A few months ago, I was pondering how hard it is to navigate this media landscape.
Around that time I’d set up a pilot newsletter curating headlines—I called it The Week from my Desk—and pretty soon, in early January 2020, began to pick up reports of a ‘mysterious pneumonia’ in China.
Well, you know how that story unfolds.
For my nascent newsletter project, the media whirlwind unleashed by the Covid-19 pandemic was both challenging and revealing.
It's no secret that we're all overwhelmed by the vast volumes of information out there. We cope by compartmentalising—filtering out what seems remote, or glossing over what doesn't fit our world view.
As natural as that response is to make sense of it all—that’s just how our brains cope with the overload—it's also problematic. When we stay in filter bubbles we get less critical, more comfortable in a false sense of certainty, unable to see the picture from a different angle. The rise of misinformation is one symptom of this.
But filter bubbles aren't confined to social media. Information gets split into compartments in other ways too.
Start making the connections
One is in fields of knowledge: we study in 'disciplines', and we separate the natural world from the social, the political, the cultural.
That’s also reflected in how the media do reporting: in sections of coverage, where politics and economics often sit apart from science or humanitarian affairs or culture.
A third division is geographic: mainstream narratives tend to be dominated by the Global North, leaving views and ingenuity from a huge part of this planet out of the frame.
To have truly global insight we need to escape those bubbles and look at other points of view, from more than one angle, through the media fog.
Easier said than done, when you're faced with a daily avalanche of headlines and vociferous opinion.
This is a space where you can make a start, through a mix of curated and original reports from a range of media, sources of knowledge and geographies—filtered for relevance to global issues in the news, and potential solutions.
Changing with the times
When I started focusing on international issues almost two decades ago, it was clear that intelligence from a huge part of the world was neglected by much of mainstream media and needed a platform. It needed to be heard. And I feel lucky to have spent several years in one of few editorial positions where I could support that on a regular basis.
Things have evolved since then—for one, the value of reporting rooted in places with fewer resources and less power is better understood. In some ways, the North-South divide is dissolving. Countries once considered 'developing' are now emerging economies bustling with innovation.
But in other ways, things haven't changed that much; or they got worse. Journalism as an industry is struggling. What counts as ‘truth’ is on shaky ground. And let’s say that geographic diversity in the media could be better—large parts of the world continue to stay on the margins, with the narrative still one of 'solutions' flowing from resource-rich to poor countries.
In some ways this space is a response to those changes, and to what still needs to shift. It sheds light on the connections—between North and South, mainstream and niche, knowledge and power.
The emergence of Covid-19 was quite the way to kick things off.
I’ll soon share some takeaway messages from media monitoring in those first months of the pandemic, easily accessible in this lovely archive at the newsletter’s new home.