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News vs. Entertainment

Jamal with a Syrian child in Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan

Jamal with a Syrian child in Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan

The Bay Area can be regarded as one of the most important economic and cultural regions in the nation, a region generating news about politics and society because of its role as a center of change. It hosts a few broadcast news channels and newspapers. But do these media outlets help people understand the reality of critical situations here and around the world?

Jamal Dajani is a San Francisco based Peabody Award-winning news producer, journalist, filmmaker and Middle East analyst. He is the co-founder of Arab Talk Radio. His Twitter and Facebook page have become a trusted news source for a large number of followers and the numbers are growing each day. This is the reason we reached out to him in this short interview:

G.B. As a journalist what drives your curiosity?

J.D. The lack of global news covered on mainstream media. TV coverage tends to be US-centric. Look at what you currently see on CBS, CNN, FOX, etc. these days…more than 50% of the coverage focuses on Donald Trump, while we a have a refugee catastrophe in the Middle East and Europe.

G.B. You’re a longtime journalist and journalism has changed a lot in the last 20 years. How do you see your role in this new context?

J.D. News is no longer news in broadcast media…it’s a sort of entertainment. Meanwhile print media is dying, you can tell by the number of newspapers that went belly-up. I’ve never been part of the mainstream media, I’ve always played an alternative role, whether working for Link TV or blogging on the Huffington Post. I believe that the mostly young internet-savvy generation, college students and curious minds do not trust the mainstream media. I along with many other independent journalists provide an alternative, we are not beholden to the “machine”. My motto is, “news you can use.”

G.B. Some of the events in the Middle East have not changed in the last 20 years, but the way they are reported has changed a lot. Why is that?

J.D. Consumers of news have transitioned to the internet and social media. My Facebook page gets in excess of 5 million views per week. It probably gets more hits than many local news outlets. People do not want to wait 12-24 hours to read about a story in the paper. They do not want the sanitized version on their local TV.

G.B. We witness growing Islamophobia in recent years. What can it be attributed to?

J.D. Islamophobia is just the new plat du jour. It’s part and parcel of the xenophobia that plagued Europe and elsewhere for decades. Antisemitism has been replaced by Islamophobia, though antisemitism has not disappeared yet from Europe, it’s just been overshadowed.

G.B. The young Syrian Boy’s (Aylan Kurdi, 3) image has been constantly shared and tweeted. It sparked an obvious outcry. People all over Europe are demanding their governments to take action. Your thoughts on this.

J.D. Sometimes the truth has to hit you in the face in order to wake up. Most people are in denial about what happens around them until they are confronted with it. In the US, most white people are unaware of the racism that African Americans endure on a daily basis, until they see something awful in the news, like an African American man beaten to death by the police or a massacre in a black church. The same thing happened with the picture of the 3-year old Syrian boy.

Large photo by Torbakhopper 

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  1. Pingback: ReOrient 2015: Middle East on the Bay | Baymozaic

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