Media Covers Syrian Crisis but Ignores the Central African Republic and South Sudan

Conflict in South Sudan in mid-December triggered a large refugee influx into Ethiopia.
AFP/Getty Images

Inattention Worsening Humanitarian Crises, Officials Say

In 1985, there was Live Aid, a live concert with a global audience of 1.9 billion across 150 nations, organized by the Irish singer-songwriter Bob Geldof to benefit Ethiopian famine relief. Millions of dollars was raised. A decade earlier, as a former Beatle, George Harrison gathered musician friends for "the Concert for Bangladesh" — actually two concerts — which made the world aware of the destruction caused by a 1970 cyclone and atrocities related to a civil war. More recently were benefits for victims of Haitian earthquakes and Asian tsumanis.


Today, the U.S. State Department counts three major humanitarian crises: In Syria, in the Central African Republic and in the world's newest nation, South Sudan.

But only the tragedy in Syria is receiving much media attention, and thousands of children may die as a result, according to Nancy Lindborg, assistant administrator for the Bureau of Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance in the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Moreover, she said, the inattention poses a security threat to the United States.

Lindborg was one of several State Department officials who spoke Monday at an all-day briefing for 14 members of the Association of Opinion Journalists. The diplomats were asked their observations on the American news media's coverage of their areas of expertise.


"A number of NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] reported that they raised more money for the Philippines typhoon in the first week or so after it hit of than they have in the entire Syria crisis, and we're seeing a similar lack of private fund raising for Central Africa and South Sudan," she said. "We know that it's really complicated when you have a complex crisis. There are often unclear lines about good guys and bad guys."

Lindborg continued, "America's voice matters." In 2011 and 2012, famine struck Somalia on the Horn of Africa, and "125,000 children died when they didn't have to. South Sudan will teeter [into something similar] if they don't get assistance now." Media attention brings funds to nongovernmental relief organizations, saves lives and guards against leaving swaths of territory unprotected and lawless, leaving them to become breeding grounds for worldwide terrorism.


"It matters whether you're a kid in Syria or South Sudan to know that the world cares," Lindborg added. Moreover, the attention builds goodwill. Lindborg said she encountered a man in Bosnia who remains grateful for assistance the United States rendered in World War II. "I remember when the Americans came in with Eisenhower to help us out," she quoted him as saying.

And on a more humanitarian level, Lindborg said, "Need is need whether it is domestic or overseas. It's important for the public to be involved, to know that it matters that a kid in South Sudan is teetering" between starvation and health.


The Voice of America reported Wednesday, "More than a million people have been forced from their homes by the conflict that broke out in South Sudan in mid-December. U.N. agencies have warned that more than a third of the population of 10.8 million is in danger of food insecurity as the fighting stretches on into a fourth month. . . ."

As for the Central African Republic, Andrew Katz of Time reported that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited on Saturday "amid an uptick in deadly street violence in the capital, Bangui, pledging to focus global attention on the conflict that has killed untold thousands and pushed much of the country's Muslims into neighboring countries."


The secretary general said, "There is a hole in the heart of Africa. Every day, I wake up thinking about your trials and troubles. Everywhere, I have called on leaders to step up their efforts. Some say this is a forgotten crisis. I am here to help make sure the world does not forget."

Other State Department officials responded with reactions ranging from wry humor to equanimity when asked about media coverage of their fields.


Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, said she agreed with an analysis cited in Journal-isms, the subject of scant press attention, that Russian President Vladimir Putin was sending dog whistles to Russian nationalists, who include skinheads and other racists, when he justified Russia's annexation of Crimea in a recent speech to Parliament.

"It does energize and give comfort to the exclusionary groups who practice and spread a victimization of other nationalities, and all the hate speech that goes with it," Nuland said. In that speech, Putin championed "Rissici" (ethnic Russians) rather than "Russinki" (citizens of the nation.) "What about the rest of the country?" Nuland asked, citing those who are not ethnic Russians.


