Thursday, April 5, 2012

Somalia: When Good Stories Go Bad

There's an interesting piece in Foreign Policy that illustrates the dangers of trying to get out in front of a story from a turbulent region in this era of instant information.

In case you didn't hear, overnight Wednesday a suicide bomber struck at a performance at the National Theater in Mogadishu, Somalia, killing as many as 7 people, including the head of Somalia's Olympic committee and chair of their national football (soccer) program.  The militant group al-Shabaab, which has recently suffered from a string of defeats at the hands of Kenyan, Ethiopian and African Union troops, quickly claimed responsibility and identified the bomber as a 16-year old girl.

The reopening of the National Theater for the first time in 21 years was being widely cited as a sign that a sense of normalcy was finally returning to the capital of what is arguably the world's most war-torn state (I even referenced it in this post).  The theater was the centerpiece of a story by the New York Times Jeffrey Gettleman, who has done some incredible reporting from the region, entitled “A Taste of Hope in Somalia's Battered Capital.”  Gettleman even tweeted up his story with the line: “Who says it's just bad news coming out of Somalia?”

The New York Times webpage with Somali story

Of course as Gettleman was hitting the Twitterverse a teenage girl was blowing herself up in front of a collection of Somali dignataries.  This isn't to criticize Gettleman, who, as I mentioned above, is one of the few Westerners doing solid reporting from this region; rather it is a story that illustrates just how fast information moves today, and how quickly a story can change.
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