Resources for Covering Social Protest Movements in an Age of Social Media

Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement, and events around the world have demonstrated that the traditional agenda-setting role of mainstream media has been overwhelmed by citizens using social media to publicize their cause and rally supporters to action.
Social protest movements can be born of a single incident. And now, a single individual with a cellphone — or any connection to the Internet — can inform the entire world, reaching and inspiring millions. That same individual can also bypass traditional media gatekeepers, changing the nature of both mainstream and citizen journalism forever.
Journalists not wanting to be left behind need to:
● Become informed about how social media affect public affairs
● Learn how to use social media to cover social protest movements
● Monitor social media to become aware of and stay on top of emerging movements
This page provides resources to help journalists learn to participate fully and effectively in the social media arena and stay one step ahead of today's social movements. These resources are provided as part of a Specialized Reporting Institute (SRI), “Covering Social Protest Movements in an Age of Social Media,” hosted by California State University, Fullerton on September 27‒29, 2012. The SRI was funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Find an Expert

Martin Beck, LA Times social media and reader engagement editor, 213-237-7090,

Jim Carlton, covers West Coast politics and economic issues for the Wall Street Journal and is one of the Journal's lead writers covering the Occupy Movement, 415-235-3220,

Jarret Lovell, associate professor at California State University, Fullerton, examines criminal justice and popular protest, studying why activists break the law for justice, 657-278-2290,

Kate Linthicum, LA Times staff writer, 213-258-748,

Tom Hayden, writer and political activist, founder and director of the Peace and Justice Resource Center in Culver City, Calif., 310-435-4355,

Twitter Tags to Watch

#coveringsocialprotests and #fullsri, hashtags used by SRI participants to continue the discussion; listen in for tips and information

@latimesbeck, LA Times social media and reader engagement editor and SRI speaker

@katelinthicum, LA Times reporter and SRI speaker

@McCormickJrnlsm, the McCormick Foundation's journalism feed

@Robert_Scheer, editor-in-chief of Truthdig


Journalism in the Americas covers journalism issues in North, South and Central America; strong focus on new media

What Others Are Doing

A selection of articles on the topic by SRI participants and others:

McCormick Specialized Reporting Institute, blog post by Darleene Powells, October 8, 2012

Journalists Occupy Social Protest Seminar at CSUF, Jennifer Karmarkar, September 30, 2012

Fullerton Police Ripped Film out of Woman's Camera After Kelly Thomas Beating Death, Carlos Miller, September 28, 2012

In One New Orleans Suburb, Support for Chick-fil-A—and Free Speech, Julie Dermansky, August 2, 2012

Key Resources


ReadWriteWeb published a four-part series on journalism and social media. See: How Journalists Are Using Instagram; How Journalists Are Using Pinterest; How Journalists Are Using Google+ and How Journalists Are Using SoundCloud

The Peace and Justice Resource Center, founded by Tom Hayden, an SRI speaker and longtime activist, the PJRC is a nonprofit advocacy and consulting center dedicated to original, carefully researched analysis of the real state of the long wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, as well as the failed U.S. wars on drugs and gangs and U.S. military responses to nationalism and poverty around the world.

truthdig, edited by SRI keynote speaker Robert Scheer, aims to provide insightful and accurate reporting on current subjects and issues that challenges conventional wisdom and offers a solid and reliable resource for those who want to explore particular topics in depth.

Articles of Interest

Social Media in the Arab World

How to Use Social Media in Newsgathering, tips for using social media to find sources and stories, Sarah Marshall, October 1, 2012

Open journalism and social media by Juliet Dobson, September 24, 2012

How Social Media Is Changing Protest Reporting in the U.K., Katia Savchuk, March 26, 2012

Best social media tools for journalists, list of recommended tools, February 16, 2012

World Citizen: Facebook, Twitter and the Protests of 2011, Frida Ghitis, December 15, 2011

Occupy Movement Inspires New Generation of Journalists, Pei Xiong Liu, December 1, 2011

Occupy Wall Street 'Media Blackout': Journalists Arrested, Roughed Up, Blocked From Covering Clearing, Jack Mirkinson, November 15, 2011

Tech-Savvy Occupy Protesters Use Cellphone Video, Social Networking To Publicize Police Abuse, Radley Balko, October 29, 2011

Social Media Buzz Builds for the Occupy Wall Street Movement, Charlie White, October 19, 2011

Social Media as a Tool for Protest, Mark Papic and Sean Noonan, February 3, 2011

How social media changed protest, Dominic Casciani, December 2010

Other Online Resources

Twitter for Newsrooms: Guide to making the most out of Twitter

Infographic on online vs. print news revenue

Mediabistro study on journalists' use of social media

Resources from the SRI

Video and Notes from the Case Study on the killing of Kelly Thomas

Video and Notes from Kate Linthicum and Martin Beck's presentation on covering the Occupy movement

Jim Carlton's presentation, Covering Protests Demonstrations that Turn Violent

Articles in Academic Journals

Social Media & Protest: A Quick List of Recent Scholarly Research

Nawaf Abdulnabi AlMaskati, Newspaper coverage of the 2011 protests in Egypt, Journal of International Communication Gazette, January 2012

Ali Nobil Ahmad, Is Twitter a useful tool for journalists?, Journal of Media Practice, August 2010


Cyberprotest: New Media, Citizens, and Social Movements by Wim van de Donk, Brian D. Loader, Paul G. Nixon and Dieter Rucht, Routledge, 2004

The Handbook of Global Online Journalism by Eugenia Siapera and Andreas Veglis, Wiley-Blackwell, 2012

The Digital Journalist’s Handbook by Mark S. Luckie, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012

The Occupy Wall Street Movement by Julie Dermansky, 2012



Measuring Your Social Media Impact: Learn how to measure the success of your social media strategy.

Advanced Twitter for Journalism: A Webinar replay that will teach you tricks and tips for maximizing your use of Twitter.

Community Engagement and Your News Organization: This Webinar replay guides media organizations in developing effective social media plans.

Developing Your Social Media Voice: This Webinar replay will show you how to develop a voice and tone for your social media use --- as an individual journalist or for your media organization.

Understanding Social Media Tools and Techniques: Which social media tools do you need to use? This Webinar replay will help you figure that out.

Live Chat

Poynter hosted a live chat on August 16, 2012 with LA Times reporter Kate Linthicum and LA Times reader engagement editor Martin Beck about how reporters can use social media to track protest movements. Listen to the replay to learn more. The chat was a prelude to the of the Specialized Reporting Institute (SRI), “Covering Social Protest Movements in an Age of Social Media,” hosted by California State University, Fullerton on September 27‒29, 2012. The SRI was funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Seminar Snapshot

Social Media and Journalism: What Works and Why: Social media leaders describe different storytelling methods, content delivery strategies, reader participation opportunities and more.

Self-Directed Courses

Coming soon! Developing a Successful Journalistic Blog: Learn the art and science of journalistic blogging from choosing software to defining your topic to building an audience. Learn how to structure your blog and how to set criteria for success.

Online Media Law: The Basics for Bloggers and Other Publishers: Learn the rights and responsibilities that come with online freedom of expression. This course addresses three important areas of media law that specifically relate to gathering information and publishing online: defamation, privacy and copyright.

Multimedia Reporting: Covering Breaking News: An examination of outstanding online breaking news coverage from hurricane Katrina