Al Jazeera launches in Seattle … and runs into the ‘branding’ problem | 

Al Jazeera America launched its Seattle bureau yesterday in a small office on Lake Union.

So I wanted to ask its lead correspondent Allen Schauffler, a well-known and widely respected journalist formerly with NBC’s local affiliate KING TV, what it felt like to work for a news organization supported by those who some say foster militant extremism around the world and armed struggles in the Middle East.

Kristin Fraser, Seattle bureau chief for Al Jazeera America, discusses a developing story with lead correspondent Allen Schauffler
Kristin Fraser, Seattle bureau chief for Al Jazeera America, discusses a developing story with lead correspondent Allen Schauffler

I was talking about NBC, of course, which for most of Schauffler’s career was owned by General Electric – one of the world’s largest corporations, a player in the global arms trade that occasionally gets into hot water for things like illegally selling military hardware to Israel or, in the old days, making nuclear bombs (and lots of nuclear waste). GE helped launch Ronald Reagan’s political career, ran the chronically troubled Hanford Nuclear Reservation and also made the now disabled leaking nuclear reactors at Fukushima in Japan.

Schauffler mistakenly thought I meant Al Jazeera. Understandable.

“The name Al Jazeera carries a lot of baggage with some people,” Schauffler said. “There were some quiet moments, raised eyebrows, when I told people I was taking this job. We’re going to have to deal with that as a challenge of branding.”

They are dealing with it already.

One of the first stories for the bureau is a report on the use of drones — aka, unmanned aerial vehicles — by Northwest farmers to monitor the health of their crops. Sounds like a cool story (so stay tuned)! But just as Schauffler and his crew were heading out to film, the pilot of the drone called and said they couldn’t come. Continue reading

Ten disease burden stories from around the globe | 

Exploding Metal Earth
Flickr, Oliver Erdmann

When Bill Gates and a gang of Seattle number-crunchers this week revealed the latest phase of the new Global Burden of Disease report – a massive survey of death and disability – news organizations focused on how their home countries scored.

Most media, Australia a notable exception, reported on how poorly they were doing.

Gates and the researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation emphasized that the GBD study, while it did focus on death and disease, also showed major improvements in many countries – especially with respect to child mortality and certain infectious diseases.

Read on for 10 stories spawned by this study from around the globe:

Here’s a video excerpt of Bill’s comments on Tuesday, at the Gates Foundation, where many were gathered to celebrate the release of the Global Burden of Diseases’s new tools for visually exploring and analyzing country health data:


Behind the scenes with the Gates Foundation’s ‘strategic media partners’ | 

media horde Flickr
Flickr, MMR d

Just kidding.

I wasn’t actually allowed behind the scenes at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s recent meeting in Seattle entitled “Strategic Media Partnerships.”

The Gates Foundation funds a lot of media – more than $25 million in media grants for 2012 (but still less than 1% of the budget). 

I’m media but I wasn’t invited. I asked if I could come and report on it, but was told the meeting was off the record. Those attending included representatives from the New York Times, NPR, the Guardian, NBC, Seattle Times and a number of other news organizations, non-profit groups and foundations. Not all were grant recipients, or partners. Some just came to consult.

Spoiler alert: Nothing sinister happened. But there’s still a story here.

The public doesn’t see much coverage of the media’s collaboration with the Gates Foundation. Yet it’s substantial, influential and, despite the media’s distaste for reporting on itself, I feel compelled. So here’s my news analysis…. Continue reading

The latest trend in the fight against poverty and inequity: Good news! | 

By Tom Murphy, Humanosphere correspondent east

Food for All - Oxfam GBTelling good news, success stories, is the latest trend for many in the aid and development community.

Good stories especially need to be told about Africa, says Oxfam Great Britain, to document the progress being made amid all the problems

“In order for people to understand what’s happening in Africa, we’ve also got to tell the good stories, and there has been good news in Africa,” said Oxfam GB head Dame Barbara Stocking in an interview about the campaign for SkyNews.

Stocking contends the media and many charities tend to mostly focus on negative stories of conflict and suffering, neglecting the good news stories and creating a distorted view.  Oxfam GB is the latest to change its marketing angle towards telling good stories based on the belief that people need to see evidence of progress.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation operates along similar lines, funding media to do success stories and recently launching a grant program specifically supporting communications projects aimed at showing that humanitarian aid is working.

But is a focus on good news any less likely to distort the picture than a focus on bad news? Continue reading

Global Fund hires new chief, fires watchdog and obfuscates on malaria | 

Today was a big day for news out of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The initiative, which has clearly helped turn back the spread of AIDS and these other killer diseases in poor countries, announced it has selected a new leader, Mark Dybul, decided to either kill off or modify a controversial malaria program and also fired its inspector general.

Oh, and it also announced it will give grants to countries that can show the quickest results.

Many, if not most, of these changes can be traced back to 2011 allegations of fraud and mismanagement at the Global Fund made by its inspector general, John Parsons, that were, arguably, highly exaggerated by the Associated Press and other media, and reported as if it was their own investigative reporting expose. Continue reading

News hole: Microsoft man takes over Mali and hardly anybody cares | 


As some of you more astute international news observers may have noted, the usually stable West African nation of Mali recently experienced a military coup with arrests of politicians continuing.

And as Columbia University’s Gregory Mann has noted, hardly anybody in the news media is reporting on this. So Mann did his own report and analysis. In fairness, Voice of America has done a good job covering what’s going on in Mali (only available to Americans on the web, by law….) and the mainstream media did note today the former President has arrived in Senegal.

Cheick Modibo Diarra

What few media have covered is what interests me most — the fact that the former head of Microsoft Africa and genuine rocket scientist Cheick Modibo Diarra is now acting Prime Minister.

Britain’s Independent has done a brief profile of him and his ‘daunting challenge,’ but that’s all I’ve seen. The paper says of Diarra:

Inside the tech giant the job was widely dubbed “Microsoft’s ambassador to Africa” but colleagues credit the astrophysicist with turning that around to become Africa’s ambassador to Microsoft.

Help Humanosphere help you find a story – on ChangeMap | 

Flickr, M4D Group

Wouldn’t it be cool if instead of shuffling through a list of headlines or doing a search online to find a story about your organization’s work overseas in global health, poverty reduction or social justice you could just click on a map? Wouldn’t it be great if you could contact those living in the communities receiving aid to ask if it is actually helping make things better?

Yes, it would.

And that just happens to be what University of Washington geography and global health professor Matt Sparke has in mind.

Sparke, working with some of his highly intelligent students and colleagues (as well as the not-quite-so-intelligent-but-enthusiastic journalists here at Humanosphere), hopes to create an interactive online tool dubbed ChangeMap.

And here’s how you can help fund this experiment, courtesy of the new online crowdsource funding site Microryza. Here’s a bit more on Microryza from John Cook at Geekwire.

ChangeMap, in brief, will be an online interactive map published on Humanosphere but available to anyone interested in global health, aid, development and global justice to locate these initiatives. In addition, it will allow users to engage in dialogue with those working to make the world a better place — as well as those living in those places we seek to better.

Continue reading

Dozen best places for political murder and worst places to be a journalist | 

This past year saw an increase in the number of journalists killed, imprisoned or forced to flee their countries due to reporting unpopular stories.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has provided an interactive map accompanying the list of worst nations based on “Impunity” — the combination of the number of journalists killed with the number of perpetrators of murder not prosecuted.

Go to link; below is a screen grab only.


The dirty dozen, ranked from worst to least bad:

  1. Iraq
  2. Somalia
  3. Philippines
  4. Sri Lanka
  5. Colombia
  6. Nepal
  7. Afghanistan
  8. Mexico
  9. Russia
  10. Pakistan
  11. Brazil
  12. India