Fukushima And The Arab Spring
Led by moderator Wolfgang Blau, editor-in-chief, Zeit Online, Germany, the second session of the day focused on the future of the news and what can be learned from Fukushima and the Arab Spring via social media.
Joichi Ito, director of MIT Media Lab, Japan and USA, and Mohamed Nanabhay participated in the open dialogue.
The panel raised questions about social media and whether it caused the Arab Spring and its impact on Fukushima and training data driven journalists.
“Real people are still organizing in traditional ways, but are using new tools (Twitter and blogs) to amplify what they’re doing,” Nanabhay said.
He said that intellectual curiosity and critical thinking skills are paramount.
“The environment has changed, there are a lot of new tools, but the basic skills don’t change,” he said.
Training Data-Driven Journalists
Nanabhay said intellectual curiosity and critical thinking skills are paramount.
“The environment has changed — there are a lot of new tools–but the basic skills don’t change.”
Ito talked about incorporating programming skills into the curriculum of journalism schools.
Chan said that she believes recruiting computer scientists into journalism is easier than recruiting journalists into computer science. The JMSC is about to announce new graduate scholarships for computer science students to study at the journalism school, she said.
Taking A Hard Look At Data
Ito said that the government and mainstream media often make mistakes or cover-ups that lead to a “huge loss of confidence” within Japanese citizens. In fact, social media sources often proved to be more reliable, he said.
Ito called Safecast more than just a human interest story about nice foreigners helping Japan.
“We need people who understand data analysis and statistics,” he said.
These analytic skills were not evident in much of the mainstream stories about the crisis. He also said that industry experts are often be biased.
Activists and Sometime Journalists
As the session now opened to the audience:
Did social media cause the Arab Spring?
Nanabhay: “Real people are still organizing in traditional ways, but are using new tools to amplify what they’re doing.”
Are citizen journalists and bloggers paid?
Ito: Most of them are not paid, but rather, are activists, so they have ”strong social intiative to get their voice out.”
He said that many of them would rather not be paid. Global Voices talked about whether to take money from governments, but activists felt it might taint the movement.
Nanabhay: Activists feel that they’re “not journalists but sometimes commit acts of journalism.”
Nanhabay talked about maintaining a balance in coverage in spite of what drives traffic.
“The prerogative that you pay for as an editor is still important.”
says Africa is under-reported, so Al Jazeera makes a concerted effort to
include reports on Africa, even though it won’t drive traffic to its
In countries that lack a free flow of information, new circumvention tools arise, Ito said. Facebook is blocked in Syria, but is one of the most popular sites in the country.
Nanhabay said one of the most inspiring moments of the year was watching the crowds erupt the night Muhbarak stepped down.
Ito said for him, it was seeing people in Libya sending messages of solidarity to the people of Japan in crisis.