Friday, November 30, 2007

From Bangladesh to California: the digital gap widens?

Opinion: from Bangladesh to California: the digital gap widens?
Source: The Editors Webblog
November 29, 2007

Media coverage of cyclone Sidr, which devastated Bangladesh, left hundreds of thousands homeless and killed at least 3,100, has been extensive, as is now the tradition in cases of major natural catastrophes. However, in comparison to coverage of the recent Californian wildfires, one can also wonder whether the differences in coverage of these two events can be representative of the digital gap widening.

In addition to the official death count, the Guardian reported that about 1,700 people are missing and over 28,000 were injured by the storm. According to the Disaster Management Ministry, 458,000 houses have been destroyed and another 665,000 have been partially damaged.

Statistically, the death and damage toll of Sidr far outweighs the – also tragic – destruction caused by the Californian wildfires.

Yet arguably, the news ‘lifespan’ of the Bangladesh disaster has been relatively short for many broadcasters and news networks in Europe and Northern America.

During the Californian wildfires, most US news outlets promptly established and developed techy features and hyperlocal tools to service the population. The Los Angeles Times even chose to cover the fires in blog-like fashion, posting short briefs on its homepage, even a few notes, to keep people up to date. News sites all over produced interactive maps that depicted the evolution of the situation and such. Slideshows, video, multimedia coverage were the norm.

But in the case of the cyclone in Bangladesh, it seems ‘western’ media coverage got little more than some sensational footage initially, and most of the subsequent coverage skimmed the surface. There were little efforts to depict the situation with the same precision, timeliness, and tech-savvy features that were used for the California wildfires.

This can be explained by two things, among other reasons (apart from issues about the editing and prioritization of news):
- the audience that would most benefit from that type of specific information, mostly in Bangladesh, might not have access to these digital outlets.
- The media teams, whether local or international, might not have the equipment and resources needed to produce that information.
Both reasons would point to the widening of the digital gap between a country like the US and one like Bangladesh.

However, ‘new media’ forms have also grown roots in Bangladesh. It is bloggers who made some of the strongest calls both to the international community and local inhabitants to help and collaborate.

The blogging platform Somewherein launched an SMS-based campaign to enable Bangladeshis to donate money: for every SMS sent (which costs 2 BDT), Somewherein and its fellow sponsors will add an amount to the donation, based on the number of sponsors, which will go to the Save the Children Cyclone Relief fund.

Yet it will take more than bloggers to promote relief in the country. If traditional media don’t – or can’t – put up the type of precise, incisive, and simply informative coverage they did for the wildfires, then public opinion will remain relatively unmoved.

If you have more information or insight about this issue, please feel free to contact us or leave a comment.

Source: GuardianMedia Channel

Posted by Jean Yves Chainon on November 29, 2007 at 01:32 PM


kbw said...

Maybe this is b/c the western media was lazy, and didn't delve into the many blog reports-links during cyclone sidr as published by rezwan
who also profiles the on the ground blogging of Nari Jibon bloggers
as well as Dristipat, MASH, among others.

Many bloggers (such as Chris at Intersection) had noted little or no attention by the international media, which finally picked up on Sidr a day or two later.

If the media used a simple google search during sidr, they could have found these leads.

Also some of the Nari Jibon and even my own blog posts were picked by Sphere and linked on CNN websites.

Likewise, maybe bloggers need to reach out to media contacts and share their materials-insights, experiences, too.

kbw said...

maf korben, it was sheril kirshenbaum on that intersection link and you can also see her video blog plea for bangladesh here: