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Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta

Ed Kashi, the guardian slideshow
Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta, by the photojournalist Ed Kashi, documents the consequences of 50 years of oil extraction in the Niger delta. Oil companies operated here for decades with very little environmental supervision and the delta, notoriously beset by conflict and poverty, has been steadily pushed towards ecological disaster. Villagers struggle to live off land and water poisoned by years of oil spills, and crops fail under the acid rain caused by gas flares. An exhibition at HOST gallery in London runs until 3 April 2010
(Mar 2010)

Will Facebook Remake the World?

John Feffer, Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF)
When I traveled through Eastern Europe in the wake of the 1989 revolutions, I carried a computer and a portable printer. I typed up my dispatches, printed them out, and sent them back to my employers by air mail. Even with the lag time of a week or more, my reports on conversations with activists, academics, and politicians remained fresh. Email, after all, was still rudimentary in 1990. The World Wide Web was still three years in the future. Blogs wouldn’t debut until four years after that. Change was rapid in Eastern Europe in 1990. But for both activists and observers, the printed word still carried enormous weight…

…At a conference I attended in Prague in 1991 sponsored by the conservative American Foreign Policy Council, the representatives from what were then still Soviet republics were thrilled to receive a “democracy kit”, a box of goodies that included a copy of the U.S. constitution. But what really excited the activists in attendance was the brand-new fax machine, which had only become affordable a few years before. Chinese activists during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 had used fax machines to circumvent government control and get their messages to foreign journalists. Their counterparts from Georgia and Armenia couldn’t wait to get their hands on this cutting-edge technology…

…Today, the printed report, the copied flyer and the faxed document no longer seem to be the nervous system of political change. Faxes have been overtaken by email, newspapers by blogs, and reports by tweets. The global circulation of information has become faster and more compressed, as if someone had hit the fast-forward button on current events. Journalists, policymakers, and average citizens are hard-pressed to keep up with this often bewildering jumble of opinions and facts. The sheer acceleration and accumulation of data has also made the job of censors and resistant government officials more difficult, if not impossible.

The fast-forward button is still pressed down. With the advent of social networking sites like Facebook, pundits are heralding a new and revolutionary form of communication. Is Facebook a fundamentally new way of viewing and changing the world? Or, beneath all the hype, are these sites just a tool like any other in the activist, journalist, and civic toolbox?
(03 March 2010)

Media tycoons wanted: Make your own newspaper

Kabir Chibber, BBCnews
So you want to be a newspaper baron?

(Haven’t you heard that print is dead?)

If you insist – well, you could do work experience (for nothing) and hopefully get a part-time job at the paper. Then, after a few years, work your way to a staff position, if you’re lucky. And spend decades navigating office politics to eventually become the chosen one to run the place.

Then, with all your power and influence, you can shape the news agenda and be courted by some of the world’s most powerful politicians – if newspapers still exist then.

Or you could just go online, now, and print your own paper using the Newspaper Club.

‘Surprisingly cheap’
This new London-based start-up allows anyone to print their own 12-page newspaper.

“It doesn’t occur to people that they can print their own newspaper, and you find out you can, it’s kinda cool,” says Russell Davies, a former ad executive-turned-blogger who is one of those behind the venture.

“We thought a lot of people would think the same.”

Mr Davies, designer Ben Terrett and a group of software-coding friends – who formed a collective called the Really Interesting Group – decided to print a newspaper of their friends’ best blog posts and photos in 2008.

Large commercial printing presses – for daily newspapers such as The Sun or the Daily Telegraph – are not used for most of the day while the newspaper is put together.

…Ben Hammersley, editor-at-large at Wired magazine, calls it a “stupidly exciting” project that brings the benefits of the web – seen in everything from blogs to broadcasting on YouTube – to paper.

“It takes the world of online publishing, where the practical barriers to entry are very low, and transports it to a medium where it was virtually impossible to do that before.

“Newspapers are like the last bastion of old media, they are almost the last thing standing.

“This creates a new industry, almost from the ashes of the old one,” he says.

Have a burning issue in your town that you want to share? Worried about the upcoming election? Always fancied yourself a food critic?

Frustrated writers everywhere can now self-publish on newsprint – a format that still holds a special place for readers across the world…
(14 March 2010)

Google news tax could boost local papers, report says

Randeep Ramesh, The Guardian
Google and other websites that carry news they do not produce should be taxed and the money generated used to prop up local newspapers, says a report which warns control of the media is concentrated in too few hands.

The Commission of Inquiry into the Future of Civil Society, headed by Tony Blair’s former head of policy, Geoff Mulgan, will warn next week that news is becoming “recycled ‘churnalism’ and aggregated content”. In a report, Making Good Society, the commission says a future government must preserve freedom on the internet, ensure the media is not controlled by powerful interests, and promote accuracy.

It says four publishers control 70% of the local and regional press, three companies – BBC, ITN and BSkyB – produce national television news and just four companies have nearly 80% of the commercial radio market.

In a rapidly changing market, more than 100 local and regional newspaper titles vanished last year – a trend amplified, says the commission, by advertising revenues and audiences shifting to online platforms. “The advent of free newspapers, the emergence of 24-hour television news and the popularisation of online and mobile platforms have all contributed to a far more volatile and unstable environment for news organisations.”
(13 March 2010)
You can access the report here.