Why won’t the mainstream media cover the #OccupyWallStreet Protests?
Every time a breaking news event happens on the weekends, such as the mass uprisings in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, the fall of Tripoli to the rebel army, and today’s protests in New York, people tune in to CNN, MSNBC, FOX, or even their local news station hoping to see live coverage. They want video, so they know what it looks like. They want the correspondents on the ground to give them the latest facts. And they want the pundits to help them put it all into context.
And every time they tune in, they get…none of this. Instead they find some stupid show about police chases or an infomercial or maybe just re-runs (!!!) of last night’s news.
And this makes us very, very angry. That in turn leads to some interesting phenomenon, such as this tweet from @USDayofRage. Some of have convinced themselves that there is an elaborate media conspiracy to “blackout” coverage of the Wall Street protests. See this:
A media blackout would make sense to an extent, in terms of the authorities’ attempts to ensure that people don’t see the crowd and decide to join in. But it would also be an acknowledgement of media complicity in the silencing of what promises ot be a peaceful protest.
For one thing, the media doesn’t work for the authorities. In fact, the authorities hate the media. They hate the cameras, microphones, and notepads used to illuminate their activities to the public and hold them accountable. And they often specifically target anyone wielding these tools.
But the most important misconception is that there is some kind of media complicity with the authorities to not cover the weekend protests. This is false. The news is a business, and in the United States, that business model is entirely market driven. The mainstream media doesn’t cover breaking news on weekends because nobody watches the mainstream media on weekends. It’s really that simple.
Because you didn’t watch the news last Saturday, or the Saturday before that, or the Saturday before that, there will be no news broadcast this Saturday. The markets, you, have spoken. You don’t care about the news on weekends.
Except, of course, when you do. And then you get infomercials and re-runs. What do you do about this?
1) Support your mainstream media. Tune in every single weekend, whether or not there’s breaking news to follow. Watch the commercials, buy the products, click on the links, participate in the wholly unscientific text messaging polls, download the smartphone app, sign up for the premium account, everything that it takes to support these massive multi-million dollar businesses. Make it worth their time to have makeup artists, camera crews, audio technicians, IT departments, anchors, reporters, pundits, graphic artists, editors, producers, and a phalanx of interns ready and standing by for whatever issue strikes your fancy this week, whether it’s the fall of Tripoli or populist demonstrations on Wall Street.
2) Support your local independent/citizen journalist. They don’t rely on the same overhead and infrastructure as the mainstream media, making them far more flexible and immediate. Their tools are cellphones, laptops, and digital cameras, not studios, green screens, and satellite vans. They work in natural disasters, protests, and war zones, and most importantly, they work weekends. But they need your help. Click that donate button, buy that t-shirt from their CafePress, support their Kickstarter project. They don’t work for corporations, they work directly for you.
3) Support good media policy. As a citizen, paying attention to the politics and policy of the media and journalism can often be as important as paying attention to the news itself. Josh Sterns writes:
Media ownership, public broadcasting, telecom policy – the government is already deeply engaged in shaping our media in ways that impact the future of journalism. It’s not a matter of if government should be involved, but how. And we’ll end up with the best results if journalists, journalism schools, and the public are part of that debate, not on the sidelines.
If you want good media, quality journalism, and real, immediate coverage of breaking news events that matter most to you, then your participation is required. You can’t wait until news happens to you to start caring about the news.
In a somber, yet bold, reportage, photographer Franco Pagetti reveals the daily struggle to survive in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivus province. In the forbidding bush and teeming, fetid displaced persons camps, food is scarce and the people are on edge, ready to run at a moment’s notice.
This is one of 195 million stories of malnutrition. Sign the petition to help us rewrite the story.
The audience must trust that the journalist does not have an agenda and is not brining an agenda to the conversation (read: medium of publication).
No one is perfectly objective and no one is without conflict.
Compromised reporting is an ambiguous beat. However: a compromised reporter or editor can leverage access to relationships, information, and events that the public cannot (think simple: press credentials are powerful), and a compromised reporter can leverage this access in ways that are beneficial to her or himself or the news organization backing the credentials. Thus the reportage can be colored and influenced - both subtly and overtly - in ways the public is unaware of.
Good journalists know when and where to be transparent, good journalists are self-aware of potential conflicts, good journalists have a relationship with the audience but are not beholden to their audience, and good journalists aren’t on the take and cannot be bought by money, access, or flattery.
Consider this when reading hard news, tech blogs, and everything in between and remember: it’s not about the objectivity, it’s about the agenda.
As the uprising in the Middle East has become an eye opener for all of us, it’s the citizens of these countries who can best tell their story. For us living in the western world, we often take for granted our safety in picking up a camera, filming whatever we want, and sharing it with the world. In these conflict countries, this could be a matter of life and death. With this in mind, Small World News developed their Guide to Safely and Securely Producing Media. This guide helps provide a background into producing media effectively and safely. The guide is designed with these revolutionaries in mind and easily assessable on a cell phone, e-book reader, or computer. Currently the version is in English and Arabic, but with an Creative Commons license, the guide will continue to expand and develop to everyone who needs it.
Can Hyperlocal Save Lives?
Somali refugees in Kenya lack basic access to communication and information about the aid and services available to them. From Internews:
The assessment surveyed over 600 refugees and shows that large numbers of displaced Somalis don’t have the information they need to access basic aid: More than 70 percent of newly-arrived refugees say they lack information on how to register for aid and similar numbers say they need information on how to locate missing family members. High figures are also recorded for lack of information on how to access health care how to access shelter, how to communicate with family outside the camps and more.
The report suggests a number of excellent solutions:
The report makes several recommendations, including: conducting workshops on communications for humanitarian organizations; establishing a humanitarian communications officer in Dadaab for communicating with affected populations; increasing support to Star FM, the main Kenyan broadcaster in Somali language, for broadcasting local humanitarian information; and establishing a communications research hub and a media training center for both host and refugee communities. It is important to note that the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has already set up an Information Dissemination Group to specifically look into the communications needs of local communities “in the light of the current emergency and identified gaps by Internews’ assessment” (page 11).
What are some of the other ways that communication and access to information can be increased within the Dadaab camps?
Generally when media makers theorize on hyperlocal content, they consider it only in the context of developed communities with ready access to communication infrastructure (internet, television, etc). Further it is usually considered only as a complement to wider-scope media (such as the pairing of local news with nightly national news in the United States).
But the camp in Dadaab provides an especially difficult case, with its lack of access to most IT infrastructure (meaning no Facebook, no crowdmapping), and its need for exclusively local content (no need for international media organizations). The solutions that might immediately come to mind are almost certainly unworkable here.
Instead what is required is a concentrated effort on building the capacity of locals inside the camp to communicate and access information themselves. With this in mind, we can judge the recommendations of Internews’ report to be very much on the right track.
Expanding existing media systems, such as their example of StarFM, and developing the capacity of community leaders, as shown in the video, to provide their constituency with the necessary information will help move toward a realistic solution within the constraints of life in the refugee camp.
What else can be done? And what lessons - on hyperlocal media, on community information and communication, and on development, can be learned from the case of Dadaab?
Should crisis responders take sides in a conflict?
Patrick Meier has put out a call for Syrian satellite imagery showing military equipment, large crowds, and checkpoints. The purpose is to provide “as much of road map as possible so [citizen crisis responders] know exactly what they’re looking for in the satellite imagery they’ll be tagging.” Great idea, and certainly a critical part of the crisis response response, but hold on…
Look at the top-right corner of this photo and notice the image of the Syrian flag with the silhouetted hand giving the “peace sign.” This brings up a couple questions we need to ask ourselves.
Who chose this flag, and under what authority to determine which flag represents the Syrian people?
What are the consequences, for both crisis responders and affected communities? How will this affect the response of the Syrian regime?
Is it appropriate for crisis responders to “take sides” in a conflict? While the Arab Spring is sexy and exciting, easy for outsiders to take sides on, what happens after the revolutionaries take power, and begin creating crises of their own?
For example, the rebel government in Libya is now committing revenge attacks on elements loyal to the old regime. Would a response to this crisis carry the Gaddafi flag? If the Afghan government committed atrocities, would the response carry the Taliban flag?
Of course not. But it does present a series of questions and dilemmas - professional, ethical, political and otherwise, about the role and mentality of crisis responders.
Media outlets based in Montserrado county have benefitted from 50 laptops and 50 smart phones, as part of the “Strengthened Media for Transparent Elections” initiative being implemented by the Liberia Media Center and IREX-Liberia.
An unprecedented 35 owners, managers and Editors–in-Chief of media institutions converged at the LMC office in Jallah’s Town where they signed a Memorandum of Understanding that donated laptops, phones, cameras and recorders will be used by journalists trained to use the equipment at the Elections Reporting Center.
ISLAMABAD: Dreamers indeed have their unique ways of actualising their ambitions.
Saeed A. Malik decided to act on his dream of “educating the young generation and infusing them with knowledge” after serving as an international civil servant with the United Nations for over 25 years. His aim was to provide children with books that entertain, inform, and evoke their curiosity; helping them develop awareness of the world around them, while fostering questioning minds and promoting tolerance.
Malik’s novel initiative comes as the launch of a mobile library for children, called the Bright Star Mobile Library (BSML). The library is presently established inside two vans that carry over 1,000 books and patrol primary and junior schools in the rural areas of Islamabad, keeping vigilant for prospective borrowers and learners.
“We have a saying in Egypt that says, ‘one hand by itself, does not clap.’ This means that, this is a group effort and we have to make it work. I believe this is true in all aspects of Egyptian society after the revolution. While I am an uneducated woman, I knew things weren’t going to change overnight. Almost eight months later and we are stuck in the same story and nothing has changed. Corruption is still rampant, at the state and local level. I am an older, single mother of two young men in their late 20s. I have more hope in Egypt than them. They are home, while I come and chant here every chance I get. This is not just a youth revolution like people keep saying. This is the people’s revolution.”
On the humanitarian side, the American Red Cross has begun to leverage their trained volunteers to manage responses to the organization’s official Facebook page, for example. With some good foundational guideposts and training tools, they should be able to scale this solution. In some ways, one could say that humanitarian organizations are increasingly required to play the role of “telephone” operator. So I’d be very interested in getting feedback from iRevolution readers on alternative, social media approaches to customer service in the private sector. If you know of any innovative ones, please feel free to share in the comments section below.
The second strategy that humanitarian organizations need to consider is linking this new customer service system to networks of citizen crisis responders. An “operator” on the ARC Facebook page, for example, would triage the incoming posts by “pushing” them into different bins according to topic and urgency. Posts that don’t reflect a life-threatening situation but still require operational response could simply be forwarded to local citizen crisis responders. The rest can be re-routed to professional emergency responders. Geo-fenced alerts from crisis mapping platforms could also play an important role in this respect.
Meier then poses a question: “So where are these ‘new’ citizen crisis responders to come from?” He suggests a number of good starting points, including the UN Volunteer system and university-based programs for students. The vulnerability with these options is that they rely heavily on large institutions, be that a school or the United Nations. If history is any guide, it is precisely these institutions that will fail, or simply become inaccessible, when disaster strikes.
How do we avoid this vulnerability? One idea might be a “Public Service Announcement” approach, in which governments, NGO’s, or universities focus on educating locals about disaster response ahead of time. By the time a Pakistani village is flooded or a riot has erupted in a London neighborhood, it is too late to begin educating on the proper channels, the right Facebook page or SMS number, for seeking assistance, aid, etc. Preparing the audience ahead of time with PSA’s offers something of a head start for crisis responders.
Not everyone would take these PSA’s to heart of course, but those that do would provide an enormous base from which to draw these “new” citizen crisis responders.