Being in Egypt is interesting, not only for watching how a post-revolution society is like, enjoying a warm climate in the winter. But, from a media researcher perspective, the country with more than 23 million internet users, 9 million Facebook users and over 71 million mobile subscribers form an interesting social media case. Last Sunday I came back from Cairo, after spending two weeks in my home city, attending a series of meeting to get a new project starting .
Among the dilemma over a ‘superpower’ of people’s media proved by the ongoing Arab uprisings, the Interactive Cultures Center is a leading partner in an innovative research project to encourage disseminate citizen reporting in Egypt, by helping citizen journalists to bring their reports to the mainstream media. The center is joining forces with the not-for profit technology company, Meedan and the leaning independent newspaper in Egypt, Al Masry Al Youm.
The Egypt project is about gathering journalists in a virtual newsroom to report on one specific theme, they would build on each other reports. The theme is the upcoming parliamentary and Shura (Upper House) elections in Egypt, Meedan is building this newsroom, AMAY is publishing it and the professional journalists are their web and social media department staff, citizen journalists are recruited by a local partner and both citizens and professional journalists are to be receiving training workshops on a variety of topics that help them develop their reports.
Interactive Cultures is developing a curriculum for these trainings; so the citizens would learn more about how to make their media production appealing to the mainstream media, and journalists will get closer to the social media sphere, what does it mean that media is becoming social and all of them would learn how to verify the citizen reports.
Nevertheless, under the leadership of Prof. Tim Wall, I am monitoring the project and evaluating it .
The project is going to benefit both types of reporters are benefiting, a traditional way of improving popular journalism is conducting direct training to people on how to use social networks and make media reports, what should not be the case a country that already has a very active citizen journalists, proved by the vibrant networks formed organically by people during and after the revolution to cover the protest news across the most populated country ( 85 million) in the Arab region.
In other words, quality citizen reports are needed for all societies, but where the good citizen journalism practices are, the priority is to get these reports out of the social networks and make them available for people who do not use the internet. This is the gap the project is expected to cover; to optimize the audience (consumers) rather than the reporters (producers).
Now, I am again booking a new return ticket to Cairo, to attend the international conference of The Faculty of Mass Communication in Cairo University, in collaboration with the University of Westminster and UNESCO, I’ll present a paper about the interaction between social and traditional media, in which, the Egypt project is strongly present.