What do journalists imagine their audiences are like, and how does this affect their work? Julian Matthews of the University of Leicester, and Maiya Al Habsi of Al-Bayan College, studied the topic in a non-national and more global context. They examined news professionals’ perceptions of the Arab news audience at Al Jazeera, and how it affects their ideas about newsworthiness.
In 2010-2011, the researchers did field observations and interviews at the pan-Arab news broadcaster, Al Jazeera Arabic (nowadays Al Jazeera), at their Doha newsroom.
According to the results, the imagined Arab news consumers were constructed as heterogeneous in character and origin, sharing a common ‘mindset’ and an experience of voicelessness.
“Views of the audience are integral to these broadcasters’ efforts to assert their position in the Arab news ecology”, the authors state. These ideas are also represented in its mission statement and strategy. In practice, Al Jazeera has employed journalists with different nationalities, creating a multicultural team. The journalists emphasized creating a programme that meets the ‘needs’ of the imagined audience.
The article “Addressing a region? The Arab imagined audience and newsworthiness in the production of Al Jazeera Arabic” was published in International Communication Gazette and is available online (abstract free).
Picture: Al Jazeera Arabic Channel by Enda Nasution, license CC BY-NC 2.0