are called upon to tell a story.
How do we constitute news in this online world? When we look at news, what impact is the internet having? What is a news story? Fundamentally, it’s news because we say it’s news.
Over the last 10 years, we are seeing a shift in our industry. Now that we have the internet, everyone has a voice. We need to ask ourselves, how has this changed? Has writing news, setting the agenda changed?
In 2006, Rupert Murdoch said that the power has moved from away from the press, the media elite, the establishment. “Now, it’s the people who are taking control,” Murdoch said. Mohamed said that this was a utopian view. Murdoch bought MySpace based on this thinking. He thought that Murdoch’s view has probably changed. In November 2009, Murdoch said, “People reading news for free on the web, that’s got to change…” Mohamed said that the editors are taking over again.
As news organisations, we can’t do everything anymore. That’s not viable anymore, he said. Quoting Jeff Jarvis, you have to focus on what you do best and partner with your audience to do the rest. (At the conference, Al Jazeera announced an initiative to provide support such as cameras for people to do their own footage.)
He talked about Al Jazeera decision to use Creative Commons. Wikipedia, film makers, music video producers, artists, students, indy media, activists and video games makers were all using the video.
Every form of media that you can think of used this footage. It spread across the internet. It was quite powerful. People decided to use it in ways that we never thought possible.
Once you remove barriers, you see this creative expression flourish. It enhanced our distribution and reputation. It did provide financial benefits to Al Jazeera. It helped empower the community, which is quite important in the Arab world. They hope it will inspire the next generation of journalists and documentary film makers. It showed respect their audience, Mohamed said. They also wanted to challenge their competitors.
What we really do is constitute and reconstitute culture and knowledge. This is how culture diffuses, how it is created. If you look at culture in the Middle East, people travel through it. People move. People interact. There is no such thing as a stagnant culture. In this globalised world where everyone interacts with each other, the act of this spreading culture is important, he said.
Al Jazeera took this open posture. They put their content on YouTube while other broadcasters were taking their content off of YouTube. These audiences are on YouTube. Audiences (often young people) saw Al Jazeera content, many who had never seen this before. They spread our content on their blogs or Facebook. Some might become loyal readers or viewers.