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As BuzzFeed, VICE & Mashable Talk Int'l News, What of Better UN Coverage?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 18 -- When representatives of BuzzFeed, VICE and Mashable described their non-US news coverage on Thursday, the event's title was a question: “What in the World are [they] up to as they expand their international coverage?”

  But most audience questions focused on how well or badly they pay, why they generally don't use freelancers, at least in war zones, and whether the “unmediated” news style ascribed to VICE is even possible.

  VICE News' Jason Mojica diplomatically declined to describe restrictions imposed by the Islamic State to profile the group in Raqa'a. When asked about the lack of back-story in the piece, he said if viewers are watching on a computer they can search for the information they need.

  Mojica recounted when TV networks called VICE to get in contact with Simon Ostrovsky, he realized the networks don't do reporting anymore; they just report from the studio.

   Louise Roug, Global News Editor of Mashable (disclosure here) said her organization which began covering tech and social media is now opening bureaux in Australia and London. She sent a correspondent to Erbil, but wouldn't to Syria.

   Miriam Elder of Buzzfeed spoke of keeping overhead low -- no office, and “don't stay in the Ritz.” One questioner in the audience wondered if her story of staying with a friend in DC rather than a hotel meant staff are coerced into not being remunerated enough.

  Elder said people are paid well -- just don't stay in the Ritz. She recounted Rosie Gray finding how Putin's NYT op-ed was placed, and wondered why in the Internet age anyone would write a story merely ABOUT Putin's op-ed, which could simply be linked to. Why indeed.

  Inner City Press had wanted to attend, but got caught up in the UN as the Security Council meeting on Ebola ran until 8 pm. Watching a live-stream of the NYU Journalism Institute event from the UNSC stakeout was a bit surreal, and gave rise to this question: how are these three covering the UN? How would they do it differently than those here?

  As it is, the UN Secretariat doles out information that Big Media includes as a paragraph of longer, round-up stories. Few write what is obvious to many here, diplomats and staff, that the UN Secretariat has become subservient to the US (or to France, in the case of UN Peacekeeping).

  Perhaps because the UN is in the US, it is not viewed as exotic international coverage. But it is worth covering, and differently. That is is one of the things that the new Free UN Coalition for Access is trying to bring about, along with a Freedom of Information Act for the UN. Watch this site.


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