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Spring break has come, and not a moment too soon – as you can tell, I’ve gotten a bit behind. Regular entries should resume in the next few days as I rest, regroup, and reorganize, but here’s a quick round-up of tomorrow morning’s news…

Happy birthday dotcom as internet domain name turns 25 – Dotcoms changed the way we use the internet – this article describes how, as well as exploring what new changes may be coming up next.

FBI ‘most wanted’ list still fascinates – Also celebrating a birthday is the FBI list, which just turned 60 – click here to learn how the list grew out of a set of profiles and how the people on the list have changed over the years.

Sailing the Nile – in disguise – Jill Worrall’s photos (like the one below) accompany a short anecdote from her trip down the Nile.


UN chief says world hasn’t forgotten Haiti – Ban Ki-moon says that shelter is the current priority in Haiti, while President Rene Preval says the country “must start looking to the longer term and think about its future economy.”

Soccer: Beckham’s World Cup dream in tatters – This article discusses the injury likely to prevent David Beckham from playing in his fourth World Cup, taking place this summer in South Africa.

Helicopter patrols spot 200 sharks – Australia is experimenting with helicopter patrols along the nation’s beaches. Whether the patrols will continue is still being decided, but the results so far at least impressive to me! For this and more great underseas photos, check out petersbar on Flickr.

Hammer from Cocos Island, Costa Rica

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Yes – I know I promised Burj Khalifah, and yet here’s another Haiti post. Since classes started again last Tuesday, I’ve been busy (or, as Steven would say, busier) again. Yet I’m painfully aware that here I must come across as someone who’s been glued to CNN, unable to function in because of events happening thousands of miles away. I see that in print, I wonder why I’d feel uncomfortable for allowing my life to be disrupted over something serious, yet the embarrassment is as palpable as the guilt for not “staying on task” and coming up with the goods I’ve promised. But, when if there’s a too late to switch back to covering Dubai, is there also a too soon? When is the best time to switch from “the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere” to “Las Vegas on Steroids?”

The weird reality is that all these links from the last three entries have surfaced through homework – I am on task, or at least no more off task than normal. Following disasters and disaster coverage are both now – a part of my job? Ok. But I’m not a journalist in the field – and there’s plenty of debate there, too.

Then I stumbled across “Good Intentions Are Not Enough: An honest conversation about the impact of aid“, and found a wealth of material, both collected and written by Saundra Schimmelpfennig addressing another kind of disaster involvement (and the impact on coordination after a disaster) : travelers. Sometimes they are volunteers, sometimes tourists like those on the 3,100-passenger Navigator of the Seas, sometimes a hybrid of both.

Schimmelpfennig introduces the (new to me) concept of Disaster Tourism and describes it’s (mostly negative) impact on natural disaster survivors and aid efforts. Disaster tourism. I’d heard of “dark tourism” – defined by a travel seminar class in my undergrad career as “death tourism – and the concept made me deeply uncomfortable. There’s also the “more grey” – if there is such a thing – travel dubbed “development tourism.”

Explaining that well-intended attempts to help after a disaster may make a confusing situation worse, the Schimmelpfennig starts a list of four articles with Guideline #1 for Volunteering Overseas and follows up the series with “What to look for when evaluating an aid agency.”

Going a step further, I’ve explored the idea of travel being more than just getting on a plane – it can rise from a book, flow through a television, or over the radio. Can disaster tourism be virtual too – does that help explain my fears and chagrin at potentially being perceived as frozen in my living room?

CNN and Anderson Cooper have already been the whipping boy for frustrations over media coverage, while editors at The Washington Post and New York Times have weighed in to explain their publications’ respective stances.

It’s a concern that shifts uneasily when I come across links like this one to CNN’s new interactive video feature shot January 17. Before I play with it and forward it to my ethics instructor, I can’t help notice that the technology is a) cool and b) celebrating it too much would feel a little macabre given the nature of the footage. By the way, they may not be there much longer.

Well, no one ever told me this wouldn’t be messy – there’s no one to blame but myself.

On the other hand, Conan O’Brien’s directive against cynicism transcends its network battle context.

The coordinated disaster and medical professionals going in are truly priceless. As my friend Tina will discover Feb 8 through her hospital’s programs, there will be seriously tough times ahead. I worry and at the same time, remember her as the awesome babysitter she was to me before becoming an amazing doctor and Alea’s mother, and I believe she can make small but important differences. Sites like Biosurveillance: Operational issues in the practice of biosurveillance has set up a dedicated website for Haiti to address the demand for information and the information coming in for people like Tina and everyone they hope to help.

In the meantime, I have a very different kind of work to do – including covering both Haiti AND the Burj Khalifah – before catching, hopefully, a few hours of badly needed sleep.

Finally, to steal from Dispatches one more time, people don’t remember loved ones as CNN portrays them – this is how people will be remembered.

