Monday, November 21, 2011

A World of Negative International Reporting

Much is wrong in the realm of international reporting. We have the dropping number of international correspondents, general disinterest in foreign affairs and widespread interference of special interests in reporting accurately about international topics. It seems like international stories just aren't as important.

However, there is more (to use a bit of a play on words) bad news...the over-arching theme in existing international reporting is most often framed in a negative light.

Hafez is our champion of this - our bearer of bad news, if you will. He asserts what is called the "conflict perspective" in international reporting. Essentially, Hafez utilizes the Foreign News study and MacBride Report to bring statistical validity to the notion that news coverage of international topics is overwhelmingly negative and insulates a consistent image of a "chaotic, distant foreign world".

These sentiments are echoed in the other readings as well. The Powers and El-Nawawy article highlighting the efforts of Al-Jazeera English as a uniting media force in the Middle East and elsewhere seems to also take their findings with a grain of salt. They note that although those who watch Al-Jazeera eventually gain a more well-rounded perspective and will eventually make more open-minded decisions, seeing these results happen are very far off.

A look at any news network will further support Hafez's findings. The top international stories from the BBC, CNN and GlobalPost are all about Western sanctions on Iran, the resignation of the Cabinet in Egypt and Chinese ships infiltrating the South China Sea.

These are prime examples because they demonstrate many of the notions discussed in our readings. First, they represent international topics that are all tied back to political or economic interests of superpowers, which gives these topics precedent over other, perhaps softer news topics around the world. Second, this supports the former notions of Steven Livingston, who surmised that post-Cold War world would emerge as a "clash of civilizations," particularly between the Western and Islamic regions. All of these stories demonstrate geo-regional powers flexing their muscles on a global scale, two of the three involving the Islamic region.

I think it is unfortunate that international reporting must be this way. I feel like there is a lot of writing out there that focuses upon culturally stimulating and very educational aspects of different countries, even those that the U.S. may be in opposition with. If journalism is really supposed to be the fourth estate and serve as an intermediary between states to communicate objectively and accurately in the best fashion possible, then there is sadly work to be done.

I would agree with the notion that there needs to be some cultural tweaking from region to region as reporting needs to adhere to the norms of certain societies, but I feel like there is a way to express opposing views without using hot-button language, sensational stories and letting only the most extreme talking heads on air. What is needed is intellectual, level-headed discourse media that examines international topics of all kinds, not just conflict, and that takes into full account the special interests of all parties involved: states, people and the media organizations themselves.

Now that's fair and balanced, isn't it?


  1. Corey, I'd have to agree with you on this one. The news we receive today is heavily focused on what the Western world views as important. I do agree that we need more fair and balanced media in terms of international topics, but I'm wondering how feasible it is to provide this kind of media.

    I don't mean to be skeptical, but with the attention span that most people now seen to have they want information quickly and instantaneously. I don't know how feasible it would be to give all sides of an issue in such a compact way. Perhaps, we need to revise the way media is distributed as well as revising the content they are producing?

  2. Corey:

    You raise a very fascinating point about a more balanced approach to journalism. I agree that most news doent become popular unless it has a sensational twist. I think it neglects the livelihood of the general public who want their story told or even want to read a story that is not overflowing with conflict. I've always thought about this topic very deeply. I' ve always wanted to know what will it take for journalism to function in a way that offers a comprehensive scope of the news. In regards to international reporting, I think there should be required for journalist to have some knowledge about the regional area before reporting the story. Media practitioners as a whole must constantly examine and self- reflect on the ways in which they are advancing the public good. Advancing the public good means representing their interests holistically, and not just a select few. Thanks for this post. This was a great piece about offering a more balanced approach to international reporting.