Nuland also cited "10 untruths that Russia is selling on Russia and in Crimea," referring to a list prepared by the State Department headlined, "President Putin's Fiction: 10 False Claims About Ukraine." It attempts to debunk such statements as "Russian forces in Crimea are only acting to protect Russian military assets."

"Some of this stuff gets in" the U.S. news media when they "pick up secondhand information without checking it," Nuland said.


Discussing the weekend's elections in Afghanistan, Ambassador James F. Dobbins, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, compared news reports in the run-up to the voting with the intelligence reports he receives. "They're always prepared to tell us what's going to go wrong — most of which didn't happen," Dobbins said. He added that the media's philosophy was "never get caught failing to predict a disaster, and the result is one never predicts a success. . . .

"We know it's hard," Dobbins chided. "You don't have to tell us." Dobbins also praised journalists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, considered two of the world's most dangerous countries. "They take risks, frankly, that our own people would not take," he said.


Jerry Feierstein, principal deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, like many of his colleagues, cited the complexity of the challenges in foreign policy. "Getting nuances right is always a challenge," he said in commenting on coverage of Syria. "I don't think there are any magic-bullet solutions." There not clear-cut good guys and bad ones, and "the humanitarian costs are enormous. Almost half the population is in refugee camps."

Todd Stern, special envoy for climate change, said it is time for the media to abandon the urge to give equal time to climate-change deniers. "If you try to give 50-50 time to each side when something like 97 percent of climate change scientists accept the reality of it, you're going to give the public a little bit of a skewed perception," Stern said with obvious irritation.


At least such weather emergencies as Hurricane Sandy and Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines, keep the climate change issue in the headlines. Without such crises, diplomats responsible for Central Europe and East Asia say they have difficulty receiving coverage.

About half the world's trade goes through the South China Sea, along with "a huge amount of oil," said Scot Marciel, principal deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Yet this area "tends to draw fewer headlines than other places." While reporters gravitate to breaking news, "the harder thing is to capture some of the longer-term trends."


Those include democracy spreading to a growing number of nations in the region, increases in economic development and burgeoning energy trade between South Asia and Central Asia at a time when the dominance of Russia as an energy supplier is a worry for the West.

Trade, economies and energy. "That is something we should care about," said Nishal Biswal, assistant secretary for South Central Asia.


Al Jazeera: Scores killed in violence across Syria

Aparna Alluri, Columbia Journalism Review: More female journalists means broader foreign coverage


Marc Frank, Reuters: Cuba says U.S. created other 'Cuban Twitter' projects

Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post: Rwandans mark 20th anniversary of genocide amid reminders that justice has yet to be done


Adi Robertson, the Verge: USAID refutes claims about allegedly subversive Cuban Twitter clone

State Department: Assistant Secretary Richard Concludes Visit to Central African Republic


TV Host Discovers She's Granddaughter of Nat "King" Cole

"At 37, Caroline Clarke was a successful journalist and happily married mother of two who thought she knew everything she needed to know about her life. Then, in a stunning moment, she discovered her grandfather was the unforgettable Nat King Cole," Sherryl Connelly reported Saturday for the Daily News in New York.


Connelly also wrote that Clarke, host of the syndicated TV show "Black Enterprise Business Report," "uncovered that on Christmas Day 1964 she had been born into Hollywood royalty, but her identity was a shameful secret that could only be kept by placing the baby in the arms of strangers. Later, she came to understand that her grandmother, a fierce guardian of the family’s reputation, wouldn't risk her husband's career being tarnished by the scandal of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. . . ."

Clarke tells the story in the newly published "Postcards from Cookie: A Memoir of Motherhood, Miracles and a Whole Lot of Mail."


Toledo Blade Sues Government Over Mistreatment of Staffers

"The Toledo Blade newspaper has filed a lawsuit against six government officials, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, claiming that two of its journalists were detained unlawfully while taking pictures outside a tank plant in Lima, Ohio," Ravi Somaiya reported Sunday for the New York Times.


