Jerusalem's Girl

Friday, 15 January 2010

Social Media, the new medium

This course has truly inspired me to embrace the new wave of media and accept that the industry I have worked for the past 13 years is in a flux. Our discussions over the past few weeks have caused me to really explore the new tools at our disposal as journalists and measure how they have also impacted the world around us.

As Social Affairs Reporter, I was left wondering how social media and new on-line technology has impacted they way the hundreds of non-profits that I work with on a daily basis have changed their public relations.

It formed the basis of a feature story that I worked on this week, which was published in Friday's Jerusalem Post magazine.

More than just a face
The feature highlights how more and more NGOs are realizing the power of the Internet, and especially social media portals like Facebook and Twitter.

It essentially focuses on two social rights groups: The Hotline for Migrant Workers, a non-partisan group that fights for the rights of legal and illegal foreign workers, as well as asylum seekers and trafficking victims and Amnesty International-Israel.

It begins with an explanation of how the Hotline utilized Facebook – their address is HMW -- to quickly mobilize its supporters to demonstrations against government towards migrants. The groups successful harnessing of social media did actually force the government to rethink its policy.

Flash Mob
Amnesty’s approach was similar. The organization used Facebook to publicize a Flash Mob demonstration that took place last week, aimed at highlighting the plight of Eritrean asylum seekers.

I love the fact that they advertised the event on Facebook, it was free and reached many more people than the traditional media ever could. Considering that the mainstream media, particularly in Israel, is not always willing to focus on social issues, this type of promotion is an excellent option. In addition, I think the fact that Amnesty could easily upload a video of the event onto YouTube, allowing them to continue fighting for the cause even after the demonstration has ended.

Access for all
In conclusion and as I have said before, I am a total believer in the strength of social media, whether it be Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, My Space, LinkedIn. I think all journalists should be attuned to it and all media should allow their employees access to it. (I have heard of some newspapers banning Facebook and YouTube, a decision that just seems insane to me… our goal is to communicate and anything that makes this easier should be used immediately)

The last word
After all our discussions this past week concerning private and public information on social media, I was thinking about a friend of mine who is a well-known DJ in Amman, Jordan. His name is Martin Bee and he presents the breakfast show on the English-language radio station Energy 97.7 FM. Martin has 1,702 friends on Facebook but I prefer to call them his followers. He is wildly popular and totally hilarious. When he makes a post… and his posts about both personal and professional… hundreds of people take the time to comment.

Martin certainly blurs the lines between professional and personal but I think he is fantastic and doing exactly what he should be doing… communicating with the world! I hope that I can utilize social media in exactly the same way by creating a truthful and honest dialog with my readers.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Talkback time

Time and again I feel both shocked and ashamed by some of the comments posted on my own articles that appear on

I know that the Middle East is a sensitive region with no shortage of extremists but I often wonder why these inciting and downright insulting opinions need to manifest themselves at every opportunity.

As the Social Affairs and Human Interest Reporter, most of my stories are not politically controversial. Personally, my main goal is to highlight the people living in this area, both Jews and Arabs.

I will give you an example of a story I wrote recently about Palestinian fashion designer Khawla Abu Sada. It was a feel good story, designed to show that despite the on-going conflict there are people who are still positive and optimistic about the future.

The comments posted were so off the mark, I felt almost sick reading them. Instead of focusing on the beauty of this woman’s designs or the fact that all young women have dreams whether they are Jewish, Muslim, Christian or whatever, Jpost readers picked her (and me) apart.

While there were only a handful of comments on this particular piece, in the past the talkbacks have been even more disturbing. My biggest peeve is when those leaving talkbacks attack me personally! I am reporting, dummies! Its not my personal views…..

Talkback to the hand…..

If I was responsible for monitoring such talkbacks I would draw the line at comments that are off-the-wall offensive, sexually explicit or racist. I would use my gut reaction to decide if something outright inappropriate and even though I would love to just ban all stupidity completely, I know that freedom of speech and expression is also important and there would have to be a balance.

Talkbacks are a benefit of on-line media and we can hope that the lively discussions only add to the presentation of the traditional media.

Only extremist’s talkback

While I know that dialogue seems to be the new name of the game, I sometimes wonder if Jpost readers -- the ones that post talkbacks -- are just totally insane?

My theory is that the bulk of those who comment on news websites or who are talkback addicts nothing better to do in their lives. They are angry at the world and want to make their feelings known. Time after time I have to console myself that the people who have enough time to comment are simply nutcases, finally delighted that someone else might be listening to them other than their own bathroom mirror. Do you think i am right?

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Speaking out for a flabby tummy

Feeling fat? Especially after the holiday season?

Chew on this and then look in the mirror again….

Lizzie Miller (pictured left), a 20-year-old model from the US, caused a stir last year when she refused to let glossy women’s magazine Glamour airbrush the very natural but slightly flabby roles of tummy fat out of a photo.

