Iranian protests, Twitter and the news media

To witness the impact of social networking on the news coverage of the protests in Iran is to watch the transformation of new technology to overhaul preconceived approaches to spreading news.

The innovative uses of Twitter, Facebook and other social networking software, demonstrates the abilities of these new forms as a means of spreading news worldwide, garnering international support to their cause and organizing social activism. The news media responded with plenty of coverage of this phenomena from a wide range of perspectives.

Andrew Sullivan, in the Sunday Times, wrote a compelling piece, analyzing the historic significance of the use of Twitter by Iranians.

“As I have spent the past week hunched over a
laptop, channelling and broadcasting as much information, video and debate
about the momentous events in Iran
, nothing quite captured the mood and pace
of events like the tweets coming from the people of

,” he says in the column.

Guest columnist Evgeny Morozov provides equally interesting insights in his piece on the repercussions of the Twitter Revolution. His analysis shows how both sides of the Iranian protests are using the technology to get an upper hand.

However tempting it might be to attribute the Iranian protests to the power of Twitter,
and other social media, we should be extremely careful in our
conclusions, especially given that the evidence we are working with is
extremely sparse. By sticking labels like “cyber-revolution’’ on events

, we overstate the power of social media and make it look much more threatening than it really is,” he warns.

A letter to the editor published in the Washington Post is an example from yet another perspective. The author urges fellow readers to reach out and support the Iranian protesters. This exemplifies the spirit of e-journalism to educate, engage and empower audiences. The combination of journalism, Twitter reports from citizens in Iran, analysis and commentary combine in an interactive discussion that is so compelling it results in a call for action.

For a completely different viewpoint, Mitch Wagner, in Information Week, blogs about the backlash against the rise of Twitter created over the past week. He condemns any predictions about a “revolution” in the use of Twitter, saying it is only a blip and it will return to normal.

“The people who think that Twitter is useless and for losers are in
hiding now, but they’ll be back. As I write this — 1:45 pm PDT Friday,
June 19 — Twitter is at the peak of its hype cycle, and the backlash
will begin … well, probably before supper actually,” he writes.

This is an interesting debate to watch closely over the next few weeks as more political events unfold in Iran. The news media’s reaction may grease the wheels of change or bring them to a grinding halt depending on what takes place. It will be worth observing closely.