There’s “world news” and there’s “news from around the world.” In the first category are matters of global importance: The US-China trade war, say. In the second is, you know, this story of a German cyclist caught by a traffic camera going 30 miles an hour, naked, in the city of Kiel.
Even curious readers can have a hard time finding stories that fall into the latter category. Until now, that is, thanks to a random Reddit user who last week asked a very good question: “What’s going on on the non-English parts of the internet that we’re all missing out on?”
The question blew up, with people sharing hundreds of odd or overlooked news items from across the globe—from developments in China’s #MeToo movement to Poland’s efforts to catch a giant snake. News that had reached maybe the national level, but not the international. The Reddit thread turned into a little international salon, and the discussion so informative and enjoyable that several users asked whether it could be made into a regular occurrence.
Another redditor, BaymerOne, took up that challenge, creating GlobalTalk, a new forum where people from around the world share and discuss stories that they might otherwise miss out on. The moderators are calling it a “softcore news” subreddit. It quickly gained tens of thousands of subscribers. And it is making the world feel a little bit closer together.
The current selection offers the Naked Cyclist of Kiel and student protests in Bangladesh. From the Czech Republic, there’s news of a politician who was arrested with a wine box filled with over $300,000 in 2012, but who now wants to run for senator.
And from Italy, one GlobalTalker shared the story of Kaos (link in Italian), a “hero dog” killed by poisoning two years after it helped find and rescue survivors of an earthquake that killed nearly 300 near the town of Amatrice. “It was big news in Italy,” my Italian colleague, Annalisa Merelli, told me. “I heard complaints that it wasn’t covered enough though.”
That’s what GlobalTalk is all about. “An ideal GlobalTalk post consists of stories or info that is usually missed out on due to barriers,” says BaymerOne, who is actually Jesse from Huntsville, Missouri (he preferred to go just by his first name). “Often times smaller news stories/info aren’t well known in other regions because they’re not popular enough to be translated or shared.”
Those types of stories make you feel like you understand a given place a bit better. They are the kind of thing you would only know about if you lived there, spoke the language, read local newspapers, and talked to strangers about current events in a bar. “World news,” on the other hand, is relevant to anyone on the planet. There is no local flavor.
The internet is global by nature, of course. Even so, it has not been great at communicating the feeling of a place to outsiders. Instead it creates communities around topics. Those communities can take two forms. They can be supranational, focused on global phenomena like a video game, sporting event, or musician. Or they can be highly local, like a forum for German-language discussion of German politics or a Brooklyn Moms Facebook group.
GlobalTalk lands somewhere in between. It “hopes to fill the gap between local and global,” says Jesse.
This is helped by the ubiquity of the English language. Indeed, GlobalTalk features the kind of loose, mostly correct English grammar and spelling that you tend to see anytime people from many nationalities are using it at once. The prevalence of English as the forum’s common tongue allows for discussion. Outsiders ask the original poster questions about the context of the story, or the general state of things in their country. They can have global conversations about, for example, the “unique” menu items found at the McDonald’s of the world (Indonesia has the “Prosperity Burger,” Singapore the “Double McSpicy,” and so on).
The forum is still new. It might fail to live up to its promise by turning into a bunch of boring “world news” links. But if not, it’ll be a little piece of cosmopolitan utopia on the internet.