Don't forget the rest of the world
It’s a big world out there. So much is happening in politics, development, culture and even sport. And yet, come to the United States, watch the news and you would not know it. I’m talking about all the news, the 24-hour cable networks such as CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, Fox or Headline News. I’m referring to the prime time news shows on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. Every single news cast focusses on either US-based news or sensationalist overseas news including, and mostly limited to, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East or anywhere there are more than ten people dead from some kind of violent act of God or man.
Americans, some of them, would argue that this is normal. Every country should focus on its own issues at home and those abroad that affect them most. Unfortunately, the result is a country that is mostly unaware of what is happening elsewhere and yes, I would argue, those items of news do matter to the average American. Not to mention, that most Americans have roots to most of these other countries. What’s wrong with talking a little bit more about national level politics, even just major elections, in Malaysia, Tajikistan or even Canada? Why not talk about major technological and medical breakthroughs elsewhere? Why not talk about working conditions and social strife? I’m not suggesting that these international stories take over the US news. I am suggesting that we do need an injection of these into our daily information soup.
As I sit here typing, in the heart of the US, I wonder what station I can tune into. My cable bouquet does have France 24 in English. It also has EuroNews but only in German and Italian. There are a few foreign language stations with their own newscasts notably in Chinese, Japanese and Romanian. But that’s not going to reach the broader American population. We need mainstream media to broaden their delivery.
Guess what: I’ve been hearing this argument for over thirty years. I remember when I was studying communications in university that this was already a hot topic of discussion. Then, when CNN launched we all cheered believing that this would change the face of US news. It did, for a while. But then CNN launched CNN International and quickly transferred most of its international responsibilities to that network; by the way, we cannot see the International feed in the US as though that might confuse us. So, ever since, CNN domestic has now gone full USA! I know why, it’s because of Fox News. CNN feels compelled to compete with Fox that clearly stays focussed inside our borders.
There is one faint bright light but it only applies to business news. CNBC does, in their defense, cover a substantial amount of international business, but only business. The closest they get to general news is to sometimes deal with the root causes of a given economic trend. But that’s it.
America, the sooner we connect with the rest of the world, the sooner we’ll understand them better, connect with them better, trade with them better and otherwise maintain a position of influence on the world scene.
Wait, I did forget one news network: Al Jazeera. They, in truth, have become a very slick operation. They are not as Arab skewed as we all thought they would be when they launched. They have established themselves as an alternative but a credible one that does not shy away from pointing the finger at its own. One small problem: I don’t get Al Jazeera on my cable!