This week in Sydney the Media140 conference took place. One of the sessions was a presentation by Riyaad Minty, head of social media at al-Jazeera. Here’s a blog report about the event by Paul Farrell:
Riyaad Minty, Head of Social Media at Al Jazeera was the next keynote speaker, and delivered a case study about reporting on the recent Israeli offensive in Gaza. His insights into the professional practice of journalism and how social media was used is a fascinating insight into the way social media can be used effectively in conflict reporting.
His discussion did not just focus on Twitter, but other online tools like Ushudhi as well, which was used to create maps about the conflict areas in real time. Al Jazeera created ‘Your Media’ when the offensive began, which allowed for people to contribute their own stories directly to the site, and according to Riyaad worked effectively for a few days until the Israeli military clamped down on communications.
The war was also micro reported via the Twitter account @AJGaza. Al Jazeera also permits creative commons for all their raw footage, to allow democratic access to their footage. Looking at all of these new ways of engaging with new media meant that this talk was as much a case study of Al Jazeera itself as it was of reporting in Gaza.
Listening to Riyaad, it’s not hard to see why Al Jazeera is one of the most credible and engaging news organizations on the planet. As Riyaad says, “its about trust, and openness within your organization”. With people like Riyaad leading the way in engaging with social media, it shows how the old professional practice of journalism can be combined with these technologies, to provide us with a comprehensive vision of events going on around the world.
But Riyaad also gave a warning about social media and that “ at the end of the day it’s a technology, and it’s a tool”. This was a welcome caution about the supposedly revolutionary nature of these online tools. Its not the tools that define what journalism is, it’s the ever-present desire to expose the truth and hold the powerful to account.
Riyaad’s compelling speech is below: