How to follow totally secular Syria news on Twitter

The goal here at GetReligion is, of course, to look at the good and the bad in mainstream news coverage of religion events and trends. This means we devote 99 percent of our time to news articles. That’s no surprise.

Yet, in the Internet age, more and more newsrooms are offering — online — an expanded menu of materials that are RELATED to the news in ways that are hard to label. Some fit under the whole “news you can use” umbrella and others are clearly meant to be exercises in reader education.

I find the latter to be especially interesting since the folks running the newsroom are, in effect, telling readers what matters the most to the people who are producing and framing the coverage of the news. The result is often quite revelatory.

Consider the recent Washington Post piece that ran under this bold headline:

The 23 Twitter accounts you must follow to understand Syria

Wow. Really?

Now, it is certainly true that the civil war in Syria is a unique environment, when it comes to gathering news. After all, many of the most important players have a tendency to shoot at reporters they view as hostile. In this context, social media is crucial.

Please, please hear me say that I think Twitter is an information source that must be taken seriously in this context. As the intro to this piece notes:

The news about Syria has been, and continues to be, important, fast-paced and at times overwhelming. It’s a lot to keep up with, not least because every facet of the conflict and how the world responds is complicated and deeply controversial. Smart people can and do disagree vehemently about what it all means — and what to do about it.

These are the people you should follow on Twitter to keep track of what’s going on inside of Syria (as well as within relevant circles outside of it), what it means, why it matters and how to think about it.

You can hear the same reality expressed at the top of a major piece in The New York Times.

Western journalists are struggling to cover what the world has so far seen largely through YouTube. But while some television news crews have been filing reports from Damascus, the dangers of reporters being killed or kidnapped there — as well as visa problems — have kept most journalists outside the country’s borders and heightened the need for third-party images.

“The difficulty of getting into Syria, the shrunken foreign correspondent corps, and the audience gains for social media make it likely this story will be consumed differently by the American public than tensions or conflicts in past years,” said Ann Marie Lipinski, the curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.

The Committee to Protect Journalists calls Syria the deadliest country in the world for reporters. Last year, 28 journalists working there were killed, and 18 have died so far this year, according to the group, a nonprofit based in New York.

Thus, there is a clear need to follow Twitter feeds close to the action.

So, according to the principalities and powers at The Washington Post, who are the Twitter authorities who are crucial to follow if readers want to understand the events unfolding in Syria?

Click right here and go look at that list, if you have not done so already.

There are “Syrians,” “journalists,” “general observers” and, of course, the omnipresent “analyists/thinkers.” I am sure that GetReligion readers will not be shocked that — based on the materials displayed by the Post team — that the Twitter-verse experts seem to approach this conflict in terms of politics and military affairs. Where is religion in all of this?

Well, obviously, the Syrian opposition represents — for the most part — a collection of Islamist perspectives. There are other minority religious groups that view the old stability offered by the bloodstained ruling regime as the lesser of horrible options in their divided land.

My point, of course, is that the Post seems to think that the fighting has little or nothing to do with religion. Surprise. To understand the conflict, there is no need readers to plug into sources that provide religious perspectives on the fighting or the future of this land. Surprise.

Thus, speaking only for myself as a biased man who worships in a Damascus-based branch of Eastern Orthodoxy, let me suggest that those who read the Post article search for some additional relevant Twitter feeds.

First, go to Twitter and click on the search function, and then add a column featuring the results linked to these search terms — “Syria” and “Orthodox.” Or plug in terms for other religious minority groups. Go for it.

Also, let me suggest another obvious feed that includes a multitude of religious sources, since many religious traditions express their concerns to the bishop of Rome. Thus, add: twitter.com/news_va_en

For starters. Just saying.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Ivan

    While the omission is indeed egregious, to be fair one should point out that rather than the “principalities and powers” of WaPo this comes from Max Fisher, who has relative independence concerning what goes into his “WorldViews” blog.

    • tmatt

      Point taken. Here at GetReligion we strive to criticize ORGANIZATIONS rather than individuals. But in this case you have a point.

  • TeaPot562

    The NYTimes, WaPo and other “mainstream” sources in the USA have in recent years been dominated by the opinion that, since THEY do not take their own nominal religions seriously, they cannot understand that much of the population of Muslims in the Near East and Middle East do take their religion seriously. Like Pres. Obama, they regard the murder of a dozen US soldiers at Fort Hood as “workplace violence”, rather than an example of extreme Muslim terrorism.

    Not all Muslims share this opinion in how to spread observance of Sharia law; but attempting to counter future violence without trying to understand the motivation of the perpetrators of violence is futile. …


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