Good for her!

Her defiance in the face of the fashion industry's keenest and meanest weapon – Photoshop – was the high point of the year for many young women, this blogger included, who are growing increasingly sick of the picture perfect body images portrayed in the Western world. Not only is it unrealistic for most normal, healthy women... but who the hell decided that a size 0 is the perfect body? I mean have you ever looked at an emaciated 0 sized woman? It's not a pretty sight!

Since reading about Lizzie Miller in ‘The Wobbly Bits that Shook the World….” I have not been able to shake the whole fashion industry sham, which believes it has created the perfect body for all women to emulate.

It’s even got to the point where I can no longer stomach the glossies with a straight face, let alone accept digitally manipulated fashion and entertainment photos that appear on-line and all around us… all have been so obviously doctored to create what they believe are the ‘perfect’ female measurements.

Nobody is perfect, unless your airbrushed
After studying Lizzie’s picture and reading the furor around her story, I really began to wonder if any woman’s body is as perfect as what we see in magazines and other modern photoshoots?

The question that remains is should these images be manipulated? Obviously the world has an image of the perfect body and that is what many women strive to be like day in day out… perhaps it’s a way for us to fulfill a fantasy or it gives us a goal to strive for?

A body to die for
On the other hand, does it create false and impossible goals for us? Not to mention all those people who starve themselves into thinness, so they can be like their favorite celebrity and fit into that impossible dress size.

Kelly Clarkson before and after being airbrushed

To post or not to post? That is the question

On October 7th last year, I wrote about a controversial group of young Israelis who call themselves the Shministim (12th Graders) or in English, 'Conscientious Objectors.'

The story “Cape Town: 'Conscientious objectors' visit may spur anti-Semitism' Is part of a raging debate among Israelis and also among Jewish communities worldwide as to how the Jewish country should be portrayed abroad. It is important to note that part of the controversy is that this group is a very marginal one, with only about 100 members in Israel. Its message, however, is far reaching and has garnered a lot of attention.

My original story was published in the daily print edition and later posted online. If I had been writing it for the internet then I would have had the freedom to include more about the emotional debate surrounding these young people.

Debate comes to lifeProbably the most powerful link to include here would be the Shministim’s promotional video of the Shministim, which appears on YouTube and on the group’s site

Using that as the core, I would have highlighted some of the debate over the group’s message. In the international media they have been written about and commented on exhaustively. Check out the commentary from the Huffington Post and 'Conscription in Israel is necessitated,' the article that appeared in the Cape Times and relates specifically to the group’s visit to South Africa that I also wrote about.

On the other side, I also have linked to some of the group’s criticism in order to highlight why they are so controversial. One such commentary is 'How South African Jews ‘protected’ their youth from the Shministim'

A debate that incites hatred?
Of course, the debate around the Shiministim is not quite as shocking as imagery of dead bodies, however it is extremely sensitive for Israelis, many of whom have lost loved ones in the army (which of course is compulsory) or have been injured themselves, and for Jews around the world who fear that negative presentations about Israel, especially from Israeli Jews, will incite anti-Semitism in their communities.

Balancing act
The question that any on-line media publishing this, or any similar story, needs to ask is whether it is inciting hatred towards one group. Is publishing such a video or writing about such a group actually promoting that group’s agenda? Is it taking sides with that group’s philosophy? How can you keep such controversial subjects balanced and present both sides of the argument? And, bearing in mind, how compelling a visual presentation can be, should that visual be included too?

Monday, 14 December 2009

Thinking about linking.....

So I've been asked to give some examples of how linking is useful for on-line journalism and the most obvious example I can think of right now is the story that I am preparing for the Jerusalem Post magazine's Christmas edition...

Ramallah Fashion
Here goes, I am writing a feature about a Palestinian fashion designer based in Bethlehem. She had a very successful fashion show in Ramallah two months ago and her designs are stunning.

Seeing her work got me thinking that Israelis and most people around the world do not realize that there are some wonderful and positive things happening in the Palestinian Authority. I hope to highlight this in my story. If I was writing this story for on-line media -- and it will likely appear on -- then I would certainly add the following link to the YouTube clip of her fashion show....

See the Ramallah Fashion Show on YouTube

Because this is a story (and you will all have to wait to read the full version) about such a colorful subject as fashion, especially against the backdrop of suffering and hardship, showing the glamor and glitz and proving that it really took place is of utmost importance.

War heroes
Another example of how effective linking can be is a story that I wrote this week for the Jerusalem Post about Polish national hero Jacek Karski. The story, TAU honors Polish War Hero includes background and some historical references. Some of those were questioned by my readers -- the Holocaust and the Second World War are very sensitive topics -- they question my choice of phrasing when I referred to Poland's role during the war... therefore it would have been wise to include links to historical websites to back up what I wrote.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Like it? Link it…

It is often said that one of the main sources of information for journalists is other news reports. Inspired by what they read in print or see elsewhere in the media, journalists often find ways to move existing stories forward or take those stories in new directions.

