Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The world's ten most underreported stories

The UN publicized its annual list of the world's most underreported stories implying that politics, murder and sex scandals still take precedence over poverty, peace-building or economic development.

It's hardly a revelation that pretty upper middle white girls being kidnapped and handsome upper middle white boys accused of acting badly hog the US 'news' programs far more than important topics that affect millions of people. Privleged lacrosse players supposedly raping a stripper makes for an easy narrative. How to improve lives for some of the billions of poor is not. Gawking draws more readers/viewers than thinking. That's just the way it is. Sadly, I no longer expect the media to lead, but to be lead. My biggest objection is that it's borderline fraud to call such voyeurism 'news.'

"We've tried over the years to show that development issues can make good stories too -- by pointing out the human interest aspects, and by helping demonstrate that such stories can be made 'readable', 'watchable' and interesting," noted Shashi Tharoor, U.N. under-secretary-general for communications and public information.

According to the UN, the ten stories the world should hear more about include post-war reconstruction in Liberia; the new challenges faced by bona fide asylum seekers; the upcoming historic elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo; children caught in the ongoing conflict in Nepal; and the compounding effects of a drought threatening to undermine stability in war-devastated Somalia.

The list also singles out several other stories under-reported by the world media: the plight of millions of refugees living in limbo; the problems of relief efforts in the aftermath of the South Asian earthquake and tsunami; the alarming number of children in conflict with the law; the collaborative solutions that have prevented conflicts over scarce water resources; and renewed violence that threatens to undermine the peace process in Cote d'Ivoire.

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