By Josh Smith
SEOUL (Reuters) – As two typhoons hammered North Korea within a week of each other, state media broadcasts looked unusually reminiscent of international TV coverage, with correspondents standing knee-deep in floodwaters to provide rare, nearly real-time reports.
Thursday’s broadcasts were the latest example of a national propaganda machine that is slowly evolving in the face of more competition from international media that seep into the isolated country, analysts said.
In unprecedented overnight broadcasts, correspondents and anchors were shown at locations around the country, shouting the latest developments while being lashed with wind and rain.
The format offered seemingly unscripted moments rarely seen on the state-controlled Korean Central Television, including one rain-drenched reporter brushing off attempts by a man trying to hand him an umbrella in the middle of a report.
“It’s surprisingly fast and honest public service reporting from KCTV unlike anything we’ve seen before,” said Martyn Williams, a researcher at 38 North, a U.S.-based think-tank that monitors North Korea.
The coverage is almost certainly part of a top-down response to leader Kim Jong Un’s recent call last week for more efforts to prevent damage from the typhoons, Williams added.
“The layers of censorship and approval needed are too complex to do this without pretty high-up approval,” he said.
The coverage reflects Kim’s policy of greater transparency and resolving issues head-on, rather than trying to hide them, said Rachel Minyoung Lee, a former North Korea open source intelligence analyst in the U.S. government.
“Damage from natural disasters has always been a highly sensitive topic for North Korean state media, and showing near-real-time news reports from flood sites on state TV was unthinkable,” she said.
Since the early days of Kim’s rule, North Korean TV has experimented with various stylistic and formatting changes, ranging from bringing in a younger generation of TV news anchors, to showing more graphics during newscasts, to emulating South Korean entertainment shows, Lee said.
“Kim Jong Un seems to have realized early on that KCTV needed to keep up with the times to compete with the influx of South Korean and foreign media and entertainment content, and that explains KCTV modernization efforts,” she said.
A MESSAGE FOR THE WORLD
In recent years, North Korea has dabbled in online media aimed at a more global audience as well.
Among them are a Twitter account with the handle @ColdNoodleFan – a nod to one of North Korea’s most famous dishes – which described itself as “Anti-war, peace advocate and unbiased news” on North Korea.
According to Colin Zwirko, a reporter at Seoul-based NK News, which specializes in North Korea, the account appears to be linked to the North Korean state-run Sogwang media group, sometimes even publishing content before it appears on official outlets.
@ColdNoodleFan – which was recently suspended by Twitter for unspecified reasons and currently displays a message by the platform warning that the account has shown “some unusual activity” – has nearly 9,000 followers, while following zero other accounts.
An English-language YouTube channel called “Echo of Hope” has gained nearly 29,000 subscribers and more than 1.5 million views with videos of “daily life” in North Korea.
Among the channel’s most popular videos are clips about a pizza restaurant in Pyongyang and smiling people at an amusement park, as well as videos about the coronavirus situation and recent floods.
A series of videos, including some under the title “What’s Up, Pyongyang?”, feature an English-speaking young woman identified as “Un A” touring various spot in the city.
In recent months, “Echo of Hope” has quietly been removing old-style videos of North Korea’s former leaders, focusing instead on the newer videos that gather many more viewers, Williams found.
And North Korea’s Chinese-language efforts appear to be even more successful, with 533,000 followers on Weibo, according to Williams.
“The goals of these initiatives seem to be to saturate social media with some positive messages on North Korea, or at least make people skeptical about what they read about North Korea elsewhere,” Zwirko said.
(Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Kim Coghill)
Alberta teacher’s social media posts about ‘lonely’ school year, COVID-19 cohorts gaining attention online – Global News
A Twitter thread posted this week by an Edmonton-area high school science teacher, which talks about how difficult teaching is during the COVID-19 pandemic, has attracted significant attention online.
“It just really sort of sunk in for me that this year going forward is going to be a very different year than we’ve ever had before, and for teachers, I think it’s going to be a lonely year,” Reuben Mahaffy said when asked why he tweeted.
Mahaffy said he is gearing up for a year where his students become his cohort, rather than his extended family, and while he loves his students, that will be difficult.
He told Global News he sees about 200 students a day, and for that reason, he has decided to cut out his extended family from his personal cohort.
“We’ve been free to choose our cohorts and now we’ve had to remove ourselves from those family support cohorts,” Mahaffy said. “We have to do that because our cohorts are now the kids.”
Alberta records 1st ‘likely’ case of in-class COVID-19 transmission at school in Edmonton
University of Alberta psychiatry chair Peter Silverstone said the decision some teachers may make to remove family members from their cohorts could be a hard change.
