Links of the Day: Telling the story of Middle East revolutions

The popular uprisings across the Middle East pose many challenges to news organizations. Obviously, there’s the challenge of getting and verifying information when regimes are actively hindering journalists’ work. Luckily and incredibly, people across the Middle East are posting to Twitter, Youtube and Facebook, producing a flow of information that requires other decisions from journalists.

Besides that, there is the challenge of presentation: How can we keep readers who may not be familiar with the distinct features of each country or the geography of the region interested this ongoing story, while also telling multiple parallel developments at the same time? Here, online presentations offer an opportunity to bundle a wealth of information and tell it in a way that satisfies both the casual observer and the involved reader.

Mapping the youth

A map is an obvious choice for presentation. The Guardian has created an interactive map of a key component in unrest across the region: the high percentage of people under 30, and the high unemployment rate among them, often despite a good education. A key factor is the map’s simplicity: The team picked only two variables (age and unemployment rate) for each country. Links to country-specific articles give further information, again focused on those two areas.

arab youth map

The Guardian's map on young populations across North Africa and the Arab world.

The Guardian also created a map of Twitter updates from the region.

Following the developments

The New York Times produced a very thorough presentation. Their “country by country look” includes a summary, map, latest Tweets and links to recent Times coverage. While including all this information, the presentation is very clean and immediately leads a user to the information. I like the additional feature of local time shown on a clock – something unusual that offers another connection to the protests.

NYT Egypt overview

The Egypt section of the New York Times' overview page.

Now, both the New York Times and the Guardian are large organizations and have resources dedicated to interactive storytelling. How can smaller newsrooms solve this issue?

Take inspiration from Al Jazeera. While also a large organization and undoubtedly a leader in coverage of the uprisings, Al Jazeera has packaged its content in a way that smaller media could implement as well.

Al Jazeera country logos

Al Jazeera created graphic logos for each country covered, both a navigation and a storytelling tool.

For example, its “Region in Turmoil” page offers a map and short summaries of country-specific developments, with links to coverage of the individual uprisings. In terms of graphics and page building, that approach is easy to duplicate.

Another smart move: Creating logos for the individual revolutions (see picture). “Lybia Uprising” and “Eye on Algeria” are such picture logos. Those pictures serve as navigation tools, but headlines as well. Egypts, for example, was changed to “Egypt: The Revolution” after Mubarak was overthrown. The images used as background give the user additional information about the state of events in each country, all at just a quick glance.

What other noteworthy presentations of Middle Eastern coverage have you seen?

Update, 3/11: The Washington Post’s Cory Haik explains how the Post build their interactive map, and Mark Luckie collected additional country-by-country features for the Post’s new innovations tumblog.