Our friends at Reuters launched a new site today – an Africa-focused site that lets readers drill down to stories on individual nations. On the top, right-hand corner of each of these country pages is a set of blog links. These links come from Global Voices – as we link to stories from around the continent, Reuters is picking up those links and showcasing them alongside stories from their newswire. Which means that if you go to the Uganda page right now, you’ll see Ndesanjo’s link to my review of The Last King of Scotland…
It’s wonderful to see Reuters making such a strong commitment to African news. Those of us who are Africa news junkies have been relying on the wonderful AllAfrica.com for years, which aggregates content from African newspapers and original content on a country-by-country basis, which is key if you’re following local politics in a country. It’s great to have Reuters coverage, which tends to be more business-centered, alongside AllAfrica’s content, both to provide a wider picture and to provide a reminder that there are, indeed, African business stories, as Emeka Okafor’s Timbuktu Chronicles demonstrates each and every day. The site is ad-supported and global bank HSBC has signed on as the launch sponsor, according to Mark Sweney’s story in The Guardian.
The inclusion of blog content on nearly every screen of the site is hugely significant for those of us involved with Global Voices. Reuters has been our largest fiscal sponsor over the past two years – we’ve been making the case that the information that comes from blogs can be a useful complement to the “hard news” reported by Reuters. The design of this site is a clear indication that Reuters Africa team “gets it”.
Chris Ahern, the president of Reuters Media, in an interview with Mark Glaser from MediaShift, outlines the moves his company has been making in the citizen media space, supporting projects like Pluck and BlogBurst as well as GVO. It’s interesting to see his awareness of some of the tensions that arise from bringing projects like ours into the newsroom, including a journalistic fear that citizen media is somehow out to replace conventional media. The new Africa site seems to be a recognition that journalism is increasingly curation – finding interesting sources and letting readers select from the wealth of options available.
Ahern: Going from 2,400 journalists to 24 million sources — that’s a lot of scale and there’s some skepticism, but how might that change the news cycle or the ability of people to make sense [out of everything]. I also wonder how much time is wasted in the rewriting of someone’s else’s copy that doesn’t really change the story or add that much unique value. What’s the obsession with that? I like a world where there’s different levels of news trust and brands and people can mix and match.
In internal conversations at GVO, one of the subjects has been making sure that we’ve got great Africa content to feature, now that Reuters readers have a more direct route to our content. This is a huge challenge for Ndesanjo Macha, our wonderful sub-Saharan Africa editor, as well as Amira Al Hussiani, who edits the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Jen Bréa and Alice Backer, who cover the french-speaking corners of the continent. The challenge is that, in many countries on the continent, there just aren’t very many bloggers yet. And, as Rachel Rawlins (half of our superheroine duo of managing editors) points out, writers in countries like Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Egypt have to overcome government constraints on speech and well as technical challenges to write online.
I’ve been thinking and writing about gaps in media attention for a couple of years now. It’s not sufficient for newspapers to report on news from developing nations – people have to read that news as well and give feedback that the news matters to them. This is true whether the news agency is a for-profit or non-profit outlet – if no one’s paying attention, the reporting doesn’t have an effect and the funding for it won’t continue. Reuters’ new Africa site reflects an emerging commercial reality – that Africa is becoming increasingly important to the global economy as a supplier of natural resources. (The AP reported yesterday that the US is now obtaining more crude oil from Africa than from the Middle East.) But the hope is that the sort of content we’re providing through Global Voices may catch the eyes of people who aren’t following business stories, but want to know more about the entirity of the world they live in, not just the place they happen to live in.