The Truth About Our Media
August 5, 2008
A brilliant speech by Alisa Miller from the Ted conference this year covered something that I noticed I didn’t cover in my one of my favorite posts “Good Press, Bad Press.” This is a post commenting on her interesting speech, and what I think about this problem our press has obtained.
The first picture above is something I have been yearning to obtain for a long time — proof that America’s press is greatly biased towards ourselves and the one topic that every American paper is aware of and keeps covering valiantly — Iraq. I am not on a mission to prove America has a great amount of vanity for itself, that is for the world to decide. Staying strictly non-partisan on this post, I am more or less pointing out American media needs to keep an open mind on what is going on in the world. Sure, the American people love to sit and watch the carnage in the middle east, but if you feed a dog its favorite treat forever, its going to forget there are other good foods out there to sniff at. And in a sense, the American press has been serving that dog two types of food for years and only giving it periodic sniffs outside its realm to the surrounding world, so it barely has a chance to be curious.
Miller’s speech was in a sense an outlet that helps people like me make a point about our media, and one of the many facts that made her speech so great was about a popular entertainment story that no one really thought was as big and as covered on the news as it was. In fact, the death of Anna Nicole Smith “eclipsed” news coverage of every country and got ten times more coverage than the IPCC report. So this single story of the death of a US entertainment star was obviously more important for an entire month. And this wasn’t just any month in news — this was a month when North Korea dismantled their nuclear weapons, global warming was confirmed in Paris, and there was massive flooding in Indonesia. Instead of a fluffy, long article in the New York Times’s obituary, this story deserved to outdo all other events that happened in the world that month, grazing the cover of virtually every major American newspaper out there. And to put this into more of a perspective, in that month — Russia, India, and China — only amounted to about 1% of news. No one cry goose on me, but I think we have a problem.
And in, fact, a problem well on its way to being solved. I love to praise blogging for really showing the meaning of free press, where anyone who wants to can call the shots on their own newspaper. Blogging to me is like the cast on top of the broken arm of the media, but it still is yet to get its recognition. It lets everyone from a Saudi Arabian blogger to someone like me, an American driving through the Uruguayan countryside to connect and share our experiences and ideas. But sadly, still considerably more people read the newspaper and magazines then people who read blogs, and I think it will take many years for this statistic to even itself out. And it seems like until then, it will require more people to be woken up from the news that to many is deceiving and be given more or less speech like Miller gave to point them in the right direction.
So if we all had our way, what would be the perfect media? Even if our craze for celebrity and entertainment news is extinguished, we wouldn’t still have the perfect news. What about the war in the middle east? What is the right amount of coverage there?
I think the perfect media should have news outlets in every country in the world, and spend more money getting quality news instead of covering the cheap stuff inside America. The USA is in a rare time where most countries are opening up to each other — not too ago Eastern Europe was locked up. Now we have to chance to explore there. They say 90% of Americans have trouble locating basic countries on a map. Why not use this opportunity to provide news about countries that either seem far away to the average American or don’t even exist to them? Did Anna Nicole Smith pass away? Oh, too bad. Lets write something nice in the back of the paper for her. But look, people are starving over in India and a new tribe was found in the Amazon. Maybe we should even provide some insight on other parts of the world that people have no information about, even if something tragic isn’t happening there. Maybe we should write something about the Inuit tribes in Northern Canada and Qaanaaq, Greenland? Or maybe a piece about like in Turkmenistan? My point here? There’s a lot to know about this Earth, and its not all happening here in the US.
So the problem here is merely our media not opening their eyes to the world and for once laying off the entertainment and leaving it for the teen gossip magazines. Our press isn’t so simple, and the internet and blogging is only getting stronger, so the light at the end of the tunnel may take long crawl to get to, but at least its there.