"The lawsuit, filed in United States District Court in Ohio last Friday, said that Tyrel Linkhorn, a reporter, and Jetta Fraser, a photographer, were detained on March 28 outside a General Dynamics tank plant after taking photographs of it. The two were held by military police officers, the suit said, and Ms. Fraser was restrained and threatened. The police officers confiscated cameras, the suit says, and deleted pictures before returning the equipment. Mr. Linkhorn and Ms. Fraser drove onto the public part of the entry road of the plant where there was no restrictive access, and did not pass a guard hut, which is about 30 feet from the road, the complaint said.

"Ms. Fraser was handcuffed and referred to 'in terms denoting the masculine gender,' the lawsuit said. When she objected, the lawsuit said, she was told, 'You say you are a female, I’m going to go under your bra.'


"The journalists were released after about 90 minutes . . ."

Fraser is the daughter of retired New York Times journalist C. Gerald Fraser.

After Editor Shift, El Nuevo Herald Ramps Up Editorials

Now edited by Myriam Marquez, formerly the Miami Herald's editorial page editor, El Nuevo Herald, the Miami Herald's Spanish-language offshoot, is increasing its number of editorials.


Marquez became El Nuevo Herald's executive editor in November. Nancy Ancrum, formerly an editorial writer, succeeded Marquez and, in December, became the first African American woman appointed Miami Herald editorial page editor.

Marquez explains by email:

"El Nuevo Herald has been running editorials every Sunday since November, when I started as executive editor. Since ENH was started in the 1980s, it has had a minimum of two opinion pages but there was no editorial, only columns and letters and political cartoons.


"With some staff shifting, we now have two editors working on the editorial pages. El Nuevo Herald's Editorial Page Editor Andres Hernandez-Alende, an experienced author as well, is now leading the effort, writing three to four editorials a week. We are also partnering with the Miami Herald editorial board so that we share some of our editorials and they share theirs with us. There are some issues that we agree on and others that we might not. So we are coordinating with Miami Herald Editorial Page Editor Nancy Ancrum on topics that both papers can publish.

"For our Hispanic audience, we have more editorials dealing with events in Venezuela and Cuba, for instance, than the Miami Herald might have. On local issues, we are focused on cities with a high concentration of Hispanics (Hialeah, Miami, Sweetwater, for instance) and the issues that our readers care about, such as taxes and services. I'm very excited about the possibilities. We are getting great response from our readers."


In another development, "Alexandra Villoch was named president of Miami Herald Media Co. and publisher of the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, becoming the first woman publisher in the company's 110-year history," the EFE news service reported on Monday. "Villoch will assume her new post on April 14 substituting [for] David Landsberg, who resigned in March to manage Goodwill Industries South Florida. . . ."

Exiled Ecuadorean Journalist Protests Correa's Visit to U.S.

Emilio Palacio, a columnist from the main opposition newspaper in Ecuador who in 2012 was granted political asylum in the United States," is protesting the U.S. visit of Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador, which begins Tuesday.


"Rafael Correa will arrive in the United States where he will meet some of you and hold conferences in your Alma Mater," Palacio wrote Saturday in an open letter to the presidents of Yale, Harvard and MIT.

"On Saturday April 12th he will go to New York where cameras and microphones will transmit his weekly program in which he often blames the United States for all the evils in the world.


"Rafael Correa is not a critic of the American system, what would be legitimate. He is an open enemy. He does not indicate errors the United States might want to correct. What he wishes, is for democracy to disappear. Galo Mora, the Chief Secretary of the President's political party Alianza Pais, has often proclaimed that the separation of powers is a 'bourgeois' concept that should be extinguished. This is exactly what has happened in Ecuador where Mr. Correa has absolute control over the judges, the National Assembly (Congress) and all institutions of supervision, while he openly persecutes the press and punishes the media and journalists. . . ."

Correa granted asylum in 2012 to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who remains in the Ecuadorean embassy in Britain. Carlos Lauría, Americas senior program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, wrote then:

"The Quito government's decision to grant Julian Assange political asylum comes at a time when freedom of expression is under siege in Ecuador. President Rafael Correa's press freedom record is among the very worst in the Americas, and providing asylum to the WikiLeaks founder won't change the repressive conditions facing Ecuadoran journalists who want to report critically about government policies and practices. . . ."