“You start off one way and now you’re getting lots of risk you didn’t have previously and you’re going to have to cut down. That’s hard because it’s the change from what you did.”
Silverstone added the uncertainty teachers have faced amid online classes, along with a stressful return to schools this fall, could pile up for educators — especially because there’s no end date for the pandemic.
“I find this alarming because we are aware that this can have longer-term issues, that things don’t always bounce back to normal,” Silverstone said.
“Uncertainty and change, not being able to plan, is not good for mental health.”
For Mahaffy, he added that he is also discouraged when he hears Education Minister Adriana LaGrange talk about how her government has bent over backwards to make sure teachers and schools are prepared for the school year ahead.
“It’s incredibly frustrating for teachers when you hear from the minister that anything and everything to prepare for back to school has been done because it hasn’t been,” he said.
“We know that there are things that could have been done to make schools safe places. We know that just because bringing class sizes down to 15 students is unrealistic doesn’t mean we have to live with classes of 35 plus.”
In an emailed statement Saturday from LaGrange’s press secretary Colin Aitchison, he said the government was “committed” to school funding.
“Alberta’s government has provided school authorities with $250 million in accelerated funding for capital upgrades, including ventilation and HVAC upgrades, $120 million in increased operating funding, $10 million in PPE, including masks for every staff and student, and access to taxpayer-funded board reserves, which totals $363 million across the province,” the statement read.
“This, coupled with $262 million in federal funding, provides boards with access to up to $1 billion in additional funding to support COVID-19 learning environments.”
Aitchison added that many people in the province have had to limit who they see amid COVID-19 — not just educators.
“Few parts of our society have been left untouched by COVID-19,” he said. “As Dr. Hinshaw has said, COVID-19 is here for the foreseeable future and we need to learn to live with it.
“Albertans in all parts of our economy, including grocery store clerks, daycare workers, restaurant staff and nurses, have all had to make difficult decisions about how and when they visit their friends and families. This is the unfortunate reality of living with COVID-19.”
Mahaffy said that he believes the support of the community and colleagues will be key for teachers getting through the difficult year.
“I know that we are going to have to be really good at supporting each other and that we’re going to have to make use of Zoom and other virtual methods, and really make efforts to maintain the supports that we are going to need,” Mahaffy said.
“I was also heartened by the support that I saw from non-teachers on that Twitter thread too.
“A lot of parents and professionals saying, ‘Yeah, we have to support our teachers this year — because they are going to be asked a lot, and they are taking on a lot this year — and we need to make sure we are there for them.’”
–With files from Sarah Komadina, Global News
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Social Media Buzz: Tributes for RBG; WeChat Users Plan Backups – BNN
(Bloomberg) — What’s buzzing on social media today:
Tributes flooded in on social media after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the 87-year-old Supreme Court justice and liberal icon, on Friday. President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday morning that Republicans must nominate new justice “without delay.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s name is also trending on Twitter, after he said he would schedule a vote to confirm Trump’s nominee to succeed Ginsburg.
On Chinese social media platform WeChat, users in the U.S. rushed to post alternative contact information to avoid losing touch with family members and friends. The U.S. is set to curb its services on Sunday. Popular backup apps include Telegram, Line, and QQ. WeChat parent Tencent’s office collaboration app, recently rebranded as WeCom and not expected to fall under the scope of a ban, also gained traction.
Southern California was struck by a magnitude 4.5 earthquake late Friday night. Officials warned residents to be prepared for possible aftershocks, AP reported. Tropical Storm Beta will drench Texas, Louisiana with heavy rains.
Former McDonald’s Chief Executive Officer Steve Easterbrook, ousted in November over a sexual relationship with an underling, said he shouldn’t have to return his severance.
iPhone users are showcasing their redesigned home screens on social media, under the recently released iOS 14 upgrade.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
MEDIA AVAILABILITY: CN Police officers available for media interviews during Rail Safety Week – GlobeNewswire
MONTREAL, Sept. 19, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — CN (TSX: CNR) (NYSE: CNI) is offering members of the media the opportunity to talk with uniformed police officers during Rail Safety Week, from September 21-27, about the importance of rail safety at crossings and the dangers of trespassing.
Members of the CN Police Service will be available for media interviews throughout the week. Providing that social distancing be respected or in a virtual manner, we invite media outlets to contact CN to arrange onsite, in studio or on air interviews. The CN media relations team is also happy to offer visual elements for on camera interviews.
CN will mark Rail Safety Week with a public awareness campaign aimed at reducing the number of collisions and trespassing-related accidents. Throughout the week, CN Police will conduct safety initiatives at commuter stations and railway crossings reminding commuters and motorists about the importance of safety at crossings and the deadly risks of trespassing on railway tracks and property.
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