How Al Jazeera wants to bring Twitter to the world

Qatar-based news network Al Jazeera launched an educational campaign this month that aims to teach viewers in Turkey, Bosnia and elsewhere in the world how to use Twitter and Facebook. The videos are being distributed on a new, dedicated YouTube channel called Al Jazeera Unplugged but may eventually also show up on Al Jazeera’s TV stations. The network’s ambitious goal is to raise a new generation of citizen journalists.
Al Jazeera’s head of social media Riyaad Minty told me via email that the first batch of videos is tackling some very basic issues. “As we move forward they will be getting more advanced and will focus on how to effectively produce and share content,” he said, continuing:

The focus is mostly on how these tools can be used to create greater awareness around issues within your society. That’s where the name unplugged comes from – it’s more about a need to disconnect, go out and create content – not just consuming media.

Some of the subjects coming up in the future include how to use mobile devices effectively in a time of crisis, and how newsrooms can vet contributions from citizen journalists. Videos are currently being produced in English, Turkish and Bosnian, with translations into Arabic and Kiswahili coming soon. The network will also work with volunteer translators to make them available in additional languages, and will release the clips under a Creative Commons license to allow reuse and remix.
This is an interesting project for Al Jazeera, in particular because the network has been increasingly depending on citizen journalists to report from Syria and other conflict hotspots that aren’t accessible to their own journalists. And Al Jazeera has traditionally been more Internet-savvy than many other news networks, simply because it has been depending on the Internet as a means of distribution in a way that’s not true for CNN(s TWX) and others. Al Jazeera’s English-language network has been unable to secure carriage from most of the major cable networks in the U.S., so it has been aggressively courting viewers both on YouTube and on its own live stream.