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September 26, 2017 / lizatwood

Twitter flames fire of NFL protest


My teenage son recently tried to make a bonfire in our backyard fire pit. After picking up some damp logs and cutting a few twigs from a pine tree, he placed them in the pit, poured on some gasoline and lit it. He rejoiced when the flames shot up, but he quickly became disappointed when they soon vanished and he was left staring dejectedly at a smoldering, smelly pile of wood.

This weekend’s furor over NFL players and coaches refusing to stand for the national anthem reminds me of what happened to my son and shows the problem of relying on social media to make real and meaningful change.

When Donald Trump said in a campaign speech in Alabama that NFL owners should fire players who don’t stand for the national anthem, he poured gasoline on a smoldering controversy and his weekend tweets lit the match.

Today the news media are consumed with the story, giving accounts from players, coaches and fans. We see pictures of players locking arms in solidarity and disgusted fans burning football jerseys.

Sports and protest are not new, of course. Muhammad Ali was forced to give up his boxing title and go to prison for his refusal to serve in Vietnam. Olympic runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos were excoriated in the media for raising their fists in a black-power salute in 1968. While both instances are testimony to personal conviction and even bravery, their real impact was limited.

Ali didn’t stop the Vietnam War. Smith and Carolos did not remedy racial injustice. And the NFL players will not solve the complicated problems of unfairness in our criminal justice system.

These protests draw well-deserved attention to issues that need to be addressed, but solving the problems takes more than knee — or a tweet.

America seems to be a country suffering from ADD. We flit from crisis to crisis. While we were fixated on whether or not the NFL players should stand for the national anthem, tensions were escalating with North Korea and yet another effort to fix our failing health-care system was collapsing.

Some journalists are doing good work. They are writing pieces that explain complicated issues, but unfortunately we are not paying attention.

I am not naïve. I don’t think most Americans have ever cared to debate hard policies questions. But the problem now is our political leaders don’t seem to be interested in focusing on policy, either.

Just like my son who didn’t want to take time gather dry twigs to kindle his fire, Trump, some members of Congress and too many journalists prefer to pour on the gasoline and watch the explosion.

August 28, 2017 / lizatwood

Live streaming deals blow to Pay-Per- View

twitter fight

Nearly 3 million people reportedly watched the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight illegally through free live-stream viewing apps Saturday night. I was one of them. I didn’t intend to be a scofflaw. I logged into Twitter to find out when the match was going to be over so I’d know when to expect my son who was watching the fight a friend’s house. But as I scrolled through the tweets, I became fascinated watching the twitterverse react to the fight.

Read more…

August 21, 2017 / lizatwood

Bannon feels power of the media

Steve Bannon

Photo by Gage Skidmore

White House strategist Steve Bannon’s reaction to his being fired from his job of presidential adviser was a reminder of the power of the press. Bannon told the Weekly Standard. “Now I’m free. I’ve got my hands back on my weapons. Someone said, ‘it’s Bannon the Barbarian.’ I am definitely going to crush the opposition. There’s no doubt. I built a fucking machine at Breitbart. And now I’m about to go back, knowing what I know, and we’re about to rev that machine up. And rev it up we will do.”

When President Trump appointed Bannon as his adviser, many worried about the influence he would have on the president. The extent of that influence is debatable, but Bannon himself seems to be saying his real influence will be back at

He might be right.

April 17, 2012 / lizatwood

Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph brings home terror of war

This year’s Pulitzer Prize for photography went to Massoud Hossaini of Agence France-Presse for his  image of a girl crying after a suicide bomber’s attack at a  shrine in Kabul. It brings home the terror or war and the bravery of those who cover it.

Finalists for the Prize also captured images aborad. They were Carolyn Cole and Brian van der Brug of the Los Angeles Times for their photographs of the earthquake in Japan, and John Moore, Peter Macdiarmid and the late Chris Hondros of Getty Images for their coverage of the Arab Spring.

February 21, 2012 / lizatwood

Film documents bravery of Mideast journalists

“Reporting… A Revolution,” which premiered at the Berlin International Film festival recently tells the story of six journalists who covered the violence in Egypt’s Tahrir Square in 2011. Spiegel Online interviewed some of the journalists depicted in the film and I was amazed at the bravery of these journalists who kept their cameras rolling even when they were being attacked themselves. One journalists recounts how she felt something strike her back and when she opened her backpack she found that a bullet had hit her deodorant can.

Those of us who teach journalism try to stress the importance of fairness and objectivity. But as this story shows, that’s a hard standard to meet when you see soldiers killing protestors in the streets.

January 28, 2012 / lizatwood

Social media empowers women

Women activists in the Middle East credit social media with helping them fight for change in their countries, according to an article on the Huffington Post. At a summit in Cairo, Bahraini journalist Lamees Dhaif noted that her reach on Twitter and her website exceeds the circulation of her country’s largest printed papers. Libyan activist Danya Bashir usedTwitter extensively to provide information about what was happening in her country to journalists and activists around the world.

While women face legal and cultural obstacles in these countries, blogs have given them a voice and allowed them to create alliances they would not have been able to make before the availability of the Internet.


October 2, 2011 / lizatwood

Number of journalists imprisoned grows

Despite the Arab Spring, or perhaps because of it, the number of journalists who have been jailed continues to grow, according to Reporters Without Borders.

So far, 161 journalists have been jailed in 2011 compared with 137 in 2010 and 118 in 2009, the organization reports. China, Eritrea and Iran stand out as the countries most hostile to journalists. Together those three countries account for more than 90 of the jailed journalists.

September 24, 2011 / lizatwood

Al-Jazeera chief resigns

At one time, Al-Jazeera was the most reviled news network in America because of its seeming sympathetic coverage of Middle East terrorists. But this past week, the resignation of Wadah Khanfar, the head of the news agency, brought questions that Al-Jazeera may have become too friendly toward the West. Information released by Wikileaks show that Khanfar deleted information on Al-Jazeera’s website after receiving complaints from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. According to a report in The Guardian, the royal family in Quatar, which owns Al-Jazeera, was unhappy with some of the coverage of revolts in the Middle East. Khanfar, who was on Forbes’ list of most powerful people,  is being replaced by Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, a member of the Quatar royal family.

September 15, 2011 / lizatwood

Social media is no game in Mexico

CNN is reporting that the bodies of a man and a woman who apparently used social media to denounce Mexico’s drug cartels were found mutilated and hanging from a bridge near the border city of Nuevo Laredo. A sign posted near the bodies said: “This is going to happen to all of those posting funny things on the Internet.”

September 12, 2011 / lizatwood

Libyan free press is a work in progress

How does one begin to create a free press in a country that just a few months ago had no foreign journalists and no independent media? That is the challenge in Libya where the fighting continues and where rebels are still trying to establish a government. A small American company is trying to provide the knowledge and training to new citizen journalists in the country. As this report from ABC news points out, the challenge isn’t so much in training the professionals to become journalists as in training the new government leaders to accept an independent and critical press.

Brian Conley, founder of Small World News, has teams training journalists in Egypt, Iraq and Bahrain as well as Libya. His group starts with the basics: using multiple sources, answering the 5Ws and checking facts. A plan is in the works to find funds to equip these new reporters with cameras and recorders. But as Conley hints, it isn’t clear how much press freedom the new government will allow.