May 13, 2008

Good News? Security Improving at Mogadishu’s Bakara Market Battleground?

Last week’s bloody food riots in Mogadishu, Somalia, were a sad setback for a part of the city that is vital to Somalia’s future. The riots, a spasm of the growing global food crisis, were centered on the central Bakara Market. Several people died when soldiers opened fire on protesters. Prior to the late-2006 Ethiopian […]

May 11, 2008

The Sun City Rockers

It’s great to see the Sudanese rapper Emmanuel Jal included in the line-up for Nelson Mandela’s birthday concert in June. His life story – child soldier smuggled out of Sudan in a bag – is almost as inspiring as Mandela’s. And his music is hot. Too often these sorts of things are dominated by western […]

May 10, 2008

Leaving Nairobi…but going elsewhere

Have decided to cancel my second trip to Somalia as the situation there has become too difficult to work. About 3 days ago the senior Shabab spokesman said that their group would start specifically targetting foreigners (i.e. white guys, not Ethiopians) in town, and I didn’t really fancy shelling out several thousand US dollars to […]

May 9, 2008

Is Buzzell going back to blogging?

Colby Buzzell served with the US Infantry in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003-4. He’s one of the more successful US milbloggers and in an article for the San Francisco Chronicle he has revealed that he has been called up for a second tour of duty. Back in 2004 Buzzell’s blog, ‘My War: Killing time in […]

May 8, 2008

Guest post: John Kelly

John Kelly is an American journalist currently living in Oxford – and on a mission: I’m studying citizen journalism, a buzzword which basically applies to anyone who isn’t like me doing what it is that I do. You can read his blog here []. Below, he kindly reflects on his progress for the Frontline Club: […]

May 7, 2008

Everyday life at an Iraqi checkpoint

Recently, the Long War Journal published an interview with ‘General Hamed’, who commands a number of Iraqi policemen in Baghdad. In the interview, General Hamed recognises that the effectiveness of both the Iraqi Army (IA) and the Iraqi Police (IP) are severely undermined by elements who are loyal to militias: “Lately, the government of Iraq […]

May 7, 2008

Crashed U.S. Navy Drone Reveals Somalia Commando Deployment?

“A U.S. military drone crashed in a Somali coastal area south of Mogadishu today,” a local government official and witnesses told AFP last week: “It’s a small unmanned American plane. It’s small and can be carried by three people,” said Mohamed Mohamoud Helmi, the government official in charge of security in the town of Merka. […]

May 3, 2008

Tipping Point

“Every individual Somali fights to stay himself, a person.” (Gerard Hanley in ‘Warriors’) The atmosphere can change in a matter of seconds while working in Somalia. Today we were traveling with a militia south of Mogadishu in part so that Philip could take some photos of a ‘technical’, the well-known battlewagon in Somalia popularized in […]

May 2, 2008

What I’m Reading…

Usually when traveling and working abroad I like to be reading about something completely off-topic. For this trip I brought with me Dick Davis’ translation/reworking of Abu al-Qasim Ferdowsi’s 10th century Persian epic, the Shahnameh or Book of Kings. I studied parts of it in classes at university, always perplexed by the complexity of the […]

May 2, 2008

Reporter’s Notebook 1

Listening to and engaging with your media-savvy audience is a key component of the new journalistic landscape. But remember, you can’t please everybody.

April 30, 2008

Introducing ‘Kaboom: A Soldier’s War Journal’

I mentioned this blog in passing in yesterday’s post. But it deserves a proper mention and I thoroughly recommend it to Frontline readers. Kaboom: A soldier’s war journal is written by ‘LT G’. He’s serving with the US Army in Iraq and is stationed in a place he calls Anu al-Verona. As far as I’m […]

April 28, 2008

Cash for (second-hand) content?

A week ago, TechCrunch reviewed DigitalJournal‘s citizen journalism relaunch. The thrust of the piece was the revenue share for contributors: Digital Journal offers a Citizen Journalism site in a similar fashion to Instablogs, OhMyNews, Newsvine, Norg Media and others. Members contribute news items for the site, and in theory the wisdom of the crowd combines […]

April 28, 2008

Journalists stamped

Five journalists feature on a new range of stamps issued by the US Postal Service. The stamps were announce last year and have just appeared. The journalists featured are: Rubén Salazar, a TV and Los Angeles Times reporter killed when covering a 1970 war protest in East Los Angeles. Martha Gellhorn, who covered the Spanish […]

April 22, 2008


A sigh down the telephone line. “Somalia is not so much a failed state, as a state that never became a state,” a very wise and English-tinted voice tells me. I’m speaking to Professor I.M. Lewis on the phone about the country where I’m due to spend the next month and am momentarily overcome by […]

April 21, 2008

General Winter’s last stand

Just when we thought the winter was finally well and truly over last week the skies opened and the snow began to tumble out with a vengeance. Not the pretty white flakes that settle for a moment and then instantly melt leaving just a small glistening trace of their short magical life. But huge great […]

