I’m seeing upset from Chris Sacca and others on Twitter about a disconnect between what’s on CNN now and the violence that many outlets are reporting in Syria.
It feels like 2009 the #IranElection all over again, when the world finally awoke to how the real-time Web was disrupting mainstream media by driving conversations and coverage of an historic event that the producers of cable news had failed to cover.
In the context of that disconnect, I couldn’t help but think back when I met Ann Curry at the first #140Conf and watched her respond to the volcanic surge of upset in the audience about the issue. What’s happening in Syria now deserves that coverage, with reports in the New York Times that hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women and children, have been killed in Homs. Thankfully, in 2012 we don’t have to depend upon CNN to cover a debate in the United Nations. We can share the news that matters on our own, including a link to a livestream of the debate in the UN.
Update: At 2:01 ET, CNN did put the news from Syria and the UN on the big screen. Fox News covered today’s election results from Nevada. And at 6, Fox News led with the news of “deadly chaos” in Syria.
The White House released a statement from President Barack Obama strongly condemning the crackdown in Syria and calling on the U.N. Security Council to “stand against” the “relentless brutality” of the regime. Russia and China subsequently blocked action. Following is the text of the statement released by the White House.
Thirty years after his father massacred tens of thousands of innocent Syrian men, women, and children in Hama, Bashar al-Assad has demonstrated a similar disdain for human life and dignity. Yesterday the Syrian government murdered hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women and children, in Homs through shelling and other indiscriminate violence, and Syrian forces continue to prevent hundreds of injured civilians from seeking medical help. These brutal killings take place at a time when so many Syrians are also marking a deeply meaningful day for their faith. I strongly condemn the Syrian government’s unspeakable assault against the people of Homs and I offer my deepest sympathy to those who have lost loved ones. Assad must halt his campaign of killing and crimes against his own people now. He must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately.
The Syrian people demonstrated in large numbers across Syria yesterday to participate in peaceful protests commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Hama massacre. They labeled the protests, “We are Sorry, Hama – Forgive Us.” We owe it to the victims of Hama and Homs to learn one lesson: that cruelty must be confronted for the sake of justice and human dignity. Every government has the responsibility to protect its citizens, and any government that brutalizes and massacres its people does not deserve to govern. The Syrian regime’s policy of maintaining power by terrorizing its people only indicates its inherent weakness and inevitable collapse. Assad has no right to lead Syria, and has lost all legitimacy with his people and the international community.
The international community must work to protect the Syrian people from this abhorrent brutality. Earlier this week, our Arab partners called on UN Security Council members to take action to support a political solution to the crisis in Syria and stop Assad’s “killing machine.” The Council now has an opportunity to stand against the Assad regime’s relentless brutality and to demonstrate that it is a credible advocate for the universal rights that are written into the UN Charter.
We must work with the Syrian people toward building a brighter future for Syria. A Syria without Assad could be a Syria in which all Syrians are subject to the rule of law and where minorities are able to exercise their legitimate rights and uphold their identities and traditions while acting as fully enfranchised citizens in a unified republic. The United States and our international partners support the Syrian people in achieving their aspirations and will continue to assist the Syrian people toward that goal. We will help because we stand for principles that include universal rights for all people and just political and economic reform. The suffering citizens of Syria must know: we are with you, and the Assad regime must come to an end.
It’s not clear to me what will happen — or should happen — in the stricken country next, although this Foreign Affairs analysis of what it will take to intervene in Syria offered some clarity.
To be fair, CNN is covering what’s happening online, with reports from the front lines, links to the UN debate and stories on the veto by Russia and China. Anderson Cooper talked to a Syrian activist about 200 Syrian killed. CNN reported that the UN Security Council was to meet yesterday. And 5 of the last @CNN tweets about been about Syria.
Similarly, Fox News has reports of unrest in Syria at the top of FoxNews.com, with 2 of the last 10 @FoxNews tweets covering the story.
Syria just isn’t on television right now.
In 2012, we the people can now choose to focus attention upon news that matters around the world if we choose, regardless of the choices of producers in the control rooms of television stations. This is precisely the kind of conscious consumption that I believe Clay Johnson describes in his excellent new book, “The Information Diet.”
I hope that, as the hype grows in the lead up to tomorrow’s Super Bowl, we use our collective influence to raise awareness by sharing “what’s happening.”
UPDATE: As several people quickly pointed out to me, Al Jazeera English’s strong coverage of the Middle East shouldn’t be forgotten nor go uncited. Unfortunately, most American citizens do not have the option of tuning in AJ English, although people with broadband Internet access can stream it to their computers or iPads, via their app, as I did during the height of the Egyptian uprising in Tahrir. Here’s their report on the media blackout in Syria:
UPDATE: Reuters social media editor Anthony De Rosa highlighted (via Twitter, appropriately), Reuters has been reporting on Syria this week as well. While Reuters does not have a cable news network quite yet, they are moving strongly into online video and social news, with the introduction of Reuters Social Pulse. De Rosa liveblogged the UN vote and shared a link to this video reporting on escalating violence in Syria:
UPDATE: Below is video of the statement of U.S. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to the Security Council. And yes, the video is hosted on CNN.com, though I have not seen it broadcast on either CNN or Fox News today.
UPDATE: Mark Follman, a senior editor for Mother Jones, shared this “explainer” (again, via Twitter) of what’s happening in Syria. The post includes a lot of links to learn more.
FOX’s editorial stance is to generally ignore UN activity — unless there is an easy, antagonistic angle to harp on — and lacks anything resembling a MENA bureau, so they are simply not equipped to cover Syria. CNN, for reasons I’ve yet to understand, chooses not to air CNN International content in the U.S. The decade of attrition of foreign bureaus is on fully display when U.S.-based broadcasters and the majority of American newspapers fail to respond quickly to situations in Syria (granted, it’s not an easy assignment to begin with, as the country is quite isolated). I would suggest that American readers look towards think tanks, such as CFR and Brookings (disclosure: I work for the latter) for analysis, and rely on publications like FP Magazine via Twitter. There is great content out there, unfortunately one has to dig deeper to find it.