Khaled AlmaeenaKhaled Almaeena

Have the media organizations played a role in the development of media in the Kingdom? An American journalist asked me this question a week ago. The unexpected question made me sit up and ponder for a couple of days in which I did ask about a few people, and the answer that stared back at me was No. I arrived at this answer after observing the workings of the media organizations over the years. Rather than focus on streamlining the media, upgrading reporting styles, attracting and training potential journalists all what was visibly observed was the struggle in the broad room, the conflict between the administration and the editor-in-chief and total lack of professionalism. We have not been able to keep up with the progress in media with all its new acquisitions of social media and other technologies. It’s good to go online with your print edition but that’s not progress. And, secondly, many of those in charge of media organizations whether administration or editorial were either totally removed or very far from the field of journalism. To be a successful media person one has to be well-versed in the language, be global, have cultural diversity and should have the courage to probe for accuracy and truth. It’s good to be comfortable on trips or receptions but how many papers seek the truth — be it investigative reporting uncovering unpleasant facts, ruffling feathers of officials and serving the public interest. To add to the already sorry state is the almost choking hold of editorial management many of whom discourage talent. Citing a personal example, I remember, on appointing a senior editor I was told, “why did you get him? He could replace you!! My reply was “so what”. In real life and in any industry, you cannot play it safe by compromising on talent, especially media. Why is the media important? It is there to focus on the happenings of society whether negative or positive. It is there to act as a bridge between the authorities and the public. It should be the eye of the government. They say eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. We cannot go on hailing and praising. We cannot go on thumping our chests that we are the best. We cannot just go on being oblivious to the harsh realities of the present society. Yes, it’s good to be patriotic. However, as Samuel Johnson “the English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature, said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”. The media should play a responsible social role to enhance knowledge, civic sense, build bridges between segments of society, add cohesion and create awareness of the importance of national unity. Media administrators can help by investing in programs to uplift the professional qualities of their journalists rather than just gloating over end of year figures. — Reprinted with permission of the Saudi Gazette and Khaled Almaeena. The writer is Editor-at-Large. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena