Twitter as Battleground



Pic from Techcrunch

Isis has changed its social media patterns, according to this piece in the Atlantic, while The Tribune of Pakistan addresses many of the issues we were talking about, but has these useful figures.

Number of times the hashtag

#IsraelUnderFire was used on Twitter: 200,000

Number of times the hashtag

#GazaUnderAttack was used on Twitter: 4 million or 4,000,000

Number of Instagram posts for

#GazaUnderAttack: 218,021

Number of Instagram posts for

#IsraelUnderAttack: 8,958

On Monday, we’ll examine the world of foreign reporting, as seen through the prism of the new media upstarts that are challenging legacy platforms.   Please read/watch the following, thinking in particular about questions of impartiality, bias and context.

1) The Islamic State by Vice

2) The Surreal Infographics Isis is Producing, Translated by Vox

3) Everything You Need to Know About the Deadly Extremist Group Ravaging Syria and Iraq by Buzzfeed

4) The Ukraine Crisis Explained in Gifs and In-Depth Policy Papers from Esteemed Institutions by Clickhole


Assignment for Monday:  Write a 500-word post analyzing one piece of coverage on your country by the non-traditional web-based media (ie Buzzfeed, Vox, Salon, Huffington Post, Vice etc).   How different is it from traditional media coverage?  How effective is it?  Do the same rules regarding impartiality apply for web-based media as for traditional media?

And I leave you with news that selfies apparently have contributed to the spread of lice.   In Russia at least.



One is Tweeting… or is one?

One of the big twitter stories of the week – aside from its stalling user base and 11% stock drop – was the first tweet sent by a new user, one Elizabeth R.   Her tweet welcomed the masses to the opening of a new exhibition at the Science Museum (pic courtesy of NBC news).



It took just four minutes for Her Majesty to be trolled, by an anti-monarchist, who wrote, “Welcome to Twitter!  Abdicate.”   Things got worse, when a reply telling the queen to f*** off was broadcast on the BBC.   And then doubters raised questions about whether the queen had in fact sent her own tweet.    Her spokesman shrugged these questions off, blaming ‘processology’.  As if that were really a thing.

Before Wednesday, please read:

1) At Frontlines, Bearing Witness in Real Time  (NYT)

2) Why Israel is Losing the Social Media War Over Gaza (Channel 4:  WATCH the video)

3) How Israel Gamed Social Media (Mondoweiss)

4) How Isis Games Social Media (Atlantic)

Following our discussion today, this article – Ferguson Reveals a Twitter Loop – is also of interest, since it touches upon many of the same issues we mentioned, but giving concrete examples.

Assignment: Write a 300 word piece about whether social media has changed the way reporters cover the news in your country?  Are the authorities using social media to tell their side of the story, and if so, how effective have they been?  Has social media changed the way that people view your country or the conflict in your country?


Citizen Journalism News



Pic from Daily Beast

There’s an appalling story from Mexico about how a citizen journalist, Mario del Rosario Fuentes Rubio, was killed by gunmen linked to Mexican drug cartels after being kidnapped.   They took control of her twitter account, posting this tweet:


And then they tweeted pictures of her body.

In other citizen journalism news, many young Hong Kong Chinese are documenting what is happening on the streets right now.  I enjoyed this BBC profile of an 18-year old citizen journalist, Irene Li.   For an update from the streets of Mongkok, check out the twitter stream of @PRhacks, who I interviewed for a New Yorker piece on the use of thugs in HK.  Since then, he has since started live-streaming onto the World Crypto Network youtube site. Below is some great video taken by a regular journalist, Nathan Mauger, which gives a real sense of what life is like for the #occupycentral protestors in Mongkok.


We’ll be talking about citizen journalism on Monday, so your assignment is to write a blogpost on citizen journalism in your country. Write a 400 word blog about the situation in your country:  do citizen journalists exist there?  How is internet infrastructure and access?  Is it censored?  What social media tools are most popular among citizen journalists?   Mention one or two prominent or emerging voices.   If there are no citizen journalists, write a piece analyzing why.

