WSW: The News Media's Ongoing Existential Crisis

Nov 9, 2017

Cairo's central Tahrir Square, once epicenter of Egypt's protest movements, stands mostly empty of pedestrians and traffic on the fifth anniversary of the country's 2011 Arab Spring uprising, in Cairo, Egypt, in this Jan. 25, 2016 file photo
Credit Brian Rohan / The Associated Press

Rawya Rageh says she always knew that she wanted to be a journalist since she was 13 years old. In fact, she says Rawya means story teller in Arabic. Rageh will be part of a panel discussion on the news media Saturday night in Kalamazoo.


The discussion called Fake News: Falsehoods and Bigotry and What Can Be Done runs from 7:00pm until 9:00pm Saturday evening at Western Michigan University’s Bernhard Center. It’s part of Great Lakes Peace Jam. Rageh is also the keynote speaker for Peace Jam.

As a journalist, Rageh covered the Egyptian uprising for Al Jazeera English, which she describes as “momentous.” Rageh, who was born in Egypt, says the country is still finding its way. She says there were some close calls, including encounters with government officials, members of the security forces or “thugs” who tried to stop them from telling the story of the uprising. But Rageh says it was an overwhelming moment, and an incredible story to cover.

Rawya Rageh
Credit Scott Nelson / Courtesy of Great Lakes Peace Jam

After Rageh moved to United States with her family, she was looking for what to do next. She is now Senior Crisis Advisor for Amnesty International. Although Rageh is no longer a journalist, she says that the she is using the same skills to expose facts when abuse happens. She says now that documentation is being used to lobby governments and companies to change policies.

On the state of the news media, Rageh says journalism has always been in existential crisis. She says the news industry has adapted and evolved with market. Rageh says potential future journalists should know that there will always be a need for journalism and journalistic skills. She says even if they are not part of “the media” there will be places in the corporate and non-profit sectors to use those skills

Rageh says there is nothing new about “fake news,” she says it goes back “to forever, basically.” Rageh says there are legitimate concerns of fake news being used to influence elections and target minorities, She says it’s also been used to deadly consequences in other countries. But Rageh says it’s important to be careful about way we handle it. She says we shouldn’t conflate fake news with sloppy journalism. And Rageh says concerns about fake news shouldn’t lead to restricting freedom of information.