Creating news needlessly – or covering news needlessly?

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This came in a few days ago – as part of my daily diet of emailed Calvin and Hobbes comic strips sent free by Go Comics.

It reminded me of our South Asian governments and many 24/7 news channels who sound just like Calvin.

Governments – at least in popularity-conscious democracies – are constantly trying to create news, even when there is nothing new, true or interesting (the triple test for news). There’s a lot more rhetoric, plans and claims than actual accomplishments.

TV news channels, having to fill 24 hours of the day, cover news needlessly and in endless repetitions and detail. (By the way, covering news needlessly is an irreverent expansion of the abbreviation CNN!).

Actually, I shouldn’t compare either entity with the smart six-year-old Calvin. He is a great deal more interesting on an on-going basis than most of our governments and much of our news media.

I’m a long-standing fan of the comic – and followed it while Bill Watterson was still drawing them from 1985 to 1995. It was a sad day indeed when he decided on 31 December 1995 not to draw any more Calvin and Hobbes.

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AlertNet for Journalists: Rough guide to disasters and ‘alms bazaar’

Journalists are among the first responders to disasters and conflicts that break out without notice. They have to gather information from ‘ground zero’, process it and disseminate as rapidly and accurately as possible.

Easier said than done – especially when there’s more than the usual level of chaos, confusion and consternation. The multitude of humanitarian workers and their agencies who rush to such situations – to provide much-needed rescue, relief and recovery support – don’t always make life easier for journalists.

Yet they need each other. They just have to find better ways to work together. This is the central theme of our just-released book, Communicating Disasters: An Asia Pacific Resource Book – the entire book is now available online for free download.

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One of the appendices to the book was contributed by Emma Batha of Reuters who talked about Reuters AlertNet for Journalists.

AlertNet for Journalists is “a set of free online tools designed to help journalists cover conflicts and disasters. The resources include crisis briefings, country statistics and aid agency contacts.”

It is part of Reuters AlertNet, a non-profit humanitarian news network based around a popular website, set up in 1997 by the Reuters Foundation. It aims to keep relief professionals and the wider public up-to-date on humanitarian emergencies around the globe.

Here’s a short video that AlertNet has just placed on YouTube – their first film to be thus offered:

It’s good to see more humanitarian and disaster related organisations engaging the YouTube. I wrote in October 2007 about UN-ISDR taking the plunge, placing some of its videos on a YouTube channel.

Read Emma Batha’s contribution to Communicating Disasters: Reuters AlertNet for Journalists