30 May 2007

What is up with the news?

The New York Times has just gotten around to publishing a piece about Maputo's munitions dump explosion in March that killed 103 people, left more than 400 injured, and 80 children orphaned.

Fear Lingers in Mozambique Over Unexploded Ordinance

Three months? Yet daily, US residents turn on the news to hear about Hollywood starlets arrested over drugs, people tempting Darwin's ghost, and feel good fluff. The news we get about Iraq is filtered heavily. I saw an historic piece on the British liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the end of WWII which I doubt would have made US news in the current climate. When people here ask me why Americans don't care about suffering in other parts of the world, I tell them that Americans do care. However, when you don't know about things (and it isn't easy to find out) you can't care.

When I see stuff like this I have multiple, simultaneous reactions.

1. Stories that make US news are a modern version of Roman "Bread and Circuses" designed to pacify the public. If one is entertained, one could care less about the shady maneuverings behind closed doors. I also think this is pretty valid, given the crap that makes headlines back home. I've been getting my news online for a few years now. I love being able to browse BBC, Al-Jazeera, AllAfrica, etc. Most big city newspapers are ridiculous (the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is a huge peeve of mine), and forget about FOX or other TV channels for the news.

2. People are tired of hearing bad news. My response to that is, if you're tired of bad news, do something already. People do act, their actions just aren't always big things or considered "newsworthy."

3. People care immensely, but don't know what to do. They turn off the bad images and stories to feel less guilty. I think this one is pretty valid. When offered potential ways to help, Americans do respond - tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, even just everyday stuff. Our government may not always have its act together, but as individuals citizens we are willing to help.

4. People really are stupid enough to care more about some Hollywood star's train wreck of a life, than the general suffering of their own lives and those of the rest of the world's population. Sadly, this is also valid. Rubbernecking is an art form in the US. Seeing someone else suffer worse makes a person feel better about themselves.

Does the news media catering to what people want to see? Is it supression of certain types or sources of news? Is it lack of journalists on the ground? Or something in the middle? To be fair, regular news out of Africa isn't the only hole in US mainstream media. News from news from Asia, Oceania, and South America is also thin. Much of what does get published from outside the West is negative. Good things happen outside North America and Europe too.

No comments:

Post a Comment