One would think that Octavia Nasr would have had enough of Twitter.
Nasr lost her long-time position at CNN this past summer after tweeting her “respect” for Sheik Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, a Lebanese cleric known for his militant politics and progressive social stances.
But during a recent lecture to students at the Lebanese American University in Beirut, Nasr spoke passionately about the importance of using social media to subvert stale media narratives.
“Don’t say ‘I’m not going to go there because too many people are getting fired over this,’ ” Nasr told students. “I’m seeing [social media] as an opportunity to bring change.”
Nasr recently launched Bridges Media Consulting in Atlanta, which, according to its website, seeks to give voice to a missing “middle perspective” by integrating social media into conventional news gathering.
Although Nasr announced that she would not be answering questions regarding her departure from CNN, she did touch on her reliance on her social media support network through that difficult time.
“The people I was telling what was going on with me were those people who got my attention on Twitter,” she said.
Students could be seen furiously tweeting and live blogging throughout the lecture, with Nasr occasionally culling questions from Twitter from others who were following the discussion online.
Questions included the role of social media in closed societies and concerns of accuracy in the digital news-gathering age, but Nasr made it clear she sees a vital role for traditional journalism in the future.
“This is an institution that is here to stay,” she said. “It’s important to have reporters assigned to stories…and report them in a traditional way.”
Most students who spoke to Babylon & Beyond seemed genuinely more interested in Nasr’s views on journalism than the scandal that rocked the media world in July.
“She is Lebanese in the end, and this is her point of view,” said 17-year-old Ali Mughnieh, a communications major, adding that Nasr’s comments were considered fairly uncontroversial in Lebanon.
Eighteen-year-old biology major Nadim Aizarani liked much of the lecture, but expressed skepticism about the accuracy of crowd-sourced reporting.
“It’s like a chain, and if there is one thing wrong it would affect the whole chain of information,” he said.