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Ten tips for citizen journalists from Cairo's "Tweet Nadwa"

Ten tips for citizen journalists from Cairo's "Tweet Nadwa"

Mohammad Al abdallah | September 01, 2011

Tweet Nadwa connects virtual and real worlds of bloggers, writers and activists at the Tahrir Lounge in Cairo and around the globe via Twitter. IJNet followed the latest one and took away these tips for citizen journalists.

Roughly translated from Arabic as "tweet meetup," Tweet Nadwa is held periodically near Tahrir Square.

Participants in the latest one included journalists and activists Salma el Daly, Mostafa Shishtawi, Ahmed Al-ish and Gigi Ibrahim.

The four guests provided valuable tips on improving citizen journalism and discussed the obstacles they face. IJNet followed the event online via live streaming (and over Twitter with the hashtag #tweetnadwa) and came away with these 10 tips.

1. "Keep your videos short," said Salma el Daly, the first female video blogger in Egypt. Viewers get bored after 4-5 minutes, so short and simple works best.

2. If you are covering long events, whether by video or on social networks such as Twitter, expect your mobile phone battery to die on you. "That’s why I prefer Blackberry or any phone with a battery that can be changed quickly," says Ahmad Al-ish.

3. Keep covering events even if it seems there is already blanket coverage. Update your Twitter feed, even if you read other people tweeting the same things. You may reach others that they can’t reach. Multiple sources of coverage for the same subject equal more credibility.

4. Try to influence others. People may not take you seriously if you film with a camera phone, because just about everyone has one. Using a separate camera gives you more credibility as a journalist and people will take you more seriously.

5. That said, don't use expensive equipment...This is especially true if you work in an environment where there is violence or the equipment may be confiscated.

6. Not all citizen journalists need to do interviews or film testimonies. Interviewing people and getting their stories requires gaining the confidence of people and takes time to establish. Do what you believe you are good at (images or video, live tweeting…etc.)

7. Deal calmly with angry people. Some may resent your filming, this is tied to the image of the media people have. For decades, people have heard that journalists carrying cameras are foreign spies. Try to deal with people quietly, speak to them; let them know that you empathize and you are there to help deliver their voice to the world.

8. Maintain ties with traditional media. Citizen journalism is playing a key role what stories traditional media cover, but remember the percentage of people who are online is much less than those who watch television and traditional media.

9. Use campaigns help to break taboos. Topics you are covering might be a taboo in your country; you may face problems for speaking about it on your own. Better to do so in a campaign with a group of activists. The greater the number of activists and citizen journalists who cover the same subject, the lower the chances of harassment.

10. Do not follow a political agenda. The goal of citizen journalism is for ordinary people to shed light on the problems of other citizens, without an agenda or a specific political goal. Staying away from any political agenda will gain you the support of the street and encourage other citizen journalists to participate and support you.

This article first appeared in IJNet's Arabic edition

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