Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Arab Media Forum's Elephant

Elephant ElephantImage via WikipediaThere's going to be a pachyderm* in the room at this year's Arab Media Forum 2011, the event that sparked the very birth of this little blog. It's not a new elephant, but it's been getting bigger every year. This year, it's going to be interesting to see if a single delegate gets to squeeze in.

It's the Internet and the way in which our media landscape is not only being changed, but torn up and remodelled - not just by social media, but by our new information consumption habits. It is not, according to today's Gulf News and previous reports, a topic up for discussion. In fact, Gulf News' subs reach a new low today. Failing to stand up a headline with the story is one thing, but when you're failing to stand up sub-heads, my but you're in trouble. The sub-head in question, 'Social Media' is followed in the story by anything but any mention of social media at all.

The GN story's headline sort of frames the story: "Forum to look at impact of Arab Spring on media".

Isn't it interesting that the Arab Spring (sic) is having an impact on media rather than the other way around? I do wonder if the many portentous debates between 'important media figures' will include the appalling mendacity of the region's media when faced with the challenge of change - not least the Egyptian media's craven cries of 'Lalalalala' when faced with the stark facts of Tahrir.

Looking beyond the half inch of Methodist near-beer that is the debate about the Arab Spring and its impact on our media, you'd perhaps be forgiven for wondering why the impact of the online revolution that preceded, helped to drive and then was accelerated by that self-same spring isn't worth debating and highlighting. Perhaps it's not 'media' within the narrow definition of a Press Club. Although the people served by the media are increasingly deserting the paper form for online sources - and changing the way they consume media and the types of information they access.

It's a fundamental change in human communication that has helped to reshape our region, driving change across our societies and challenging many aspects of our media - including the practice of journalism, legislation, individual and collective freedoms, activism and responsibility. There is no greater challenge to our media, in fact. But it is obviously not the right 'media' for this forum. This year, we haven't even seen reports of a token blogger to lighten the mix.

Giddy up, Jumbo!

* Apropos of nothing, many, many moons ago, Gulf News reported on an mistreated elephant at Dubai Zoo. The picture caption, thanks to that strangest and most malign force, the GN Subs, referred to 'the unfortunate pachyderm', which triggered a scramble at Spot On to see who could fit the word into a piece of client work that day. Carrington won with brilliance, although I don't remember quite how.
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