Friday 24 February 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 24/2/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Christopher Lord

No news is bad news

There might still be hope for the US’s beleaguered local media. Rebuild Local News, a coalition of 3,000 newspapers, rural weeklies and family-run gazettes, is pushing for state tax credits that would help organisations to hire reporters and keep smaller newsrooms afloat. An average of two US newspapers close every week and many are being bought out by big investors. About 1,800 US communities are designated “news deserts” without any substantial coverage of local affairs. This problem isn’t confined to the US; in the UK, for example, the BBC has embarked on large-scale cuts to its regional programming. But a scandal erupting in the US heartland underlines the value of local reporting.

Three weeks ago, a train containing hazardous chemicals derailed in the town of East Palestine, Ohio, and burned for two days (pictured). It’s a complex story that has taken on national significance, with allegations of dangerous practices by the rail company and fears about the long-term effect on the environment. The US transport secretary, Pete Buttigieg, travelled to Ohio yesterday amid outrage and anxiety in the area. But he wasn’t the only latecomer; some national news networks were also criticised for not giving the disaster adequate airtime earlier on.

Ohio’s smaller outlets, however, reported this story day by day, trying to hold their own as conspiracy theories and speculation proliferated on social media – not least the absurd suggestion that another Chernobyl was unfolding in the Midwest. In such circumstances, you need trusted journalists who are rooted in their communities to separate fact from fiction. A plan such as Rebuild Local News might sound ambitious but when the facts become murky, as in East Palestine, having eyes and ears on the ground is essential.

Christopher Lord is Monocle’s US editor, based in Los Angeles. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Getty Images

POLITICS / Nigeria

Youth quake

Nigerians will head to the polls tomorrow to pick a new president in what will be the continent’s largest democratic exercise. The vote will be fiercely contested by three frontrunners: Bola Tinubu, the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress; the main opposition leader, Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party; and the Labour Party’s Peter Obi, who has captured the imagination of young Nigerians, many of whom were inspired to call for change by the 2020 protests against police brutality. With more than 93 million people registered to vote and 40 per cent of them under the age of 34, this support could be pivotal. “The election is a seismic moment for the future of the country,” Dipo Faloyin, the author of Africa Is Not a Country, tells The Monocle Minute. “It’s a test of whether a generation of young people can turn protests into a road map for lasting change.”

Image: UCLG-CGLU / Mark Schardan

Government / Barcelona

Working relationship

Local governments need to maintain good relationships with the media. People rely on newspapers, radio stations and magazines to stay engaged with the places that they call home – so how can city halls tap into this to get their message across? This question was at the centre of the “media for cities” debate at the United Cities and Local Governments annual retreat in Barcelona this week.

“The media has the power to transform the narrative,” says Ana Moreno (pictured, centre), president of OnCities2030, the non-profit organisation behind the Urban Journalism Institute, which organised the session. “It’s crucial to understand the power of local diplomacy. We need well-informed citizens so that they can make informed decisions.” The key concerns of the mayors in the room were misinformation, accuracy and being heard. Monocle's advice? Begin by starting the conversation.

Defence / UKRAINE

A most violent year

We have learned plenty of things in the 12 months since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, many of which we should have understood already. Russia, for example, should have realised that Europe’s age of empire is over and considered more deeply why so many nations of the former Soviet bloc have been keen to join the EU and Nato. The rest of Europe should have known that the indulgence or appeasement of tyrants is a complacent folly. And we have learned a great deal about leadership and how the unlikeliest individuals can rise to an occasion. A little more than a year ago, Ukraine’s president, a former actor and comedian, was floundering. Now, Volodymyr Zelensky (pictured, centre) is surely among the world’s most respected people, leading a 44-million-strong population of his country’s equally admired citizens. There is much to be said for old-fashioned courage.

Image: Getty Images

This is the final instalment of our weeklong series on the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine. Listen to the full special edition of What We Learned on today’s episode of ‘The Globalist’.

Image: Shutterstock

Art / Thailand

Close encounters

The Bangkok Art Biennale ended yesterday after a four-month run in the Thai capital. Attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors, it featured citywide art exhibitions, workshops and talks, some of which took place in ancient Buddhist temples and others in museums or department stores. One of the highlights was a sold-out lecture that Serbian conceptual artist Marina Abramović gave in late January, making her second appearance at the biennale.

“As in Venice last year, people were dying to come and see art, activities and people in the flesh,” the biennale’s chief executive and artistic director Apinan Poshyananda tells The Monocle Minute. “The feedback has been enormous.” The theme this year was “Chaos: Calm”, which Poshyananda says was “very much appropriate for the zeitgeist. Art is the medium to make people stop and think.”

Image: Alamy

Monocle 24 / Tall Stories

The Diefenbunker, Ottawa

Paul Logothetis explores the story of Cold War Canada through an extensive network of tunnels and offices built beneath a farming community in Western Ottawa in the 1960s.

Monocle Films / Germany

Inside the airship industry

Airships, once tipped to be the future of flight, are now largely used as costly billboards that drift across cities or over major sporting events. We travelled to Friedrichshafen in Germany to take a peek inside one of the world’s few commercial operations and explore this niche area of aviation. Read more on the story in the November issue of Monocle magazine.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00