Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

EDUCATION AND MEDIA: The Making of Arab News

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

EDUCATION AND MEDIA: The Making of Arab News

Article excerpt

EDUCATION AND MEDIA The Making of Arab News, by Noha Mellor. Oxford, UK and New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2005. xii + 146 pages. Tables. Figures. Refs. to p. 158. Index to p. 161. $69 cloth; $23.95 paper.

The Making of Arab News is a good contribution to Arab Media Studies. It offers an unprecedented rich mélange of literature on the topic, drawing on empirical research conducted by both Arab and Western scholars. It makes a clear and persuasive argument that de-mythologizes the sweeping associations some scholars have unjustifiably made between advances in media technology in the Arab region (especially satellite), and the democratization of the Arab "public sphere." The author argues, soberly, that the Arab media, are merely mimicking Western media styles and structures, rather than acting as real agents for change in the Arab world.

Mellor adopts a comparative approach between mainly Arab and American journalism by converging two fields: social science and language analysis. She begins with a very brief exposé comparing and contrasting "the media environment and policies" in different Arab countries. She then provides the reader with a brief, yet rich and comprehensive history of Arab news. Here, the reader is treated to worthwhile historical information on Arab news, ranging from the uses of poetry as a form of propaganda to the rise and demise of Arab news agencies. Later, the author offers a strong critique of William A. Rugh's typology of Arab news.1 Mellor's critique of Rugh's typology is based on the premises that "it ignores the role of journalists... their traditions and socialization in light of the new development on the Arab media scene," and also on the fact that "it does not account for the offshore or émigré press and how it fits into the suggested typology" (p. 63). Mellor also takes issue with, to use her own words, Rugh's "implied bias against Arab journalism" (p. 64) and his championing of the American model. Mellor finds Rugh's "bias" unjustified, as the American journalism "proved on more than one occasion to be guilty." Good examples are included from the American press' handling of the Gulf War, which serve to discredit, if not shatter Rugh's idealized model. Mellor goes on to question the very notion of "objectivity," which Rugh attributes to more democratic press systems. As she put it, "the objectivity that Rugh claims prevails in more democratic press systems...is not a normative system that the less free systems should aspire to; rather, it is a set of norms or objectifying 'devises' that may vary from one journalistic tradition to another" (p. 67).

The book also provides a rather useful and thorough exposé on "news values," making use of a wide range of important studies from both the West and the Arab world. Here, Mellor makes a case for the existence of a "value convergence" where "new values from western news media" are affecting the "traditional values of the Arab media." As an example, Mellor shows how "newness" and "immediacy" in Arab news are quickly replacing in-depth analysis. However, Mellor maintains that this "value convergence" is not complete and that there are still differences in news content. "While western news media are reducing the amount of political news items, Arab news media still prioritise political news at the expense of soft news..." (p. 96).

In the concluding chapters, Mellor switches roles from that of the social scientist to the socio-linguist and explores very important issues on language and broadcasting in the Arab world, still largely under-examined. Here, the author focuses on uses of MSA (modern standard Arabic) in Arab broadcasting and other related linguistic issues. Mellor reinforces the argument previously made by a number of scholars that the use of MSA in Arab media is linked to Arab nationalist ideology, with classical Arabic serving "a trans-nationalistic function in the Arab region. …

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