One of the oldest problems with print journalism, however, is figuring out how to add depth to those stories and avoid the inexcusable crime of ‘lifting’ material directly from other writers. Luckily, on-line media just made tackling those two problems a whole lot easier.


According to New York University’s Jay Rosen, on-line ‘linking’ from one story to another has created a “web of connections” and embodied the entire ethic of the internet by connecting people and steering them towards additional knowledge.

For journalists, using this tool affords them the space to add background information to their work and can provide back up data to support their arguments. The chance to move a story forward and take that story to other places in cyberspace cleverly brings the written word to life in a multi-dimensional way.

In addition, links can show the origins of a story and offer an alternative view or angle to that story.

Rosen calls these links ‘depth’ and I believe that by seeing it this way, he really highlights the value and power of linking to other sources on the web.


The greatest sin of any writer, whether it’s on purpose or by accident, is plagiarism. However, on-line linking may be the cure for such a crime, says Tammi Marcoullier in her Publish2 blog post ‘Is Linking an Antidote to Plagiarism in Journalism?

Describing a clear case where her own words were lifted by another journalist, Marcoullier states that with today’s on-line technology “plagiarism is more inexcusable on the web because writers can credit sources with a link.”

Marcoullier sums up that “On the web, there is value in creating an alternative to copying someone else’s work. When editors value link journalism and communicate to their reporters and writers that including links to their sources and giving credit where credit is due is as important as meeting a deadline, they will provide less incentive for plagiarism.”

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Press Freedom

Measuring truth
Facts and truth is there such a thing? In today’s mass of internet media even what we perceive to be fact or real news must be crossed referenced more than once or twice to be sure it has not been filtered through an individual’s cultural, religious or other paradigm.

With the internet presenting such a wide range of news websites, however, almost no one these days even pretends to be fair or balanced and therefore it is up to readers and those who rely on such news to make sure they are aware of the slant…

Take, for instance, the website belonging to Arabic-language television news station Al Arabiya. Presented in Arabic and English, this portal -- launched in 2003 and based in United Arab Emirates -- offers the main news headlines from across the world.

Al Arabiya relies heavily on stories published by reliable news agencies, mainly AFP and Reuters, but it also carries some opinion pieces, mainly from the Arab-speaking world.

According to a New York Times interview with the channel’s director Abdul Rahman al-Rashed last year, its goal was to provide the Arab world with a moderate voice but in reality it appears to be just regurgitating the news from western news sites and provides very little new or original material.

Al Arabiya’s non-confrontational approach to the many clearly sensitive issues facing the Middle East has caused it to be blasted by some in the Arab-speaking world for being pro-American. It has even been mockingly calling Al Hebraia (The Hebrew) for its lenient approach towards Israel in the context of the conflict with the Palestinians, says an NYT article.

Partly owned by the Saudi broadcaster Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) and with additional support from the Arab league, this news source has also drawn criticism from some who note that it is also not financially free to really provide any serious analysis or criticism of the Arab world.

Equally slanted and constrained is, the website belonging to the Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat.

Its news sources are of course credible, with most of its posts also drawn from internationally recognized news agencies. While the ethics of these news agencies are fairly standard, with the Saudi royal family behind Asharq Al-Awsat, one must of course question the story choices presented on its home page and the emphasis or importance placed on each one.

In addition, its opinion pieces – once again almost all coming from the Arab world – receive prominence on the home page and a brief investigation of these commentaries indicates that Asharq Al-Awsat’s commentary sources must be viewed with extreme care.

Take, for example, the opinions of one Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban, who dedicates her column this week to explaining the truths and realities of the Arab world. She comments without restraint on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict but never indicates her sources or whether she has even ever visited the region and met with the people (and not the politicians) involved.

As a political representative in her country, it is questionable whether Dr. Shaaban has ever even met with a regular Israeli or taken the time to really understand the personal issues from the other side of the conflict.


As the debate around the validity of information posted on news blogs such as continues, it is pertinent to point out after reviewing ‘real news websites’ such as Asharq Al-Awsat and Al Arabiya, that the multitude of voices on gawker-type portals is totally refreshing.

Of course most of what is posted on is based on gossip and rumors about the rich and famous or is simply ripped from other dubious celebrity news sites, but the posts are short and straight-to-the point. They provide a great starting point for any journalist but obviously they must be backed up with as much proof as possible.

I would never cite this website as a source but, if I was a Hollywood reporter, I would definitely use it as starting point for a story.

The contributors and the commentaries come from a wide range of people and that too makes it fun and interesting to read.

American Idol winner Adam Lambert featured on