One thing that became clear to me during the first part of my Knight Fellowship here at Stanford is that all the doom and gloom about the media industry really only applies to Western media and U.S. media in particular. Media in other parts of the world are still thriving and could even make major leaps later on.
One of these “other parts of the world” is where I come from: the Middle East. There, the Arab Spring, as difficult and as bloody as it has been, has created enormous local interest in news, contributing to a thriving news business overall. In Egypt alone, the largest Arabic-speaking country in terms of population, the number of daily newspapers has more than doubled since the fall of the former president, Hosni Mubarak. Businessmen and governments, fearing the loss of influence, are investing immensely in expanding media empires to maintain their clout. Groups who were repressed in the past and outlawed by dictators are also creating their own media outlets. People follow news almost 24/7. That means increased demand for news — and increased demand for journalists.
What’s lacking in the media there is exactly that – well-trained journalists, organizational skills and solid press standards. All are found in abundance here in the U.S. So why not let both worlds compliment each other? The Middle East provides the demand and the U.S. provides the product and the skills.
Individual journalists having a hard time getting jobs here could offer expertise as consultants or even as new hires for the expanding media empires in the Arab countries. Media organizations could offer Arabic-language services for a premium. Promoting Arabic-language services shouldn’t be too hard since there’s so much respect and appreciation of the Western media standards, not to mention technology.
My project, America In Arabic News Agency, which I am working on developing here at Stanford, capitalizes on that shortage in the Arab world. We seek to provide accurate information using U.S. freedom of information laws as well as the plethora of data to make news in the Arab world.
My presence here in Silicon Valley has so far showed me the enormous benefits of technology in terms of time and reducing expenses. I have yet to explore the investment options in the area and see if I can develop partnerships that might able to see the opening in the media industry in the Middle East. But for now, I see both worlds a lot more clearly than I ever did before.