Where in the world are the Somali pirates?

somalia-map1The Somali pirates make for an interesting story. Whenever they seize a ship, they make news, and copy editors get to use “pirates” in headlines.

Coverage of the most recent act of piracy has been interesting to observe too. The Huffington Post couldn’t resist using an “ARGHHH!” headline and file image of a pirate flag. Cable news offers each incremental development in the story as “breaking news.”

U.S. newspapers have been more restrained in their coverage. Yet they are missing some opportunities to provide the context that other media are overlooking. That sort of context is a strength of newspapers, in print and online.

First, this locator map from The Associated Press is as bare-bones as they come. The map needs to include an inset to tell us where in the world this is. Somalia, like South Ossetia, isn’t easy for most people to find on a globe. Beyond that bit of basic information, expanding the map to show shipping lanes and pirate strongholds might be helpful too.

Second, some explanation is needed with this story. We need a pirate primer, and a textbox is an ideal way to address questions that readers may have about this story. Here are some categories to use in setting up an alternative story form about the Somali pirates:

  • Who they are
  • What they want
  • How they operate
  • How they can be stopped
  • What’s next

And hey, maybe put the map into the textbox too, like this Q&A from the BBC does. And put it online. These are the things newspapers can do to set themselves apart from their competitors.

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