Noha Mellor’s book attempts to map the research gap of Arab Journalism. Through the course of the book, she notes empty areas of academic research: the social practices of Arab Journalists and the local/national Arab media as opposed to pan-Arab media. She also refuted the generalization of Arab media as a unified entity, viewing it instead as a diverse array of press models in a diverse culture.
Hybridity is a key concept in the understanding of this book. Hybridity is flows from the idea of globalization. When Arab countries encounter a force like McDonalds they don’t always (often?) react by forming a picture perfect western McDonalds. In hybridity, a culture forms their own style of fast food restaurant (Mellor 9-10). This is especially true in regards to journalism. Over the past two decades, increased western presence in Arab countries, along with the proliferation of cell phones and internet have given Arab countries unprecedented access to Western Journalism.
One of the key social practices adopted from the American model press is the idea of the objective reporter (Mellor 127). Acting as what Mellor, calls a “truth investigator,” arab journalists in numerous countries go in search of a set of facts (Mellor 123). What is perhaps less adopted from the American Model press is the idea of quoting numerous sides of an issue to find the truth. For example, Mellor notes that there are no arab news organization – at least none that she cites – that publish stories critical of Islam (Mellor 133). In this way, Arab Journalism is perhaps more easily identified with the openly-biased (by Western standards) style of the press used in European countires. But even there, the comparison still perhaps falls short. Numerous factors, such as the proliferation of Arab dialects used in news organizations, the medium and the country in question make Arab Journalism problematic to pin into a given slot of typology (Mellor 142-143; 91-92).
Mellor’s book also notes the problem of studying Arab Journalism in a pan-Arab manner. Perhaps the most well known Arab News Organization, Al-Jazeera, is not even universally supported by the Arab League. Many countries within the League dislike the idea of a media entity questioning the practices of their government (Mellor 86).
Mellor notes that the idea of a unified Arab people wipes away “any diversity in language, interests, goals, history, alliances, social problems and concerns…Furthermore, such a generalized view of the ‘Arab Public’ disregards the nuances and complexities brought about by the increased immigration of Arabs to the West and the enlargement of the Arab diasporic communities there” (Mellor 77). In addition, while the pan-Arab media may inadvertently push for Arab unity in their use of MSA Arabic (a form of pan-Arab Arabic that is standardized, and perhaps watered-down), the very laws of individual countries make that problematic (Mellor 82). Vernacular Arabic is at times radically different from MSA Arabic—so much so that one can’t comprehend the other (Mellor 91-92). So if the law includes that the official language of a given country, and the official state communitications is in vernacular, that makes pan-Arabic satellite channels and MSA Arabic publications largely unreadable in given Arab countries.
Largely implied by the diversity of vernacular Arabic languages, is a diversity of opinion on the press. While it may have at one time been fair to characterize all Arab media the mouthpiece of the government, with press freedom largely downtrodden, Mellor makes the case that the press is increasingly complex. The advent of news blogs and online news organizations makes prior-restraint more difficult. It’s easier to find a publisher if he has a printing press in his house, then if he goes from internet café to internet café uploading news content.