The Who, not the What.

This is a blog post I wrote for my narrative journalism class. I decided to post it here after reading Thomas Friedman’s latest editorial in the Times. So often we are swept away by the NEWS of a situation, the WHAT that’s going on, and we don’t get the stories of WHO it’s happening to. That human element is possibly the most powerful thing in journalism, and only a few articles have honed in on it.

The narrative journalism story I found set itself apart in the way the author described the people, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the words on the streets of Cairo. It’s called “Street Battle over the Arab future” and is found here.

After reading this, I felt like I understood more than I have watching the news and reading stories for the past seven days. The author describes Muslim Brotherhood, “knelt in prayer at dusk, their faces lighted by the soft glow of burning fires a stone’s throw away.” This isn’t a self-serving protest backed by a power-hungry mob, this is a unified front searching for justice in a country which has heretofore denied its  people that most basic democratic right.

Not everyone in the crowds is part of the Muslim Brotherhood, the author explains, and there is no leader to front such a massive movement. They are united by ideas- dignity, revolution, freedom, hope. The uprising is, “distinctly nationalist,” the author says, invoking images of revolutions gone by. Another description of the crowd invokes a scene from the French revolution, a la Les Miserables: “Everyone seemed joined in the moment, fists, batons and rocks banging any piece of metal to rally themselves.”

Another article I read, though not necessarily a narrative piece, was about an uprising in Sudan which has come in the wake of the Egyptian protests. A Facebook group called Youth for Change brought together thousands of students across Sudan. The article says individual protests are small, only a couple hundred students, but are well-organized and spread throughout the country. Oh, the power of Facebook. That article is found here.

And finally, the Friedman editorial that caught my interest is this one. I love how Friedman talks about just letting his eyes take over and observing this once-in-a-lifetime event. The quote from the Egyptian professor at the end is my favorite- definitely a must-read article.