A local take on global coverage

Three of the most interesting experiments in online coverage of international affairs are based right here in Greater Boston.

Global Voices Online, launched several years ago at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, at Harvard Law School, is a site at which journalists cull and curate bloggers from around the world.

GlobalPost, a new project started by New England Cable News founder Phil Balboni and former Boston Globe reporter Charles Sennott, is assembling a worldwide network of correspondents and developing a variety of free and paid models.

And of course there’s the venerable Christian Science Monitor, which recently dropped its daily print edition. (It unveiled a weekly print magazine this week, but the emphasis is on the Web site.) There’s a Globe connection with the Monitor as well: the current editor, John Yemma, is a Globe alumnus.

Even as we lament the ongoing collapse of the newspaper business as we’ve known it, there are reasons to be optimistic about the survival of journalism. I thought I would take a look at how each is covering the anti-communist protests in Moldova, which have captured some worldwide attention because of the role played by social networks, especially Twitter.

Though none of the three is as comprehensive as what my former Boston Phoenix colleague Ellen Barry has been providing for the New York Times this week, each has been covering the story in unique ways.

This Global Voices post, a round-up of blog commentary by Veronica Khokhlova, along with two previous posts to which she links, shows some of the strengths and weaknesses of citizen journalism: the bloggers are good at giving you a flavor of what’s happening, but you get little idea of why it’s happening. I imagine this would mainly be of interest to people with a deep understanding of Moldova.

Indeed, folks at Global Voices will tell you that some of their most dedicated readers tend to be journalists and academics. Khokhlova’s post is not something I would want to wade into without at least having followed some of the mainstream coverage first.

I like the photo, which I found by following one of Khokhlova’s links, not because it’s great photojournalism — it isn’t — but precisely because it’s so mundane. I think it gives a better feel for what it must be like to be in the middle of a protest than a more dramatic shot would provide. Then again, isn’t giving you a true picture what journalism is supposed to do?

I’m also struck by the observation that if Moldovan young people had used a social-networking tool other than current media darling Twitter, the protests might not have received as much attention from the West.

At GlobalPost we find a 13-photo slideshow by Robert A. Reeder that takes us from a celebratory concert staged by the communist government, through protests and violence, and finally to a shot of Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, who has ordered a crackdown and blamed the government of Romania.

Reeder’s pictures, along with the photo captions, give you enough of a flavor that you come away feeling as if you know something about what’s going on. But, as with the Global Voices post, this is supplementary material, not a substitute for a well-wrought news report.

Finally, the Monitor, on its Global News blog, presents a post by Fred Weir that is characteristic of Monitor journalism: it’s short but surprisingly deep, offering just enough news and lots of perspective and analysis. It carries a Moscow dateline, and lacks the up-close feel of the Times coverage. But it may be all that a curious, intelligent general reader needs to know.

Weir’s post went up on Wednesday, so the Monitor hasn’t been as timely on the Moldova story as the Times’ Barry has. But judging from Barry’s story in today’s paper, not a whole lot has gone on since then.

All in all, an impressive performance. If you start with the Monitor, then check out Global Voices and GlobalPost, you’ll come away pretty well-informed about a remote corner of Europe.

Photo taken from the blog Kosmopolito, linked from Global Voices Online, whose content is made available through a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.