The Huffington Post is finally kicking off its Arabic language edition and I am hopeful that it will bring added value and quality to Arab readers among the vast sea of Internet sites, blogs, and social media sites that occupy our Arab news universe.
During my last three years in management at Al Jazeera, my mind was preoccupied by the critical challenge posed to traditional media by what we used to call "new media."
While this challenge is multifaceted, it's characterized by new media's flexible, fast, interactive, and less costly process in comparison to traditional media organizations. These advantages have fostered new media's appeal to a wide spectrum of viewers, particularly young people.
I was not alone in my preoccupation with the impact of interactive media on traditional media, as this topic dominated the discussion at global media forums and conferences. Interactive media shook the confidence of many news organizations and sparked panic in the souls of its directors. The inherited hierarchical model of these establishments became vulnerable to collapse in the face of this new egalitarian, participatory model that was not weighed down by stringent, centralized, and costly bureaucracies. Furthermore, the advertising market quickly shifted toward the Internet, causing significant revenue losses to global media television networks and the displacement of thousands of workers.
In the beginning, executive directors and veteran editors grudgingly welcomed this new arrival. I used to smile when I heard senior editors assault interactive media by calling it childish, a fad that readers and viewers would dismiss once they discovered its feebleness, superficiality, and its lack of authenticity and professional value.
In all honesty, I was excited for interactive media and saw it as a natural progression that would only become stronger and continue to gain relevance. I was most drawn to it by the feeling that we stood before an unstoppable movement that would create opportunities for average people to produce the news. This movement would strengthen democratic participation in the media and demolish corporate press monopolies that seek only money and influence.
However, I also saw the shortcomings in interactive media that are rooted in its nature, most importantly the absence of editorial priorities, the dissemination of inaccurate news, and the inability of many outlets to contextualize events. I decided to develop the concept of "integral media," which revolves around combining the best parts of interactive media -- participation, decentralization, speed, and variety - with the best parts of traditional media - clarity, editorial priorities, professionalism, and putting the news into context.
I attended a seminar on the challenges that traditional media face at a conference in 2012, where I met Arianna Huffington, the Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post. We shared many ideas and values, as the Huffington Post had long been upholding media standards by combining interactive and traditional media. The site is further distinguished by originating as a product of the Internet -- rather than emerging to complement a traditional media organization -- that developed at the core of this new media phenomenon, with its form and content drawing from the spirit of public participation in the media.
When Arianna spoke about the website's global outreach strategy of offering content in different languages, I viewed her approach as a means of fulfilling my deeply-held aspiration: for the people of the world to talk to each other within the framework of faith in societal and cultural diversity, in which each nation contributes its experiences and values. Within this framework, we must all understand human civilizations as unique rivers flowing into a collective sea of humanity, because this diversity prevents us from falling into the trap of political and cultural unilateralism.
During my meetings at the Huffington Post newsrooms in Washington and New York, as well as with the editors of HuffPost's editions in many different languages across the globe, I have felt that we are a part of a project that upholds the principles of integrative media. And so, through balancing the advantages of interactive and traditional media, we have come to launch the Huffington Post Arabi.
The Huffington Post Arabi is being introduced into the Arab word amid tremendously complex circumstances, a transitional moment in history accompanied by bursts of emotion, tension, and confrontation. Though today's Arab world is not the dream that Arabs aspire to, particularly for the youth, hope remains alive through this period of uncertainty. We must not tear the fabric of our societies and sow despair in the hearts of our young people by regressing into prolonged despair over this situation, but we should face the current realities of this transition and look to the future.
This site aims to serve as a window to the future that strengthens hope in the hearts of our most promising sector in Arab society: the youth. To achieve this, the site will be a place for the free and evenhanded exchange of opinions and ideas, and a place free of exclusion and polarization.
The Arab media is in dire need of diversity and credibility. We commit to these principles through our editorial policies, carried out by our team of professionals hailing from a range of backgrounds and experiences. They are brought together by one basic vision: we place the people at the core of our editorial policy, and we do not lean towards the powerful at the expense of the masses. We open our doors to all who wish to participate in realizing this vision by inviting a wide range of intellectuals, political activists, and journalists to write for the site and to exchange opinions, creating a thorough and constructive Arab dialogue.
The Huffington Post Arabi is not only a news site, but a source for a diverse range of social, personal, and scientific stories, and a portal to global media as the latest addition to The Huffington Post's network of 13 international editions, each of which exchanges diverse perspectives and information. On the happy occasion of the Huffington Post Arabi launch, I truly hope that we reach for new horizons. I hope that we build it hand in hand with our Arab audience and that with the site we open a door for communication, hope, and gripping, valuable content.
This post originally appeared on HuffPost Arabi and was translated into English.