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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

The National Future Forum: News has a bright future and the UAE is at the heart of it

Editor-in-chief Mina Al-Oraibi announces international youth journalism competition and says the UAE is the future

Raju Narisetti (left) and The National's editor-in-chief Mina Al-Oraibi speak about the future of news at The National's Future Forum in Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Raju Narisetti (left) and The National's editor-in-chief Mina Al-Oraibi speak about the future of news at The National's Future Forum in Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Journalists in the UAE have a unique opportunity to observe and share some of the most important stories shaping our world, Mina Al-Oraibi, the editor-in-chief of The National said during a discussion on the future of news at the closing session of The National's Future Forum

"One of the things that stand out is that you can talk about global trends – they are quite often being either shaped here or shaped by people with connections here,” she said.

“That gives us an opportunity when we are talking about the future. This is definitely a country of the future and so we have an edge in covering it.”

The session also saw a series of important announcements about how The National will cover news and its relationship with current and future readers.

Working with the Emirates Youth Council, six fellows have been appointed "to think about all the issues of importance for the UAE, the region and world when it come to the future,” Ms Al-Oraibi said.

Also announced was a global Future of Journalism competition for those aged 16 to 21 so they can “tell us what they think the future of journalism is going to be like.”

In a first for the region, the newspaper will also be appointing a Future Editor and will commission what Ms Al-Oraibi described as “deep dives” in to subjects The National wants to examine in greater detail through articles, podcasts and video.

In the panel discussion that preceded the announcements, senior figures from the media world discussed some of the most pressing issues for journalism today, such as the danger of fake news and the pressure of competition from social media platforms like Twitter.

Christian Broughton, editor of The Independent in London, said it was impossible to ignore Twitter as a news source.

“When you have the President of the United States issuing pretty important statements on Twitter you have to take this platform seriously,” he said. “That doesn't mean you repeat [everything] you see on Twitter, but it is certainly a valid platform for live news.”

He also questioned the credentials of some citizen journalists. "We wouldn’t be excited by the term citizen surgeon or citizen banker,” he said “You wouldn't trust that.”

The most effective strategy, Mr Broughton said, was to work with influencers and bloggers to make sure they meet the editorial standards of a newspaper. “They find it interesting to work with us because they learn and then everyone benefits,” he said.

Ms Al-Oraibi said that while it was “great” to have opinionated pieces and that readers loved them ”we still have to have facts". And the only way to combat fake news, she said, "is to show that trusted brands and trusted outlets are accurate and do their fact-checking and put their hands up when they get something wrong".

“However, these days people also trust their friends and what their friends are sharing, which leads to people re-sharing posts even though they have no idea where it's come from.

"We have to redefine what is news and what we own and what we're responsible for,” she said.

Raju Narisetti, the former CEO of Gizmodo Media Group, said the digital age had brought benefits to both publishers and readers, including ”the amount of resources devoted to fact-checking".

"We tend to associate a lot of negativity with speed, " he said. “But one of the benefits of social media and one of the benefits of speed is our ability to correct mistakes has become a lot faster.”

Tom Thomson, former-Asia editor for Reuters, said that in the early days of newspaper websites, news was ”given away like toothpaste, thinking the money would come”.

He also said that in the near future, subscriptions will play a key role. “What has become clearer is that people are willing to pay for trusted news," he said.

On the general future of journalism, Broughton of The Independent, which ended print production in 2016, was optimistic.

"We're fully online and the business is flying and the journalism is as influential as it's ever been," he said.