Al Jazeera and Citizen Journalism
Al Jazeera has much less social capital than it used to, since Qatar began using its money to promote political causes in the Middle East and the station has come to be seen as a shill for those causes.
Still, its coverage of the Egyptian crisis was extraordinary and courageous by any measure, and may have played a significant role in the success of the revolution.
A new article by Diane Bossio in the journal Media Asia suggests that part of Al-Jazeera’s formula for success during the protests was its incorporation into its coverage of material produced by people in the Square and elsewhere.
“Citizen Journalism” can mean a range of things from independent journalists whose work is funded by the readers of their material to web sites that publish widespread rumors and many other things. The most common usage seems to involve professional journalists–which essentially means journalists working for media corporations or state media–incorporating the work of non-professional citizens into their broadcasting.
Bossio herself does not use the term “citizen journalism” but rather speaks of “‘amateur material.'” However, this fits almost perfectly with the definitions of citizen journalism among news media professionals in India, where I’ve researched the term, and associated practices.
Here’s the abstract:
This article provides a preliminary analysis of the ways in which Al Jazeera’s interaction with alternative media practitioners and activists during the Arab Spring was represented both in their reportage and reporting by others. The article presents a comparative analysis of the ways that AJE, CNN and BBC interacted with alternative modes of journalistic practice during the initial days of the Arab Spring protests. Focusing on Egypt and Libya on six politically important days during the protests, this article will suggest that AJE’s coverage was more successful at integrating ‘amateur’ material into their reportage. In doing so, the article seeks to discuss both the new and traditional news production frameworks that have informed the interaction between those who have witnessed and those who have reported on the events of the Arab Spring.
Bossio, Diana. 2013. How Al Jazeera reported the Arab Spring: A preliminary comparative analysis. Media Asia 40(4): 333-343.