News is unfolding in Iran minute by minute, image by image, often in 140-word chunks of redaction.
News always unfolds minute-by-minute for those of us in the news business, no matter what sort of news organization we work for — large or small, name or no-name, mainstream or niche. But there is no getting around it — there is a revolutionary aspect to the way this particular news story has unfolded.
While I am very interested in understanding the complexities of the electoral results in Iran, the ensuing protests and counter-protests and the political implications of both — that isn’t the part I’m calling revolutionary.
The revolution I’m speaking about has as its marker the sheer number of Iranian voices we are hearing telling this story — thanks to the border-busting nature of new media, cell phones with photo capabilities, and social networking sites such as twitter and facebook.
By now most of us have heard reports that there have been attempts to shut down access to internet servers in Iran and to block sites like twitter precisely to prevent the voices and images from reaching anyone outside of Iran. But people there are finding ways to get around the restrictions using applications that access twitter without having to link directly to the site, or using internet proxies outside of Iran, or snapping photos with their phones.
Regardless of the specific political ramifications these actions may have, this type of first-person reporting is changing the way history has been written until now.
Think about it.
Efforts to control or restrict information — or to limit which voices get heard and which images get seen across borders — have slammed up against a chaotic force: technology. The proliferation of technology such as cell phones with cameras — pesky or silly seeming on an ordinary day — levels playing fields on extraordinary days. Technology enables every one of us to become a stringer and to globalize a local news story. Technology creates dialogue where, before, monologue would have ruled.
Stunning. At least potentially.
We’re not quite there yet. Access to twitter, blogging and other forms of citizen journalism shared via the internet, as well as mobile phones and digital photo capability is still limited to those of us with the money, the education, the gadgetry required.
All of which has an impact on whose voices get heard.
But for today, I am simply marveling at the promise.
I’ve written before in this blog about how news reported without the ordinary voices of those most impacted events can turn silence into a weapon (see “Silence and voice” post of May 31).
Who would have thought that twitter, of all things, could be a way to challenge that?