Journalists and activists use social media to share stories

By Hannah Schmidt
Image from
I have always been surprised by the power of social media. One person can post on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter and (unless your profiles are private) many people can see it. These social media sites have led to a very connected world.

According to Statistic Brain, there are 1.2 billion Facebook users and an average of 58 million tweets per day. This hyper-connectivity allows us to reach a wider audience faster.

Turkish protestors are using social media to share what is happening in their country. News organizations are incorporating these tweets in their coverage of the protests.

Social media use in Turkey 

Trending hashtags, some protest-related, in Turkey (from
On May 27, around 100 people gathered for a peaceful protest against the demolition of Gezi Park in Istanbul. Two days later, riot police fired tear gas and pressurized water to break it up. What began as a peaceful weekend protest has turned into a multi-day riot against the Turkish government. Since then, tens of thousands of people have raised protests across Turkey. 

Turkish protestors began to use social media to share their stories and support. They are using the hashtags #occupygezi, #direngezipark, and #direnankara. As you might expect, the government is reacting negatively: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Twitter "the worst menace to society" and some protestors were even arrested on suspicion of using Twitter to spread "untrue information" (they were later released).

News organizations' use of social media 

With the rise of social media, journalist's have begun tweeting breaking news and and links to full articles. Journalists are also using others' tweets as part of their own coverage.

The Guardian has called on Turkish citizens to share their stories on its Witness page which was created specifically for its audience to share their "view of the world." CNN is also asking people to share their stories or photos on the protests on its CNN iReport page. One writer for The Verge incorporated tweets with powerful photos from the protests in their article on Turkey.

Example Storify from The Stream
Journalists have also began to use a tool called Storify has become an important tool to incorporate social media posts. Users write stories and can insert social media posts.

Here are a few examples of news organizations using Storify to cover the Turkish protests.
The Turkish protests are just one major protest that has been spurred and covered by social media. Demonstrators in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen used platforms such as Twitter to organize protests in the Arab Spring. In Egypt, the government eventually shut down Internet access to try to regain control over the public. 

The Occupy Wall Street movement also harnessed the power of the web. It began with a simple Adbusters blog post asking people to protest the "greatest corruptor of our society: Wall Street." People gathered to fight back against major banks and corporations and Wall Street’s role in causing the latest recession. Protesters soon created Facebook and Twitter accounts to inform protesters when and where to meet.

With such a large social media presence, journalists used Storify to create timelines for the 2011 Arab Spring protests and the Occupy Wall Street movements. 

Social media has become a global communications network. Everyone has the chance to connect with someone from a different city, country, or continent. Journalists must take advantage and learn to use social media to spread not only their own stories, but the stories of their audience. 

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