Monthly Archives: May 2010

Pew report shows gap in international views of old and new media

Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has a new report out on the links and differences between new media — blogs, Tweets, YouTube — and traditional media.

For a general look at the report go to the DC SPJ site: Pew Report: Old Media/New Media

What I found interesting is the gap between the two groups of media in the perception of the importance and reporting of international news.

Let’s start with the first table the Pew Report has:

As you can see, foreign events account for only 9 percent of the traditional press news hole. At the same time international events account for 12 and 13 percent on blogs and Twitter respectively. And 26 percent on YouTube.

Okay, a lot of that chatter may be soft news items or videos of the pope getting knocked over during a Christmas celebration.

The important thing is that bloggers and Twitter users are looking at the rest of the world.

The second-biggest subject on blogs in the year was foreign events. Fully 12% of the top stories in blogs dealt with international events ranging from the protests in Iran to a vote on the number one song on the Christmas British pop charts. Access on the Web to overseas news outlets like to the BBC and the Guardian as well as prominent British bloggers buoys this tendency.

As with much of the domestic news agenda, many of the foreign event stories that inspired blogger interest received far less attention in the traditional American press, even if the stories linked to were originally found there.

A comment by a judge in Saudi Arabia that it was acceptable for husbands to slap wives who spend too lavishly, for example, was the second-biggest story one week in May, drawing large amounts of criticism in the blogosphere. It received almost no attention in the mainstream press.

“Isn’t it ironic that a woman can be punished for spending too much money on a garment that they are forced to wear to authenticate their status as secondary citizens in a patriarchal society,” remarked Womanist Musings.

Traditional media make up the main source of information for the bloggers and Tweeters. (So one has to wonder where will New Media get its news once Old Media dies off?)

But where do bloggers get their international news and information?

The Pew Center looked at the stories linked by new media users from traditional news organizations. The Center then broke down the topics from each of these traditional news sites.

Predictably, links to the BBC had a lot of foreign (non-USA) news. In fact, 69 percent of the BBC links fit into this category.

Once the U.S. media sites were analyzed, only CNN was in double digits.

News Organization Percentage of Foreign News Stories linked
CNN 13
Fox News 8
Washington Post 5
New York Times 5

To me, the lack of reliance of U.S. media outlets for the new media generation for international stories is depressing.

There is the obvious connection that U.S. media don’t care that much about international news. What that eventually means is that without a peppering of international news in U.S. media outlets, casual readers/viewers are not getting a perspective on the much larger world.

The fact that there are bloggers and Tweeters who care about international news is not new. What is depressing is that they seem to  depend on foreign news services — such as the BBC or the Guardian — for their links.

Of course there will be more non-American stories on the BBC. But look at the newshole for bloggers and mainstream media. Twelve percent of the blog entries are about international events. (And remember, these are stories that are different from U.S. foreign policy issues.) While the traditional media only allot 9 percent. (TBH, I thought the number would have been lower.)

I am betting a lot of this goes to the same old problem. Publishers, editors, news directors, etc. keep chanting “Local! Local! Local!” and don’t seem to understand that local events are affected by international events. And that international issues have a direct impact on local issues.

When will local reporters and media operators understand that these links exist and start writing/broadcasting about them? It doesn’t take a lot of effort to discover how a local tool and die shop has an international connection. Or how the growing number of immigrants in a small town in Iowa is a direct result of political or economic upheaval in another country.

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Filed under Connections, International News Coverage, Story Ideas

Trafficking is a local and international issue

Got a Tweet from Adam Savage (he of Mythbusters fame) about a person in Washington, D.C. trying to help a couple of Russian women who seem to be caught up in a trafficking in persons (TIP) case.

Help me help my friend in DC

Chances are the women got in way over their heads or are just naive. But from the description in the postings, this is clearly a case of trafficking.

What is interesting in the stream of messages is the list of LOCAL operations to help people caught up in this disgusting practice.

Generally when one thinks of TIP, images of Asian or Haitian children being sold into prostitution someplace other than the USA comes to mind. It is much more than that. And it takes place in the States.

As the links in this message stream point out, it is so serious that police agencies IN the US have special offices to deal with the issue.

So, where do these people come from and how pervasive is it in the States?

Hard to tell from the the US media. Maybe a few enterprising reporters could look into it. Nailing down a LOCAL story along these lines could help build (and maybe even save) a journalist’s career.

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Story idea: Teachers looking for work. Why not look offshore?

The recession and massive budget deficits are causing no end of pain in the U.S. school systems. Teachers are being laid off and those places that are hiring are getting flooded with applications.

New York Times: Teachers Facing Weakest Market in Years

But where are the stories that talk about an alternative to looking for work in the States?

Both of my sons looked at education for their college degrees — one stayed with it — largely so they could be part of the international school circuit.

They fell in love with living abroad. (What would you expect from children of a successful diplomat?) And they knew that eventually they would have to find their own way to live overseas.

So almost every day I see stories about the massive layoffs taking place in U.S. school systems. It is a tragedy and one that should not happen. And the teachers being laid off are generally younger and just starting in the field. They have the best opportunities to pull up and live overseas.

But where are the stories talking about this option?

Where are the stories about successful teachers who have made careers living around the world?

