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Written Assignment Version #2

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The resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will become a huge part of Egyptian history. The protests that eventually led him to step down consisted of incredible numbers of Egyptian citizens wanting change. But what was the catalyst of this revolution? What it social media such as Facebook and Twitter or something bigger?

According to Converging Media: A New Introduction to Mass Communication, by John V. Pavlik and Shawn McIntosh, “Since 1940, the total number of daily newspapers has dropped more than 21 percent” (McIntosh and Pavlik, 119). Sites and television news are examples of why newspapers have steadily declining print advertising profits.  Because of this these major news sources are having a hard time with funding.  This is also because people can simply go online to find specialized news from left-winged, right-winged, neutral, or any other sources that highlight different political perspectives by just using a quick search on the Internet. Because of this advertisers are less inclined to only buy advertising space from the major news sources since that’s not the only place people are getting their news. The book also explains that “Advertising expenditures on the Internet…have shown double-digit increases” (McIntosh and Pavlik, 120). This is very obvious in websites such as CNN.com which is overflowing with advertisements. What is interesting, however, is the fact that the Activist does not have advertisements, aside from books suggested by members of the YDS Editorial Committee.

The Activist was started by Young Democratic Socialists who have many beliefs that they wish to share, and allow others to share, through the blog. The Activist acknowledges that not everything in the posts is absolute truth, but wishes that debate and question are sparked. To this group of people, democratic socialism and the downfall of capitalism is ideal. They wish for people to write for the blog who “seek to inspire and intellectually challenge our readers”, as stated by David Duhalde who is the former National Organizer. Needless to say, the Young Democratic Socialists are the main demographic. This includes the people who are on the Editorial Committee as well as the people who subscribe to and submit writing to the blog. http://theactivist.org/blog/about-the-activist/letter-from-the-national-organizer and http://theactivist.org/blog/about-the-activist/activist-manifesto

The Activist is managed and controlled by the Young Democratic Socialists Editorial Committee. The Editorial Committee also “Serves as the democratic decision making body of the ‘the Activist’”. The members can post blog content and edit blogs that are submitted to them and have other responsibilities such as allowing access to writers who can blog without their approval of their content. http://theactivist.org/blog/about-the-activist/editorial-committee

When looking at the readership of the New York Times there are similarities between it and The Activist. The New York Times conducted an Adult Demographic Profile, which revealed that the vast majority of readers, about 126,809, were from the ages of 25 to 54.  This is similar and overlaps with the young demographic of the The Activist. Where readership varies is through the next stat they found that said the majority of readers were full-time employees with a salary of $75,000 or more. This demographic is vastly different from that of the Activist because the Activist demographic comprises of youth who wish to voice their opinion and debate through blogs.

In light of recent events in Egypt, news organizations have been closely watching and reporting on the unfolding affairs. There have been discrepancies, however, in the reporting on why the events happened. Many agree that Tunisia’s latest occurrences have been the catalyst of Egypt’s uprising, but there have been different opinions on the impact of the social media, especially between the Activist and The New York Times. In a blog in the Activist by Mark Engler, it is stated that even though many who are saying that these protests were spontaneous outbursts, which this is untrue. This is because of the lack of media coverage on the country in the past. It was not a sole result of social media such as groups on Facebook. Engler states that it is important to look into the past, especially at the fact that since 2004 there have been over 3,000 labor protests by workers in Egypt. That is significant enough to say that the recent developments in Egypt have been building up for some time now. This piece of evidence was not used in a similar article by the New York Times. The New York Times takes the position that social media was much more of a factor in the uprising. http://theactivist.org/blog/organizing-the-egyptian-revolution

In an article by The New York Times called “Movement Began With Outrage and a Facebook Page That Gave It an Outlet” by David D. Kirkpatrick, Kareem Fahim, and Anthony Shadid, there is much more focus on the belief that social media played a huge role in the Egyptian uprising. In this article, one very important piece of information is given that is not given in the Activist blog by Mark Engler. The article states that “Facebook has been the social networking tool of choice for human rights activists in Egypt. There are five million Facebook users in Egypt, the highest number in any Middle Eastern or North African country” (Kirkpatrick, Fahim, and Shadid). To me, this greatly helps prove the point that the social media did, in fact, have a significant impact on the revolution. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/06/world/middleeast/06face.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=Egypt%20+%20social%20networks&st=cse


In addition, the article by The New York Times goes into much greater detail about the incident of Khaled Said. The blog in the Activist talks about this as well, but The New York Times article stresses its importance to the uprising. Khaled Said was a man who was beaten to death by police officers after posting evidence of corruption within the Egyptian Police. Before Said had been dead for five days, there were pictures from cell phones of his face, bloodied and battered in the morgue. A Facebook page called “We Are All Khaled Said” was created in his honor and resulted in more than 473,000 followers. This is where Egyptians were invited to a protest that was to be on January 25, 2011, which eventually led to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. The articles states that it was the social media which allowed for “new means for ordinary people to connect” (Kirkpatrick, Fahim, and Shadid). Another piece of information advocating the importance of the social media in the recent Egypt uprising is the fact that “the Egyptian government quickly attempted to shut them down” (Kirkpatrick, Fahim, and Shadid). This is something that shows that even the government saw the effectiveness of the social media to advocate and bring together people for the protests and eventual fall of the oppressive ruling of Hosni Mubarak. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/06/world/middleeast/06face.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=Egypt%20+%20social%20networks&st=cse

In the article written on the Activist, one way in which they legitimize their position is through using expert sources.  In this specific article there are mentions of Charles Payne who is a historian specializes in U.S. rights civil movements.  To make sure that this person was of importance to this subject doing research on Charles Payne allowed his ideas to be understood more fully in context to what was being discussed in the article.  Using his name in the article to back up the information they are talking about shows that the article has claim because it is something that has already thoroughly researched.  Another way that this article legitimizes its claim is by using quotes and experts out of other articles and interviews from people that are knowledgeable on the matter.  By doing this it allows us to see that this is something that has been thought about and addressed by many people.

