Tag Archives: MediaScout

Piracy and Poverty in Somalia, part II

I’ve received a lot of hits from people googling “piracy poverty Somalia” and stumbling upon this MediaScout entry of mine from November. This was no doubt triggered by the high-profile hostage-taking of an American captain off the coast of Somalia, but the act of typing those three words into a search engine, I think, is heartening: people want to go beyond the war talk and Navy SEAL firefights (and, hopefully, the done-to-death “argh, matey” jokes) to probe the root causes of piracy in the Gulf of Aden. My MediaScout piece is months old now, but some of it is still relevant, especially since piracy isn’t going anywhere – three more ships were hijacked yesterday and today. If you’re interested, here it is:

Piracy and Poverty in Somalia

November 19, 2008

What do you do with a Somali pirate? Well, nobody knows. Following the hijacking of the Saudi supertanker Sirius Star this weekend — the largest ship ever hijacked — and pirates’ seizure of two more ships off the Somali coast in the Gulf of Aden yesterday, modern-day buccaneering is all over the Big Seven. Somali piracy has been occurring for years now, but the numbers are getting too big to ignore: Seven hijackings in twelve days; ninety-two attacks so far this year; fourteen ships and 243 crew still in pirate custody, with the 318,000-ton Sirius Star carrying $100 million in oil cargo. Turning piracy into a numbers game may seem cold, but money is what this issue is all about; Somalia has been without a functioning government for some two decades, and The National (video link) reports that pirates have landed $20 million this year. Piracy means employment for young gangs and income for an embattled country — trickle-down economics on the high seas.

For an issue that the Big Seven seem to think came out of nowhere, there is some surprisingly insightful analysis. Mostly, though, it points out just how daunting the task of fighting piracy is. Striking pirate bases would kill civilians; Canadian naval forces capturing pirates for prosecution would require gathering evidence admissible under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; extra security or taking different shipping routes is expensive. Just today, the Indian navy said it sank a suspected pirate vessel, with the pirates getting away. But as journalist and piracy expert Daniel Sekulich tells The National, the only way to fix Somali piracy is to address the wrenching poverty and crisis of governance underlying it. It may be tough for the Canadian media to wrap their heads around twenty-first-century sea dogs, but this is no joke. “It looks like a deliberate two fingers from some very bright Somalis,” an unnamed analyst tells Reuters of the Star capture. “Anyone who describes them as a bunch of camel herders needs to think again.”

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under MediaScout, Uncategorized

The future, soon enough

My goodbye to MediaScout, from the MS-Canada Blog:

2:05 pm EDT | Toronto | Drew Nelles reporting: On December 8th, the day MediaScout announced it would soon go on an indefinite hiatus, two other things happened. The administrators of the Pulitzer Prizes announced that they would start accepting entries from online-only news outlets. Also, the Tribune Company – publisher of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, among other newspapers – filed for bankruptcy.

These three events vary in scale, but what they hold in common is obvious. As Jon Stewart recently joked, “What’s black and white and completely over?” Media are on the move. We should not be nostalgic for some era of glorious print muckraking that never really existed; newspapers have been narrow ideological tools and rapacious advertising vessels as often has they have exposed injustice and challenged power.

But we should also be realistic. The internet is not a panacea. Globally speaking, online access remains a limited privilege. Yesterday’s news conglomerates now own leading web publications. Independent media are wonderful, but lack resources. Blogs are, uh, blogs – diffuse and democratic, yes, but also the publishing platform of choice for party hacks, cowards, and the batshit insane. And in any case, the imminent death of the printed page has likely been exaggerated.

MediaScout occupied both of these worlds, the dodgy past and the hazy future. We aimed to explain how and why different outlets covered the news differently. Like the media sources we critiqued, we weren’t always successful. But when MediaScout worked, it was the potential of the internet on display. Lightning-fast summary and analysis. Instant context. Exploding the myth of an unbiased media. MediaScout would have been impossible in an earlier era, but the web allowed it to thrive.

Like many online upstarts, though, MediaScout fell victim to a lack of funding. This will be online media’s greatest challenge, as no funding source seems ideal: neither the insatiability of CEOs and advertisers, nor the fickleness of subscribers and donators. MediaScout’s obstacles were also those of publishing and the internet at large, obstacles that will not go away. Maybe we will be back. More likely, we won’t. In today’s climate – media, economic, whatever – that uncertainty is fitting.

