Since its inception into the saturated world of social media in 2015, StepFeed has managed to make its way into everyone’s Facebook feed. In September, I attended a lecture by founding editorial member, Leyal Khalife, and Managing Editor, Jason Lemon, and got a glimpse into the world of sensationalist media. After the lecture, I came to the conclusion that journalism is not only in crisis, but is trapped in a deeply integrated web of capital, political apathy, and a celebration of corrupt power figures.
Khalife and Lemon stated that the company’s motto is to “build the modern Arab world,” a goal that is both vague and far-fetched.
The speakers also explicitly admitted that they often self-censor to avoid aggravating Arab leaders, since their topics tend to be oriented towards Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, including Jordan and Lebanon on an occasional basis. Yet, I fail to see how they could reconcile censorship and their self-declared goals to “impact young Arabs’ lives” and “push boundaries and raise awareness.”
When asked why StepFeed targets GCC countries, Lemon and Khalife declared and made it clear that the reason was a financial one. In other words, it is where companies can make the most profit possible. StepFeed capitalizes on viral videos and articles, and to ensure the highest number of traffic, they rely on click-bait and shock value.
It is undeniable that the media is riddled with financial pressures, and journalism is not free from the forces of advertising. However, to blatantly monopolize on news, and to incorporate branding and receive funding from corporations makes money less of an issue for StepFeed, and more of an objective.
When I raised the question of the influence of sensationalism on reporting on serious issues, Lemon stated that even though it is unfortunate, reporting on news related to refugees and wars simply do not sell to Arab youth.
Lemon even went on to use Palestine as an example, saying that StepFeed has endorsed the Palestinian cause, yet reporting on Palestinians under Zionist occupation would receive little to no traffic, since it happens almost every day, and therefore people have stopped caring.
Lemon’s problematic statement left me shocked and furious. Furthermore, to say that Palestine does not sell, and therefore should be brushed aside to make space for tasteless listings and propaganda should have received more outcry from my fellow media students who attended the lecture.
It is clear that StepFeed’s vision of a “modern Arab world” is one that endorses Western-approved notions, and dismisses serious political discussions at the expense of corrupt Arab leaders and viral web traffic.