The article written in the New York Times is legitimized because it was published by a credible source.  Being that the article is seen under a credible source makes people believe that the information written is true.  This goes along with the way the article is written because it is in the NYT which is a very professional and prestigious newspaper.  This can allow people to believe in what is being said.  Another way that this article legitimizes its claims is through linking to the information they are talking about.  This article focuses heavily on the social networking sites and YouTube that were very important to the riots in Egypt.  By providing links to these videos it allows the reader to really connect with what is being said in the article.  By knowing what the article is referring to it allows the readers to be more engaged and receptive.

When searching for ways in which these articles relate to other publications on the web right now I ran across many different websites that had the same article on their websites as was published on the Activist.  This showed that the article was received well by many different people because they allowed their website to hold the story.  Some of the other places this article can be seen are http://www.dissentmagazine.org/atw.php?id=375, http://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/index.php/news-and-media/featured-news-stories/1438-organizing-the-egyptian-uprising, and http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2011/02/10/organizing-the-egyptian-uprising/.   The original version of this article appeared in Dissent’s Arguing the World blog.  With permission this blog was reprinted on the Activist.

When looking for the different articles written about Egypt in the last few weeks on the Activist, there are not many stories and the stories that are on the website are all written by different people.  This does not create a base for each new story that because none of the stories build from the information gained in the previous stories.  Though there may be ideas and beliefs that are similar in the stories written about Egypt, because they aren’t written by the same author so you get bits and pieces of important information rather than whole articles that go together.

This is very different to the stories published in the NYT which work together to provide a story that builds off each other.  The NYT also released information on the revolt in Egypt before any stories were published on theactivist.org website.  It shows the different news styles that these two website have.  This also may stem from the fact that the NYT is a newspaper and online journal while The Activist can only be seen online.

By examining an alternative news source, such as the Activist, with a mainstream news source, like The New York Times, many differences can be seen.  Through the ways they present, legitimize, and prioritize their information, it is clear that they are trying to reach different audiences.  Though both provide important information on various topics they do so in different ways.  By looking at two different articles on these differing websites regarding the same topic their underlying biases can be seen.


  1. February 24, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    Great work and sourcing throughout the paper. Do you think that social media (while it is undoubtedly creates significant buzz and influence over society) can always be trusted? Since anyone is capable of creating a Facebook page or Blog the facts or data can always be diluted. Which article do you think is more correct? Media was the dominant factor or not?

  2. February 24, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Great job introducing the topic, giving background information on the source, and then using evidence from other sources. Also did a great job citing the sources and organizing the paper. I can’t think of anything else to add except you might want to proofread, as I found just a couple spelling/grammar errors.
    -Brendan C

  3. na828
    February 24, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    Try and find a more catchy way to begin your paper to make the reader more interested at the beginning. Somehow make your opinion more clear as to which source you think is more credible, conclude your paper with something more opinionated.
    Nate & Meaghan

  4. March 3, 2011 at 2:17 am

    Good start!

    I especially like the fact that that you looked up Charles Payne to see how the Activist author was legitimizing his claims.

    i think your colleagues have offered some good suggestions (proofread and watch word choice for clarity, and fix some grammar e.g. things “build on,” they don’t “build off.”) I think your intro could be rewritten to give us an indication of what’s to come in the rest of the paper. Hold off on introducing The Activist until you’ve told us what the paper’s about and have then properly introduced The Activist.

    Also, you seem to suggest that newspapers declined because of the rise of websites. It’s true that people read news online more than offline, but that’s contributed to a decline in retail and classified ads, which provided support for newspapers. It’s not that people no longer read news, but that people read news online and there’s no comparable model to support news. On the other hand, the Internet also makes it much more affordable to produce alternative news, since they don’t have to worry about printing and distribution costs.

    On the comparison between The Activist and NYT: I think there may be more overlap between audiences than you suggest. The author of the article you review is in his mid-30s; right in the NYT’s key demographic of well educated primarily white 25-54 year olds. “Young” may be more relative than the name of their organization suggests.

    I like the fact that you draw attention to how each news source views the role of factors contributing to the uprising, with The Activist crediting years of organization whereas NYT credits social media and even refers to the social organizations as “neutered.” This is certainly not the impression one gets from The Activist.

    It’s also interesting that the NYT article interviews people who talk about Khaled’s story as “symbolic,” suggesting that it has resonance with ideas about dissatisfaction with government corruption – yet the article quickly returns to stats on how prevalent Facebook is rather than considering why the image resonated so strongly and why it was repeated so frequently through social media.

    Great analysis of how the two sites differ in terms of being able to place a particular story in an ongoing context and in how The Activist story got picked up and recirculated in various fora.

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