Middle East Media Educator


Many news outlets no longer stop with the simple publication of an article or a broadcast report, but actively engage the audience. For instance, the British newspaper The Guardian recently issued social media guidelines for its reporters, encouraging them to enter into conversations with the audience via Twitter and Facebook. Other news outlets have adopted methods that allow readers to help direct the news. Al Jazeera English regularly asks its audience to submit questions for guests and also broadcasts user-created videos offering commentary. CNN’s iReport project invites viewers to contribute their own raw footage of events and, occasionally, structured news reports taken from cell phones, Flip cameras, and other portable devices. Some outlets have engaged in crowdsourcing, in which audience members are asked to help provide information about an event. Journalism observers have called this new paradigm “networked journalism,” defined by the audience’s participatory role in actively shaping the news. Building on other research on networked journalism, this paper explores how several Middle Eastern newspapers, both English and Arabic, have chosen to embrace the new media landscape. A qualitative review of each news outlet’s new media activities—particularly on their websites, Twitter feeds, and Facebook pages—reveals to what extent and to what benefit they have embraced “networked journalism.” The paper concludes with suggestions for improving audience engagement as well as highlighting best known practices of networked journalism.