The five villages that make up the Cinque Terre, one of Italy’s hidden treasures, were hit extremely hard by floods on October 25. But there has been little to no news coverage of this tragedy in the international media, even though a dozen people in the region are dead or still missing.
News happens everywhere, all the time, and we can’t expect everything to be covered. Nor would we have the time to consume that much news. In the past, this was just a fact of journalism. But technology is changing that. The internet provides an infinite space for non-journalists to report on what is happening around the globe. Every interest can be catered to and niche markets are cropping up everywhere online, whether you are interested in kiwi farming, synchronized diving or the disaster in Cinque Terre.
When it comes to international causes, today, that responsibility is often falling to transnational advocacy networks, which are made up of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), international organizations, governments, individuals and the media. These networks play many roles in the advocacy world, and they often act as information-providers.
In the Cinque Terre case, there was some mention in the traditional media a few days after the event, but there was no coverage when it first happened, and there has been little follow-up. To someone who has never been to Cinque Terre, that was probably more than enough coverage. But the villages of Cinque Terre have an almost cult-like following of travelers who have been there over the years. As one of those who has experienced the magic of Cinque Terre, I was desperate to find more information about what was going on there.
I visited Cinque Terre in 2008 with some friends, when studying in Italy. The five villages of Cinque Terre are perched on cliffs overlooking the ocean and consist of ramshackle, pastel buildings that lean haphazardly upon each other. It is truly the most beautiful place I have ever been. We stayed in Riomaggiore, but hiked between all five villages. Because there are no cars in any of the villages, there are trails built into the cliffs and vineyards to connect the towns. We enjoyed the beach in Monterosso and ate amazing gelato in Vernazza. We watched the sun set from a rock jutting into the ocean. And we ate seafood caught fresh that day, drank wine grown in the local vineyards and ate focaccia and pesto, both of which were invented in the region. My friends and I still consider that weekend to be one of the most beautiful and perfect of our lives, and all of us were devastated to hear about the flood. My friend Greg even blogged about it recently as well.
So you can see how special Cinque Terre is for me, and because the traditional media offered little, I turned to other sources to find out about the disaster and relief efforts. Travel expert Rick Steves is often credited with “discovering” Cinque Terre and he cites it as one of his favorite places in the world. So he used his website to provide information that he accessed through traditional media, e-mails from friends in the area and his connections in the travel world.
I also got information from blogs of American ex-pats living in Cinque Terre, Nicole and Kate. Both have turned their regular blogs about their lives living in Monterosso and Vernazza, the two villages most affected by the storm, into sources of information about the floods, the aftermath and the rebuilding efforts. Both their blogs, as well as the Rick Steves site, offer ways to donate and contribute to the reconstruction efforts.
I also found a newly formed NGO, called Save Vernazza, which is keeping its website up-to-date with any new developments and is working to raise money for the disaster efforts. And I watched YouTube videos uploaded by tourists visiting Cinque Terre, when the storms hit so suddenly, including this particularly disturbing one of cars being washed all the way through town, out to sea from the parking lot above Monterosso, and this one of the picturesque harbor of Vernazza being washed out.
Although I couldn’t find what I was looking for in traditional international media sources, I was able to find it. Through citizen-produced media and transnational advocacy networks, I was able to follow the disaster and help with the reconstruction efforts by donating, if I chose to do so. This is a huge impact of the availability of information provided because of technology.
(The photo of Vernazza is © copyright Jessica Andrews and is used with permission. For a photo showing damage from the floods, please go here. To see a video report about the aftermath of the floods from the Associated Press, please check below.)