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Al Jazeera debuts social news show ‘The Stream’

Tapping into the energy around the revolutions in the Middle East and Africa, Al Jazeera English has debuted a new show with strong ties to social media. “The Stream” premiered on today in beta. It will debut on TV in two weeks.

“The Stream will be something new and unique,” explained host Derrick Ashong as the show opened. “A social media community with its own daily TV program. We’ll bring you stories that are ongoing, global and sourced from social media.” Featuring Skype interviews with bloggers, YouTube clips and a scrolling wall of tweets, the live show takes a fresh, informal approach to the issues behind the stories. (You can watch the replay here.)

Among the topics on the 30-minute premiere: Anna Hazare, the Yemen uprising and the Mexican drug war. During the live discussions, Ashong and co-host Ahmed Shihab-Eldin punched up photos, videos, Facebook status updates and tweets on their laptops. Viewers were encouraged to send tweets to the show and participate on its Facebook page.

Producers sent out tweets with corresponding links during the show, and at the end, posted Storify-powered backstories of the on-air segments. (For example, here’s the Storify for the interview with Yemeni blogger Osama Al-Eryani.)

In the end, like many others, I was impressed. Most “interactive” TV shows either try to hard or don’t go far enough. The Stream is a smart, fast-moving, younger-focused discussion show that doesn’t let the technology get in the way of the issues. Your thoughts?

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