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SL.CCS.1/2/3/4 Grades 6-12: An essay of a current news event is provided for discussion to encourage participation, but also inspire the use of evidence to support logical claims using the main ideas of the article. Students must analyze background information provided about a current event within the news, draw out the main ideas and key details, and review different opinions on the issue. Then, students should present their own claims using facts and analysis for support.


'Citizen journalists' help Iran protest news get past government restrictions

Read Iran reports with an eye toward news-gathering restrictions. Pay attention to sources and the "dateline" (city) at the top or any details at the end about where reports originated. Are government restrictions effective?
The daily drama in Tehran is of special interest to Iranian-Americans and scholars here who focus on that country or region. Look for their voices.
Identify other signs of electronic era journalism. How does this newspaper reflect the popularity of web use, blogs, Twitter and e-mail?

The world's hottest news location right now is also the toughest for professionals to cover. Nearly all foreign journalists had to leave Iran last week, limiting mainstream media reports about daily anti-government rallies by students and hundreds of thousands of older adults. Most journalists who traveled to Tehran, the capital, for a June 12 presidential election were given one-week visas (travel permits) -- and all extension requests were denied after massive crowds began protesting a result they see as rigged.
That forces CNN and others to rely on cell phone videos, text messages and phone comments from "citizen journalists."

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hard-line critic of America, was declared the overwhelming winner of a new term -- angering supporters of a reform candidate named Mir Hossein Mousavi, who claims he won. The earliest protests were organized partly via Twitter, a short-message social network. The California firm that owns Twitter even delayed a maintenance shutdown because "events in Iran were tied directly to the growing significance of Twitter as an important communication and information network," co-founder Biz Stone wrote in a blog. "It made sense for Twitter . . . keep services active during this highly visible global event."
In another use of Internet technology, cell phone videos of violent responses by authorities -- which reportedly killed at least eight people -- are posted on YouTube and draw global attention. Iranian officials try to block access to the site, warning that users could be prosecuted and even executed for "incitement."

Amateur videos and professional reporting are distributed by the BBC, a British broadcast service that still has a Tehran bureau. Iranian residents are filing reports to the Associated Press, NBC, the New York Times and other media. Even they face severe restrictions, however, as the government threatens to arrest reporters doing street interviews or videotaping protests. "The government is trying to do everything it can to curtail the free dissemination of information," says Hossein Ziai, Iranian studies director at the University of California-Los Angeles.

Editor says: "Visa extensions have been denied across the board. Some reporters have considered staying on without visas, working under the radar. . . . [But] this is a fairly efficient police state; the chances of anyone eluding arrest long enough to see how the story plays out are slim." -- Bill Keller, New York Times executive editor

YouTube's role: "YouTube is acting as a critical platform for citizen journalists. By using YouTube, Iranian citizens are having their voices heard, their faces seen and their story gets told around the world without filtering. The real story of this election is being told by the citizen." -- Scott Rubin, company spokesman .

Professor says: "What is going on is extremely interesting. It seems to me to indicate the power of something I call civic technology." -- Jonathan Zittrain, Harvard University Center for Internet and Society

Front Page Talking Points is written by Felix Grabowski and Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2016
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