Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Arab Media Forum Disappointment!

Yesterday was the first time for me to attend the Arab Media Forum. I had a meeting at the morning but luckily I finished just in time to catch the session I was really interested in attending; “Daily Newspapers: Crisis in the West, growth in the Arab World."

We have all been arguing about the death of printed media and the rise of digital and social media. Yet one year ago, The National newspaper was launched in the UAE and a couple of months ago Alrroya Aleqtisadiya newspaper did. In Egypt I honestly lost track of newspapers launched as every now and then I hear of a new one. My colleague just read that a new printed newspaper will launch in Oman. Does this look like a growth in printed media or what?

So I was really looking forward to the session hoping it would shed the light on the reasons behind this growth or proving the death of printed media, especially with the prominent media figures speaking and attending. I was expecting a great debate and a heated discussion among all attendees, but what a major disappointment I had.

The first disappointment was when I found out that the editor in chief of Al Masry Al Youm newspaper, Magdy El Galad, didn’t show up. I was really looking forward to hearing the opinion of the man who runs a relatively new newspaper that managed in a couple of years to attract millions of readers and to even surpass other famous newspapers in Egypt that have been there for decades. I still don’t know why he didn’t show up and no one even tried to explain the reason behind his absence as if he was never part of this forum at all!

The second disappointment was when each speaker simply recited his speech and you could see how most of them were backing the idea of printed media dying, then, and because apparently the whole forum was running behind schedule there wasn’t enough time for a good Q&A. Hence no debate or heated discussion =O(

The third disappointment was when I found myself coming out of the forum with no added value at all. I mean before attending the session I knew that digital media provides more freedom of speech and that printed media is dying in the west. I knew that social media tools like twitter and facebook are widely used in all aspects of life; business, politics, social networking … etc. So what’s new?

I hoped to hear those who believe in the death of printed media to tell me why I still have dozens of newspapers delivered to my doorstep every morning and why new newspapers keep launching and what are they doing to join the digital era since they believe it is arriving to the Middle East.

I wanted to hear from those defending the existence of printed media other reason than merely “A Man can’t enjoy his morning coffee without reading the newspaper and smelling the ink”.

I was expecting more from all the media figures at this session. I was expecting logical answers, I was expecting a discussion between the speakers to analyze the real situation here in the Middle East and discuss all aspects affecting printed or digital media. I mean why should I think that printed media is dying because a couple of people at the mall said they use mobile and internet to access news. Why should I believe that these examples represent the majority of people in the Middle East when I know for a fact that just as there are thousands of people who uses web2.0 and other technologies to access news, there are also millions of people who are still computer illiterate.

Why should I believe that printed media is dying because statistics show that users of facebook and twitter are over thousands when I know for a fact that there are millions who can’t even afford buying computers, yet can afford paying the 2 dirham to buy a newspaper.

The speeches given explaining why digital media was prevailing or why printed media is not dying didn’t provide me with the answers I was looking for. I think I was expecting a more realistic approach to the topic focusing on the conditions of the Arab world and not just speculations form some and reciting statistics from others.

Most of all what I expected and didn’t get was an answer to the main question which reflects the title of this session, “Why there is growth in the printed media in the Arab World when it is dying in the West”

So I ended up disappointed!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

In response to: PR and the press: it’s over, but let’s still be friends!

I have been in the UAE for two years. For the past year and six months I have been working in PR and so far I enjoy it.

However, ever since I started I couldn’t help noticing that weird love/hate relationship between media and PR here. So many times I have read and heard journalists talking about how the PR industry is woeful and PR people are a mere hindrance to them. I kept quiet till I read today’s article in The National.

I really liked it when Tala was talking about the ethics of journalism and said “some of us...” I liked how she acknowledged that some journalists understand true journalism and others don’t. I just wish that she did the same talking about PR because, believe it or not, there are good PR people out there just as there are bad ones. I really don’t think that Tala met or dealt with every single PR person here.

