Our editors & readers talk
As Editor-in-Chief, I want to assure you that the Reuters News you will see will maintain its commitment to independent, trustworthy, useful news; news that is free from bias and filled with the insight you need.
That’s the excellence that saw us recently win, among other awards, a Pulitzer Prize for spot photography and a Society of American Business Editors and Writers award for commentary.
Over the next weeks and months, we will combine the best from the old Reuters news and from Thomson Financial news; we’ll be bringing together people and services. Most of the difference will be seen immediately on our desktop products for financial professionals, but over time I’m sure you’ll see new bylines and data on our Reuters Media consumer-facing sites as well.
(Note: Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger sent this note to all Reuters journalists today after cameraman Fadel Shana was killed along with two civilians in the Gaza Strip. Full story here)
I’m very sorry to report that 23-year-old Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana was killed on Wednesday in what appeared to be an Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip.
Blogging is big in Iran. We already knew that from Technorati statistics on the prevalence of Farsi language blogs on the Web. But now comes a fascinating insight into what all those bloggers are blogging about.
This is what the Iranian blogosphere looks like, according to John Kelly – a Columbia University academic who isn’t joking when he tells audiences he thinks there isn’t a human phenomenon that can’t be reduced to a series of coloured dots.
I was invited to a gathering of activists, academics and media practitioners by the Berkman Centre’s Media:Republic program in LA last weekend. Exhilarating to be in such exalted company but depressing to find them so anxious about the future of political engagement and so negative about big Media’s future.
The context of the meeting was to establish what we don’t understand about the emerging media landscape in order to inform the direction of future research programmes.
The most memorable line from last week’s WeMedia conference in Miami came from Reverend Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus who works with ‘digital natives’ — young people who have grown up with wikipedia and YouTube and whose changing media consumption was at the root of all that was discussed.
WeMedia is the kind of event where bloggers, academics, social activists, technologists and the occasional VC poke mild fun at the slow-moving ‘suits’ from old media, and where the ‘suits’ complain that the newcomers don’t understand the realities of the media business while desperately working out whether they’re missing any tricks.
The last time I flew into Baghdad airport was in January 1991. It was just before the cruise missile attacks on the city at the start of the operation to retake Kuwait from Saddam Hussein’s occupying forces. I came by commercial flight again this week, but to a different Iraq. It’s an Iraq where Saddam-era tyranny has been decentralised, messianic U.S. policy experimentation has fallen flat on its face and violence, crime and hardship are the bedrock of ordinary existence.
How you arrive affects your opinion of a city. In 1991 I was picked up by my driver, Haji Qata, whose job was to steer me away from stories and inform on me to Saddam’s secret police when necessary. He drove me to the relative comfort of the Al Rasheed hotel, a prime vantage point when the bombing began. When I arrived in April 2003 it was in the back of a U.S. Marine armoured personnel carrier that had been both home and transport during three weeks of mobile warfare along the road from Kuwait to Baghdad.
“When a person from a particular tribe sees a number of his/her tribesmen dead they may incite their fellow men to retaliate,” is the argument made. “Don’t turn Kenya into Iraq” is the message. That such a comparison can be contemplated speaks volumes for the levels of apprehension in Kenya now after days of post-election clashes.
Venezuela is a passionate place and its politics are particularly feisty. The fervent supporters of President Hugo Chavez’s socialist revolution pit themselves against equally fervent opponents who believe he is driving the country to dictatorship and ruin. In such an atmosphere the local press becomes deeply politicised and many readers look outside to international news organisations to give them a balanced view in tumultuous times. That’s a role that Reuters takes very seriously.
For several hours before official results of Sunday’s referendum were released, Reuters reported senior government sources saying that Chavez was winning a vote that would allow him to contest elections for life and enshrine socialism as a state priority in the constitution. The sources were impeccable, including three cabinet ministers who had been correct in the past and who cited exit polls and early returns. The ministers told us Chavez was ahead by a hefty 6-8 points. An independent source also told us we were on the right track. But they were proved wrong. Chavez was defeated.
The Marhaba restaurant in Peshawar gives an interesting vantage point on the challenges facing Pakistan. It is freshly-painted, one wall has been rebuilt and the floor has been scrubbed clean of the pints of blood that drenched it when a suicide bomber killed 25 people there in May. It is back in business, but barely. Staff are still in shock. Over cups of green tea they show visitors cuttings of press coverage of the attack, roll up trouser legs to display the scars from shrapnel wounds and stumble for explanations of why they were bombed. “We read in the newspaper that we were targeted because we were said to be anti-Taliban,” said one of the chefs, who gave his name only as Hassan. “But we just don’t know.”
One part of my job is visiting our network of bureaux to see the problems they face and to better understand the background to the stories they are reporting. I have come to Pakistan because it has been front page news for much of the year. On the political front the story has been President Pervez Musharraf’s desire to hold onto power by overriding legal obstacles to his transition from military leadership to civilian control. In March he sacked the country’s chief justice, tipping the country into political turmoil that culminated in him imposing a state of emergency. His popularity has slumped but in the face of protests, international pressure and the return from exile of bitter political rivals he has managed to get himself re-elected as president for five years and has given up leadership of Pakistan’s all-powerful military. He also looks to have given the January general election some credibility by enticing enough politicians to contest the vote. There are plenty of bear traps out there for him, though. If a hostile parliament is elected by a population heartily sick of the ex-general he faces at least a rocky cohabitation or at worst impeachment.
Yesterday I spent a sombre evening of recollection and commemoration at the Kurt Schork Memorial awards in London. Founded in honour of my friend and Balkan reporting colleague Kurt Schork, the awards celebrate the achievements of freelance journalists and local reporters. These are the brave men and women who provide so much of the material used by international media but get little of the recognition enjoyed by the journalistic stars.
Alas, for the second year, one of the awards was posthumous. Sahar al-Haideri, 44, a journalist with the independent Aswat al-Iraq (Voice of Iraq) news agency, was killed by gunmen in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in June. She left a husband and three daughters. Sahar, who also worked with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, was put on a death list by insurgents who objected to the clarity and fearlessness with which she reported the murderous campaigns of intimidation being waged by sectarian groups in Iraq. The award recognised Sahar’s bravery and stubbornness, qualities exemplified by Kurt, who was killed in Sierra Leone in 2000 while on assignment for Reuters. A colleague read extracts from an article by Sahar on the brutal “honour killing” of a 17-year-old girl from the Yezidi sect which sparked a horrifying round of reprisal attacks and ethnic strife. The audience was shocked into silence. One of the 2006 awards went to Steven Vincent, who was shot in Basra, southern Iraq, in August 2005, for writing about the infiltration of local police by death squads.