Al Jazeera has become something of a pioneer in the use of social media as part of its online news coverage. Now the network is taking steps to give the online world a more prominent status in its television programming as well. Fast Company reported yesterday on the launch of The Stream, the Al Jazeera's's most aggressive attempt to date to integrate social media into a live news programme.
The Stream is both a social media community that seeks out news and comments from people and a television programme on Al Jazeera English. While most television programmes have a website as a kind of addendum, The Stream's approach is different: "The concept of The Stream is actually a web community that has its own daily television show on AJ," the show's co-host Derrick Ashong told Fast Company. He describes The Stream as a 24-hour news show with a 30-minute broadcast component. Its website is already up, and the show is scheduled to start airing May 2nd.
The Stream can be seen as a logical move because of Al Jazeera's penchant for social media - an approach that has had an important part in helping the network reach wider audiences. The online community of The Stream will not only provide news content, however, but will also act as a focus group that points out editorial oversights and alerts the staff about new trends. While phenomena such as the iPad 2 and Justin Bieber may be important for some websites in attracting more online traffic, The Stream will favour stories that lend themselves to "substantive and robust online discourse," Ashong said.
The Stream will be hosted in Washington D.C. with American anchors. Al Jazeera has been openly trying to break into US mainstream for some time now (the AJE can be watched in a handful of cities in the US presently). Although the current US administration has a far more favourable view of the network than the previous one, as Politico reported, many still regard Al Jazeera as a suspicious or even "anti-American" news provider. The network is hoping that active campaigning by its supporters, along with approving comments by Hilary Clinton, will convince cable providers to feature the station in the near future.
In related news, it appears that Al Jazeera's role in the Egyptian uprising was not limited to that of a news provider. A blogger of Al Jazeera Talk, an Al Jazeera-supported blogging platform, founded and managed a Facebook page that had a central part in the Egyptian revolution. This was revealed by Ahmed Ashour, Managing Director of Al Jazeera Talk, at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, this Saturday, reported Citizenside.