Saturday 12 April 2014

Using twitter to break news from Palestine in the UK

In Palestine, everyone is on Facebook and young people use it all the time to share news about Palestine and talk about political issues, as well as the usual personal updates.

But twitter is hardly used here despite the fact that it is a far more effective way (when used correctly) to tell a mass audience when something happens in Palestine that they want the UK to know about.
Did you know...?

-          230 million people are actively using twitter
-          40 million people signed up to twitter in 2013 alone
Not only are there are lot of people to reach on twitter, credible journalists in the UK use twitter to find stories. The Guardian has publicly stated that on average, one in 10 of the stories they report originate from twitter.
We discussed twitter, how it works, and how we could use it to tell journalists in the UK when something worth reporting has just happened in Palestine.

Working through a real life scenario
To understand how to use twitter to break news, we worked through a real life scenario of an incident that had happened a few weeks ago in Palestine. A 14 year old boy was killed just south of Hebron a few weeks ago when he was climbing the partition wall reportedly to collect herbs for his mother to cook with.
This story appeared nowhere in the UK but eventually ended up in an article by Press TV where they highlighted how terrible it is that this never made it into the UKmedia.

Of course there are issues of biased reporting, but we talked about how it is often the case that a story is not reported because the information, evidence and sourcing is simply not good enough for the journalist to feel confident about publishing the story. If that evidence does eventually come to light, time has passed and the news has moved on so the story gets lost.

Step 1:
BEFORE you tweet, get the vital information you need to make sure your contact with a journalist has the best chance of becoming a news story:
-          Location
-          Time
   -          What was he doing when he was shot? Was he armed (even with rocks)?
-          Confirm his age
-          Who told you and how do you know it is true?
  -     Was he with anyone and are there any eye witnesses who can talk about the incident            first hand?
   -          Do you have contact details for someone who knows him personally or was there at
      the time who can speak about him or what happened?

Other information it is good to have if possible:
-          Has anyone reported the story outside of the UK (e.g. local news site)?
-          What is his name? (not essential)
-     Are there any photos available? (if not it is ok, but good to know if there are any)

Step 2:
  Find the best person/people to tweet at:
-          Which journalists in major news outlets have written sympathetically about Palestine
-          Are there any advocacy groups that are really good at getting attention and can help
      promote your message?

Step 3:
Compose your tweet and do it quickly – the ‘newer’ the news the better:
-          If the ‘story’ happened more than 24 hours ago, and it isn’t in the news yet, the    
      chances are you are too late.
-          Get the attention grabbing information with key facts in the tweet and don’t worry           about the details
-          Use hashtags that help you appear when people are searching for information about
-          Use ‘@’ to directly get the attention of one or two key people

The tweet they composed
”14 yr old unarmed boy killed 2 hours ago in #Hebron#Palestine by #israel soldiers @BBCWorld @ [PressTVjournalistname] PM for details”

This tweet has all the key facts to get the attention of the journalist and by saying ‘PM me for details’ you are letting them know that you can back up your story with more information for them to report. The tweet uses @BBCWorld because the Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly is not on twitter (ideally we would get his work email address and email him directly too!). By adding a Press TV journalist, we are more likely to get some coverage because they are very pro Palestine will go out of their way to build the story. From this, it may go on to get reported in the UK more widely.

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