About the Book
There are moments in life when you quickly realise you are watching history in the making.
The initial days of the Egyptian Revolution were not very exciting. News outlets from around the globe covered it somewhat sporadically. Most of the action was on Twitter, the 140-character micro-blogging website. It was alight with hundreds, if not thousands of Tweets about a huge protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
As a journalist, one’s internal news filters go on high alert when news is ‘breaking’ from ‘non-journalists.’ I remember Twitter breaking the crash of a Turkish Airways plane short of a runway at Schiphol a year earlier. Once sourced by photo and people on the ground we beat CNN and the BBC by a full 18 minutes. There was a sense of urgency from those in the crowd but an even higher premium is placed on us for ‘breaking’ these stories from a distance. You need to get it right, avoid rumour and/or speculation.
The crowd was growing in its intensity and their pleas for coverage came from being attacked by the police. As Day 2 of the crisis dawned and the police mounted an organised and brutal street-by-street fight back, it was clear this story would continue to grow because of the police, not the protestors. Had Mubarak’s forces ignored them on that first day would life have gone back to normal?
Even with police fighting unarmed protestors, not many in the mainstream media were yet covering it. By Day 3 it had my more frequent attention as police clashes were widespread across Egypt and there was a call for a massive protest on Friday, 28 January.
Here from our offices in Wales I routinely monitor 30 news feeds on Google Reader. I also follow reporters and news outlets on Twitter. When there is breaking news, for sourcing, I can switch to and keep up with 6-7 live video and audio feeds. And that is before we factor in satellite telly and smart phones.
When Al Jazeera switched to live coverage on Friday, CNN, The Guardian blog, Enduring America blog and the BBC quickly joined in. I began to live ‘Tweetcast’ as 1st a news aggregator and then commentator. Because so many in the US did not have access to Al Jazeera and CNN US was not yet covering it at the same level as CNN International, there were many people trying to capture the essence of this story.
When the crowd charged Mubarak’s police on the bridge after the iconic images of police hoses spraying the backs of Muslim men prostrating themselves in prayer, the fury and rage became palpable, the police were forced to retreat and the game was over for Mubarak.
Fear died on the ‘6th of October’ bridge.
Every Egyptian I interviewed said that was the moment they knew Mubarak was finished.
And that was the moment I was hooked for 18-20 hours each day covering it live. It was a once in a lifetime story that grabbed me by the throat and simply would not let go. I lived my life on Cairo time, despite being two time zones behind.
When it ended on the 11th of February, my wife said to me, “it would be a shame for you to have just spent so much time and not find a way to tell this story.
Thus was Egypt Unsh@ckled born.