April 21, 2008

What doesn’t make the headlines

Colombia is often misunderstood and misspelt. Here is a list of things about Colombia (the good and bad) that I believe don’t get the media attention they deserve and may even surprise you. Colombia is home to the second largest internally displaced population in the world, after Sudan. There are about 4 million displaced people […]

April 21, 2008 already gone? Nevermind…

Another mainstream entrant into the citizen journalism space, this time from CBS and sporting one of the worst URLs yet – That’s ‘eye’ as in ‘i’ as in ‘iMobile’, of course. Snappy strapline, too: At first glance, it’s much of a muchness with CNN’s iReport and similar sites. As you would expect, there’s an […]

April 16, 2008

Warriors by Gerald Hanley

When Gerald Hanley left Somalia after serving there during World War Two he was optimistic about its future. A new movement was emerging that put Somali identity ahead of tribal loyalty along with a hunger to improve their lot with independence. “There cannot be anywhere in Africa such ready and hungry people, with such swift […]

April 14, 2008

From the Frontline clubroom

The Frontline Club is profiled in The Independent newspaper today. Chris Green heads into the clubroom and rummages through the glass cabinets full of memorabilia left by the foreign correspondents and war reporters who make up the club’s membership. Among the bits and pieces he finds is Vaughan Smith‘s mobile phone, “We heard there was […]

April 12, 2008

$4.6m… for, erm, what?

Citizen journalism outfit is suitably chuffed to raise $4.6m in funding from Sequoia Capital, an a+ venture capital company. So what does do? On CJReport, anyone can edit (even anonymously) and start contributing to stories in the usual categories (business, technology, entertainment, …). Users can write their own stories and upload their own […]

April 12, 2008

MSM moves qik-ly for once

In an earlier post, I echoed Steve Outing’s assumption that mainstream media would be characteristically slow to adapt to and adopt the potential of live video from mobile phones. So it was a surprise and a pleasure to read about the Sacramento Bee using Qik to capture the procession of the Olympic torch through San […]

April 4, 2008

Reluctant Departure or Prudent Pull-Out?

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe 03 April 2008 Time to go. Accompanied by the son of a dear friend I walk along Livingstone Way to the border crossing and, passport stamped, smiles exchanged, from there along the spray-showered bridge over the Batoka Gorge, past a group of excited bungee-jumpers, to the Zambian side. A blue taxi takes […]

March 31, 2008

10 things we can say about citizen journalism…

Or more precisely, 10 personal reflections on the interface between CJ and the mainstream media. 1) When you turn on the user-generated tap, you risk getting drowned in content. 2) Most of this content will be crap. Putting a badge on it doesn’t make it less crap. 3) A small percentage of UGC has real […]

March 29, 2008

A Load of Rooibos

The No1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is not my cup of tea, Rooibos or otherwise. And it seems most British TV critics felt much the same way. As Stephen Pile in The Telegraph put it… The whole production was generous to a fault and the fault was this: it was like a blacked-up Vicar of Dibley. […]

March 28, 2008

It’s an Election… but not as we know it

Just two days before the elections in Zimbabwe, Santos still hadn’t decided which presidential candidate to vote for. “Who do you think will make the better president,” he asks, “Simba Makoni or Morgan Tsvangirai?” (He ruled out a vote for Mugabe with an emphatic sideways shake of his head and a guttural click of the […]

March 26, 2008

Mapping the media

Interesting wee mapping experiment that takes an image of the world and maps the number of stories written about different countries and lays it on top of the map. The results, unsurprisingly, tells us much of the planet goes unreported. Nicolas Kayser-Bril explains more, These maps allow you to grasp several media trends at a […]

March 26, 2008

Fast-track to the deadpool?

It takes nerve to launch a new citizen journalism website right now. It’s already a crowded space – shortly, I predict, to become markedly less crowded as tried-and-failed business models hit the buffers – but some opportunities surely remain. And so credit is due to, which launches today. It’s shtick is compartmentalising the news: […]

March 21, 2008

‘Free’ content doesn’t mean free content

I had a call from Lloyd Davis last week when BBC London wanted to use one of his video clips. You can see it on his blog here, and also here. Lloyd was happy to help but – naturally and quite rightly, in my view – he wanted payment. Not a fortune, just a fair […]

March 19, 2008

Interest in Africa Suspended

The best thing about writing from Africa is that editors leave you to your own devices. In Washington, Baghdad or Moscow you can bet on a phone call each morning asking what that day’s line will be. In Nairobi, there is no daily grind. You can disappear for a week. Maybe work on a feature, […]

March 17, 2008

From Skid Row to the Suburbs

I admit it was an impetuous and poorly-judged decision. I had just arrived in Anchorage for my annual teaching assignment at the University of Alaska and the temperature was twenty-plus degrees below freezing. I spent the first night at a sleazy motel not far from the airport. The walls were thin, the carpets reeked of […]