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A quick thoughts post… covering a disaster – and looking at how a disaster is covered – can quickly bring up some dicey ethical questions. My instructor for Journalism Ethics says he avoids hypothetical situations, and one major reason this makes sense to me is that it seems real live ones are everywhere you turn and much more relevant than anything constructed from the abstract. The big one everyone’s talking about is Anderson Cooper’s on camera moment, though First Draft quickly moves the debate from Cooper to the coverage as a whole with this article: The Giggly Twerps on the Evening News.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has created an index of their multimedia coverage, which simultaneously feels organized and… odd… Do I pick the video or the photography next for my visuals of earthquake victims? I feel strange asking myself the question – and yet I am.

Prison Photography asks the questions bluntly and graphically with posts like this: Staring at Death: Photographing Haiti.

And yet the work of photographers / reporters like Minksy is undeniably important, and her quick thinking and speed are definitely a factor in the impact of her work: Behind the Lens: There for the Quake (from the New York Times’ Lens Blog). Reports like Minsky’s Haiti coverage or Melissa Bloch’s China coverage both have an immediacy because of how and when the work was done that can’t be replicated by people who weren’t there because it records both the earthquakes themselves and the experiences of someone going through them – and then beginning to report on others (I wrote about NPR’s radio coverage here during last semester).

Finally, for those who really want to wonder about the metaphysical – media coverage of how people are using media: How does Haiti communicate after the earthquake? (BBC).

If you’ve got thoughts or answers for how to handle these kinds of questions and issues, let me know below…

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First things first, credit for these photos go to my friends Gabrielle Vincent and Preeti Singh (except for the fruit which is courtesy of

This summer I found out that a friend of mine has started working with a Haitian development organization called Sonje Ayiti. Sonje Ayiti (based out of Limonade) is unique because it’s a grassroots group of Haitians living both in Haiti and the US, as opposed to a larger, international organization like the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders – all great groups, with different goals and methods but a similar overall purpose of improving the lives of people wherever they work.

In Sonje Ayiti’s case, they’ve been operating long enough that their goals are starting to get bigger, and they’re going through one of those painful but rewarding growth stages where they have to figure out what they want to do and how to do it. They have projects ranging from livestock distribution to sewing training. Their goals are to connect grant funding with local contacts to kick start local businesses, get kids into schools, and most importantly, empower Haitians with some of the same opportunities the rest of us enjoy to take control of our finances and our lives.

One of the big obstacles – a dramatic lack of infrastructure and a culture of corruption that’s deeply embedded in the country’s politics (see this example of BBC’s coverage).

On the other hand, it’s a land rich in agricultural resources – mangoes, avocados, peanuts, cocoa beans – and more importantly, strong people. The more I learned, the more I look forward to visiting some day.

Like everyone else, when I heard about the earthquake, I was overwhelmed. I hoped that the people I know – or at least, the people that people I know know – are safe, yet as I hear about the casualties, I know that not everyone will be ok. The toll includes international aid workers – the very people needed by international organizations to coordinate relief efforts – as well as Haitians. Gradually, I started to get news – Sonje Ayiti’s main point person in Port au Prince, Gabie, was safe and starting to locate family members. A partial sigh of relief.

But I knew that as bad as the initial situation was, it would get even worse, and quickly. All those obstacles to development projects? Twice as difficult now, when emergency services are so important. There’s a great post here, at the blog Wanderlust, about the obstacles medical and aid workers will be facing as they try to help. Some sources like the author of this Economist article are even asking if this is “the end.”

And then I was shocked and disappointed as a bizarre backlash started – certain networks and commentators labeling a whole population with negative terms or characteristics. Simultaneously, this is deeply offensive and untrue and exposes deep ignorance of people who don’t travel physically or, more importantly, mentally. It’s harmful and inexcusable.

I’m not linking to it because it’s not productive (and all too easy to find). Instead, at about 4:08 minutes in, here’s Jon Stewart’s awesome response.

What Haiti needs now is what any country or people need in an emergency – water, food, shelter, medical aid. As I mentioned earlier, Doctors Without Borders and Red Cross are stellar organizations.

In the long term, Haiti needs infrastructure, which may not be possible without addressing the systematic corruption that’s damaged efforts again and again. That’s where groups like Sonje Ayiti may come into play. And perhaps most importantly – we all need to learn more about what’s going on and how we can work together. Academic coverage, news coverage, personal connections, and blogs are all a good start.

Here’s a list of links that I’ve found useful:

Crises Map
Relief Web
Dispatches From a Fragile Island – a really fascinating blog
Partners in Health section on Haiti – according to the person who sent me this link, “They are actually doing one of the best jobs right now because their own rural centers were not as affected and their organization is based there and up and running.”
New York Times interactive coverage

The University of Texas at Austin’s Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection currently has maps of Haiti, Haitian cities, the earthquake, the response, and other national features on their main page

Please post your thoughts about Haiti, and if you have other good sources, share, or you’ve ever been, tell me what your trip was like

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