The television media was covering the abduction of one Captain Richard Phillips almost non-stop over the week leading up to Easter. When it was announced that 3 of the 4 pirates holding the captain were killed and he was rescued, the commentators on all the major networks exploded in an orgy of nationalist hoo-rah fervor. They succeeded in showing they could Faux News with the best of them.
They did not succeed, however, in helping us better understand the Somali piracy issue. What might a news agency need to provide insight into the causes of Somali piracy First of all, they need you the viewer / reader / listener / audience to take a vested interest in learning more about Somalia's pirates, or pirates in general.
Somalia is a great example of a situation where pirates have a very clear cause and a very clear, though incredibly difficult, solution.
But as I was saying, let's imagine we have a news agency funded initially through small investment or foundation money. If we establish a bureau in Nairobi, we can cover many subjects in sub-Saharan east Africa. One of the easiest ses of tools available to mobile journalists was presented in the form of the Reuters Mobile Toolkit. Unfortunately, in the last 18 months since it was made public, we've seen little in the way of new and innovative journalism being done with these basic tools.
So this is where I suggest a new way to create media, community funded and supported, i.e. community invested news. This has been discussed before, here for example. I'm just going to take the idea, and suggest how we can apply it, in this case to learning more about Somali pirates.
Let's assume we've funded the equipment for a team based in Nairobi-more about how to fund that in a later post, but my previous model for Afghanistan looks a bit similar to what I'll be proposing.
So, imagine if you could tweet your own questions for Somali pirates and have them answered via audio or perhaps even video within a few days? We can do that right now, utilizing skype, mobile phone networks, and even Utterli or drop.io. When news came that the pirates were killed and Captain Phillips freed, our correspondent in Harardhere could have provided immediate access to the response of locals in the pirate village. Viewers at home could have asked their own questions of the locals supported by Somalia's pirate economy.
In the days after Captain Phillips was freed, rather than speculation about the potential for Somalia's pirates to band to join forces with Islamist militias, rather than interviewed so-called "experts" about what might or might not happen, our community-funded team could be asking local residents.
The most affordable form they could be producing content in would be text blogging. With the support of the audience, our local producer will be able to produce audio, video, photo, or perhaps more interactive reports. The quality, and quantity of coverage depends on the audience' level of interest and willingness to support.
Wouldn't you like to know that you could influence Anderson Cooper, Brian Williams, or Keith Olbermann's coverage? With Small World News, of course you have a say in the coverage, because you'll help write our paychecks.
As always, please email us or leave a comment below, especially if you have assistance or advice to offer!