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Media Re:public Launch and Human Rights Media

A year long Berkman research collaboration called Media Re:public has just been released. It is a wide-ranging and diverse set of papers analyzing the seismic shifts which the internet and the participatory media are creating in the landscape of traditional news.

What I like so far from what I’ve read is how it engages not only the obvious questions of new and different revenue streams, but also the stickier complexities of how the internet is altering how the news is written, disseminated and consumed. I highly encourage you to read the pdf of the overview (fair warning: it’s fifty some pages long). It’s a comprehensive, readable summary of this exciting initiative.

I was particularly interested in the section on how the slow contraction of foreign newspaper coverage in remote or dangerous areas has de facto transferred the responsibility of covering them to coalitions of human-rights groups and citizen journalists (p. 17 and following, Overview). It may be too expensive (or indeed, illegal) to maintain a foreign correspondent in Burma, but international human rights groups and the activists they support are in the business of writing investigative reports and sharing them with the world.

Allowing human rights types to shoulder reportorial responsibilities may have other benefits as well. I think a greater sense of urgency could permeate the international news cycle, particularly when it comes to repressive regimes. If produced with the help of local activists and citizen journalists, the report could also avoid the pitfalls of some MSM international coverage, which can seem America-centric or out of touch with historical and cultural realities.

Recall that in Burma, due to a restrictive foreign journalist visa policy, much of what was happening during the Saffron Revolution came from locals with camera phones and blogs. Human rights advocacy groups could thus function as the facilitating network (and the internet, their conduit) for a totally reconceived kind of international coverage of the developing world.

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