Blog WHS website

WHS In the News

There’s a feature on the home page that lists (T)WHS that are making the news. I once started it to capture events such as “The Taj Mahal is on fire” and “More Nasca lines discovered”. So far, 3316 news items have been logged since 2006. Let’s have a closer look at them, and how we can improve this section in the future.

The Process

Updating the news section is one of the daily chores I do for the website. At fixed times in the morning and in the evening I receive Google Alerts in my e-mail box based upon keywords such as “World Heritage” and “heritage site”. Community members also point me to news via whatsapp or e-mail. And there is an active forum topic where the news gets posted too.

I read through them all and make a selection. Some I omit because they are better placed elsewhere: for example, if a TWHS is rumoured to aim for an inscription in 2024, I will post it in the 2024 WHC forum topic. Also, I try to filter out the ‘old news’, ‘fake news’, and ‘not newsworthy’ ones. More on that later under ‘Pitfalls’.

The selected links will subsequentially automatically be added to the individual site pages, where I think they have the highest value as they show the history of a site in recent years. Over the years, Pompei has been in the news the most (47 items), followed by the Galapagos (37) and Angkor (35).

The Pitfalls

The selection is necessary, as (1) News often isn’t new (but a repetition of things discovered and reported years before), and (2) Some countries (Egypt! Turkey!) produce a lot of propaganda to stimulate their tourism industry (or national glory). While the content of the latter often isn't untrue, it tends to focus on every potsherd found. Every week there is something new 'discovered' about Pompei too; especially the editors of The Guardian online newspaper seem to love that source.

Also, over 90% of the news items submitted cover WHS, instead of TWHS. My Google Alerts do not tend to capture tentative sites well.

Types of news

Scrolling through the 3316 news items added so far, they can be divided into the following categories:

  • 'Calamities': sites that have been damaged, where people have been killed, or where there is an imminent threat.
  • 'Discoveries': reports of new flora/fauna species or archeological findings at a site.
  • 'Changes in visiting conditions': announcement of reopenings, closures for restoration, price hikes.
  • 'WH Process'": updates on listings, such as possible in-danger placements.
  • 'Human interest' with a conservation twist: such as “McDonald’s blocked from building drive-through at Rome's ancient Baths of Caracalla".

Discoveries and Calamities are the most interesting to me personally. Openings and closures of sites are valuable as well, but it is hard to accurately keep track of those for 1154 WHS (and if they're not accurate, they're not worth much). 

News in 2022

138 news items have been added in 2022. The most notable among them were:

Biggest calamities:

Biggest discoveries: 

From the ones logged, I couldn't say which was the biggest scientific discovery in 2022 at a WHS. For the archaeological findings, Heritage Daily lists the recovery of thousands of Aztec objects from the Templo Mayor (Mexico City) and the origins of the Venus of Willendorf (Wachau). There's no natural equivalent that I could find, National Geographic's 22 most amazing discoveries of 2022 records only "Everglades fighting back", and also lists findings at Nineveh TWHS. We missed all of those, so we surely can improve on the scientific discovery news.

With the research for this blog post, I also updated the news overview page on the website. It now shows all news items logged since 2006 in reverse chronological order. That page has also been added to the navigation bar and is (as always) accessible from the main page too under the header 'News'.

Would you like to see the news section expanded? Would it be a good idea to attach the labels as described above? Or don’t you ever look at the News at all?

Els - 15 January 2023

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Michael Ayers 15 January 2023

Very interesting! I have occasionally wondered how this process works, especially what fraction of the work is done by Human Els, and how much by Robot Els!