Glenn Garvin, Miami Herald: Rafael Correa takes on the Ivy League

AAJA's George Kiriyama Leaves NBC Bay Area Station

"NBC Bay Area reporter George Kiriyama has left the station after eight years and two months 'to search for new opportunities,' " Rafu Shimpo, the Los Angeles-based newspaper targeting Japanese Americans, reported on Saturday.


"In a March 31 Facebook post, Kiriyama said, 'I am deeply honored to have worked side by side with such a talented group of journalists. For nearly a decade, I enjoyed sharing the stories that mattered the most to our viewers.

" 'To my fellow NBC Bay Area journalists…you were more than just a team to me. You were my family.


" 'Thank you, NBC Bay Area, for an opportunity I will never forget. Onward and forward …'

"Kiriyama traveled around the country as a television reporter for more than nine years before returning home to California in 2006 to report for NBC Bay Area."


The publication added, "Kiriyama has been very active in the Asian American Journalists Association, serving as the national vice president for broadcast. In 2007, he was named AAJA Member of the Year." Kiriyama also served on the board of the former Unity: Journalists of Color, Inc.

Short Takes

"A Houston television station is telling its staff not to knock on the doors of crime suspects," Al Tompkins reported Monday for the Poynter Institute. "The station issued a memo saying it is too big a risk to journalists' safety, but others see the move as a way for stations to protect themselves legally. And the president of the Society of Professional Journalists says such a broad order may result in weaker journalism that could be unfair to people accused of crimes. KTRK-TV Houston News Director David Strickland issued the order to his staff after reporter Demond Fernandez knocked on the door of a man accused of child sex abuse. The man told the TV crew to turn off the camera (which they didn’t) then he produced a gun. . . ."


The Loop21, an African American-oriented website, has folded. A note on the site says: "Dear Friends, Thank you for your enthusiastic support in helping to build a platform to share the unique and powerful stories that diverse communities have to offer. Our goal has been to provide a fresh perspective on news and issues affecting our communities and we hope that you have enjoyed our collective journey as much as we have. As we move forward into the next phase of our journey, we look forward to connecting again and we encourage you to continue to embrace success without limits." CEO Darrell Williams had been described on the site as "an economist whose career spans academic, government and business. For more than a decade, he's advised Fortune 500 companies and government agencies on business strategy, competition policy and economic regulation, first as a partner at Economic Analysis LLC, then as a Director at global consulting firm LECG LLC. . . ."

Arun Venugopal, a reporter at New York public radio station WNYC, began a new series Monday "examining race, sexuality, religion, street life and other issues that define New York City." Venugopal is listed for content development and production of "Micropolis," which Monday discussed colorism under the title, "The Dark Side of Fair Skin."


"The father of a Venezuelan TV journalist says his daughter has been kidnapped by armed, masked men in the western section of the capital of Caracas," the Associated Press reported on Monday. "Luis Pinto said Monday that his daughter Nairobi Pinto was taken hostage Sunday afternoon at the entrance to the building where she lives. She is the chief of correspondents for the Globovision news channel and her whereabouts remain unknown. . . ."

"Reimy Chavez took a radical career step last Wednesday," Manuel Rueda wrote Monday for the Fusion network. "The 32-year-old anchor for Venezuelan news channel Globovision quit on air, arguing that he had differences 'of standards' with the network that couldn’t be surmounted. Chavez is not alone in his frustration with Globovision, which was until recently the only TV channel in Venezuela that actively criticized the government. More than 50 Globovision staff have quit, or have been fired, since the news channel was taken over by businessmen with ties to the Venezuelan government a year ago. . . "


Richard Prince is scheduled for a video chat with the Ithaca College chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists on Google Hangout Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Park 277.

Follow Richard Prince on Twitter.

Facebook users: Like “Richard Prince’s Journal-isms” on Facebook.

Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education ( Reprinted on The Root by permission.

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