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First posted at the web site of the Washington, DC Society of Professional Journalists.

This may not be an issue that directly affects international coverage but the impact of this so-called debate reaches beyond the borders of the US of A. It is worthwhile looking at the logic behind the reasoning for the AP decision.

Associated Press editor Tom Kent sent out a memo late last week with new guidance on how — under AP Style — reporters should refer to the mosque proposed for lower Manhattan.

(You can read the memo here and Kent’s discussion of the memo on Facebook.)

Bottom line: It is NOT the “ground zero mosque” and the site under question has been used for prayers for some time already.

The site of the proposed Islamic center and mosque is not at ground zero, but two blocks away in a busy commercial area. We should continue to say it’s “near” ground zero, or two blocks away.

Kent added:

It may be useful in some stories to note that Muslim prayer services have been held since 2009 in the building that the new project will replace. The proposal is to create a new, larger Islamic community center that would include a mosque, a swimming pool, gym, auditorium and other facilities.

In his Facebook discussion, Kent said:

Incidentally, our note today represented no change in the way we’ve been writing about this case. The vast majority of our stories in recent weeks have referred to a mosque “near” ground zero, or “two blocks away.” But a few of our headlines have said “ground zero mosque,” and we felt that term wasn’t as specific as it could be.

So, can we move on and start using the correct term for the mosque, make sure we have the location correct and make sure the whole thing is put into context.

First posted on the DC SPJ site and the SPJ International Journalism Committee site.

Last Friday CBS News did a story about how Americans are craving different spices. NPR did the same story two weeks earlier.

At the time of the NPR piece I did a blog entry here (Getting a local story from international seasonings) and on my personal blog (A spicy nation — and why. Local-Global stories waiting to happen) urging journalists to look at the local-global connection.

And still, with such a fun topic and with two major news organizations looking at it, no one has bothered to look at the local connection. Naturally, I have another rant about this lack of imagination at my site, NPR gets there ahead of CBS, but where are the local stories.

Bottom line is that the idea of local-local-local has to include the rest of the world.But damn few people see it.

I was especially unkind to the DC-Baltimore media. Here is a major company in our area that is significantly affected by demographic changes because if immigrantion and yet no one is talking about the connection.

Just a little effort at the Census Bureau web site and one can quickly discover that of all the foreign-born in Fairfax County, 50 percent are from Asia. Another 30 percent come from Latin America. Those two numbers alone should say something about how the market for spices has changed.

Oh, and foreign born in Fairfax county accounts for about 25 percent of the population.

Foreign born in Montgomery County represent more than 27 percent of the county’s population. Immigrants from Asia and Latin America each constitute about 35 percent of the foreign born population. Africans and Europeans together represent about another 25 percent.

So maybe this mix of immigrants has a different impact on what spices or seasonings are sold in local stores.

How can one say that what goes on with 25 percent of the population in two major communities in the Washignton, DC area is not worthy of coverage?

Let’s face it, too many local publications ignore or don’t see the local immigrant populations as a news source for stories other than the immigration issue.

The Washington Post was doing a pretty good job a few years ago digging into the local immigrant communities. As the reporters covering that beat (all two of them) moved on, the amount of coverage dropped. But at least the Post had someone on the beat.

How many other local news organizations can honestly claim they cover their immigrant communities expect when the story involves immigration law or some other source of violence in the community?

Filed Under (Editing) by on 15-08-2010 and tagged

I (almost) jumped for joy when I say this panel in my morning e-mail:

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

NPR had a fun piece today about how the United States is now a spicier nation.

U.S. Is A Spicier Nation (Literally) Since 1970s

I am glad to see that seasoning other than salt is making its way into the US kitchen. (Much healthier.) And I am glad to see the internationalization of cooking. (I still remember 25+ years ago when pita was introduced into Air Force One and the uproar it caused.)

But let’s look at why different spices are now selling so well in the States.

When I taught a feature writing class at George Mason University I gave my students an assignment to find connections in everyday student life and the world. (Use of the Internet and interviewing foreign/exchange students did not count.) In a brainstorming session about what those possible links might be I suggested the food court.

The impact of foreign students on the school meant the restaurants had to adjust. So there was Arabic food and Hispanic food. There were places that offered food under the rules of halal and kashrut.

And now NPR tells us

The consumption of spices in the United States has grown almost three times as fast as the population over the past several decades. Much of that growth is attributed to the changing demographics of America.

So here is the entry to a whole series of LOCAL LOCAL LOCAL articles that include an international perspective.

A local reporter could look at the sales of spices in his/her area. Then figure out what ethnic group is most closely tied to those spices. Then he/she could look at the local growth of that ethnic group in the area.

Finding out the how and why these immigrants came to the United States and to that local area could provide the fodder for a whole series of local profile stories.

Getting the basic information is easy. Just go to the Census Bureau.

For example, in just 30 seconds I found that 10.4 percent of the Southern United States is foreign-born.

Digging a little deeper — another 30 seconds — I found that 10 percent of Virginia’s population is foreign-born.

And just a little deeper I learn that 27.7 percent of the Fairfax County population is foreign-born, with 50.7 percent of that group from Asia and 30 percent from Latin America. (Could that be why there are so many Asian grocery stores in Fairfax County?)

And the foreign-born population in Arlington County comes to 24 percent, with 30 percent from Asia and 44 percent from Latin America. (Could that be why there are more Latin American restaurants and stores in Arlington than in Fairfax?)

And let’s not forget how those differences also play out in issues other than spices and restaurants. Think about taxes, education and other social and political issues.

The mantra of LOCAL LOCAL LOCAL these days should include more stories that involve international aspects. It just takes an enterprising reporter to dig out the stories.

Filed Under (Editing) by on 15-07-2010 and tagged ,

Just saw a graphic display of the BBC annual report.

Very cool and very easy to read. Click on the image to see the full page report.

Snagit BBC