Blogging And the Media – Lessons From Iran

Last week I was a panelist at the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, in New York on ”Blogging’s Role in Today’s Media”  

“What is the most important thing Twitter has done?,” someone asked at the event. “Iran,” I said, without hesitation.

That was last Thursday, before Neda bleeding to death before our eyes, before Allah o Akbar careening like an eerie screech for help through the Tehran night (see YouTube video above), before the tear gas and the clubbings and the brutal robocop security forces.

The topic at ASJA was blogging but Twitter and other social media tools naturally entered the discussion. It’s all connected and all media, established and emerging, traditional and new, singular and organizational, is hooked to the web and pushed out through various social media channels.

The traditional media was easily corralled and controlled by the Iranian government – the ’wild’ media is in the streets with cell phone cameras and filming from their apartments. In Iran, twittering is a revolutionary act. Security forces pursue the citizen with the cell phone camera as if they are a criminal with a lethal weapon. 

If we need clear proof of the radical shift in media – here it is. Bloggers trump ‘journalists’ getting first-hand news in Iran. Mainstream media nurtures reliable blogging sources, as they call them, to get the news while ‘real’ journalists are holed up impotently in hotel rooms.

Iran is not about Islam vs the West, Persians vs the Jews, old vs new. It is about the hunger to know, to have a free flow of information, the right to speak out. We are also a revolutionary society. We fought and died for our freedoms and suffered a brutal civil war. Freedom of the press and the right to assemble and express our opinions is deeply ingrained in our consciousness – we take it for granted. That is why the Iranian people cry out at night – they want their voices heard. That is why social media is so important – it gives them the platform, the megaphone. Somewhere, someone hears them. And that gives a small measure of comfort that their voices can build to a powerful chorus for change that cannot be denied.

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