I agree that PR shouldn’t be the journalist’s only source of information. But why not be one of many? I know my client’s business better than anyone, I know what they are doing, products they are launching, events they are holding, conferences they are attending …etc. So why couldn’t I be simply the source who informs you of that. If the story interests you then great if not so what’s the harm? As a journalist you follow the leads you have and see which one gets you the story, right?

True that my loyalty as a PR person is to my client but that doesn’t mean my job is to trick people/ media into believing wrong things or hide truth from them. I remember that the first thing I learnt in PR was to always stick to facts and if anything went wrong with my clients not to try and hide the truth because it always finds its way out, instead deal with it. So, stick to fact and don’t lie, does this sound like bad PR?

When I pick up the call to see why you didn’t cover a story, something I have done on some occasions, I simply want to know your opinion because I have seen you cover similar topics or ones related to the story I have shared with you. So, I simply want to discuss it with you and understand your point of view so in the future I would spare you the extra e-mail in your inbox, does this offer of a dialogue sound like bad PR?

When I send out a release I don’t expect you to take it as it is and publish it now, if it interests you, you could tackle it your own way, seek more info, compare the info I gave you with other resources. I don’t want you to take it just for granted. Does this sound like bad PR?

Honestly I think my only problem with today’s article was that Tala accused all PR people of being “too demanding, too clingy” and that “they are usually hired to burnish a client’s reputation, to enhance the client’s image, to “make them look good”.

I know that there is good PR and bad PR just as there is good journalism and bad journalism. I don’t think it is fair to generalize things in our life; I never did and never will.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Why is everything turning into Muslim Vs Coptic Issue?

Ever since the Egyptian government decided to slaughter the 350,000 pigs in Egypt because of Swine Flu and I have been hearing conflicting thoughts and views as some are praising the decision and others are fighting it and accusing the government of ignorance. Honestly, I was ok with that; after all you could never please everyone.

I still haven’t made up my mind regarding the rightness of this decision though. Sometimes when I read in websites like CDC about how Influenza viruses can be directly transmitted from pigs to people and from people to pigs, I say may be it was the right decision, may be it is better to be safe than sorrow. We already screwed up the Bird Flu situation, should we wait till we screw up this situation as well!

Other times when I read that there are no confirmed cases of transmission between pigs and humans at this point as per WHO and hear people argue; should we kill humans infected as well? I re-think the whole situation. I mean I know I can’t compare humans to pigs but they are still living creatures who shouldn’t be unjustly killed, not to mention the farms owners who will be badly damaged as well. Kinda confusing hah!

I think we can argue about this for ages but what I don’t think we can argue about is these ridiculous claims that I have been hearing lately that this decision was taken merely to persecute Coptic living in Egypt and how since Muslims don’t eat pigs then it was ok to slaughter them. I think this is so ridiculous and I really don’t understand why the f***does everything in Egypt lately is turning into Muslim Vs Coptic issue.

I still remember the old movies talking about the 1919 revolution and how Egyptians walked together holding flags and screaming long lived the crescent with the cross. How Sheikhs spoke in churches and Priests spoke in mosques. Was that just in movies or are those good old days gone?

From my part I have never felt that there were any issues between Muslims and Coptic in Egypt. Our neighbor is Coptic and we lived in the same building for 15 years and I know she is my mother’s best friend. She used to celebrate with us during our feasts and we celebrated with her during hers. I have lots of friends who are Coptic and we never had any issues.

I am not saying that Egypt is a LaLa land. There are some differences and sensitivity issues which unfortunately were created because of fanatics in both sides and people like those with their silly claims who are trying to create divisions, but I really believe that the whole issue is not as massive as some would like it to be.

Right now, I just have one question to those who claimed that the decision was taken to persecute Coptic; do you really believe deep down that the Egyptian government was simply thinking of a way to persecute Coptic and hence decided to kill all the pigs to make them suffer!

Honestly, I only have one thing to say to those kinds of people… GET A LIFE and stop this CRAP because we are sick of it and let us live in peace.

Remember… at the end of the day we are all Egyptians, we are one nation and Egypt is our homeland.

May the cross and the crescent live united longer and longer despite fanatics.