Tuesday, 27 March 2007

New Angles for Darfur

This originally appeared on my Reuters AlertNet blog on 27 March 2007.

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I just finished a short round of meetings on Darfur with European journalists, and one thing that emerges over and over again is how desperate editors are for new angles on the issue. So, with the help of Reuters AlertNet, I would like to set up a contest to find new stories highlighting the issue.

The problem in getting more coverage for Darfur has never been finding journalists willing to cover it, and today -- as opposed to a couple years ago -- the problem isn't even convincing editors it's a critically important story. The difficulty is in finding new angles from which to cover the issue.

As one political editor of a major European newspaper told me last week: "Look, we cover the UN any time there is movement, but on the ground, the story is just the same day after day: massive suffering, camps, horror stories..."

Even those personal stories that can be so much more effective than raw numbers are sounding like tired themes to some.

"We've walked around the camps already," another European editor said, "we've talked to rape victims, and we've done the child-who-watched-his-family-get-killed story. What else can we do?"

Cynical, yes, but for most outlets that's the news game: nothing new to report means, nothing new to report.

So, I've been spending a lot of my time pitching new ideas for stories, hoping to come across some angle they haven't done already. It's not easy, after three years of Darfur coverage. For the last few weeks, I've been pushing the EU angle: since April 2004, European foreign ministers have issued 19 General Affairs and External Relations Council conclusions statements on Darfur, announcing their collective "concern", "grave concern", "continued concern" or "deep concern" a total of 53 times.

But that's only one angle, and although we have spun it into a series of comment articles as well [featuring Chris Patten], it won't feed the news-hungry beast for very long.

And so, I am looking for our readers' ideas: what angles on the Darfur tragedy do you think the media in your country have not covered yet? What hasn't been done?

Maybe you are an aid worker with insight to something happening on the ground, or a journalist who would love to cover one aspect of the story, but cannot, for whatever reason. Maybe you are a concerned citizen wondering why you are not watching and hearing more about Darfur in your national media.

We want to hear from everyone with a suggestion here in the comments section below. And feel free to make your comments anonymously, if you need to. You can consider it a contest of a sort, I guess, though there are no prizes apart from immortal fame here on the blog and the satisfaction of doing a good deed: I'll forward the best ideas to key editors in your country and around the world to the best of my ability -- and to the extent of my contacts book.

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