In case you have been living under a rock—or really, in case you haven’t logged into your Facebook recently—some pretty crazy stuff has been happening over in Egypt. Two weeks of protests have resulted in the resignation of 30-year president, Hosni Mubarak. Many are saying the protests themselves are partially the result of networking done through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.
The uprising in Egypt is certainly not the first instance of social networking media being utilized for activist and organizing purposes—a majority of the mobilizing which occurred during the Ukraine’s 2004 “Orange Revolution” was credited to internet activity. This is not suprising, as the emergence of widespread internet in the Ukraine was beginning at that time. Youth riots in Greece during 2008 relied on twitter feeds, as did the 2009 Moldovan uprising—referred to as “The Twitter Revolution.”
As interested as we are here at the Campanil in the intersections of activism and the interwebs, our journalistic tendencies have us thinking most about the role of social media for us reporters — out there in the middle of all that activist action. Some of us think it may be possible that the use of social media by journalists during the Egyptian uprising may provide some answers to questions about how journalism will change (or has already changed) in the digital age.
With the use of Twitter and Facebook on the rise, everybody can get “published.” Many people rely more heavily on social media for “newsfeeds” rather than picking up the paper. Layoffs abound in print journalism, and many papers have gone out of business. Supposedly these trends may be an indication of “the death of journalism,” but as the minute-by-minute social media coverage in Egypt has shown, reporting is anything but dead.
This pervasive and ubiquitous computing technology makes clear the need for trained reporters now more than ever. Coverage is not inherently less valuable because it was tweeted rather than in print—but it is important that said coverage is accurate and thoroughly fact-checked. Instant information sharing can make this process of fact-checking easier, but can also lead to publishing stories based on misinformed tweets. It is the role of responsible, trained journalists to navigate newsfeeds—using the old journalism stand-bys of multiple sources in each and every digital platform.
Governments may regulate and censor traditional media outlets—newspapers, television, etc. However, users create their own status updates and tweets. The forum found on Twitter may not necessarily represent democracy at it’s purest, but it is certainly an outlet for alternate and dissenting voices that may not be represented in government regulated, traditional media—especially in times of political upheaval.
We don’t embrace twitter feeds as the single savior of journalism’s future—or the future of activism, for that matter. However, we can’t help but say, “Viva la tweets! Viva la revolution!”