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sábado, enero 29, 2011

Egypt Explodes, US Video Media Gape

For the past five days, Egyptians have been in the streets protesting, calling for President Mubarak, who has served for thirty years, to step down. It is a very big story. Print media, understandably have trouble keeping up with it because so much is happening so quickly in so many places. Putting up a written story takes time, time to write, time to edit, time to post. Even if you're lightning fast, print media (and the part of them that is on the Internet) aren't built for this kind of speed. But what about television?

The mythic, American news gathering organizations have apparently disappeared. They are no more. Go now to your television. Look at CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and the major networks. What are they showing? If they're showing Egypt at all, they're showing loops of film from Egypt, most of which comes from other sources, and the loops repeat and repeat and repeat. And while they're showing that, there is a long string of analysts, going on and on and on about the meaning of the loop, about their opinions about the news (virtually all of it from other sources), about what it all means for the US and/or Obama and/or Mubarak and/or Israel and/or the Middle East generally. It's all opinion; it's not news. It's all "analysis"; it's not the facts. It's not about what is actually happening. Put simply, US television is making noise, but that doesn't belie the fact that it is clueless. And that it is telling its viewers all kinds of things, but it's not telling them what's happening. And why is that? Because these legendary news agencies don't have the people to report from Cairo, and Alexandria, and from Suez, and from other places throughout Egypt. They have people to cover Mubarak's speech (announced in advance) and Obama's speech (announced in advance), but that's about it. Put another way, they have lots of people working on "the story" but they're doing exactly the same thing as me, finding out what is happening and stating my views about it. They are doing bloggers work, but they represent themselves as News Organizations. As journalists. They are virtually worthless as a source of what is actually happening in Egypt.

On the other hand, Al Jazeera, that's right, Al Jazeera in English, has a live stream that is truly remarkable. They have reporters and cameras on the ground, and they've been on the air for days, broadcasting from Egypt. When they don't know what's going on, they say so. When they do know what's going on, they tell it. They are performing exactly the function we would hope the US video media would perform. They are broadcasting news. And, in fact, I strongly suspect that the US video media are watching the same very same stream I'm watching, that they are downloading and looping the images, and are putting their opinions on top of this.

What a sad state for US video media. Egypt is exploding, and the best the US video media can do is offer opinions.

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