Using New Media Across the Globe

The Global Voices logo.

On Tuesday, a speaker from Global Voices came to speak to my Reinventing the News class. Firuzeh Shokooh Valle, a Northeastern PhD student and editor at Global Voices, spoke to our class about international citizen journalists and bloggers.

On its website, Global Voices is described as “an international community of bloggers who report on blogs and citizen media from around the world.” Global Voices was created in 2005 by two fellows at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Rebecca MacKinnon and Ethan Zuckerman. The two had extensive experience with international news: MacKinnon had been a Tokyo bureau chief for CNN, and Zuckerman was an Africa expert, as well as a technologist. A more in-depth profile of the organization can be found in this New York Times article.

Global Voices now claims to have more than 300 bloggers and translators working for the site around the world. These bloggers aim to sift through global citizen journalism and present readers with comprehensive news reports “with emphasis on voices that are not ordinarily heard in international mainstream media.”

After becoming interested in Global Voices, Shokooh Valle contacted editors at the website after noticing that her native Puerto Rico wasn’t being covered. Without knowing if Puerto Rico even had a blogosphere, Shokooh Valle began researching blogs.

After two years of volunteering, she was offered the job of being a Spanish-language editor, overseeing all that’s written in Spanish, which covers mostly Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Europe, and at times Latin America, though there is a Latin American editor.

Shokooh Valle described her duties as “writing long posts and [news] updates.” Additionally, she said she monitors “blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.” Though she’s not physically present in the countries she writes about and edits, she uses all of these social and new media channels to monitor the online conversation of major events, demonstrations and breaking news.

As Global Voices grows, Shookoh Valle said it’s getting easier for people to contribute, because she can now have people submit articles in Spanish and have them be translated into English. Currently, Global Voices has translators in 30 languages.

Global Voices allows people from all different areas of the world to learn about other cultures beyond what major news networks are saying. Puerto Rico, for example, has “great art and music blogs” with information that won’t be found anywhere else, according to Shokooh Valle.

I think this is one of the most important things that Global Voices offers. It’s a chance to learn about another country’s entire culture, instead of just check in during a time of political unrest. Our professor Dan Kennedy pointed out that someone once told him that American bloggers seem to be interested mostly in politics, and Shokooh Valle agreed.

There is so much more to a country’s culture than what’s going on politically. That seems to be one of Global Voices biggest problems:  How do you engage Americans in a country’s citizen journalism when that country is not engaged in any sort of civil unrest?

When it comes to North Africa and the Middle East, I think it will be important to continue to monitor the traffic to Global Voices. Will interest in countries like Egypt and Syria, for example, still be high six months from now? In a year?

Photo (cc) Mohamed El Gohary under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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