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Posted by on Apr 17, 2008 in Health, Media, Society | 2 comments

“Ostrich” Media, Blogs, Politicians… & World Food Crisis

rising prices

Why is the media, and the blogs, overlooking the “real” issues? The recent Clinton/Obama debate once again brought under spotlight a serious lack of professionalism among journalists and their growing penchant to trivialize serious issues. To give another example, few seem interested at the looming food crisis that is likely to have worldwide political and economic ramifications.

Would the media wake up only when the wolf reaches their doors or the dinner table (when it is too late)? Even if the media is looking for “sensational” news there is plenty to be found in the “real” issues. How about this….?

“Food riots have erupted in countries all along the equator. In Haiti, protesters chanting ‘We’re hungry’ forced the prime minister to resign; 24 people were killed in riots in Cameroon; Egypt’s president ordered the army to start baking bread; the Philippines made hoarding rice punishable by life imprisonment. ‘It’s an explosive situation and threatens political stability,’ worries Jean-Louis Billon, president of Côte d’Ivoire’s chamber of commerce,” reports The Economist.

“ ‘World agriculture has entered a new, unsustainable and politically risky period,’ says Joachim von Braun, the head of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, DC. Last year wheat prices rose 77% and rice 16% (see chart above). These were some of the sharpest rises in food prices ever. But this year the speed of change has accelerated. Since January, rice prices have soared 141%; the price of one variety of wheat shot up 25% in a day. Some 40km outside Abidjan, Mariam Kone, who grows sweet potatoes, okra and maize but feeds her family on imported rice, laments: ‘Rice is very expensive, but we don’t know why.’

“But the food scare of 2008, severe as it is, is only a symptom of a broader problem. The surge in food prices has ended 30 years in which food was cheap, farming was subsidised in rich countries and international food markets were wildly distorted. Eventually, no doubt, farmers will respond to higher prices by growing more and a new equilibrium will be established. If all goes well, food will be affordable again without the subsidies, dumping and distortions of the earlier period. But at the moment, agriculture has been caught in limbo. The era of cheap food is over. The transition to a new equilibrium is proving costlier, more prolonged and much more painful than anyone had expected.”

More here…

Surprisingly the media/blogs, with rare and honourable exceptions, think that only political leaders and their silly/dangerous antics constitute “political reporting”. It is forgotten that food, economies, culture — in fact practically everything — are interwoven with or influenced by politics. Media/blogs choose an easy path by filling up airwaves/internet and newspaper space by reporting on the antics of the political leaders.

Covering subjects, other than political personalities, needs painstaking efforts and research. But are the journalists prepared to put in that extra effort? Instead we blame the readers/viewers, or even the media owners, and give a convenient (probably untrue) answer that “they” are looking for “light entertainment” and “sensational news”?

So the final question. What is the role and responsibility of the media/blogs? This is important because the media/blogs often potificate about the role and duties of everyone else, except themselves. Time for the “ostrich” media to look at the “real” issues and also widely report/circulate the possible solutions to the crisis/challenges that are discussed within the confines of small groupsand/experts.