Alum David Dietz (COL '10) uses his blog to report on the Middle East.
Alum David Dietz (COL ’10) uses his blog to report on the Middle East.

While many Georgetown students have followed the images of chanting crowds in Egypt and smoke-filled streets in Tunisia from the safety of their dorm rooms, recent grad David Dietz (COL ’10) has been witnessing them firsthand, chronicling the experiences in his new blog, “The MidEaster.”

Though the blog has only been operating for two weeks, it has already generated over 1,700 hits. Dietz hopes that the growing number of stories published on the site and lengthening list of contacts will allow for future expansion.

When Dietz, who had been working in Tunisia since September, returned to the country in early January after the winter holidays, he had no idea that the country would soon descend into revolution or that he would be the one covering events on the ground as a freelance journalist.

But the suddenness of the uprising sparked this new focus.

“Because the airport was closed and everything happened so fast, a lot of news agencies couldn’t get their correspondents in and instead relied on people like me to provide updates,” he said in an email. After his initial experience covering the uprising for the news website Policymic, he quickly found that he had a passion for journalism.

Following the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, Dietz attempted to decamp to Egypt to cover the demonstrations and resulting collapse of Hosni Mubarak’s regime but was unable to enter the country, though he still reported on the events. Recently, he travelled to Lebanon to report on the March 14 protests in downtown Beirut and to Syria to investigate the country’s growing revolutionary movement.

Now, as civil conflict in Libya increases, he hopes to travel to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi to report firsthand on the violence.

“There are just so many stories and so many events that are continually unfolding every day that it’s a bit overwhelming,” Dietz admits.

“The MidEaster” focuses on reporting unfolding local events while also analyzing the political and social causes and effects of the turmoil in the wider Middle East.

In the section, “On the Ground,” Dietz provides firsthand reports from the field recounting the day’s events and the people and groups involved.

Dietz said he is committed to providing a full range of perspectives, however. To that end, sections like “Today in the Middle East” and “Policy Perspectives” aim to provide background on larger trends and issues — such as education, class inequality and gender roles — across the region.

The blog incorporates interviews with locals in an effort to give readers an often unheard perspective, one that Dietz says differs markedly from the commentary of policy wonks, military brass and government officials featured by more established news sources.

Dietz said this unique element may be a result of his background studying Arabic language and culture instead of professional journalism. His knowledge of the language has allowed him to interact easily with students, business owners and protestors to hear their stories and build a network of contacts.

While Dietz’s proximity to the action has given him an extraordinary vantage point on unfolding events, it has also brought him close to danger on several occasions. In Tunis, a co-worker was injured during a skirmish between police and protestors while armed looters stormed his apartment building.

“They ransacked all the shops below us and even tried to break into my apartment,” he said. “We had half my furniture shoved up against the door and fortunately they were not able to enter. Then the military showed up and there was a short shoot-out between the two groups.”

In spite of the violence and unrest that roils the region, Dietz says he enjoys being at the heart of the action. He hopes that as the blog grows, he will be able to feature more high-profile interviews and establish the blog as a leading source for Middle East news.

“These are certainly lofty goals but I love what I am doing,” Dietz said.

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