Also read:  WaelGhonim “Revolution 2.0” ps58-187


Meghan Dhaliwal and Tom Hundley

By Ariana Assaf

Two reporters from the Pulitzer Center talked to us today about their work, the center’s mission, and what it really means to be embedded with military forces. Tom Hundley started out his story describing his work covering the first Gulf War after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. At the time, he was the bureau chief for the Chicago Tribune in Jerusalem, so he went to Saudi Arabia to cover the conflict. Unfortunately, the military was really only interested in getting positive coverage in light of media critique of the previous war in Vietnam, so he opted out of embedding and took advantage of his rare Saudi visa to cover other things that were happening at the time. As Hundley put it, the country was “discombobulated because Saddam was on their doorstep”, and the influx of Americans combined with women walking around without a head covering provided him with plenty of material.

Later he spent four years covering the breakup of Serbia and Ugoslavia, and recounted what took place when he and his “group of happy camper reporters” came upon a group of newly arrived American troops. He had already become comfortable in the relatively desolate area, but these troops were hyper-aware of their situation in enemy territory/combat zone. Interestingly, he explained that not carrying a gun of his own in this situation was a form of protection. “The only way to be safe was to be unarmed,” because during this war, anybody seen carrying a weapon was considered an enemy that could be shot at.

Another instance in which personal protection came into play was during the six months he spend in Baghdad after opening a bureau there once it had been secured by the US. Armed guards were stationed outside the bureau, and he and his office manager decided that one could be kept inside that only the two of them would know about, just in case of an emergency situation.

Meghan Dhaliwal entered the conversation after David Turnely’s award winning photo from the first Gulf War was mentioned (see below). As a photojournalist, she explained how, although there was conflict surrounding the taking of this picture as an invasion of an intimate moment, subjects being photographed like this “have much bigger things to worry about.” Furthermore, Turnely had been embedded for a significant amount of time at this point and had likely mastered the goal of an embedded photojournalist: to become a fly on the wall.



Meghan got her background in journalist from Boston University, and then went to Haiti with a public health student to report on the cholera outbreak thanks to a student grant from the Pulitzer Center. Upon return, she interned at the center for three months until taking over as multimedia projects coordinator. What this really translates to is a desk job, but Meghan had been aching to get back in the field for some time when the opportunity to report in Afghanistan was presented. With only twelve days notice, she was flown to Afghanistan to work with Meg Jones from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  as the photographer for a story focusing on the effort in packing up a war. Meg is a veteran military correspondent, and her knowledge was invaluable to Meghan, who had almost know knowledge of how a military operated. Although her embedding would be very low risk, she still had to “sign her life away”, and was significantly more limited than when she had photographed in Haiti. Fortunately, her public affairs officer was as helpful as he could be– especially considering the fact that as a high-ranking captain, his constant presence with her made it hard for lower-ranking privates or specialists to relax when she was around.



To add to the difficulty, photographing things that weren’t there or that were on their way out was quite challenging. Meghan had to figure out how to show what was going on without being bland, but while still doing the necessary reporting. At times, this mandated starting her day at 4 AM when the light was still good. She wanted to show what life was like, not just life in a construction site, because construction sites are generally the same around the world.

In terms of censorship, it was assumed that her PA would stop her from photographing anything off limits, but this assumption proved faulty when she was addressed by three troops who had flown from a different part of Afghanistan, just to tell her in person that a photo she took for the Sentinel was against military protocol. In her PA’s presence, she had asked four troops to remove their helmets and sunglasses for a photo, and only later was told this wasn’t allowed. “I didn’t stop myself from taking pictures,” she said.  ‘I wanted to show what was going on and how these people were living and how they were taking down the infrastructure used to fight a war for the last 13 years.”



Tales from Iraq and Afghanistan



There’s a great exhibition called Soldiers Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan, happening right now in the Institute of Humanities, at 202 South Thayer street, just by North Quad.  I’d recommend that you all go and spend some time listening to the audio installation.   It’s by photographer Jennifer Karady, and includes both photographs and recordings of the same soldiers.



In the annals of alarmist reporting, this story stands out as:  Could terrorists turn themselves into Ebola suicide ‘bombs’? Experts fear ISIS jihadists may infect themselves to spread virus in West.  No surprise perhaps that it’s from the Daily Mail.  This week’s assignment is as below:

1) Dexter Filkins “The Forever War”  168-277


2) Into the Valley of Death (Sebastian Junger, Vanity Fair)


Write a 300-word blogpost on your view of the limits of acceptability in reporting and showing death.  Should the public see images of dead US soldiers and coffins?  Should we be able to watch footage of executions by militant groups, or should we be protected from this by internet providers?   Have a nice midterm break, and hope to see you reenergised on Wednesday!