The Seattle news organizations should be all over this. For some reason we kept running into a lot of teachers from the Seattle area as we moved from country to country.

There are plenty of opportunities. Besides the private schools, there are U.S. curriculum schools on U.S. military bases around the world that need teachers.

A good place to start looking at a story about American teachers living and working abroad is the State Department’s page on overseas education.

And to be clear, I am not talking about the fly-by-night “teach English” abroad programs. There are plenty of jobs for real teachers in real schools.

It would be nice to see some stories about them.

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Filed under International News Coverage, Story Ideas, Uncategorized

Putting the foxes in charge of the hen house

IFEX points out that of the latest additions to the United Nations Human Rights Council, five countries have dismal human rights records: Angola, Libya, Malaysia, Thailand and Uganda.

New members elected to UN Human Rights Council include five human rights violators

What else would you expect? China and Cuba are on the committee as well. And we all know what a great track record these countries have in human rights.

In fact, Reporters Without Borders notes that the presence of China and Cuba on the committee for years has shown that the argument of putting less democratic, less human rights loving countries on the committee will help change them is a non-starter.

Why should reporters in the United States care? And even more, why should local news organizations care?

Outside of the fact that this is information that helps figure out how the world works — or doesn’t — there are local angles that can be looked at.

Not all immigrants to the United States — legal or otherwise — come for economic reasons. Some — many — come for political reasons. And running away for political reasons usually includes human rights issues.

So, how about the immigrant communities that are growing in every town and city in the United States? What are the stories from these immigrants about why they came to the States?

If a reporter goes a Mexican immigrant group in Texas or an Indian group in Fairfax County, Va., chances are the main story will be one of coming for economic reasons — jobs. (But there are a growing number of Mexicans fleeing the drug wars as well.) But how about the Somalian Ethiopian community in Minneapolis? Or the growing Venezuelan community in Northern Virginia? Or the Vietnamese community in Louisiana?

Those are just off the top of my head. A reporter with an ounce of curiosity might be able to find out more in his/her own community.

So there is a reason to look at the human rights situations in other countries. Violations elsewhere in the world often lead to larger immigration to the United States. It is the duty of LOCAL reporters to get the reasons why people are moving into LOCAL areas and affecting LOCAL businesses and LOCAL politics. But all that LOCAL! LOCAL! LOCAL! can’t be covered unless there is also an understanding of the rest of the world.

Here are some additional organizations to help understand the human rights situation in the world:

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Russian journalists continue to face harassment

It’s not quite like the bad old days of the Soviet Union, but it is bad.

Russian journalists are being harassed, attacked and even killed and the government is doing little to track down the perpetrators. In fact, some government agencies seem to be the source of the attacks.

The New York Times has assembled a good video with links to articles about how Russia is becoming more dangerous for journalists. (Moscow Journalists Under Attack.)

The 2010 Freedom House report on media freedom in Russia sums up the situation best:

Russia remained among the world’s more repressive and most dangerous media environments.

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Filed under Harassment, Killings

Excellent: The great firewall of China as a trade issue

This idea has been bouncing around for a couple of years. It is so nice to see it raised at such a high level.

And in China.

China’s Web “firewall” should be WTO issue: EU’s Kroes

Of course, the Great Firewall of China is a detriment to free and open trade. If a person can’t get the information he or she needs to make an honest and fair decision because of censorship, that is a trade issue.

If a state-owned company is given advantages over a foreign company because of censorship and tech-transfer rules, that is a trade issue.

Go for it Kroes!

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Filed under Censorship, China, Freedom of Information, International News Coverage, Press Freedom

New law to force State to look at press freedom more closely

First, let me say that I am married to a U.S. Foreign Service Officer. Most of our friends are FSOs. And many have been on board with the idea that civil and human rights are best protected by a vigorous and free press.

It is with a certain amount of joy that I see Pres. Obama is ready to sign the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act.

UPDATE: Here is the full text of the law

The new law requires the State Department identify countries where there are violations of press freedom and determine whether government authorities of those countries participate in, facilitate or condone the violations. The State Department will also have to report on the actions of governments to preserve the safety and independence of news media and ensure the prosecution of those who attack or murder journalists.

What seems to be new is the last requirement.

The State Department already includes media freedom in its annual Human Rights report. The reports include repression of free media or harassment of journalists. What is new is that pressure is to be applied on governments that do not move on the killers of journalists. (Just what kind of pressure that could be used is unclear to me. So this may end up being another chest-thumping but toothless provision.)

Requirements to punish national governments for local actions could also be a problem. For example, in Mexico it is quite clear that local authorities have dragged their heels in investigating the killings of Mexican journalists along the northern border. At the same time, however, the national government has pushed for the arrest and prosecution of the killers.

Do we punish the country because of some local crooks?

For my money, the law is a reaffirmation of a basic tenant of American policy: a free and independent press is vital to a stable and democratic system of government. (And that is why the dictators in China and Iran are so afraid of free media.)

This re-affirmation is good not only because it reminds the rest of the world what is important to us but it also can help remind people in the US international communities (not just the folks at State) what is important to America.

A free press may make governance a bit more difficult but it is vital to any democracy.

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Filed under Connections, Freedom of Information, International News Coverage, Press Freedom