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Belgian Media Coverage of the Arab Spring

The next presentation at ECREA 2012 is by Sarah van Leuven, whose interest is in the impact of journalistic cost-cutting on the coverage of the Arab Spring. Does this lead to a greater amount of networked journalism, drawing especially also on social media? An analysis of Twitter interaction in the context of the Arab Spring certainly shows an intermingling of various English- and Arab-language voices, but how does this translate to journalistic coverage?

Sarah examined the Belgian media coverage of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria, focussing especially on early protests. It appears that the more journalists represent a global outlook in their coverage, the more they draw on social media; the more they focussed on national perspectives towards the unrest, the less they draw on such social media perspectives.

Local citizens are much more frequently represented in Arab Spring coverage, and social media were used in some 10% of all articles; this amount was much higher in the case of Syria than in that of the other countries; in the other cases, social media were discussed more as an aspect of these uprisings, rather than used as sources. Amateur footage posted through social media was especially prominent in the case of Syria, too.

This may represent a shift towards network journalism, but not for background news; there were also clear differences between the different countries here. This can be explained by contextual factors, such as the working conditions for journalists in each case.