As the Asia Media Summit 2007 started this morning at Hotel Nikko in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, I had to kick myself hard to make sure it was not a bad dream concocted by my often over-active imagination.
The first plenary session was on ‘Era of participatory media: Rethinking mass media’. It was a response to what many of us had urged the organisers, Asia Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD), to do this time around: take a closer look at how the citizens’ media are evolving and impacting mainstream media.
The session had three speakers — the Director General of Deutsche Welle (DW) of Germany, Director General (international planning) of NHK Japan, and an Editor Emeritus (no less!) from The Toronto Star newspaper in Canada. (The fourth speaker, Director General of Al Jazeera Network, didn’t show up – is it because he no longer holds that job after a recent shake-up of the network’s top management? See: Pro-US coup at Al Jazeera?)
The panel was chaired by Jennifer Lewis, who edits Singapore Straits Times Online, Mobile and Print offering — better known by its abbreviation STOMP. She was the only interesting speaker and, tellingly, the only speaker who had any direct experience with the new media or participatory media.
Age has something to do with it, I guess. I’m 41 years old, and I don’t consider myself a digital native. I didn’t grow up with computers and mobile phones like my 11-year-old daughter is now doing. For all my interest in the new media, I remain a digital immigrant trying to find my way in the digital world.
For sure, DW, NHK and The Toronto Star are venerable media institutions that have long served the public interest. No argument there. But why were their chiefs pontificating on the limitations of new media — especially blogs — while there was not a single new media practitioner on the panel (not counting Jennifer, who as moderator didn’t get to share her own experience)?
We sat there hearing from the worthies of the old media that bloggers have limitations of outreach, legitimacy and credibility. They grudgingly acknowledged the existence and some advantages the new media have over their own (old and tired?) media. But all of them failed to say anything new or interesting.
Some, like the emeritus Canadian editor, in fact could not understand why there was no business model in blogs. (Yes, we know it stumps the commercialised media to see so many of us working for no gains or perks of any kind!). He then ventured to make sweeping generalisations about all new media by trying to make a tenuous link between new media platforms and their use by terrorist groups. That was so off the mark that does not warrant a response. The moral is: Elderly editors must stick to what they know best.
During question time, a few audience members tried to point out the complementarity of the old and new media, but by then the tone had already been set: this is going to be yet another gathering of the now rapidly endangered mediasaurus – about whom I have talked about in this previous post.
AMS 2007’s first session showed us well and clear the great divide between the old media and new media. The panel failed miserably and completely to find any bridge across the two. It was doomed from the start because there was no representative of the new media on it.
Asia’s largest gathering of media managers and policy makers has got off to an inauspicious start.
I don’t want to spend three days of my time if this is going to be Asia Mediasaurus Summit.