Leave a comment

Filed under Media, MediaScout, Writing

Economic Engines Out of Gas

With MediaScout shutting down, here’s my last briefing ever:

Economic Engines Out of Gas
December 18, 2008
by Drew Nelles

Last week, the Star profiled York University economist Peter Victor, whose new book is called Managing Without Growth – Slower by Design, not Disaster. How prescient that the release of the book – which argues that humanity will inevitably face an age when environmental limits make rampant economic growth impossible – would coincide with the worst financial crisis in a generation. And today, the Big Seven focus on the virtual standstill of two major economic figureheads. The Toronto Stock Exchange shut down yesterday, the result of a technical glitch and not some market Armageddon, but in these times the symbolism is just too much. The financial crisis has meant a roller coaster on the TSX, North America’s third-largest stock exchange,… Read more »

Leave a comment

Filed under MediaScout

Status Quo for Quebec

From mediascout.ca:

Status Quo For Quebec
December 8, 2008
by Drew Nelles

Quebeckers vote today in an $83-million election, but journalists are probably the only ones who really care. This being the second provincial election in two years — hot on the heels of an American election that transfixed the world, a federal election distinguished by one of the lowest turnouts in Canadian history, and a political crisis that left all sides tarred — we couldn’t expect anything else. CBC News: Sunday Night suggests that Liberal Premier Jean Charest was counting on this election fatigue when he called a snap vote in a bid to regain his National Assembly majority, which tells you something about just how cynical our politicians are. La Presse’s Mario Roy makes the case against abstaining from voting… Read more »

And I forgot, from last week:

Taking Swipes at Sovereigntists
December 4, 2008
by Drew Nelles

During the current parliamentary staring contest, Prime Minister Stephen Harper “has bitterly attacked the Liberals and the ‘socialists,’” the Globe’s editors write, “but he has reserved particular scorn for the ‘separatists.’” So too have his adorers in the media, and today is little exception. “The first loyalty of Bloquistes is not to Canada, but to Quebec,” University of Toronto professor Michael Bliss writes in the Post. “This makes them different, and it has to make them suspect.” In the Globe, William Johnson, the former president of anglo lobby group Alliance Quebec, writes that a uniquely selfish “Quebec political syndrome … inspired the decision of… Read more »

And in case you didn’t hear:

MediaScout is Ending
December 8, 2008
by Staff

Dear reader, For the last four-and-a-half years, MediaScout has delighted and informed Canadians each weekday morning as we attempted to make sense – and some fun – of how the nation’s top media interpreted the previous day’s news. Unfortunately, Maisonneuve magazine can no longer support the cost of producing MediaScout on its own. Moreover, we have been unable to secure an alternative means of long-term, sustainable funding to continue MediaScout into 2009. MediaScout will therefore continue to publish until December 19, 2008, at which point it will go into an indefinite hiatus. We hope to restart publication in future if the funding can be found. However, there are currently no plans to continue efforts to pursue such funding. We… Read more »

Leave a comment

Filed under MediaScout

Making Sense of Mumbai

From mediascout.ca:

Making Sense of Mumbai
November 28, 2008
by Drew Nelles

For all of MediaScout’s efforts to parse how and why various news sources cover events differently, sometimes that coverage evokes common themes so apparently that it’s hard to tell one rival from the other. In the face of Wednesday’s devastating terrorist attacks in Mumbai, it becomes clear that the Big Seven are simply struggling to make sense of the carnage, in three distinct but interrelated ways. First and most obvious is the battle to keep up as the events keep unfolding and more information reveals itself. The death toll from the attacks now stands at over 150, with hundreds more injured; many sources also reconstruct eyewitness accounts of the massacres and provide minute-by-minute breakdowns of how the… Read more »

Leave a comment

Filed under MediaScout

Piracy and Poverty in Somalia

From mediascout.ca:

Piracy and Poverty in Somalia
November 19, 2008
by Drew Nelles

What do you do with a Somali pirate? Well, nobody knows. Following the hijacking of the Saudi supertanker Sirius Star this weekend — the largest ship ever hijacked — and pirates’ seizure of two more ships off the Somali coast in the Gulf of Aden yesterday, modern-day buccaneering is all over the Big Seven. Somali piracy has been occurring for years now, but the numbers are getting too big to ignore: Seven hijackings in twelve days; ninety-two attacks so far this year; fourteen ships and 243 crew still in pirate custody, with the 318,000-ton Sirius Star carrying $100 million in oil cargo. Turning piracy into a numbers game may seem cold, but money is what this issue is all about; Somalia has been without a functioning… Read more »

Leave a comment

Filed under MediaScout

The Campaign’s Last Laugh

From mediascout.ca:

The Campaign’s Last Laugh
November 3, 2008
by Drew Nelles

The US presidential campaign has been going on for so long it’s not even funny — not even when it’s supposed to be. Republican presidential hopeful John McCain (actually him) and running mate Sarah Palin (actually Tina Fey, but who can tell the difference?) openly mocking the GOP’s lousy odds on Saturday Night Live is more sad than satirical. Then there’s the Montreal radio duo the Masked Avengers and their prank call to Palin, during which they pretended to be French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and referred to the Hustler porn film Who’s Nailin’ Paylin? as a documentary about her life. It goes on for almost six minutes, and it’s just embarrassing. The unfortunate joke metaphor is only underscored… Read more »

Leave a comment

Filed under MediaScout