5 ways journalists can use social media for on-the-ground reporting in the Middle East

By Genevieve Belmaker for Poynter.org

Social media is a particularly powerful tool in the Middle East, where in some countries it gives people a way to express themselves. That expression takes many forms, from social protest, to political criticism, to sharing news and information.

Most recently, groups such as the Israeli Defense Force have been using social media to seek support and participation as the Gaza Strip conflict escalates.

Sometimes major news happens in people’s backyards and they send out extremely valuable tidbits of information in real-time. For journalists who can’t be everywhere or be there to see it firsthand, the hyper-active social media stratosphere in the Middle East is an invaluable tool. The explosion of regional use of platforms like Twitter and Facebook started with Arab Spring, and has only grown since then.


The Politics of Politics

I can’t stand talking about politics. The last time I found the subject interesting was almost exactly four years ago, when Obama was elected to the office of the U.S. president. I remember going to work the morning after the election, which like many New Yorkers I watched with a huge crowd on a big-screen TV at a bar.

My co-workers and I were ecstatic about the win. I remember seeing my friends at work who were black and white and Italian and everything else in between, and we were just out of our heads with happiness. It was like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and a day at the beach all rolled into one. We had lived to see an African-American man elected to the White House.

But we weren’t excited because we love politics. We were excited because in our hearts, we love America, and we love the fact that it can still surprise us. My friends and I don’t sit around talking about politics, and never have. But the night that Barack Obama was elected to the White House in 2008, the entire city of New York was screaming on the streets, hugging each other, honking their horns, and generally flipping out.

One day, if my son is discouraged about the problems in the U.S., I will tell him the story of Obama winning the presidential election. And then winning again in 2012. It’s proof that politics isn’t always about politics. Sometimes it is about people believing that things can change.