Media in Conflict: The Case of Zello | Internews
ERResearch's bookmarks 2016-08-08
Zello, a free push-to-talk application for smartphones, tablets, and PCs, has helped journalists to build back a trust in the media and the information they put out, specifically in regions like Gaza, the West Bank, and more recently Lebanon. Zello was designed as a personal communication tool, turning a mobile device into a two-way radio. Allowing for real-time interaction, the app also provides the ability to replay conversations. I sat down with Julia Pitner, regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at Internews (leading programs in the West Bank and Gaza), to find out how the people within this warzone were able to transform Zello from “a walkie-talkie app” into a journalistic tool for the community. As Pitner put it, “In a time of war all kinds of rumors fly around, faster and more often than the rockets do.” With mobile use so prominent in the community, Zello was introduced in Gaza as a tool to run down the rumors as a mobile source of verified media. After the Arab Spring, there was an explosion of social media use to spread news and information—but the result was many citizens’ inability to decipher what was true or not. Learning from this experience, Pitner described Zello as “a backdoor way of media literacy,” to act as an open source, and to verify what was being put out in the media. Internews started a group on Zello that used a handful of “teachers,” so to speak, to train students and graduates in Gaza. They were taught the basics of how to find, cover, verify, and report news based on a set of editorial principles (very closely aligned with the principles of journalism in America) that the group agreed to follow as journalistic guidelines. These editorial guidelines, along with administrators regulating a specific Zello group, provide the supervision and control in order to achieve a verified source of information. While anyone can use the app, to contribute to it, journalists and citizens alike must report three stories that must be confirmed in order to join the group as a “trusted journalist.” That title enables them to continue to report valid information to the public using the app.