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Of the first three years I taught in San Francisco, what I remember most is the thickening of my silence, and a stubborn, bordering on outright perverse desire not to share Pakistan with anyone, as though the act of sharing the country would dilute what made it mine. I had no words for the twisting feeling in the center of my chest for Pakistan, the knot of pain in my right shoulder, homesickness so intense that it had in fact become physical pain. The more Pakistan appeared in newspapers, the more difficult it became to explain the place.

Taymiya R Zaman, “Not Talking About Pakistan,” Tanqeed, Feb 2013 (via fathimacader)

Best Digital Literature of 2013

Here are four amazing examples of creative writing published online in 2103 and spread via social networks:

1. Prose: The mysterious Craigslist Missed Connection post. 

2. Poetry: “Rape Joke" by Patricia Lockwood, which went viral and influenced public dialogue. 

3. Poetry: Syrian poets using Facebook to revolutionize literature. (My articles about the subject were featured on the Poetry Foundation's website.) 

4. Innovation: Times Haiku, The New York Times poetry generator. Love their Tumblr. 


Digital Media 101 : International Journalism Festival 2013

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The Ten Commandments of Social Media

  1. Verify before you Tweet. Talk to primary sources. Pick up the phone.
  2. Listen more than you broadcast.
  3. Identify the people you are re-posting. Always ask, “Who made this post?” Try and get as much information as you can about that source.
  4. Always cite your sources, no matter what platform you are using. (Including any images, video, quotes, or facts that you post.)
  5. Try not to use images without the permission of the artist. Be nice to photographers.
  6. Don’t jump to conclusions about who a person is. Do your research and make sure you aren’t slandering an innocent person with a similar name or mistaken identity.
  7. Interact, ask a lot of questions to engage your networks. Use hashtags that already exist, to help your question get more attention from people already discussing the topic. Respond to questions and comments quickly. Engage in conversation. Show that you are listening, in a useful way. This will increase your audience.
  8. Don’t scrape videos from the original content creator.
  9. Clarify other people’s reporting, and your own too, to increase transparency. (For a great example, read “Here’s what we don’t know at this hour” by Jeff Jarvis.)
  10. Be a specialist. Have a beat. Become a resource for a particular topic that you are passionate about.
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The Future of Journalism and Media in Israel/Palestine

I promised myself that here in Italy, I wouldn’t write about Israel. It’s too sensitive, and I am prone to being sentimental. It’s an explosive combination.

And yet when I sit to write, my mind floats back to the Holy Land. All around me, my fellow festival volunteers discuss “The Israel-Palestine Issue.” That land is saturated with  journalists: The conflict has become a “media war.”

It is only here in Perugia that I’ve realized that “the conflict” and my career face similar challenges.

We feel, Israelis, Palestinians and young journalists alike, that our futures depend on the image of ourselves we craft for a global audience. 

Traditional news organizations offer more than support and resources; they also offer protection, a shield between the audience and the reporter. Mistakes and controversies are absorbed by the institution, so journalists are free to seek truth. 

Journalism is shifting from institutions to individuals buzzing around the web. Alone, we must earn the trust of distant viewers and we are expected to produce the work that whole groups often fail to achieve: dynamic, reliable news. Journalists are expected to research, write, fact-check, record, produce, publish and promote our work, for a pittance, while adhering to the same professional standards that entire staffs and networks uphold.

This new market makes journalists financially and professionally vulnerable. We become the product, rather than our work. Am I ready to offer myself in exchange for the privilege of sharing stories?

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Why Retweets Are Not Endorsements:

Retweets represent the readers, not the author. They are a great opportunity for the author to interact with diverse readers. 

In 2012, my blog posts for the Green Prophet were routinely tweeted by Israeli consulates around the world and by the state of Israel’s official Twitter account, as well as many other public offices (I stopped counting after 35). These posts include my investigative writings about changing relations between Israel and African countries, Israeli technology, and more.

The government press office even tweeted a column about my personal experiences in Tel Aviv during Operation Pillar Defense. 

At first, I was scared people would accuse me of deliberately writing Zionist propaganda. I never set out to make Israel look good or bad. My goal is always to report the facts, and in the case of the column, my own experiences. 

I think the fear I felt is unique to journalists in Israel.  If the state of Italy or Spain retweeted me, I would be excited even though their governments are flawed. The online conversation about Israel, Palestine and the people who live here, tends to be unusually harsh. 

Now I’ve learned that a journalist can’t afford thin skin. If I do my job right, someone somewhere will dislike what I publish. I can’t let my fear of what other people might say define my writings about Israel. 

Today, I enjoy watching what readers say on Twitter. There’s nothing like hearing that a reader felt inspired or engaged by your article. I often learn about fascinating writers, innovators and activists this way, people across the ocean doing amazing things. There are some sharp readers out there on social media. I learn so much from engaging with the audience directly. 

Many Jewish blogs and online news organizations, including Ynet (here’s the article in English), wrote about my Op-Ed for Your Middle East, which was retweeted by Queen Noor of Jordan. They were excited that Queen Noor would read an article about peace and war written by an Israeli.

Retweets are not endorsements. However, they do represent audience, who is reading your work. Digital media creates new channels where diverse readers can access the same information and interact across borders. 

This summer we launch the first Online News Association group in the Middle East, ONA Jerusalem. It is a peer-led group dedicated to high quality, ethical journalism and innovation. It’s open to diverse journalists and digital professionals in the region, regardless of their nationality, religion or affiliation. Check out this Storify for more photos and tweets from first event at the Jerusalem Press Club. We’re excited to explore the possibilities.

Contact jerusalem@journalists.org to get involved. 

Hispanic Heritage Month: The Power of Books

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Photo by Zeke Perez

There is nothing more painful than reading one’s own writing a year later. The typos have grown obvious and maddening in your absence. Once brilliant sentences now seem long and sleepy. You crave to reach with a pencil, into the internet, and tweak that word or this comma. Reading your own past mistakes is always cringe-inducing. 

I once wrote an Op-Ed about the importance of teaching Chicano literature, and other diverse narratives, in American public schools. It ended with a statement that promoting literacy is a great way to combat violence. Looking back, my argument feels pasted together and aimless, scrambling towards the end. Luckily, a Harvard professor came along and wrote the same idea with more data and fancy phrases. Steven Pinker’s book about the history and biology of violence claims literacy is one of the greatest peacemaking forces in human history

So in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month 2013, I’d like to acknowledge the bad-ass literary warrior Librotraficante

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