Clover is actually working on a really dope series of guest blogs. She’s going to highlight a story she wrote for XXL and show the entire process from writer’s draft to publication. But while we hash that out–she’s got something to say about how Twitter is impacting both political protests and journalism.
It’s timely and thought provoking. And I urge you to check it.
The Revolution Will Be Tweeted
By Clover Hope
I’d been reading headlines about protests in Iran and dismissing it. And then it became the number two trending topic on Twitter (#iranelections). Apparently, Iranians were tweeting about their experiences and posting pictures, and people outside Iran were talking about it.
Some Iranian citizens are up in arms about President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defeating reformist candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi in the presidential election on Friday. There are charges of election fraud and some Iranians believe the election was fixed and they’ve taken their frustration to the streets.
The current protests are the largest since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
I don’t usually pay close attention to international politics, but what interested me about this story is how much Twitter is helping to spread the news. Reports started popping up on the microblogging site before CNN picked up coverage, which angered some people.
Twitter is the reason why I started researching the protests. I went to the Huffington Post Web site – because they do a good job of collecting information from different outlets – and found a liveblog of the Iran riots, citing various sources.
I discovered and started following the Twitter user @IranElection09 and began to get firsthand accounts of what was happening. A sample of @IranElection09’s Tweets:
People’s homes are being invaded across the Tehran, satellite dishes confiscated to prevent flow of news into country #iranelection
CNN where are you?: Tehran young girl SHOT, doesn’t look like she will make it http://bit.ly/UAQxL #iranelection
RT @persiankiwi attacked in streets by mob on motorbikes with baton, firing guns into air, fire all over city roads closed #Iranelection
Of course you can’t fully trust tweets, but the fact that reports like this are even available is astonishing. I think of Twitter as a resource to locate interesting news that I can further investigate through more credible organizations.
I also came across a striking passage excerpted from the New York Times. It’s by Roger Cohen, who was reporting from Iran. All across the capital of Tehran, police have been beating protesting citizens . Cohen wrote about an encounter with one such protester:
Majir Mirpour grabbed me. A purple bruise disfigured his arm. He raised his shirt to show a red wound across his back. “They beat me like a pig,” he said, breathless. “They beat me as I tried to help a woman in tears. I don’t care about the physical pain. It’s the pain in my heart that hurts.”
This compelled me to read the entire New York Times article.
The protests are becoming known as The Twitter Revolution because of the role social media is playing. As a journalist, I’m in awe of the power of this tool. But I’m also noting that I’m not depending on just Twitter. Twitter grabbed my attention—and sent me to the Huffington Post which led me to the New York Times: All a sign that there will always be a need for different levels of journalism. From the citizen journalist armed with a Flip camera to the J-school grad at a mainstream paper with an international bureau.
I like how this Time article on how Twitter is helping broadcast the Iran Revolution, sums up the need for all these variables:
As much talk as there is about Twitter and other social media supplanting the likes of CNN in covering breaking news, they’re really another source rather than a replacement—and Twitter users know that as well as anyone else. Thus, they want—and demand—big news organizations to step up, nimbly and responsively, to cover fast-changing events like this.
Now what if this botched election happened in America? Would Americans utilize the power of Twitter to mobilize? Would they moblize at all?
Yesterday, a colleague of mine, Hyun, posed this question on Twitter (of course): “If Twitter &FB were around, would Americans have used them during the Bush elections like the Iranians? Would we have taken 2 the streets?”
My guess is no. If protests and rallies were being organized on a large scale via Twitter, I would hope I’d feel compelled to take action. But Americans are real complacent when it comes to politics.
Even with widespread claims of fraud and faulty voting machines in the 2000 and 2004 Bush elections, there was no rioting in the U.S. I’m not sure if Twitter would help. If Barack Obama had lost in such a dubious way as Moussavi did in Iran, who knows if idle Americans would have got up and done something.
I’m not sure I would have either.
If nothing else, The Twitter Revolution is showing us that we can make a difference, even from our laptops—as journalists and as citizens.
How will you use it?
Clover Hope is a writer and editor based in New York City. Her work has appeared in publications such as Billboard, ESPN The Magazine, Vibe, XXL, Essence, King, Giant, Village Voice and Amsterdam News.
Dear readers: If you’re a journalist/writer/PR rep/politician/activist/ can you please tell us how you’re using Twitter and Facebook in your work? What are the benefits to using Twitter to find sources and news? What’s the downside?
And as far as what’s happening in Iran, Clover raises a great point. If there was airtight evidence of voter fraud in the 2008 election and McCain won: would you have protested in the streets?
Clover and I would love to hear from you…