Mediawatch: Covering the new Darfur default layer in Google Earth

Hundreds of media organizations carried news about the new Darfur layers in Google Earth — and that’s just in English. In Sweden alone, over 40 papers ran the news (an example). In the US, many local news organizations and papers ran the AP or Reuters story. Here’s a rundown of links to some of the larger and/or more interesting ones, with some observations at the end:

Using their own correspondents: The Los Angeles Times (business), BBC (front page feature), CNET (front page, and as a top headline for media 2.0), CNN (technology), Washington Times (business), PC World, ABC News (world news) and a good article/blog in Wired.

Reuters: Australia’s The Age (under technology), New Zealand Herald (world news), The Australian (world news) and Scientific American (science news).

AP: Seattle Post Intelligencer (business), MSNBC (technology), The Guardian (world news), Sydney Morning Herald (technology), the Houston Chronicle (markets), Seattle Times (world news), CBS News (technology), Baltimore Sun (world news), Washington Post (technology), San Jose Mercury News (breaking news), San Francisco Chronicle (business), Denver Post (world news), International Herald Tribune (Americas??) and the Sudan Tribune (which is a great resource for Darfur news, it turns out — pity they don’t have RSS).

AFP: Times of India (world news), iAfrica (technology) and Baku Today (technology).

IDG News service: IT World and InfoWorld.

What’s interesting is that there is no consensus among news editors as to where such a story belongs: Is the story’s most important news component the fact that there is a genocide being perpetrated in Darfur (world news), that new technologies are being employed to educate people about Darfur (technology), or that Google is involved (business)? In a sense, the situation in Darfur is not itself a “news” story, in that we all already (should) know what’s going on there. (If anything, the news is that it’s getting worse at the moment, and people I know who work there are doing so without much hope of a resolution anytime soon.) But putting the story in the technology section relegates it to a spot not followed by the people that the technology is most aiming to reach.

I think this is above all a story about how new technology is letting us all be witnesses to a genocide in progress, and how that raises our own responsibilities — so perhaps this is a story best also told in the glossy Sunday newspaper magazines, read when people have more time to play with Google Earth and where there is more room for long-form stories about larger technology trends coupled to humanitarian crises such as Darfur, but also Katrina/New Orleans and the Pakistan quake from 2005. How about it, New York Times?

3 thoughts on “Mediawatch: Covering the new Darfur default layer in Google Earth”

  1. I’m glad to see that a conflict in Africa gets a lot of media coverage. However, I’m too cynical to believe that the western powers and the media are interested in this only because of humanitarian reasons. For a comparison, the much more destructive Sudan civil war which is not directly connected to this crisis lasted for 20 years went basically unnoticed.

    And finally, calling this conflict a genocide is just odd. I don’t deny that there aren’t mass murders occurring there, but the term genocide refers to a systematic killing of an ethnic group (like in Rwanda). That is not the case in Darfur, which is more like a conflict between nomadic people and farmers, both being ethnically mixed with same ethnic groups fighting on both sides.

    Sorry for being off-topic.

  2. Hi Dunkleosteus,

    I think you’er arguing semantics.

    Both with the Armenian genocide and now Darfur, the ultimate aim was to secure scarce economic resources for one’s own group at the expense of another. The way this is being done is by killing inhabitants on a large scale, and ensuring that the rest flee for their lives. If you require the existence of an ideology on par with Nazism that justifies the erasure of an ethnic/religious group before calling it genocide, then I think your definition of the term is too narrow.

    Also, I think you gloss over several cleavages that exist between the Janjaweed and the civilian victims: There are religious differences (Muslim vs. Animist) as well as ethnic differences, and there is also, crucially, the support of Khartoum for the Janjaweed’s actions — support that gets confirmed even today on the ground by AU peacekeepers.

    Finally, it is also worth mentioning that the Janjaweed regularly conduct incursions into camps of the displaced persons with the express purpose of killing — even after the victims have been driven from their land. If that’s not the kind of irrational hatred that drives genocides, I don’t know what is.

  3. I like your blog, it’s always fun to come back and check what you have to tell us today.

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