Friday, May 20, 2011

Wadah Khanfar of Al Jazeera tops the list of 100 Most Creative People in Business

Khanfar, effectively both CEO and editorial director, deserves the credit for growing Al Jazeera into a network capable of seizing this moment. His secret may be that, despite a decade working as a manager, he still thinks of himself as a field journalist. "There are many books written about management: 'How to Become a Manager in Five Minutes,' " Khanfar says, laughing out loud. "I don't think that's right. The first principle of management is to observe and to understand the true spirit of the network."

That spirit lies in Al Jazeera's scrappiness, its diversity, and its ability to persevere amid the chaos and complexity of the Middle East. Figuring out how to circumvent an Egyptian dictator who cut off the country's Internet and the network's connection to the world. Trusting viewers' cell-phone videos to tell the story of the revolution in Tunisia, where the network was then banned. Recognizing that the news industry is changing, and building additional news programs and reporting platforms around social media, particularly Twitter and user-generated video, to prepare for a different world. And finding ways to spread Khanfar's optimism that the rest of the world eventually will view Al Jazeera as a significant news organization. "It looks so exotic to Americans, but in the Arab world, it's CNN," says Steve Clemons, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, who specializes in international affairs. "Fox runs a much narrower band of programming than Al Jazeera."

Khanfar has spent a lifetime thriving amid uncertainty. Born in 1968, the year after Israel began occupying the West Bank, he grew up there, in Rama, a Palestinian farming village of about 500 residents. "I've seen to what extent chaos creates a sense of an unimaginable, unexpected future," he says as we leave the daily editorial meeting. "You can't buy a house or establish a farm. You don't know how the political map will look next year."

His father, a teacher, cultivated olive trees and owned a small business on the side selling olive oil. Khanfar attended high school in an adjacent town, walking the 4 miles each way or riding a donkey over the mountainous terrain. He calls it a simple, beautiful childhood, if not a stable one. He remembers listening to BBC Radio as his major source of news.
A report in Fastcompany. More Here

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