Paper Review: Sourcing the Arab Spring
We are happy to showcase a relevant scientific paper dealing with sourcing for news reporting via Social Media. It is called ‘Sourcing the Arab Spring: A Case Study of Andy Carvin’s Sources on Twitter During the Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions’ and is written by Alfred Hermida, Seth C. Lewis and Rodrigo Zamith. The paper was published in March 2014.
We have written a lot about verification. We presented you with tools and strategies. And we have referred to people who are dealing with information found in and shared via Social Networks regularly and made this part of their newsgathering and reporting process.
“The man who tweeted the revolution”
In fact, some have done so in a pioneering way and perfected the process over time. One of those to mention is Andy Carvin. Carvin is often referred to as “the man who tweeted the revolution“. When still working as an NPR strategist and reporting about what was going on in the Arab world, Carvin made Twitter his prime communication means. While he had a network of contacts in the region whom he used to check for information being tweeted, he also retweeted unverified material, then asking his followers for help and verify or check its accuracy.
Now Alfred Hermida, Seth C. Lewis and Rodrigo Zamith have picked up on this and taken a closer look at what happened there in detail. They look at the sources cited by Andy Carvin on Twitter during key periods of the 2011 Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings. On this basis, their study tries to evaluate “whether social media platforms expand the range of actors involved in the news through a quantitative content analysis”.
Results of the study
- non-elite sources had a greater representation in the content than elite sources.
- alternative actors accounted for nearly half of the messages.
- innovative forms of production can emerge with new communication technologies, with the journalist as a central node trusted to authenticate and interpret news flows on social awareness streams.
Ultimately, the authors conclude that social media platforms allow for “different approaches to news reporting, reshaping journalism practices and influencing what is defined as journalism.”
Surely, a study well-worth reading if you are interested in the impacts of new kinds of information sourcing, verification and news reporting.
Hermida, A., Lewis, S. C. and Zamith, R. (2014): Sourcing the Arab Spring: A Case Study of Andy Carvin’s Sources on Twitter During the Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions. In: Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, doi: 10.1111/jcc4.12074.
(A full version of the paper can be accessed here.)