Arab revolution panelists tackle verification

A panel discussing the Arab revolutions described a complicated situation for journalists trying to determine who is reliable and what is true.

The discussion at the Online News Association conference in Boston involved NPR’s Andy Carvin, reporter Issandr El-Amrani, the American Islamic Congress’s Nasser Weddady and our own King’s Journalism alumnus Rehab El-Bakry, who is an Egyptian journalist.

“Some of my best sources were those most active in the revolution,” Carvin said. “You have to take some of what they say with a grain of salt.”

To balance his coverage, he tried to follow as many different people as possible. “When you’re reading tweets from 20 activists and they’re all tweeting the same thing, you can start to take it at face value.”

El-Bakry said a challenge is the lack of a history of impartial reporting in the region: “You’re talking about six to seven generations of journalists who have no idea how to report objectively.”

Amrani took issue with El-Bakry’s characterization of the Egyptian media, saying there is a diversity of opinion: “It’s a constant fight. You have factions within papers. It’s not fair to call them doormats.”

As a result, Carvin said verifying information needs to be a collaborative effort and he characterized his use of Twitter as “an open-source newsroom.” He said he uses a lot of question marks and tries to get his audience to confirm as many aspects as they can.




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