It’s an incredible idea: one site, one beat. No front page. No sports, no business or finance, anywhere. It’s called Syria Deeply.
It’s about 25% original content, written by veteran Middle East correspondent Lara Setrakian and friends. The rest is aggregated and includes interactives, maps, and contextual material aimed to catch people up on the story without pointing them off site.
From a taxonomy perspective, Syria Deeply is the opposite of most news sites. In a traditional news taxonomy, information is divided by broad topics, like World News. Each topic is divided into subsections, like the Middle East. Each subsection is then often divided into even smaller subsections, like Syria. Each section gets smaller and smaller. Topic pages live in obscure ghettos on many news websites: auto-aggregated and ugly dumping grounds for content that happens to be tagged with particular keywords.
On Syria Deeply (designed by Brock Petrie and developed by Soumyadeep Paul and Arindam Biswas, who runs Collective Zen) the topic page is the homepage. Setrakian’s hope is that this site-wide focus on a single beat will allow for deeper, more thoughtful reporting.
Syria’s defense minister and President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law were killed in a Damascus suicide bomb attack carried out by a bodyguard on Wednesday, the most serious blow to Assad’s high command in the country’s 16-month-old rebellion.
The bomber, said by a security source to be a bodyguard assigned to Assad’s inner circle, struck a meeting attended by ministers and senior security officials as battles raged within sight of the presidential palace.
State television said Defence Minister Daoud Rajha and Assad’s brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, the deputy defence minister, had been killed in a “terrorist bombing” and pledged to wipe out “criminal gangs”.
A Syrian security source confirmed Shawkat, 62, - a pillar of Assad’s rule - was killed and said intelligence chief Hisham Bekhtyar was wounded. State television said Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar had also been wounded in the blast.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers remarks on Syria following the meeting of the Action Group on Syria in Geneva, Switzerland on June 30, 2012. [Go to http://www.state.gov for more video and transcript.]
Using a combination of in-studio anchors and citizens piped in from Skype reporting directly from the ground, Syria al-Shaab manages to broadcast 12 hours of live programming a day from a country that won’t allow foreign reporters in.
“They hacked into our Skype account about a week ago and sent a virus to all the contacts in it. Every time they do something like that, we know we are doing our jobs” said Summer Ajlouni, founder of Syria al-Shaab in a report by Dan Rather of HDNet.
I had followed William Gagen’s coverage of Occupy Oakland several months ago and then heard he was going to try and enter Syria to livestream what was going on there. Few journalists have been able to get into Syria so this was not a small feat.
William, better known online as WillyFoReal, wound up spending about three days slipping in and out of Syria just along the Turkish border. In the clip above, he and Geoffrey Giraffe tell me about their incredibly dangerous experience. In the final day, their transmissions were intercepted and they were being closed in on. They came face to face with the fact that they were in real danger of being killed.
A 718-page digital document obtained by Mother Jones contains names, phone numbers, neighborhoods, and alleged activities of thousands of dissidents apparently targeted by the Syrian government. Three experts asked separately by Mother Jones to examine the document—essentially a massive spreadsheet, whose contents are in Arabic—say they believe that it is authentic. As Bashar Al-Assad’s military continues a deadly crackdown on dissent inside the country, the list appears to confirm in explicit detail the scale of the regime’s domestic surveillance and its methodical efforts to destroy widespread opposition.