SAMAA TV Applauded For Best Practices In Innovation Journalism And Media Initiatives At The 6th Innovation Journalism Conference At The Stanford University

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The VINNOVA-Stanford Research Center of Innovation Journalism held the 6th International Conference on Innovation Journalism at Stanford University. The conference, a three day event being held between May 18-20, includes the participation of working journalists, media entrepreneurs and policy-makers in media and innovation, academic researchers, faculty and students in related areas of study, and other professionals related to the innovation ecosystems across the world. The Innovation Journalism conference, since its start in 2004 has become a global platform and meeting place for discussing the best ways of covering innovation in the news, the business of doing that work, and how innovation journalism interacts with society.

SAMAA TV's Delegation at the 6th International Conference on Innovation Journalism at the Stanford University (18-20 May 2009)

the recent media boom within the past 7 years has led to growth of more than 70 channels with a majority of them focusing on news and current affairs. This has resulted in driving the largely young population by fresh ideas and adapting modern ways of learning and keeping themselves aware.

The first day of the conference included keynotes on the crisis and the opportunities for journalism and also workshops on Innovation Journalism best practices. The sessions ranged from the business models of innovation journalism to how to cover innovation - a 'horizontal' topic, crossing the normal production lines in the news room.

Among the leading keynote speakers were VINT CERF - Chief Internet Evangelist of Google, "Father of the Internet", CURTIS CARLSON, President SRI, G. PASCAL ZACHARY, Journalist; Vis.Scholar, UC Berkeley, MICHAEL KANELLOS, Editor-in-Chief, Greentech Media, ERIC ELDON of VentureBeat.

At the session of "Where is the Money?", JASON PONTIN, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, Technology Review, THOMAS FROSTBERG, Senior Business Columnist, Sydsvenska Dagbladet and AMIR JAHANGIR, CEO of SAMAA TV, Pakistan were the keynote speakers. The session was Moderated by: DAVID NORDFORS, Executive Director of the VINNOVA-STANFORD Research Center of Innovation Journalism. The panel concluded that as the new models of media and journalism is changing the business models of media. The news and media business models in Asia, specifically Pakistan, India, and Thailand etc. are not only intact but offer greater value due to a much richer demographics as well as a young workforce, which consists of an emerging middle class.

Amir Jahangir, Chief Executive Officer of SAMAA TV, one of Pakistan's leading Urdu news channels and other representatives of SAMAA TV; Shahray Zariff, Meher Bokhari and Fatima Akhtar were selected as key presenters for the IJ-6 based on SAMAA TV's leading initiatives for media's role in the socio-economic development of Pakistan through some of the innovative strategies, which have been benchmarked as global standards in communications.

Speaking on the new media development in Pakistan, Amir Jahangir said that "the recent media boom within the past 7 years has led to growth of more than 70 channels with a majority of them focusing on news and current affairs. This has resulted in driving the largely young population by fresh ideas and adapting modern ways of learning and keeping themselves aware. "The Pakistani media has arrived, it is independent, evolving and becoming a platform for the entire nation's expression and hope", said Jahangir.

Jahangir said that the media independence and its growing following and influence is not only bringing about a social change but a complete re-engineering of the entire societal structure. Speaking on media as a business, he said "Media is consistently attracting investments, human capital improvement and audience/viewers participation. With more research, development of specific academic infrastructures, induction of technology and more innovative forms of journalism, We are confident that this sector will not only evolve itself but will also demonstrate the capacity to influence other sectors to grow as well.

Jahangir concluded his speech by highlighting the importance of the Asian region, sharing that it consists with over a third of the world's population, a population which is young, mostly between 16 to 30 years of age and include a set of emerging and still vibrant economies. Jahangir said that the future of the media in the Asian region is promising and hopeful and would play an important role in leading the world in to what could as well be the Asian renaissance. Amir Jahangir is also the Program Advisor to the VINNOVA Research Center of Innovation Journalism.

Shahray Zariff, Executive Producer for SAMAA TV spoke on the launch of the first program on Innovation in Pakistan, another leading initiative by SAMAA TV. Ms. Zariff shared that the objective of the program is to identify and highlight innovation initiations and processes relevant in Pakistan (which can range from technical, business and social etc) and benchmark them against international definitions and standards. The program looks at innovation as a holistic process and highlights the link between technical innovation and its social and cultural impact. The program is produced in collaboration with the innovation journalism fellows across the globe.

