A common complaint in my graduate level journalism class is that social media tools permit non-journalists, who have little or no professional journalism training, to act as reporters and provide ‘news’ which lacks the editing and fact-checking of more professional work. Certainly, watching the many rumors floating around twitter about the suspect identity of the gas used on protestors in Egypt, I would have to agree somewhat with the concern that most non-professionals tend not to adequately check their facts before publishing. But perhaps the medium of twitter, at least, is not so much devoted to news publishing, but is rather a site for gathering the soup of observations and concerns that can be drawn into a more coherent story. I am a huge fan of twitter as a tool for news monitoring, and I especially value its ability to put the ‘viewer’ on the streets, almost, with those people who are tweeting from events anywhere on the planet.
Tonight’s tweets out of Egypt are a nice example of how one can watch stories develop before one’s eyes. In this case, as with many Egypt stories, there are several professional journalists who are actively involved. Blake Hounshell is listed in twitter as the managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine. Nicholas Kristof is a rather well known New York Times columnist. Andy Carvin is listed as senior strategist of NPR. These three men happen to be among the folks I follow, since they seemed to be more informative and actively engaged in the masses of information coming out of the Arab Spring events earlier this year. Earlier tonight, around 7pm MST, a journalist in Egypt, Mona Eltahawy, was arrested, and apparently managed to send a tweet out announcing her arrest.