When Rebecca MacKinnon and I started Global Voices in 2004… we believed that the rise of citizen media meant that many more voices could become part of the media dialog, and that international news outlets would look to the people directly affected by events for their accounts and perspectives. That’s proven true – for the past month, our newsroom has been flooded with requests from media outlets around the world to unpack and comment on the events in Tunisia, and especially those in Egypt.
Where Global Voices has been vastly less successful is in achieving another of our goals: shifting the global media agenda to be more globally inclusive. In other words, we’re very good at getting attention to different commentators and observers of events that major media outlets have decided to pay attention to. But we’ve had little to no luck shifting attention to stories that fail to register on the media’s radar screen, even when we’re able to provide on-the-ground commentary and eyewitness accounts.
New media technologies – not just online media, but satellite television, which has been critically important in covering (and perhaps inspiring) protests in Egypt and Tunisia – offer the promise of covering breaking events in much greater depth than in a broadcast world. I’m very grateful for Al Jazeera English’s thorough, ongoing coverage of events in Egypt, and for my friend Andy Carvin’s relentless curation of Twitter, following protests in Tunisia and Egypt. But I worry that these technologies aren’t broadening the set of stories covered internationally – in many cases, we seem to be covering a narrower range of stories than in years past, though in far greater depth.