I’ve been following the Egypt revolution via the #Jan25 hashtag and a few of my favorite Tweeters. The experience is riveting. Every twist and turn is documented — so much more exciting than waiting till the end of the day to read a newspaper report. It’s also better than simply watching one news channel. Instead, I get reports from ALL the news channels — both English and Arabic. I can’t imagine I’ll watch any breaking news story in another fashion.
One #Jan25 Tweeter deserves special praise: Emirati commentator Sultan al Qassimi. He has worked tirelessly to update the events from all the Arab and English news outlets — 16 hours in a row on Thursday. His coverage alone was more informative than any mainstream media outlet. His follower numbers have shown a dramatic rise as well as he’s gained fame for his comprehensive coverage. He now has nearly 20,000 followers up around 8,000 followers over the last few days.
Sultan al Qassemi may represent a new form of journalism. His expansive coverage, duel-language skills, and an innate understanding of the politics in Egypt make him more valuable than any single outlet. And his coverage is so expansive because he’s not tied to a single outlet. He’s free to jump around between the coverage from Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya and BBC Arabic. While Al Jazeera had the best live feeds coming out of Egypt, you’d never see CNN relying upon it for its coverage. But, Qassemi isn’t beholden to anyone.
Of course, this new form of journalism isn’t financially viable. Al Qassemi isn’t making any money (directly anyway), and he’s feeding off news outlets that do make money — perhaps even drawing viewers away from them. Still, we should pause for a moment and appreciate that there’s never been a better way to stay on top of a story. Thanks to Sultan and to the other #Jan25 newsmakers.