Inside the Ebola Crisis

Body removal team preps a body to be removed from the West Pont facility.

Here’s the link to the Time lightbox gallery on photographing Ebola.   There are some amazing, heartbreaking images there.

Before Wednesday, please look at Afghanistan: Packing up War on the Pulitzer site.  The stories are here and there’s even an article on the visit to our classroom here.   Make sure you’ve thought up some good questions for Meghan Dhaliwal and Tom Hundley, on digital disruption, on multimedia journalism, on being embedded with the army or on any other topic that’s relevant.  Here’s the info about the student reporting fellowship.  It’s a great opportunity, so do take this chance to ask questions about it.  Also please read the relevant pages of the Forever War.

Well, was it a boom or a bang?

By Mariam Sheikh

[The photos in this post are from various articles written by Foreman]

On Oct. 1, our “Journalism in Hostile Environments” course was taught by former Journalist Bill Foreman. Foreman kept us quite entertained for the hour and a half he spent talking about his experiences traveling in the field as a journalist for the Associated Press, and the many interesting opportunities he got along the way.

He discussed his unlikely journey into the “rat race” of journalism. He first joined the Associated Press at their Kansas City bureau. Not long after that he was promoted to the international desk in New York City where he said he was always informed on every matter of international relations, as a result of eight hours of editing per day. After two years there he was posted out in the field. His first stop: Taiwan, where his knowledge of Mandarin and the deep structure of the area would be put into use.

He went into detail about how wire services, like the Associated Press, are the backbone of the global media network. They are essentially a news sharing cooperative in which the media and various broadcast outlets are the members. Wire service companies like AP, Reuters, AFP and Xinhua offer daily blanket coverage. Whereas outlets like The New York Times only cover breaking news, and rely on people monitoring the wire services.

As a journalist, there is always pressure to break news. However Foreman explained that these pressures are far more intense for AP reporters, because they are always on deadline. During the day they are competing with other wire services like AFP or Reuters, however by the end of the day, they find themselves competing with outlets like the NY Times. They have already broke a story, but now their job is to refine it to the stylistic standards that occur in the latter outlet.

Foreman has seen covered his fair share of natural disasters. From the civil war in the Solomon Islands, to the tsunami in Indonesia, to the EU summit in Helsinki, venturing all the way to North Korea to investigate rumors of nuclear tests in the secluded country. For all of the dangerous excursions he has had, it was interesting to hear his perspective on safety protocols for journalists. Foreman said that it wasn’t until the early 2000’s that news companies started implementing safety procedures for their journalists. He attributed this extra training as a probable result of insurance companies raising their premiums. But no matter the reason, he said the training he received is applicable to all areas of his work.

He specifically described the three-day training he received while with the Associated Press. He and a group of other journalists were trained under former royal marines in England. In one instance he described how they took the group on kidnapping simulation. Equipped with guns, the former marines dragged Foreman and the group out of the car and covered their heads and shots were being fired. They took their personal effects such as watches, phones and wallets. The simulation was videotaped so they could assess their performance afterward.

While Foreman was lucky enough to receive such training, freelance journalists and photojournalists are not always so fortunate. Which calls into question the safety of journalists, especially those venturing into hostile environments.

Finally, Foreman described the access he and other journalists had during natural disasters in a place like China, where there are heavy journalistic restrictions. Foreman noted that in times of disaster, the first few days are often ones of confusion and chaos amongst the government, and so journalists have more access. Over time, as the government gains control over the situation, and the disaster becomes “old news,” there are more restrictions in reporting.

Journalism is a rat race, in which every outlet is trying to break the story first. In one compelling recollection, Foreman described a phone conversation with his boss. It was the middle of the night and he heard what he thought was a bomb go off. As he spoke with his boss the one questions she had was “Was it a boom or a bang?” After thinking about it, Foreman said it was more like a boom, to which his boss told him to go to bed. It was not a bomb, not a bang — just another night out in the field.