PREVIEW: Al Jazeera English’s new UGC news show: The Stream


Al Jazeera is a news channel on the up. Riding high after the success of its Middle east coverage over the last couple of months, this May it is launching an all new show with user generated content at its heart.

“The Stream”, which has been in development since last year, will be a new daily talk show on Al Jazeera English with a fully intergrated web community. In fact, ‘the web community is arguably more important in getting the right feedback, stories and editorial angle of the show’

Generated By Users spoke to Ahmed Shihab-Eldin producer and co-presenter of “The Stream”. The whole concept behind he programme is to seek out untold stories, get ground level angles on big news events and to link into often overlooked discussion points or conversations online. That means that Justin Bieber and Charlie Sheen, popular as they are online won’t be featuring, but instead “The Stream” will stay true to Al Jazeera’s mission by giving a voice to the voiceless.

To create the narrative of the show which is unscripted and without autocue, social media curation is vital and they make use of a tool called Storify to create the conversation that fuels the show. Storify allows you to take multiple feed from social networks and compile them into one narrative.

As the show is built on user generated content and is screened live trust obviously becomes an issue. Al Jazeera already have a portal roughly similar to CNN’s iReport so they are already attuned to issues of UGC and trust. Ahmed Shihab-Eldin says that the number of people engaged online mean that facts are checked by crowdsourcing, but admittedly on face value we have to be wary of UGC.

News organisations no longer have exclusivity over our news and what we see, stories are breaking on twitter and online tools mean that everyone can be a part of telling the story as is the case with live blogs. But will there be more intergration of UGC and News?

Viewers and consumers of news are more willing to except lesser quality for immediacy and traditionally unreported angles, but does it risk making traditional reporting obsolete?

Al Jazeera English has seen a massive surge in popularity in recent months (increase of web traffic by 2500%), especially in the United States, due to its non-stop comprehensive coverage of the uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa. They hope “The Stream” can help to advance the cause of social media as a legitimate form of publishing information.

We’ll have to wait and see if “The Stream” succeeds where others (CNN we’re looking at you) have failed. But if anyone can make it work it’s a news organisation on the up.

Join “The Stream” on Twitter or http://www.ajestream.com/

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