‘Think globally, act locally’

2. Khalid Dalal
Khalid Dalal is a former advisor at the Royal Hashemite Court, a former director of media and communication at the Office of His Majesty King Abdullah II, and works as a senior advisor for business development at Al-Ghad and Jordan News. (Photo: Jordan News)
The first time I came across the phrase “think globally, act locally” was seven years ago, when I was leaving the JFK International Airport in New York heading to Columbia University to catch up with some professors — now friends — who taught me advanced strategic communication in an international executive program. It was a real eye-opener. At the time, I gave the motto some thought and realized it could be applied everywhere, and in every sector and walk of life.اضافة اعلان

Simply put, we need to benefit from global experiences as we seek solutions to our local challenges. People are urged to take actions locally, at the grassroots and institutional levels, adopting the approaches and business models that led to success somewhere else, with the necessary modifications of course.

Now, all agree that Jordan’s print journalism sector is facing an existential threat, with possibly no ideas on how to escape the current quagmire. The best approach, of course, is to diagnose the situation accurately and identify the causes of such conditions and their impact, bearing in mind what seems to be the imminent demise of traditional mainstream media outlets, especially print journalism, in the face of the digital monster.

However, this doesn’t not necessarily have to be the case, because globally recognized newspapers have adapted to the new age and fought smartly and bravely for their survival, empowered by their long history as credible and trustworthy storytellers. We need to look into the cases of these survivors and the path they took. The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Guardian, among others, are alive and kicking, standing out as examples of perseverance and thinking out of the box to keep operating and serving the truth.

In an interview with CNBC, former New York Times CEO Mark Thompson foresaw a halt of print in two decades, believing that “there will no longer be a physical New York Times paper in 20 years.” However, the 170-year-old newspaper, adopting a strategy of focusing on digital subscriptions, estimates “it will have 8.5 million paid print and digital subscriptions by the end of 2021.”

The Washington Post is relying also on digital subscriptions, but of course, more on the solvency of its owner, Jeff Bezos. The Washington Post expanded its operation and took confident steps into the digital world, while keeping the press working as long as there are people who still prefer to hold an actual newspaper at the breakfast table.

It might be said that it would be difficult for Jordanian newspapers to sell online and make money. True, unless the content is attractive enough to compel news consumers to buy. This requires an adaptation process that sees a complete overhaul of the way the content is generated. Media outlets should work towards complete independence and diversity of stories to meet the requirements of all segments of readers, balance, in-depth reporting, and courage in tackling issues of concern to the public. In other words, they should offer something readers cannot find in social media because it is produced by highly-qualified professionals, who are trusted as public opinion leaders and gate keepers. The selection and training of staff is key to the success of this process, so is using multimedia on their websites and social media platforms.

The Guardian was doing well before the pandemic, although COVID-19 has forced it to make budget cuts. The newspaper, confident that it is a guardian of trustworthy reports worthy of reading, has pledged to readers worldwide to support its work, either by donation or subscription, or both. But that’s The Guardian. Jordan’s newspapers, to succeed at something like crowd funding, should consider changes that take the quality of news coverage to a new level. The challenge is not how many people are reading your newspaper, but how many people are ready to pay to read it.

These models are part of a longer list of ideas newspapers have applied to survive. Media leaders in Jordan should examine all these models and work out the best and most feasible plans to salvage the sector, without compromising the values of good journalism and best practices in the profession.

While considering all of that, we need to keep in mind that technology is progressing unstoppably, and local media should seriously consider a leap into the future through a “shortcut”. Artificial intelligence (AI) has become a reality, and Jordan has the brains to comprehend, digest and apply this highly advanced technology in the field of news making.

Summed up in a single sentence, change is inevitable and salvation is achievable if we think correctly and use the available resources wisely, and, most importantly, in a timely fashion. And let’s remember what the French dramatist Victor Hugo said once: “No force on earth can stop an idea whose time has come.” And this is the case with AI and journalism in the very near future.

Let’s get our act together.

The writer is a former advisor at the Royal Hashemite Court, a former director of media and communication at the Office of His Majesty King Abdullah II, and works as a senior advisor for business development at Al-Ghad and Jordan News.

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