Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- In contrast to Western media where newspapers frequently employ television personalities to contribute to their publications, the apparent phenomenon in the Arab world in general and in Saudi Arabia in particular is that print media has become a “gateway” to satellite news channels.
Newspaper journalism is now considered the “womb” that breeds the future stars of television. Numerous television presenters on popular Arab satellite channels have reached their positions through their published opinion editorials and news articles.
Within Arab media there is a common belief that newspaper journalism covers more scope and is bolder than visual media. This pushes those in charge of newspaper journalism to benefit from the audience of visual media. However, the issue relates more so to undiscovered potential within certain individuals for example in the case of media figure Imad Eddin Adeeb who worked for many years on the publications of the Saudi Research and Marketing Group before becoming a television figure at the Orbit network channel.
General Manager of Al-Arabiya television channel Abdul Rahman Al Rashed told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, “I believe that the print media has several advantages over visual media in the sense of freedom and mobility.”
Al Rashed attributed this reality to a number of factors; firstly, the style in which articles are written in print media is characterized by comprehensiveness in terms of effort, time, research and investigation so that journalists are familiar with all elements of the feature.
On the other hand, according to al Rashed, visual media attempts to summarize the issue within a short time span between one and two minutes may lead to various important elements of the feature being overlooked.
Al Rashed produced talk shows after his post ended as editor-in-chief of Asharq Al Awsat newspaper. In 1997, he began presenting ‘Al Ain al Thelitha’ on MBC. Rashed continues to contribute to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper with his daily column. He returned to television presenting via the Lebanese Future TV channel on a program called ‘Sa’a Dhiyafa’. But the question is: “Is the fame of a writer or journalist enough for him/her to be successful in the field of television presenting?”
In response to this question, Aliya al Kazbari, head of public relations at Dubai Media Incorporated affirmed that fame accounts for a large part of a journalist’s success in television presenting. However, she added that the rest depends on “charisma”. Aliya asserted that the not all journalists are successful in television presenting: “There are those who succeed and there are those who fail in their new role.”
Aliya al Kazbari explained that print media “plays a significant role in convincing the public and the audience.” She explained why officials in visual media institutions hire journalists saying that satellite channels aim to make the most out of the mutual trust established between the journalist and the audience and to transfer this [trust] to the television screen.
The process of hiring distinguished journalists is based upon language, charisma and knowledge of the issues in question. Kazbari said, “The success of the journalist is a product of being well-informed of various issues.”
Abdul Rahman Al Rashed noted that visual media constantly seeks to hire opinion writers who focus on social issues. Perhaps one of the most remarkable examples in this respect is the late Gibran Tueni who presented a special program on presidential elections in the 1990s for LBC. Another example is the political program ‘Al Istihaq’ that is broadcast on Future TV and presented by journalist Ali Hamada.
The Arab media arena is rich with successful journalists who have entered the field of television presenting. Saudi media figure Hussein Shobokshi is but one example.
In contrast to Arab media, western media often invites television figures to contribute to publications.
Saudi media figure Turki al Dakhil who presents ‘Idhaat’ on Al Arabiya news channel attributed this to the television culture of the west, which he described as “highly developed.”
Al Dakhil told Asharq Al-Awsat “It is inevitable that the current conditions of the Arab world are different. We have only just endorsed the television culture; moreover the oldest satellite channel in the Arab world is only 16 years old. The other channels that operated in the past are completely outdated.”
Saudi media expert Dr. Abdulaziz Bin Salma believes that the journalist shift to television presenting is “an option that entails many risks.”
Bin Salma told Asharq Al-Awsat that “A journalist who switches to the field of visual media could lose his touch and may never be able to return to journalism again.” He explained the risk of hiring journalists: “It is possible that the journalist would not be able to express his opinion verbally as efficiently as he could through his writing.”
Turki al Dakhil agrees with Dr. Bin Salma: “Not every journalist would be successful in visual media in the same way that not every television presenter could be a journalist.” He added, “However, the majority of journalists have the capacity to work in the field of visual media,” and this is attributed to the fact that “print media is the foundation of media as whole”.
Before moving to present a radio program on MBC, al Dakhil worked for Al Hayat and Asharq Al-Awsat newspapers. The radio show was soon produced into a television program and attained large viewership.
Al Dakhil continued, “No form of media could be established without professional journalists. News is the focal point; ever since its emergence, news has always been introduced in the form of written media and is deemed the oldest form of media.”
Al Dakhil indicated that a professional journalist is one “who is capable of hunting down news and getting hold of exclusive material. Accordingly, he/she will be willing to work in any media field whether it is visual or audio.”
Published journalism, which is relied upon to a large extent as a source of specialized information especially with the spread of visual media, has challenged all the indirect attempts to eliminate it following the emergence of radio, television, the internet and other known media forms.
Turki al Dakhil said, “No form of media has been able to eliminate another; yet some forms have been able to weaken others. Throughout history, print media has not withered away despite numerous expectations that it would die out after the more developed forms of media were introduced.”