Monthly Archives: July 2010

A spicy nation — and why. Local-Global stories waiting to happen.

NPR had a fun piece today about how the United States is now a spicier nation.

U.S. Is A Spicier Nation (Literally) Since 1970s

I am glad to see that seasoning other than salt is making its way into the US kitchen. (Much healthier.) And I am glad to see the internationalization of cooking. (I still remember 25+ years ago when pita was introduced into Air Force One and the uproar it caused.)

But let’s look at why different spices are now selling so well in the States.

When I taught a feature writing class at George Mason University I gave my students an assignment to find connections in everyday student life and the world. (Use of the Internet and interviewing foreign/exchange students did not count.) In a brainstorming session about what those possible links might be I suggested the food court.

The impact of foreign students on the school meant the restaurants had to adjust. So there was Arabic food and Hispanic food. There were places that offered food under the rules of halal and kashrut.

And now NPR tells us

The consumption of spices in the United States has grown almost three times as fast as the population over the past several decades. Much of that growth is attributed to the changing demographics of America.

So here is the entry to a whole series of LOCAL LOCAL LOCAL articles that include an international perspective.

A local reporter could look at the sales of spices in his/her area. Then figure out what ethnic group is most closely tied to those spices. Then he/she could look at the local growth of that ethnic group in the area.

Finding out the how and why these immigrants came to the United States and to that local area could provide the fodder for a whole series of local profile stories.

Getting the basic information is easy. Just go to the Census Bureau.

For example, in just 30 seconds I found that 10.4 percent of the Southern United States is foreign-born.

Digging a little deeper — another 30 seconds — I found that 10 percent of Virginia’s population is foreign-born.

And just a little deeper I learn that 27.7 percent of the Fairfax County population is foreign-born, with 50.7 percent of that group from Asia and 30 percent from Latin America. (Could that be why there are so many Asian grocery stores in Fairfax County?)

And the foreign-born population in Arlington County comes to 24 percent, with 30 percent from Asia and 44 percent from Latin America. (Could that be why there are more Latin American restaurants and stores in Arlington than in Fairfax?)

And let’s not forget how those differences also play out in issues other than spices and restaurants. Think about taxes, education and other social and political issues.

The mantra of LOCAL LOCAL LOCAL these days should include more stories that involve international aspects. It just takes an enterprising reporter to dig out the stories.


Filed under Connections, Story Ideas

Why is Pakistan media quiet about the Kabul Diaries?

A look at the deafening silence in Pakistan over the Kabul War Diary WikiLeak issue.

Madiha Sattar, senior assistant editor for The Herald in Karachi, talks about how and why it took so long for ANYTHING to be said in Pakistan about the 90,000 page leak of U.S. government documents about the Afghan war.

Bottom line:

Pakistan simply has too much at home to worry about. Perceptions of the country in the West take a back seat when severe electricity shortages, spiraling food prices and devastating terrorist attacks confront us every day.

Read the full blog entry here: Pakistan’s non-reaction to Wikileaks

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Filed under International News Coverage

SNAFU: US Military Pays Off Afghan Journalists

This really should not be a surprise to anyone. And I was expecting this. I just read documents more slowly than others.

Leaked files indicate U.S. pays Afghan media to run friendly stories

Buried among the 92,000 classified documents released Sunday by WikiLeaks is some intriguing evidence that the U.S. military in Afghanistan has adopted a PR strategy that got it into trouble in Iraq: paying local media outlets to run friendly stories.

Several reports from Army psychological operations units and provincial reconstruction teams (also known as PRTs, civilian-military hybrids tasked with rebuilding Afghanistan) show that local Afghan radio stations were under contract to air content produced by the United States. Other reports show U.S. military personnel apparently referring to Afghan reporters as “our journalists” and directing them in how to do their jobs.

Rest of Story

When will these guys learn? And just how much did AID know about the military PSYOP?

I know of good and solid journalism programs in Africa, Central Europe and the Caribbean that could not exist without financial help from AID. These are programs that seriously train independent journalists. (One recipient even asked for copies of the SPJ Code of Ethics to use as a blueprint for their own code.)

Then these PR people move in and muck up the whole thing. How are the Afghans supposed to learn what it means to have a media independent of government control or to be free from corruption when the U.S. government is in there paying off “journalists?”

First posted at Journalism and the World.

Oh, and if you are not sure what “SNAFU” means, look it up. The full meaning is about the most appropriate thing I could think of in this case. It’s a military term. And it describes the situation.

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Filed under International News Coverage, Middle East, Press Freedom

Colombian journalist granted visa by US

Hollman Morris got the visa he needed to accept his Nieman Fellowship at Harvard.

Morris was initially denied a visa under a provision of the PATRIOT ACT.

U.S. reverses decision and grants visa to Colombian journalist Hollman Morris

First posted at Journalism and the World.

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Filed under South America

Honduras government slow to prosecute killers of journalists

There is probably no Central American country that has held so much attention in the past year than Honduras.

A group of center-right forces depose the leftist government. The country is cut off from the rest of the world because of the coup. A new government is elected without the leftist president ever reinstated to power.

During the rule of the coup leaders, journalists were under fire for reporting on the illegal nature of the coup. (This is not to defend the previous president and government, which was also not too friendly to a free press. But what would you expect from someone who looks to Hugo Chavez for advice.)

Since the new government took power in elections recognized by most governments in the world and by the NGOs that observed the elections, the safety of journalists remains precarious.

A new report by the Committee to Protect Journalists shows that the problem of  impunity continues.

Journalist murders spotlight Honduran government failures

From the first of March to the middle of June, seven Honduran broadcast journalists were shot to death, an astonishing number of murders in such a short time in a country of 7.5 million. Six of the murders occurred in the span of just seven weeks, and most were clearly assassinations carried out by hit men. Adding to fear among journalists—and to their questions about who would be next—was the national government’s response: Its initial silence was followed by a period in which a top official dismissed the murders as routine street crimes.

Even though the United States recognized the elections as legitimate and has restored diplomatic relations with Honduras, it has not spared the country from criticism.

Since the election in November 2009, the State Department reports:

The following human rights problems were reported: unlawful killings by members of the police and government agents; arbitrary and summary killings committed by vigilantes and former members of the security forces; harsh prison conditions; violence against detainees, and corruption and impunity within the security forces; lengthy pretrial detention and failure to provide due process of law; arbitrary detention and disproportionate use of force by security forces after the June coup; politicization, corruption, and institutional weakness of the judiciary; erosion of press freedom; corruption in the legislative and executive branches; limitations on freedom of movement and association; government restrictions on recognition of some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); violence and discrimination against women; child prostitution and abuse; trafficking in persons; discrimination against indigenous communities; violence and discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation; ineffective enforcement of labor laws; and child labor.

Note that “erosion of press freedom” is part of the concerns in Honduras.

The lack of arrest and punishment of the killers of journalists remains a major problem in Latin America. It is obviously a growing concern in Honduras as well.

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Filed under Central America