We are Aliya and Austin, journalists who worked for years in the Middle East, including Egypt during the Arab Spring, where we got arrested and then married! Ask us anything!
Egyptian fixer, producer and journalist Aliya - u/aliyacomments
Australian journalist Austin Mackell - u/RTNoftheMackell
Individually, we have covered events such as the Arab Spring, the Green Revolution in Iran and the 2006 Lebanon War. While working as a team, we covered more of the Arab Spring from Cairo and events in Latin America from Ecuador.
While interviewing Egyptian worker rights activists in 2012, we were arrested and spent 6 months on a no fly list facing charges of incitement, before those charges were finally dropped thanks to international intervention during the brotherhoods time in office. After that, we got hitched and moved to Ecuador!
We were amongst the earliest [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riN5EswZX0E] and most vocal voices working in the English language to warn [https://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-02/mackell---egypt/4793846] of the dangers of unseating the democratically elected government in Egypt and a return to military rule. A reality which has since had brutal consequences and triggered a re-empowerment of authoritarian tendencies throughout the region. The rest of the press shouldn’t have missed this (and the best didn’t). But mostly there was bias, and a related factual sloppiness. This resulted in large part from foreign journalists taking their lead from what was on twitter, in English. This in a country where a significant portion of the population can’t read or write in Arabic, let alone a second language.
This was a wake up call to the issue of fake, low quality news and the lack of research integrity more broadly - an issue which now dominates every news cycle on every platform. Our first response to this was founding an online magazine which aimed to do transparent journalism, using existing digital publishing tools. This turned out to be a nightmare, involving lots of extra web development and data-management work for journalists, and not producing a product that was radically different enough.
We founded Stone in 2016, and incorporated in 2017, to build better tools and facilitate this new workflow, not just at one publication but across the industry. Since then we’ve worked with our development partners and a small globally distributed team to build free software that allows journalists to show their research and readers to view and rate that research.
It’s available to try at http://www.writeinstone.com
This AMA is part of r/IAmA’s “Spotlight on Journalism” project which aims to shine a light on the state of journalism and press freedom in 2018. Come back for new AMAs every day in October.