18 Days author Scott Bridges.
In November last year, a few days after the birth of my second child and in something of a daze as a result, I spoke at the 2012 Walkley Media Conference as part of a panel on entrepreneurial journalism. I was hoping to inspire potential Editia authors in the audience: journalists who had already or would soon come up with narrative longform works that would fit in with our digital first non-fiction list.
On the eve of the 2013 Walkley Media Conference, I’m thrilled to report that that bleary afternoon session last year was absolutely worthwhile: one of the journalists who was in the audience that day has now signed a contract with Editia and we’ll be publishing his book later this year.
Scott Bridges is lecturer in journalism and communications at the University of Canberra. He’s also a former Al Jazeera English director who was on shift when Muammar Gaddafi was captured and killed after the fall of Tripoli, and is in the early stages of research for his PhD looking at how Al Jazeera’s reach and influence is expanding in the non-Arabic speaking world.
Upon his return to Australia in 2011, Bridges started work on a book about his former employer. He has spent the past 18 months working on 18 Days: Al Jazeera English and the Egyptian Revolution, including two research trips back to Qatar.
“I was inspired to write 18 Days because the story behind AJE’s incredible coverage of the Egyptian Revolution needed to be told,” Bridges says. “Having heard some of the channel’s correspondents’ anecdotes first-hand, and experienced for myself how news and television is put together inside that dusty Doha studio, I thought I’d be able to give readers insight into AJE that other commentators couldn’t. And with the Al Jazeera Network’s current expansion in the USA and other non-Arabic-speaking markets, there is no better time to examine how this unique hybrid of Middle East and West works.”
The book is a fast-paced tale that provides an insider’s view of the Al Jazeera English newsroom pushed to its limits. It will appeal to readers with an interest in the media, current affairs and recent developments in the Middle East.
You can learn more about Scott Bridges and about the book at www.18daysaje.com. You can learn more about Al Jazeera English by watching its Managing Director, Al Anstey, give the keynote address at the 2013 Walkley Media Conference, Storyology, tomorrow (the session will be streamed live from 1.10pm to 2pm here). Follow the conversation via the #storyology hashtag on Twitter too.
Anstey has been a supporter of Bridges’ book from the start.
“Al made himself available for a couple of interviews, approved my access to AJE staff, and most crucially, placed absolutely no conditions on that access,” Bridges says. “Despite my focus on some controversial topics in interviews, Anstey put his case to me as a Managing Director but respected the process as a journalist.”
“His appearance at the Storyology conference gives journalists and media professionals in Australia a chance to hear directly from the head of one of the world’s most interesting news organisations.”
Here’s the official blurb about 18 Days:
This is the story of a plucky newsroom in the middle of an anonymous Middle Eastern desert city that through its coverage of one huge story changed the rules of 24-hour TV news.
On February 11, 2011, President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule of Egypt came to an end after 18 days of massive and unprecedented street protests. In the course of those few days, a 24-hour news channel unlike any other, Al Jazeera English, emerged in a crowded global news market as the source for reporting on the Egyptian Revolution. While established networks such as CNN and BBC World battled to provide comprehensive first-hand accounts of developments in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, news consumers across the world found superior coverage on Al Jazeera English. The New York Times said AJE “provided more exhaustive coverage than anyone else”; The Atlantic argued, “It is no exaggeration to say that Al Jazeera has been the eyes and ears of [the Arab Spring].”
18 Days examines the Doha-based channel’s coming of age and discovers how a network known to many in the West as “Terror TV” was transformed almost overnight into a trusted and indispensable source of news. Drawing on content analysis and interviews with key players inside the organisation, the book goes behind the cameras to tell stories of newsgathering ingenuity, hair-raising moments of danger, and internal tension. It examines the network’s relationship with its Qatari benefactors and charges of editorial bias, along with the legacy of Egypt for Al Jazeera English as the brand expands its footprint into the United States.