Thursday, 16 July 2009


"cropped and adjusted version of IMG 1023.Image via Wikipedia

Many journalists working for 'traditional' or 'mainstream' media have been arguing about social media, particularly Twitter and its lack of dept, context, analysis or comment. There's also an argument that social media platforms (blogs, Twitterings, Wikis, Forums) don't necessarily derive the truth in quite the balanced and reliable way as a trained journalist.

There's a counterpoint to that, with respected journalists taking to online like whale sharks to aquariums and aiming to apply the (admittedly somewhat idealistic) standards of journalism to that environment. I'd argue it's easier for journalists to do that - and do it well - because online doesn't put the same pressures of proprietorial, commercial and reputational restrictions on the practice of the profession as 'traditional' media such as newspapers do.

The argument that we need journalism to filter the raw content out there is a seductive one, but it sadly flies in the face of increasing evidence that the filters are broken - and that we are actually happier filtering the stuff we are interested in ourselves. That's doesn't necessarily mean we want to filter everything ourselves, just the stuff we're interested in. And the more interested we become, the more it becomes apparent that the filters aren't quite what they're claiming to be.

Here's a great example. Emirates Business 24x7 today reports that 'Emiratis go online against Harvey Nichols'. Now, for those of you wot doesn't know, UK top-end retailer Harvey Nichols has been accused of putting a t-shirt on sale that depicts a bulldog standing on a UAE flag.

This is not generally considered to be a clever thing to do - in fact, whoever authorised putting the damn thing on sale should be considered dangerously incompetent and, at the least, keel-hauled.

"Emiratis have organised a campaign on Facebook and Twitter to boycott Harvey Nichols in response to an offensive T-shirts for which they were also pulled up by the authorities." trumpets EmBiz24x7, albeit in an unconscious echo of Churchill's famous "This is the sort of English up with which I will not put"

The story is clear, no? There's a significant grassroots movement of furious Emiratis against the retailer. Except the story, suspiciously, doesn't quantify 'the movement'.

In fact, when we look beyond the headline, and the story underneath it, EmBiz24x7's story is stood up on a Facebook group of 21 members with 2 wall posts. I can't find any evidence of a concerted campaign on Twitter, searching for Harvey, Harvey Nichols and HarveyNichols - and there are no Tweets bunched under #HarveyNichols, while the #UAE hashtag features no Harvey Nicks but quite a bit of Etisalat's BlackBerry PR triumph.

In fact, the reader is not given the information to make up his/her own mind about the relevance, force or weight of this online campaign. Given access to that information (for instance, the data I have surfaced in this post) we'd all file the story (wouldn't we?) under 'non story why are you wasting my time with this?' - the very filtering that is supposed to be taking place on our behalf, no?

Tags: Shoot. Foot. Self. Media.
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Anonymous said...

Personally I got to know this only through friends using blackberry messenger , that is a populer among Emaratis tool of communication nowadays.
personally I agree there is an issue of trust here and I don't know which of the two types of journalism to trust, maybe none.

Anonymous said...

I have never seen so many exaggerations than in UAE newspapers (no offense!) but the amount of xxx SLASHES something or xxx UNLEASHES something like a I mean hey, that's nearly as good as Nakheels tagline: Where Vision Inspires Humanity

Leaves me completely baffled.

samuraisam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
samuraisam said...

facebook has actually been used in many instances (eg. secretdubai's block);
I agree with you though, 20 people on a fb group doesn't exactly show an 'online campaign'

This same shit happened a few years back anyways with bershka and some stupid price tag shenanigans

You can also read more about bershka situation here

It's basically the same thing here: stuff is being blown out of proportion. Let Harvey Nichols apologize, destroy the t-shirts and let everyone get on with their lives.

You know what also happened with Bershka? everyone called for a boycott? You know what happened?
Bershka and all the companies related to Bershka still operate in the UAE (i.e. lrn2boycott)

17 July 2009 16:31

Anonymous said...

@samuraisam: no offense but I think the muslim world sees themselves far too often as victims. A clothes company changed their business model from selling clothes to "hurting the feelings of muslims" because that results in much more profit? All the "offenders" who are "deliberately" trying to hurt the people of a certain religion/nationality.

I really see a pattern. There seems to be an underlying feeling of being less worth than the rest or the west in that matter, so anything someone does wrong was clearly aimed at hurting us.

People get more self confident, stand above these things. You have so much to be proud of, a great religion, a great country, don't even think about being offended by this kind of kindergarten things. Show that you are far too intelligent than being offended by something as important as a price tag.

R. Ramesh said...

wonderful blog.will keep coming again..:)

Anonymous said...

A late comment - but stop posturing you guys in the so called Anti HN FB Group. Nothing will happen. Do you guys even remember who owns Harvey N in the UAE. Gulf News will surely not publish anything on this controversy ;)

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