Paintballing with Hezbollah – they cheat, take hostages, and bring their own grenades

We figured they’d cheat; they were Hezbollah, after all. But none of us—a team of four Western journalists—thought we’d be dodging military-grade flash bangs when we initiated this “friendly” paintball match.

As my eyesight returns and readjusts to the dim arena light, I poke out from my position behind a low cinder-block wall. Two large men in green jumpsuits are bearing down on me. I have them right in my sights, but they seem unfazed—even as I open fire from close range, peppering each with several clear, obvious hits. I expect them to freeze, maybe even acknowledge that this softie American journalist handily overcame their flash-bang trickery and knocked them out of the game. Perhaps they’ll even smile and pat me on the back as they walk off the playing field in a display of good sportsmanship (after cheating, of course).

Instead, they shoot me three times, point-blank, right in the groin…

Yes, I remind myself, this is really happening: Four Western journalists (two of whom alternated in and out of our rounds of four-on-four), plus one former Army Ranger-turned-counterinsurgency expert, are playing paintball with members of the Shiite militant group frequently described by US national security experts as the “A-Team of terrorism.” It took nearly a full year to pull together this game, and all along I’d been convinced that things would fall apart at the last minute. Fraternizing with Westerners is not the sort of thing Hezbollah top brass allows, so to arrange the match I’d relied on a man we’ll call Ali, one of my lower-level contacts within the group.

 

Keep readingPaintballing with Hezbollah, is the path straight to their hearts

Continue reading Paintballing with Hezbollah – they cheat, take hostages, and bring their own grenades

Journalists are becoming very popular in Facebook

In September 2011, Facebook introduced the Subscribe feature, allowing anyone to subscribe to the updates of anyone else. For public figures, like journalists, with thousands of followers this has turned out to be a boon.

Since its launch, thousands of journalists have enabled Subscribe, with news organizations like Washington Post (90+ journalists using the feature) and The New York Times (50+ journalists using the feature) leading the way. The average journalist has seen a 320% increase in subscribers since November 2011, according to our analysis of a sample of 25 journalists across a variety of outlets who enabled subscribe in September.

From journalists like CNN’s Don Lemon postingbreaking news about Jon Huntsman to The New York Times Moscow bureau reporter Michael Schwirtz posting live videos as he covered recent protests.

Content Breakdown

Based on the analysis we conducted, here are some of the trends we’re seeing in the type of content journalists are producing on Facebook, as well as what content receives above-average feedback. Let’s start with content types:

  • Questions and Input: 25% of posts contain a question to the reader.
  • Links: 62% of posts contain a link. And when reporters include analysis with the links, those links receive 20% more referral clicks on average.
  • Photos: 12% of posts were photos. Posts with photos receive 50% more likes than posts without photos.

So of the content that journalists are sharing, what actually works?

There are several types of content that seem to produce above-average feedback from subscribers…

keep reading – Facebook + Journalists