Arab US Media Alliance

The following links constitute a set of background readings for the 2009 Arab-US. Media Forum and are intended as an introduction and a common starting point for the sessions in Washington on April 13-15. These readings examine (directly or indirectly) the ways in which media may be used to enlighten and engage, and to improve the access to, and the quality of, information that Arabs and Americans receive about one another. Implicit in each selection is an expectation that the evolving social networks and participatory media commonly referred to as “new media” will drive journalism in both regions toward new forms and habits of engagement with global audiences and one another. We ask that you familiarize yourself with these readings prior to the opening session.

The readings are grouped into three sections: (1) News and Social Networks, (2) Trends in Arab and U.S. Journalism, and (3) Partnerships and Collaborations. These are followed by a set of links called “Case Studies,” which includes examples of several media-enabled or media-centric collaborations between professionals and citizens of the United States and the Arab world that are likely to be discussed during the Forum.

I. News and Social Networks

Martin Langeveld, “Building networks around news,” Nieman Labs, January 26, 2009. An interesting assessment of what news enterprises—who have been slow to enter into social networking—need to consider as they approach the possibility of building social networks around news. Langeveld’s addresses the need for journalists who are adept at social networking, sharing of news content, enabling collaboration in content creation and the need for universal sign-in and network portability.

II. Trends in Arab and U.S. Journalism

Kenneth J. Cooper, “Politics and Priorities: Inside the Egyptian Press,” Arab Media & Society, Issue 6, Fall 2008. Arab-US Media Forum alumnus Ken Cooper examines the difference that ownership structure and political nonalignment of Almasry Alyoum and the Daily News make in what is published on the pages of the two papers.

"Arab Media Forum 2008: Transformations Breaking Traditional Mould of Arab Media," MediaME, April 24, 2008. A review of the Dubai Press Club’s 2008 Arab Media Forum, highlighting the rapid changes underway in Arab media, an industry now driven more by technology and technological development than by talent and tradition. The article notes the continuing challenges of government restrictions, lack of resources and sufficient investment, professional development and general literacy among other concerns.

Arab Media Progress,” Layalina Review, vol. v, no. 4, Jan. 30-Feb. 12, 2009. Cites reporting in The National that Arab media are transitioning from "’centralized, politically-conscious and state-controlled planning to market-inspired management,’ and becoming ‘a viable communications industry.’”Addresses the impact of the global financial crisis on Arab media.

Persephone Miel and Robert Faris, “News and Information as Digital Media Come of Age,” an overview of the MEDIA RE:PUBLIC project at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, 2008. See Executive Summary, pages 1-3, and New Challenges subsections on pages 34-37 (Reinventing the Concept of Coverage, The Credibility Challenge Takes on New Shape, Setting New Standards for Access and Participation, Navigating the Shifting Media Economy, Diluted Revenues, The Growth of Nonprofit Journalism and Networked Approaches). A thorough review of the challenges facing U.S. news media in the Digital Age. [We recommend just the sections noted above due to the length of the report.]

Lawrence Pintak, “Gaza: Of media wars and borderless journalism,” Arab Media & Society, January 2009. Larry Pintak’s lead says it all: “Yet again, the disconnect. Yet again, American and Arab viewers are seeing two vastly different conflicts play out on their television screens. Yet again, the media has become a weapon of war.” Pintak presents a thorough review of how Western and Middle Eastern media covered the Israeli attack on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009, including the regional controversy that has arisen over the distinct coverage of the events in Gaza by satellite rivals Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.

III. Partnerships and Collaborations

Stephen R. Grand and Kristin M. Lord, “To Rebuild U.S.-Muslim World Relations, Obama is not Enough,” The Huffington Post, March 26, 2009. Two fellows at the Brookings Institution address the importance of engaging U.S. businesses, universities, charitable institutions, non-governmental organizations, faith groups, and private citizens if the U.S. is to successfully reshape relations with the Muslim world. The authors note this includes the need for more educational and professional exchanges and jointly produced media products and co-developed social networking sites to build bonds of mutual trust and tangible partnerships that solve real problems.

