04 May 2012
This is a guest post on the Meedan blog by Nehal el-Sherif. How do you verify news on social networks? How do you build your network and provide accurate reporting? What makes a good photo? Last week, I went to the city of Mansoura to help 14 young Egyptians answer these questions and develop their analytical skills and sense of judgment in order to become better citizen journalists.
The training in Mansoura was part of a series of workshops organized by Meedan and Birmingham City University to train citizen journalists to improve their work with social media.
We discussed many points, including the difference between news and information, the importance of verifying news and writing reports from posts by different citizen journalists.
As we went through presentations published on http://arabcitizenmedia.org, we had several long and interesting discussions reflecting the variety of our group.
Some of the trainees were students; others were working with the local newspaper and our host for the two days, Sa7afat Welad el-Balad. Other participants were responsible for the websites and media of liberal political groups like April 6 and ElBaradei’s campaign or the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party in their city.
It was also exciting to have two trainees from outside Mansoura, coming from Damietta to join us.
During the workshop, I wanted to highlight the relationship between social and mainstream media. We discussed this while going through the platform developed by Meedan and adopted by Al-Masry Al-Youm. The platform would help in bridging the gap and building trust between journalists and citizen journalists, thus leading to a healthy, complementary relationship between the two sides of any story.
We also discussed how citizen journalists could build their credibility with followers and readers, by always mentioning the source of the news and trying to verify everything they haven to seen with their own eyes through different sources.
During one of the sessions, participants were divided into three groups, where each was asked to write a series of tweets or Facebook updates about a certain event. One group wrote about protests in Damietta, the second group wrote about protests in Mansoura and clashes when two senior MBs were giving an address there, the third group wrote about our workshop.
After discussing the tweets and how we could have made them better, the groups exchanged the material with each other. Then each group was asked to write a blog or a report from their colleague’s tweets.
The next day, each person presented a blog post they wrote. Trainees then provided feedback on each other's posts, and voted on the best report whose writer was awarded a Flip camera.
We ended our workshop by going through more presentations, including the publishing offences and Creative Commons so that they would know their rights and how to protect themselves.
I enjoyed the workshop very much, as it gave me the chance to share experiences with this great group of people. I really hope they enjoyed it too and look forward, as much as I do, to share posts on the Facebook group we created to continue our discussions on their work.