“The medium is the message.”
Millions of people flood the streets of Cairo, Egypt’s capital city. Millions more flood the streets of neighbouring cities, towns, and villages. The protestors chant with one thing in common: the freedom of their people, democracy, and for Mubarak to step down as the 20-year reigning president. Only a handful of Egyptians are chanting for Mubarak to stay in power compared to the opposition and many of them are paid by the government to stir up trouble with the peaceful protestors.
Many of the protestors communicate and join together through social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. Twitter allows registered members to post 140-character “status” descriptions of what is currently happening around them. Most of the posts keep the facts plain, simple, and clean, i.e. “Opposition voices scepticism about Mubarak’s constitutional panel” by Al-Masry Al-Youm. On Facebook, a registered member can create groups and invite millions of friends and supporters to one common place on the internet. On these groups, people can make “wall posts”, explaining where they are, and pose questions, share ideas, and communicate with people. Members can also send personal, private messages, create forums on the group site, and create events with specific dates and times.
Mubarak’s government noticed how quickly these websites and networks were quickly turning people against him, so they blocked them from Egypt’s Internet server. However, as one interviewer on The New York Times website said, “It is not a Twitter or a Facebook revolution.” The block from social networks didn’t stop millions from voicing their strong opinions against Mubarak and for pro-democracy. One cannot create a revolution based on 140-character updates but through voice, actions, and face to face communication. Though the sites were good for mobilization and quick updates, it was the people, NOT Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc. that caused the revolution in Egypt.
The revolution on the streets of Egypt relates to the communications/media revolution in many ways. When looking at how many mediums are being used to spread information about the protests, attacks, ideas, etc. there are at least four: the Internet (Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, online news sites, email, blogs, etc.); television (CNN, Al-Jazeera, The National, CTV, CBC, etc.); radio; and newspaper. The two most important are the internet and television because they can mobilize people, capture emotions, ideas, and thoughts quick and effectively, constantly being updated, easy to access, and easy to use. Most bloggers are able to afford a small Flip video camera, take a short ten minute clip of the protests and an interview with a protestor, and post it on their blog or onto Youtube. It’s just that simple and only takes about 30 minutes to do. Television is important too but has a down side compared to the internet. They seem to only care about ratings, what is happening at that very second, how the protests relate to home (location) and how they will affect their people, and many don’t have a solid background on the political history of Egypt. Many reporters are left in the dust and many are being attacked because they are seen as possible threats and useless to the protests.
However, no matter the numbers of protestors for or against you as a journalist, you must cover the news. Journalists have to find out why the protests are happening, both sides of the story (Mubarak and the protestors), find people who can share their stories, investigate the problem, etc. Journalists have to be responsible, no matter the medium they are in.
I mainly get my news from the CBC website. I have it set as my homepage. I also read the Globe and Mail and the Daily Gleaner whenever I remember to pick it up on campus.