In this morning’s sessions at the Global Editors Network summit an interesting discussion took place which aimed to look at the lessons from two major events in the past year: the Arab spring and Fukishima.
Focusing first on the Arab spring, Al Jazeera English’s head of online Mohamed Nanabhay told the conference that social media “amplified” the voices of those involved and helped citizens “reach out”, and once the media started reporting “people felt braver” to do so.
Once mainstream media came in it reached 90 per cent of society, this provided an effect … people felt braver because the media were covering it, and they felt if the media are covering it hopefully there are checks and balances on power.
Moving to the issues in Japan, fellow speaker Joichi Ito, director of the MIT media lab, accused the mainstream media of “not digging very deep” in its coverage of Fukishima.
Today people are very disillusioned. There is a huge loss of confidence in media and official sources.
He also called for greater integration of programming, data analysis and statistics in the newsroom.
I don’t think most media has the practice of doing data analysis … in Japan need journalists to look at the data and not at the experts.
Nanabhay added news outlets need to “inspire curiosity in journalists”.
It’s very difficult for people to step back and think about the story further than the deadline. Editors need to allow journalists to step back, go beyond the wires and press releases. They need the ability to think critically about the problem, to be a problem solver. The environment might have changed … but if you have curious mind that’s what you really need.
Interestingly, in following his comments on curiosity in journalism, he said that when it comes to traffic Al Jazeera “keep numbers away from journalists”, explaining that the broadcaster does not seek to measure stories based on traffic results, so as not to influence the stories journalists wish to cover and to let their curiosity be decided by the need for stories to be told, rather than those which may appeal to more eyeballs online.