Cynthia P. Schneider and Kristina Nelson, Executive Summary and Appendix in "Mightier than the Sword: Arts and Culture in the U.S.-Muslim World Relationship,” Brookings Institution, June 2008. These selections include the Executive Summary and Appendix to a comprehensive report published by the Brookings Institution. The report authors conclude that building connections between the U.S. and the global Muslim community (including the Arab world) through arts and cultural programming can substantially increase understanding and respect between cultures. The report advocates for the use of arts in diplomacy, with recommendations for how this can be accomplished. The Appendix presents a comprehensive list of initiatives, partnerships and collaborations in the areas of theater, visual arts, film (including tv production), music, cultural exchange, festivals, new media, literature, and cultural preservation. [The entire 68-page report is not suggested as conference pre-reading; however, for those who are interested, it may be downloaded here. ]

Alliance of Civilizations, Research Base for the High Level Working Group, Analysis on Media. "Conclusions and Recommendations” section on pages 31-35. Primary contributions by Ross Howard and Shamil Idriss, and additional contributions and citations provided by Omar Amanat. This report was prepared for the Alliance of Civilizations (AoC) high Level Working Group deliberations on media, and the role of media in leading to more or less polarization between societies and cultures today. [The AoC was created under the auspices of the United Nations at the initiative of the governments of Spain and Turkey. The United States is not a member of the AoC.] While the report presents a very comprehensive analysis of the interplay of media and society, we draw your attention especially to pages 31-35 where specific media-related recommendations appear. The report cites the urgent need for support of arts and culture initiatives, and details the goals, specific strategies involving networks and information exchange, program funding and policy considerations. The AoC has since created the Alliance of CivilizationsMedia Fund, at http://www.aocmediafund.org/. For those who wish to read more, a lengthier discussion of “What Can Be Done” appears on pages 11-22, and a discussion of key “Challenges and Obstacles” appears at pages 29-31.

IV. CASE STUDIES

Soliya, http://www.soliya.net and a segment about Soliya on CNN’s Inside the Middle East. From Soliya’s website: “Soliya is developing a global network of young adults and empowering them to bridge the divide between the ‘West’ and the ‘Arab & Muslim World.’ Using the latest in ‘social media’ technologies and cutting-edge methodologies, Soliya is providing a new intercultural generation of young adults with the skills, knowledge and relationships they need to develop a nuanced understanding of the issues that divide them.”

Meedan, http://beta.meedan.net/. From Meedan’s website: “Meedan is bringing Arabic and English speakers together in conversation about world events using emerging machine-assisted translation technology.”

The Bridge - Search for Common Ground and Video CairoSat, http://www.sfcg.org/programmes/cgp/cgp_bridge.html. From SFCG website: "The Bridge is a one-hour television documentary co-produced by Common Ground Productions, Downtown Community Television Center, Video Cairo SAT, and Baraka Productions. The program connects a mainstream audience in the United States with a sophisticated viewing audience in the Middle East by exploring the nuances in both American and Egyptian culture to reveal our common humanity.”

Layalina Productions, http://www.layalina.tv/productions.html (especially Layalina’s new news program, Al-Sa’at (The Hour)). From Layalina’s website: “Layalina helps bridge the divide between the Arab world and the United States by fostering cultural, educational, and professional dialogues through effective television programming and publications.”

Adham Center, American University in Cairo, Virtual Newsroom project. Inaugural Broadcast of AUC Virtual Newsroom, January 12, 2009. Article about the inaugural broadcast with U.S. Undersecretary of States James Glassman and eight Egyptian bloggers, "U.S. Public Diplomacy Chief says Bush Policies, Not Communication Failures, Responsible for Negative U.S. Image.”

Alliance of Youth Movements, the website is http://youthmovements.howcast.com/; Facebook Group at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid"=38158273505. From the Youth Movements’ How to Hub: “The Youth Movements How-To Hub brings together youth leaders from around the world to learn, share & discuss how to change the world by building powerful grassroots movements.

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