Fatima Akhtar, Senior Manager for SAMAA TV's Interactive Platform, presented SAMAA's vision behind launching its interactive platform, another initiative taken by SAMAA TV, to link innovation with the new media development and with the aim to unite audiences and provide them with a platform whereby, they can initiate a healthy "dialogue". Apart from providing credible news stories to societies around the world, this interactive platform also allows audiences to share their content with SAMAA and the rest of the world.

Capitalizing on the potential offered by new media, SAMAA's citizen journalism initiative i.e. iSAMAA aims to create content through collaboration and partnerships. One of the most significant milestones achieved through this initiative was SAMAA TV's collaboration with ALLVOICES.COM (a citizen journalism startup based out of Silicon Valley, an initiative of Innovation Journalism Fellow). SAMAA is also collaborating with a domestic citizen journalism portal: SeenReport (start up out of Lahore University of Management Sciences) in this regard. The uniqueness of the portal is that, amongst the different categories, there is also a beat on "INNOVATION" whereby, users can upload content relevant to this particular beat.

The objective behind this collaboration is to allow citizens to come together and create a more effective communication amongst different communities thus, shifting their role of "consumers" to "innovators and content creators" of knowledge and information.
During the various presentations, one of the most applauded initiatives among the participants was SAMAA TV's innovative health communication programme for the Pakistan Polio Program, the "Pakistan Polio Control Cell". The presentation was given by Ms. Meher Bokhari, Senior Producer and Anchor of SAMAA TV.

SAMAA TV's Polio Control Cell initiative was established in joint collaboration with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Ministry of Health, Government of Pakistan. This initiative provided a platform for the health authorities to reach out to the most vulnerable communities and include every child below 5 years in the national polio vaccination programme. Due to this joint venture, a total of 14,500 complaints were recorded and managed by the television channel resulting in vaccinating 22,000 children, who otherwise would have been left unvaccinated, hence resulting in the re-emergence of the Polio virus in the region. To eradicate Polio from Pakistan, UNICEF and the Ministry of Health vaccinate almost 35 million children after every 60 days.

This initiative managed a big challenge on ground by empowering the media to play the role of the watchdog and pressurize the health authorities to deliver on improving the health service delivery systems. Recently the initiative has also been recognized as a bench mark for future Polio campaigns around the world by Global Director of the World Health Organization, Bruce Alyward and Bill Gates, the founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, at their maiden visit of Nigeria this year.

The initiative between UNICEF and SAMAA TV lead to a unique innovation in health delivery mechanisms and created an opportunity for other media organizations in Pakistan to report on this innovation.

Dr. David Nordfors, co-founder and Executive Director of the VINNOVA-Stanford Research Center of Innovation Journalism reinforced the importance of innovation in today's global development by saying that "for journalism to survive, it must succeed with innovation. Journalism needs to innovate to survive as a business, which means that citizens, students, workers, executives, all of us need to innovate in response to tectonic economic upheaval. Journalists have the critical and vital role of independent investigation, gathering and presenting news to increase general understanding of the engines of innovation".

The Innovation Journalism Program at Stanford also organizes the Innovation Journalism Fellowships, where each year a selected number of journalists mix workshops and conferences at Stanford with covering innovation in collaboration with hosting newsrooms. The fellowship program in Pakistan is operated in collaboration with the Competitiveness Support Fund, a joint initiative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ministry of Finance, Government of Pakistan.

Other than SAMAA TV, other media organizations from Pakistan like AAJ TV, DAWN News, The News International and GEO Television also participated in the conference.

SAMAA TV is one of Pakistan's leading private satellite channels, which takes pride in its fair, factual and independent news coverage through its on-the-hour bulletins, breaking stories, incisive political analysis and current affairs programs. The channel has also made a niche for itself through its programs on women and youth issues besides infotainment. SAMAA TV, launched in December 2007 is the only Pakistani news channel, which is run as a corporate company rather than as a family owned business.


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A. J. Malik
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