Month: November 2010

Journalism is not dead, long live journalism

Lately, I’ve been driving my husband crazy. I’m always distracted. My mind is simply elsewhere. I’m presently living “on planet Natasha,” to quote his description of my current state of mind. The reason is simple. There is so much innovation going on in the realm of digital journalism and its integration with social media that I’m both overwhelmed and elated. What’s happening in the online journalism arena is so cutting- edge, so creative, and extremely crucial in improving the current human condition that I’m constantly monitoring and watching (sadly, to the exclusion of other things in my life). Really, can you blame me for being distracted in this age of round-the-clock digital innovation?

Contrary to the popular belief that journalism is dying (yada, yada, yada), I think journalism is in its best shape ever. It’s not dying, but rather evolving. The old format of journalism might be dead, but the new one is so fresh and promising that the even the sky is not the limit.

Journalism graduates: Do not fear the future, embrace it!

As someone whose career is in media development, watching trends and monitoring new journalism innovation is what I do on a daily basis, believe me when I tell you that journalism is at the forefront of  digital novelties continuing to further advance the quality of people’s lives everywhere.

One new journalism “tool” that I have been experimenting with is “social curation” using  storify. The idea behind it is really simple: Editors of newspapers, websites or anyone can use this tool to search social media tools for a certain topic, then filter the best items, whether they were tweets, Facebook updates, Flickr, etc, to create a story that can be embedded on a website.

Here is one example. I created a search term for ARJI conference (Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism) which is currently taking place in Amman. I chose what I thought were the best social media items and created a story here. Now I can easily embed the story on my blog like this:

Now, the neat thing is that I can go back to this story anytime and update it with any new development and then republish it. The embedded code will update itself automatically without me needing to overwrite it. This kind of innovation is a real gift for website editors who are constantly following breaking news and gauging the community response to a certain event.

Storify has been making waves lately and harnessing a good amount of coverage in the media (here is one example). The creators behind Storify believe that they are building “the future of publishing” by “finding meaning in the noise”. It is a pretty neat idea if you ask me. Here is a an interview with the two founders of Storify:

This is only one of the latest innovative tools currently found in the playground of online media. Recently, social media blog Mashable ran an article about how investigative journalism is prospering thanks to social media. The amount of tools and new creations by and for journalists is simply mind-boggling.

With that in mind, do you really blame me for being distracted all the time? Journalism is not dead. Long live journalism.

Jordanian Christians are in a fine shape but still a ‘minority’

The most recent horrific attack on Christians in Iraq struck a personal cord with me. Of all the attacks happening daily in Iraq, this one somehow hit home. It might have been the way the worshippers were ambushed during Sunday mass and then slaughtered that’s causing me to lose sleep. It is horrifying to realize that the only reason these Iraqis were butchered was because they belonged to the wrong religion. Being the over-dramatic type, I couldn’t stop thinking about my family in Jordan and wondering what if?

Iraqi Christians mourning their dead. Source (Reuters).

What if they were worshiping at a church in Amman and something similar happens. Al-Qaeda members seem to manage to cross borders so easily these days that a similar attack in Jordan might not be that remote. I know I’m probably going over the top since these things don’t normally happen in Jordan even after the Al-Qaeda-inspired attacks of 2005. But I did think about it, and for a brief moment I panicked.

This horrific massacre of Iraqi Christians has stirred debate of a potential exodus of Christians from the Middle East, with media outlets like Foreign Policy (The End of Christianity in the Middle East) and Voice of America (Al-Qaida Threatens Christians in Egypt, Elsewhere in Middle East) both drawing a very gloomy picture of Christians in the region.

The London-based Arabic publication Elaph also discussed the issue and highlighted this distinct fact: Jordan has become a safe haven for Christians in the region, including Iraqi and Palestinian Christians that are feeling extremism in their home countries.

The article also quoted a piece in the Independent by Robert Fisk in which he referred to Jordan as “the only flame of hope in the region” when it comes to the situation of Arab Christians.

Yes, Jordanian Christians are in a superb position compared with the rest of the region. No one denies this. Coexistence is the name of the game, with many Jordanian Christians occupying senior positions in the government and parliament. Christians and Muslims live in the same neighborhoods and in some cases interact as members of the same family.

However, I don’t think Jordan is completely off the hook. The fact that a Jordanian Christian can’t become a prime minster is a problem that should be resolved sooner than later. The former head of the Jordanian parliament, Abdul Hadi Majali, was actually asked about it in an interview with an Arab Satellite channel. His response was the “minority” can’t rule the majority.

Another fact still affecting Jordanian Christians is the issue of inheritance, where Sharia law still applies to them. The male sibling takes double the share of his sisters and male relatives take a share of the daughters’ inheritance in the absence of a male sibling.

Since I have a big mouth, I have discussed these ticklish issues with many of my friends and coworkers when I lived in Amman. The answer I got most of the time was that Jordan is a Muslim country and we can’t change the rules for a “minority.” Throwing the “minority” label at me never made me feel special, to the contrary, it made me feel like a pariah. I used to respond with: “Come on, you can’t deprive my unborn child from ever dreaming that one day he (yes, a he, she, is another story) will become prime minister. Even minorities should have equal rights.”

But that was back then, when I was young, naïve and passionate. It was back when I thought writing, talking, and arguing would take me somewhere.

I’m now a thirty-something, jaded Christian Arab who has joined the ranks of those who are in the “exodus.” I might not have lots of ground to stand on simply because I packed my bags and left. Ah well, I’m just blowing off some steam on a breezy Friday morning in the suburbs of Washington, DC. Blowing off steam is probably the most I can do at this point since I’m only a “minority”.