The North Media Network uses social media to propel stories of Muslim-Christian solidarity and the work of the vibrant civil society into the mainstream media. The Lebanese mainstream media for long portrayed Tripoli, the principal city in Northern Lebanon, as a violent battleground and a heaven for terrorism and extremism. That image changed during the October 17th, 2019 uprising in which Tripoli was labeled by local and international media as the "bride of the revolution. The North Media Network was very active in broadcasting live videos from the city's iconic square where rebels gathered daily, the demonstrations of youth and women all over the North, as well as running discussion sessions about social, economic and political affairs.
In June 2013, a local director felt that 'good news' from Tripoli was neglected, so he began to use social media to highlight the unseen side of the city. The team members came from various confessional and political backgrounds, and are convinced that diversity should be a source of learning and not conflict. The first video, which combined shots from battles and cultural events, got enthusiastic feedback from local university students.
The director trained these students on the basic skills of television production. The number of reporters creating their own projects began to grow. They reported on the things that they believed the Lebanese media chose to ignore about Tripoli, such as sporting and cultural events.
On January 1st, 2014, the Northern Media Network was officially launched. The network had five news bulletins: arts, sport, economics, media issues, and the weather. Political news was not reported, as it was believed that this was fueling hatred and mistrust among the various communities in the city. The network has its own reporters, news anchors, producers, technicians, cameramen and editing teams, many of whom are university students and all of whom are volunteers.
The North Media Network recruits young people aged between 16 and 18 who have left school and trains them as technicians. This was to ensure that they do not take up arms and become involved in the numerous violent clashes that took place between the Sunni and Alawite in Tripoli. This tought young people skills to help them to find employment during their adult life.
The network is supported by civil society, newspapers, artists and religious figures in northern Lebanon. This support, along its popularity on social media especially after being profiled on Peace Insight, proved to the team they were on the right track. Yet, due to the lack of financial resources, they thought, more than once, of giving up. Eventually they decided after a short break to continue working with the local community on promoting the peaceful face of Tripoli and its youth. They came back with productions on the touristic and historical sites of the city, its industries and traditional crafts, as well as a series of report supporting the declaration of Tripoli as the economic capital of the country. The work developed to provide a sort of daily local news agency and up to date bulletin that provide news of interest to the growing audience, even if not produced by the network itself.
And one of its productions was featured in May 2015 on prime time on LBCI, the leading television station in Lebanon. It was covering a sport event in the city and it offered a nation wide exposure to North Media Network.
The network also started producing comic short sketches commenting on social issues, and reporting on all news, including those related to Syrian refugees.
Although the project has limited financial resources, it has big ambitions: its hopes to be the first satellite network focusing solely on the city of Tripoli. Until that dream comes true, North Media Network has become a small media academy providing courses on photography and editing.